Balbhadra Kunwar

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Captain Bahadur Gambhir Singh Rayamajhi of the Devidutta Battalion Of the Nepalese Army,holding a tulwar in his right hand and khukuri in his left hand surrounded by dead Indian Sepoy Mutineers.

Balbhadra Kunwar (17?? – c. 1822) is a National Hero of Nepal, freedom fighter, Captain, General, etc. Following the Anglo-Nepali War of 1814–1816 he became very famous. He was a Captain in the Royal Nepali Army (Gorkhali Army) and gained fame as the commander of the Gorkhali forces at the Battle of Nalapani, outside of Dheradun ( Before Nepal, present India) in 1814 during the Anglo-Nepalese War.

Early life and history[edit]

Father Chandra Bir Kunwor home in Bhanwarkot, Dhulikhel. Subba of Garhwal 1808–1811, Subba of the Bhot Madhesh, and hill regions of Doti 1809, Sardar of Garhaun 1811–1812 and of Doti 1812–1814. He died at Garhwal, 1814, having had issue, three sons; Bir Bhadra Kunwar, Bal Bhadra Kunwor.

Grandfathers: Jay Krishna Kunwor (brother of Ram Kirshna Kunwar) and Amar Singh Kunwar, all making crucial contributions in the conquests of the Kathmandu (a.k.a. Nepal) valley under King Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1768/69. The father of Jay Krishna Kunwor was Ahiram Kunwor, the first Kunwar to take up service with the Shah Kings.

Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar's maternal uncle was Kaji Bhimsen Thapa, the first Prime Minister of Nepal.

Balbhadra Kunwar was probably born in the Kathmandu valley in between 1775–1790 and joined the military at an early age following family traditions. Similarly to most of his family members, grandparents, father, uncles, cousins and brothers, he joined the Gorkhali Army and made a highly distinguished career. Several names of various Kunwors show up when reading Nepali history from the early 1700s to the mid-1950s, and they would have been relatives of each other, as all Kunwars in Nepal are somehow related and would have celebrated some of the major Hindu festivals together.

The Kunwor family had since taken up service and made a strong alliance with the Shah Kings of Gorkha in the early 18th century and played an important part in the Civil-Military Administration in the Gorkhali conquests in the mid-late 18th century and served as among other posts as: Generals (Sardar)/ (Jetho buda (senior elder), Ministers (Kaji), and several other posts of high importance under various Shah kings of Nepal and Gorkha.

Rajah Prithivi Narayan Shah had seen the Mughals power quickly diminish with the arrival of the British East India Company and wanted to unite the many smaller Himalayan kingdoms and principalities under his rule to be able to fight the British in the case of war or British threat. Succeeding to the throne in 1742, he rapidly began to expand his territories through alliances and military expansion throughout the hills, plains and mountains. This expansion followed until the Anglo-Nepali war in 1814.

It is believed the at the family originate from the ancient Sisodias of Guilhot lineage, the ruling dynasty of Chittorgarh, Mewar, Rajahstan, India. Several historical records suggests the family's arrival in the Himalayan Hills following the fall of the Chittor Palace-fort in 1568 to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The N.W. region of modern India and specially Rajastahn had from the 11th century to the 16th century experienced a frequent Islamic invasions and during this time many fled oppression and conversion to the plains and jungles of the Terai, Southern modern Nepal and hills of the Himalayas to take refuge and make a new life.

The Anglo-Nepal War 1814–1816[edit]

Further information: Anglo-Nepalese War and Battle of Nalapani

As commander of the Gorkhali forces in Dheradun, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar was handed the responsibility of defending the area. The expanding Nepali/Gorkhali State had since the mid-late 18th century expanded the nation's border on all sides, which eventually led to conflict with the British East India Company and a war followed.

Realizing he could not defend the town of Dehradun, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar withdrew to the strategic hill fort of Khalanga with an army strength of 600 including women and children against the British East India Company British stronghold of 3000-3500 troops. He turned down an incentive proposal of the British who would make him Governor of the Western Garhwal should he surrender or leave Nepal.

In the month of October 1814, Major General Sir Rollo Gillespie of the British army had advanced along with 3,500 troops and eleven pieces of cannon to occupy the Nepali territories situated between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in the Gharwal and Kumaon regions that had been occupied by the Nepali forces. Captain Balabhadra Kunwar had maintained his position at a 400 cubits high hill in a place called Nalapani, situated north-east of Dehradun, to check his advance.

On Kartik 8, 1871, Bikram Samvat (October 1814), British troops reached Dheradun. A battle took place between British and Nepali troops at Nalapani on Kartik 10, 1871 B. Samvat. The British were unsuccessful and withdrew to Dehradun. Another battle was fought between the two sides at Nalapani on Kartik 17, 1871 Samvat (ca. Oct 31, 1814). General Gillespie, the British Commander, lost his life in that battle along with Col. Alice.

The siege continued for a month until the British, convinced that they could not win by military ways, blocked the source of water to the fort so that the Nepalese would die of thirst. For the Nepali Army it was a hard struggle fighting a very well equipped and trained modern army, belonging to one of the largest colonial Empires of the world. Balbhadra Kunwar had asked for reinforcements from the capital but Kathmandu could not send them any soldiers as the Nepali army had no reserve army and were an emerging power which means that they did not have troops to match the East India Company. The Nepalese army was outnumbered in Nalapani as it was in every battlefield.

Even though the Nepali army lacked water they were still determined to defend their position. Because the walls had collapsed, cannonballs fired by the British started reaching the interior of the fort. Many men were killed or injured. Despite losing their comrades and friends the remaining men were still determined to defend their position. In order to drink water from the river they came out of the fort in a single line, and the British forces watched in surprise as the Nepali troops quenched their thirst and returned to their fort.

On Marga 16 (Nov 1814), four of the commanders, including Capt. Balabhadra Kunwar, in the night was forced to abandoned the fort of Nalapani with their remaining Gorkhali troops. On seeing the Nepalis abandon the fort, the British attacked them. The Nepalis resisted the attack but continued to advance. They reached Dwara in the morning of Marga 17, 1871 and stayed the whole day there.

Balabhadra sent a courier to the British with the following message: We had handed over to you your dead and injured soldiers on your request. We now request you to hand over our injured soldiers to us. The British replied that they would look after the injured (Nepali) soldiers themselves. Accordingly, they treated the 180 injured soldiers at the Nalapani fort.

The next day, Marga 18, 1871 Samvat, the Nepalis left Dwara for the Gopichand Hill, where they had decided to build a fort. Dwara was not considered suitable for that purpose.

The Nepalis spent the night at the Gopichand hill. At midnight, the British forces started shelling their camp. The Nepalis retaliated. Meanwhile, Sardar Ripumardan Thapa sustained an injury in his right arm from an enemy shell. He was unable to walk, and so was helped by his jamadar to climb the hill. However, he could not go on and was forced to stop. The other Nepalis continued to ascend the hill.

The next day, Marga 19, 1871 B. Samvat, men sent by Balabhadra carried Ripumardana to Chamuwa. Kaji Ranadipa Simha Basnyat also had arrived at that place. On Marga 20, Kaji Rewanta Kunwar reached there Subedar Dalajit Kanwar were killed by enemy fire.

Ultimately after 4 days of thirst, and a severe loss of troops, without surrendering, Capt. Balbhadra emerged from the fort with drawn kukris in his hands (along with other 70 survivors) and roared to the British - "You could have never won the battle but now I myself voluntarily abandon this fort. There is nothing inside the fort other than dead corpses of the children and women"! He and his remaining troops escaped into the hills on November 30, 1814.

A peace treaty was signed on Dec 2, 1815 between the then King Girvan Yuddha Vikram Shah and the British East India Company, known as the Sugauli Treaty.

The British soldier-poet, John Ship, had written during the war about the Gorkhas:

"I never saw more steadinesses Or bravery exhibited in my life. Run they would not and of death They seemed to have no fear Though their comrades were falling Thick around them, as bold For we were so near to know That every shot of ours told."

Towards the end of life[edit]

He did not lose his life during the Anglo-Nepali war. After the war, he went to Lahore, capital of the Punjab where many Nepalis had gone, to join the two new regiments formed by the Sikh Maharajah/King Ranjit Singh of the Punjab, following the war with the British but a tradition formed prior to the war. Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar was appointed General and commander of the new "Lahure" regiments consisting entirely of Gorkhali/Nepali troops. Those that had taken service under the Mughal Emperors were known as "Munglane" and was seen as less prestigious and unclean. After the Anglo-Nepali war the recruitment of Gurkhas/Gorkhas started in the British-India Army (Army of British East India Company) and has continued until today in both the modern Indian and British Army; the Gorkha Regiments (India) and the Royal Gurkha Rifles (UK).

During the Sikh-Afghan war of 1879 B. Samvat (1822), the Nepalis in the Sikh Military had fought bravely, but was also in which Balabhadra Kunwar was killed by Afghan artillery in Naushera, Peshwar region, Afghanistan on Chaitra 3 (March/April in the Roman calendar and is the first month in the Hindu Lunar calendar). Bhimsen Thapa had sent men to Lahore to collect information about this war and the death of his nephew.

Following the Anglo-Nepali War, the British East India Company erected a war memorial at Nalapani in honor of the Gorkhalis and Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar (often referred to wrongly as Bulbuder Singh or Balbudder Thapa) praising their bravery:

"as a tribute of respect for our gallant adversary Balbudder Commander of the fort and his brave Gorkhas who were afterwards while in the service of Runjit Singh shot down in their ranks to the last man by the Afghan artillery."

Later, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar´s descendants and family members were to establish the Rana dynasty in the middle of the 1800s led by Jung Bahadur Rana.

References[edit]