Battle of Kirtipur

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The Battle of Kirtipur
Part of the Gorkhali conquest of Nepal
Kirtipur swords.jpg
Swords from Battle of Kirtipur on Bagh Bhairava Temple
Date 1767
Location Kirtipur
Result Gorkhali victory
Belligerents
Newars Gorkhalis
Commanders and leaders
Danuvanta Kalu Pande
Suruparatna
Strength
Unknown Unknown
Battle of Kirtipur is located in Nepal
Gorkha
Gorkha
Kirtipur
Kirtipur
Location in present-day Nepal
Col. Kirkpatrick visited Nepal in 1793 and saw noseless veterans of the battle.
One of the city gates through which the Gorkhalis entered Kirtipur.
Kirtipur with the Himalaya in the background.

The Battle of Kirtipur occurred in 1767 during the Gorkha conquest of Nepal, and was fought at Kirtipur, one of the principal towns in the Kathmandu Valley. Kirtipur was then a walled town of 800 houses and part of the kingdom of Lalitpur. It is spread along the top of a ridge.[1]

The battle between the Newars of the valley and the invading Gorkhalis marked a turning point in the war of expansion launched by Gorkhali king Prithvi Narayan Shah. It led to his subjugation of the rest of the coveted valley[2][3] and the end of Newar rule.[4]

Eyewitness accounts[edit]

The Battle of Kirtipur is also known for its vicious fighting and intense cruelty. Shah's victorious army cut off the noses and lips of the defeated townspeople for putting up such fierce resistance.[5]

An Italian Capuchin missionary, Father Giuseppe, Prefect of the Roman Mission, was in Kirtipur during the battle, and he has written about the mutilated defenders that "it was most shocking to see so many living people with their teeth and noses resembling the skulls of the deceased."[6][7]

In 1793, when Colonel Kirkpatrick, envoy of Charles Cornwallis, governor-general of British India, visited Kathmandu 26 years after the battle, he saw these noseless men, and has written about his experience in his memoirs: "We came to the knowledge of this fact in consequence of observing among the porters who transported our baggage over the hills a remarkable number of noseless men, the singularity of the circumstance leading us to inquire into the cause of it."[8]

According to historians, the defenders of Kirtipur whose noses were cut off numbered 865.[9]

The blockade[edit]

The Gorkhalis desired the Kathmandu Valley due to its rich culture, trade, industry and agriculture.[10] In 1736, the Gorkhali king Nara Bhupal Shah launched an attack on Nuwakot, a border town and fort in the northwest of the valley, to probe its defences. His troops were badly defeated.[11]

His son Prithvi Narayan Shah became king in 1742 and resumed the campaign.[12][13] Convinced he would not be able to take Kathmandu with strength, Shah sought to subdue the valley by choking its commerce and supply lines. His forces occupied strategic passes in the surrounding hills, and strangled the vital trade links with Tibet and India.

In 1744, he took Nuwakot, which gave him a foothold in Nepal and allowed him to stop its trade with Tibet as it lay on the trans-Himalayan trade route.[14] In 1762 and 1763, the Gorkhalis overran Makwanpur and Dhulikhel respectively, surrounding the Kathmandu Valley from the west, south and east.[15]

In a bid to cause a famine, he mounted a blockade preventing any grain from passing into the valley. Blockade runners were hung from the trees on the roads.[16] The prolonged siege forced the king of Kathmandu to appeal to the British East India Company for help. In August 1767, Captain George Kinloch led a British force towards the valley to rescue its beleaguered inhabitants.[17] He reached within 75 km of Kathmandu and captured the forts at Sindhuli and Hariharpur, but was forced to retreat after supplies ran out and his troops mutinied.[18]

First assault[edit]

The Gorkhalis had set up a base on Dahachok, a hill on the valley's western rim, from where they mounted their assaults on Kirtipur. They were armed with swords, bows and arrows and muskets.[19]

During the first assault in 1757, the Gorkhali army was badly beaten. As they advanced towards Kirtipur, the Newars went to meet them under the command of Kaji Danuvanta. The two forces fought on the plain of Tyangla Phant in the northwest of Kirtipur. The Newars defended their town ferociously. The Gorkhali commander Kalu Pande was killed, and the Gorkhali king himself barely escaped with his life into the surrounding hills.[20][21]

Second assault[edit]

Having no hope of taking Kirtipur by force, Shah mounted a blockade in an effort to starve the population into submission.[22] The embargo was enforced by putting to death anybody found on the road with salt or cotton. But the Newars held out.

In 1764, Shah ordered his troops to storm the town a second time. The Gorkhalis attacked at night under the command of Shah's brother Suruparatna (alternative name: Surpratap). The people of Kirtipur beat off the Gorkhalis again, raining stones on the invaders from the town walls. In the fighting, Surpratap was struck by an arrow in the eye and blinded.

Third assault[edit]

In 1767, the king of Gorkha sent his army to attack Kirtipur a third time under the command of Surpratap. In response, the three kings of Nepal joined forces and sent their troops to the relief of Kirtipur, but they could not dislodge the Gorkhalis from their positions. A noble of Lalitpur named Danuvanta crossed over to Shah's side and treacherously let the Gorkhalis into the town.

The inhabitants could have fought on, but exhausted by a prolonged siege and assured by Shah's promise of an amnesty, they surrendered. Two days later, enraged by the losses inflicted on his army and the injury done to his brother during the protracted war, Shah ordered that the town's prominent inhabitants be killed, and the noses and lips of everybody cut off.[23][24]

The victory in the Battle of Kirtipur climaxed Shah's two-decade-long effort to take possession of the wealthy Kathmandu Valley. After the fall of Kirtipur, Shah took the other cities Kathmandu and Lalitpur in 1768 and Bhaktapur in 1769, completing his conquest of the valley.[25] He thus established the Shah dynasty in Nepal by replacing the Malla dynasty. Shah rule came to an end when Nepal became a republic in 2008.[26]

Heroine of Kirtipur[edit]

Kirti Laxmi, a Newar woman of Kirtipur, fought the invaders disguised as a man named Bhairav Singh. Armed with a bow and arrows, she kept fighting even after the Gorkhalis had taken the town. She inspired the townspeople with her bravery not to give up. She was finally captured and kept in captivity where she took her own life. She is honored as the heroine of Kirtipur.

In literature[edit]

  • Kirti Laxmi (1997), a historical novel by Basu Pasa in Nepal Bhasa, based on the true story of a woman named Kirti Laxmi who fought the Gorkhalis disguised as a man. It was published from Kathmandu by Thaunkanhe Prakashan.
  • Kīrtipurako yuddhamā (In the Battle of Kirtipur) (1959), a play by Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan in Nepali. It was published from Darjeeling by Śamaśera Rāī, Navayuga Nepālī Pustaka Mandira.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Giuseppe, Father (1799). "Account of the Kingdom of Nepal". Asiatick Researches. London: Vernor and Hood. Retrieved 18 October 2012.  Page 308.
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick, Colonel (1811). An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul. London: William Miller. Retrieved 16 October 2012.  Pages 381-385.
  3. ^ Giuseppe, Father (1799). "Account of the Kingdom of Nepal". Asiatick Researches. London: Vernor and Hood. Retrieved 16 October 2012.  Pages 316-319.
  4. ^ Waller, Derek J. (2004). The Pundits: British Exploration Of Tibet And Central Asia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8131-9100-3. 
  5. ^ Wright, Daniel (1990). History of Nepal. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. Retrieved 16 October 2012.  Pages 18-19.
  6. ^ Giuseppe, Father (1799). "Account of the Kingdom of Nepal". Asiatick Researches. London: Vernor and Hood. Retrieved 18 October 2012.  Page 319.
  7. ^ "A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Nepal". Apostolic Nunciature, India. 2004. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Kirkpatrick, Colonel (1811). An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul. London: William Miller. Retrieved 16 October 2012.  Page 164.
  9. ^ Wright, Daniel (1990). History of Nepal. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. Retrieved 16 October 2012.  Page 259.
  10. ^ Raj, Yogesh (2012). "Introduction". Expedition to Nepal Valley: The Journal of Captain Kinloch (August 26-October 17, 1767). Kathmandu: Jagadamba Prakashan. p. 7. ISBN 978-9937-85180-0. 
  11. ^ Northey, William Brook and Morris, Charles John (1928). The Gurkhas: Nepal-Their Manners, Customs and Country. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-2061577-9. Pages 30-31.
  12. ^ Stiller, Ludwig F. (1968). Prithwinarayan Shah in the light of Dibya Upadesh. Catholic Press. p. 39. 
  13. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (1997). Nepal: Refugee to Ruler: A Militant Race of Nepal. APH Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 978-81-7024847-7. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  14. ^ Singh, Nagendra Kr (1997). Nepal: Refugee to Ruler: A Militant Race of Nepal. APH Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 978-81-7024847-7. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  15. ^ Raj, Yogesh (2012). "Introduction". Expedition to Nepal Valley: The Journal of Captain Kinloch (August 26-October 17, 1767). Kathmandu: Jagadamba Prakashan. p. 5. ISBN 978-9937-85180-0. 
  16. ^ Giuseppe, Father (1799). Account of the Kingdom of Nepal. London: Vernor and Hood. p. 317. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  17. ^ Chatterji, Nandalal (1939). "The First English Expedition to Nepal". Verelst's Rule in India. Indian Press. p. 21. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  18. ^ Raj, Yogesh (2012). "Introduction". Expedition to Nepal Valley: The Journal of Captain Kinloch (August 26-October 17, 1767). Kathmandu: Jagadamba Prakashan. pp. 13–14. ISBN 9789937851800. 
  19. ^ Vansittart, Eden (1896). Notes on Nepal. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-0774-3. Page 34.
  20. ^ Majupuria, Trilok Chandra (March 2011). "Kirtipur: The Ancient Town on the Hill". Nepal Traveller. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Wright, Daniel (1990). History of Nepal. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. Retrieved 7 November 2012.  Page 227.
  22. ^ Raj, Yogesh (2012). Expedition to Nepal Valley: The Journal of Captain Kinloch (August 26-October 17, 1767). Kathmandu: Jagadamba Prakashan. ISBN 978-9937-85180-0.
  23. ^ Kirkpatrick, Colonel (1811). An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul. London: William Miller. Retrieved 17 October 2012.  Pages 382-386.
  24. ^ "The city of good deeds". Nepali Times. 24–30 November 2000. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  25. ^ Kirkpatrick, Colonel (1811). An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul. London: William Miller. Retrieved 17 October 2012.  Pages 382-386.
  26. ^ "Nepal's Gorkha kingdom falls". The Times of India. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2013.