Dev Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana
Dev Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana
|Born||17 July 1862
|Died||20 February 1914 (aged 51)
Jharipani, Mussoorie, India
|Cause of death||mysterious death by his own gun|
Family and early life
He was the fourth of 17 sons born to the Chief of the Army Dhir Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana (a younger brother of Jung Bahadur Rana) by his third wife, Rani Nanda Kumari, daughter of Kazi Hemdal Singh Thapa (sister of Commanding Colonel Keshar Singh Thapa).
His father and brothers had difficulties in maintaining a huge family. The Shamshers were poorer than the Jang and other cousins, so to ease the burden on Dhir Shamsher, Dev Shamsher was adopted at a very young age by his father's childless elder brother, General Krishna Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji and was raised by him and his wife.
As the adopted child of General Krishna Bahadur Rana, who was a governor of Palpa, Dev Shamsher had a lavish upbringing compared to his natural brothers. The only occasions that he met his own siblings were during festivities and family gatherings. He was closer to the sons of Jung Bahadur and spent the majority of his time in their palace, Thapathali Durbar. He inherited the entire wealth of his uncle as well as a share of his father's wealth. Since he was much richer than his brothers, they envied him.
In 1885, the Shumsher family, the nephews of Jang Bahadur, murdered many of the sons of Jung Bahadur and took over Nepal in a military coup d'état thus bringing in the rule of the Shamsher Rana family also known as the Satra bhai (17 brothers) family. They murdered Sri Teen Maharaja Ranodip Singh and occupied the hereditary throne of Prime Minister. After this they added Jang Bahadur to their name, although they were descended from Jang's younger brother Dhir Shamsher
Dev Shamsher felt guilty for what had transpired during the coup, also a key incident happened during the coup which affected him deeply. He was held at gunpoint by General Dhoj Narsingh Rana, but was allowed to live and forgiven. For this he felt a lot of guilt and asked for the exiled family members to return to Nepal. General Dhoj Narsingh Rana, adopted son of Ranodip Singh (biological father was Badri Narsingh Rana) had to flee with his family to India along with many of Jung Bahadur's descendants. The British government did not help any of the exiled Jang princes whose fathers had saved the British and their Empire in 1857.
Although this bloody coup was plotted by the Shumsher brothers, Dev Shumsher was kept ignorant about it all throughout. Because of his close relationship with the Jang family the Shumshers did not trust Dev to be part of the coup against the Jangs. In fact, the night that the Shamshers attacked and killed the Jang Ranas, Dev Shamsher was sleeping intoxicated in the quarters of one of the sons of Jung Bahadur Rana, Ranabir Jang. He was mistaken for being a Jang and nearly killed had it not been for one of the killers who recognized him as a Shumsher and spared him.
When the Shumshers killed and exiled the powerful Jang family and other rival Rana families, they took control of the immense wealth of the Jungs. It is said that the deprived Shumshers and their family did not even know how to wear all this new jeweleries and use other items of glamour and constantly sought the advice of Dev Shumsher and his wives who used to mock them at their ignorance.
He became the Prime Minister of Nepal at the age of 37 years and 7 months on March 5, 1901 (1957 Falgun 15). He claimed his heredity from his late brother Sri Teen Maharaja, Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, and got the "Laal Mohur", official stamp of the King of Nepal from then King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah.
According to the traditions of the Rana family, relatives were appointed to high office.
- Chandra Shumsher JBR became Chief of the Army.
- Bhim Shumsher JBR became Western Commanding General.
- Fathe Shumsher JBR became Eastern Commanding General.
- Jeet Shumsher JBR became Southern Commanding General.
- Juddha Shumsher JBR became Northern Commanding General.
Dev Shumsher kept his brother Fathe Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana as Hujuriya General (Chief of the Prime Minister’s body guard) and his nephew General Gehendra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in his post of spy-chief and head of police. Gahendra Shumsher was one of the most powerful people at this time. He had placed his allies in all the high positions of the police force since the time of his father, Prime Minister Bir Shumsher JBR. Dev Shumsher appointed his brother Sher Shumsher as the Chief of Staff to then King Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah and even built a palace for him. And in the same year 1901 A.D. Sher Shumsher was appointed as the first director of Nepal’s first national newspaper Gorkhapatra which is still the government national daily.
His brothers' envy led them to overthrow him in 1901 when he had become Teen Maharajah.
Dev Shumsher was very satisfied with the plan "Universal Education" (Aksharanka Shiksha) prepared by Jay Prithivi Bahadur Singh, King of Bajhang. Later it was published in Gorkhapatra 1st and 2nd Edition 1958 B.S. (1901 A.D.). Dev Shumsher remarked, "If anyone wishes to satisfy the prime minister, it should be with the works like this, not flattery". The publication of Weekly Gorkhapatra started in May 1901 (B.S. 1958. Vaisakha 24). Within a short period of time the paper progressed well and started bi-weekly publication. Owing to its popularity, later it started daily issue, which has become the oldest and largest daily of Nepal today.
Iron ore mine was started in Thosay during Dev Shumshere's time. The Thosay bazaar is 15 km away north from Manthali, the headquarters of Ramechhap district. At one time this was Nepal's largest iron ore processing center. Iron from this area was used for manufacturing weapons that were used during war with Tibet. Trekkers pass through this Thosay bazaar on their way to Mt. Sagarmatha (Everest) (Gorkhapatra Daily, Jan. 16, 2002)
During his short tenure, Dev Shamsher was known as "The Reformist" for his progressive policies, he proclaimed universal education, began to build schools, took steps to abolish slavery, and introduced several other social welfare schemes. He also made improvements to the arsenal at Nakkhu (south of Kathmandu). A democratic person, he took the advice of his nephew General Gahendra Shumsher and decided to establish a parliament and built a big hall in his Thapathali Durbar like his uncle, Prime Minister and Chief of the Army (Marshal) Jung Bahadur.
He proposed a system of universal public primary education, using Nepali as the language of instruction, and opening Durbar High School to children who were not members of the Rana clan. His call for reforms did not entirely disappear, however. A few Nepali-language primary schools in the Kathmandu Valley, the Hill Region, and the Tarai remained open, and the practice of admitting a few middle- and low-caste children to Durbar High School continued.
Deva Shumsher was also responsible for introducing a campaign in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan to fight corruption, as well as introducing a cannon shot at midday to let the people know the time. He organized a ladies court like his late uncle Jung Bahadur. He was the first person to introduce the newspaper to Nepal, Gorkhapatra, which is still the national daily. He made his 'Sindure Yatra' royal proclamation 8 times in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Nagarkot, Kakani etc. Sources claim that his lifestyle was lavish. In his short 4-month regime, he introduced gambling for 2 months, along with bhajan from 3-5 p.m. and silent movies from 8-10 p.m.
Now unlike his predecessors Dev Shumsher being a reformist was evidently well-read in the history of Japan and saw a parallelism with the Shogunate of Japan and likewise he emulated the reforms of the Meiji Restoration of Japan. It was Dev Shumsher who planned to send Nepali youths to Japan for higher studies.
Wisteria, Chrysanthemum, Persimmon and the big size Chestnut (Nillahar, Godaboriphool, Haluwabed and thulo Kattus), which are now familiar plants in Nepal, especially the Kathmandu valley, were imported as seeds from Japan by one of the students who studied agriculture there.
He learned a lot through books and people about the modernization programs of Japan since 1868, the famous Meiji Ishin, the government policy, Meiji Constitution and realized Japan was becoming a powerful nation in economy and national security. Dev Shumsher was every inch a democrat, convinced by the idea of constitutional monarchy and Parliamentary system. He saw Japan as his model. He chose an advanced Asian nation for learning probably because of some similarities between Nepal and Japan rejoining their cultural and then political situation. Unfortunately Dev Shumsher could not implement his plan during his very short period of 144 days rule. However, the next Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher sent the students to Japan in April 1902.
His personal lifestyle was considered to be extravagant, even by Rana standards and he led the most flamboyant and lavish lifestyle out of all the Rana Maharajahs.
Dev Shumsher had 12 sons and 3 daughters. His principal wife was Badamaharani Karma Kumari, Maharani Krishna Kumari (daughter of the King Surendra, in fact, Dev Shamsher was the only amongst the 17 Shamsher brothers to marry a princess from the royal family of Nepal) and Rani Ganesh Kumari.
Sons of Dev Shamsher,
- General Maharajkumar Jang Shamsher
- Maharajkumar Bhuwan Shamsher
- Maharajkumar Narendra Shamsher
- Maharajkumar Bahadur Shamsher
- Maharajkumar Jagat Shamsher
- Maharajkumar Mussorie Shamsher
- Lieutenant-General Kunwar Laba Shamsher (his real name was Babar Shamsher but later was forced to change his name to Laba Shamsher because the name was similar to a son of Chandra Shamsher also called Babar Shamsher)
- Lieutenant-Colonel Kunwar Totra Shamsher
- Lieutenant-Colonel Kunwar Prakash Shamsher
- Lieutenant-Colonel Kunwar Hem Shamsher
- Kunwar Lokendra Shamsher
- Kunwar Krishna Shamsher
Daughters of Dev Shamsher,
- Maharajkumari Mandalasa Rajya Lakshmi Devi (H.H. Maharani Shri Mandalasa Deviji Sahiba, Maharani of Sirmur)
- Maharajkumari Bhuvaneshwari Rajya Lakshmi Devi (Rani Bhuvaneshwari Rajya Lakshmi Devi Sahiba, of Khairigarh Raj)
- Maharajkumari Indra Rajya Lakshmi (Rani Narpat Singh, Maharaja of Idar)
- Rajkumari Gupta Devi - Rani of Lieutenant-Colonel H.H. Shri Maharaja Sir Amar Prakash Bahadur, Maharaja of Sirmur
Deposition and exile
He was deposed by his brothers and sent into exile in India. He was succeeded by his brother Chandra Shamsher. He was first exiled to Dhankuta as governor of East Nepal hence he was also known as the 'Dhankute Maharaj' but he later fled to Ilam and reached Darjeeling under refuge of the British India.
Dev Shamsher sent a message to the League of Nations informing them of his exile and the good work he had been doing in Nepal, but nothing came of it. Chandra Shamsher made a special request to the British to look after Dev Shamsher and to ensure a comfortable retirement so as to ensure that he would not interfere with Nepal matters ever again. The British offered him a large plot of land in New Delhi, which is now the Connaught Place/Connaught Circle but he refused choosing to settle in Jharipani in Mussoorie instead citing that he favored the cooler hills to the heat of Delhi. He built a sprawling collection of grand buildings near Jharipani with huge gateways marking the entrances to what they had named the Fairlawn Palace which remained his residence until the day he died. Fairlawn Palace in Jharipani Mussorie was later sold by his descendants and was in ruins for a long time. The ruins of the Palace are still present and part of the estate has been developed for a school and residential purpose
All of Dev Shamsher's children were in exile with him in Mussorie although they were allowed to travel back and forth to Nepal. It was only during the time of Prime Minister Juddha Shamsher that they were allowed to return to Nepal. Juddha Shamsher being very young was raised by Dev Shamsher's wife Karmakumari. Dev Shamsher had agreed to the wishes of his dying father Dhir Shamsher to have Juddha in the line of succession. The issue of Juddha Shamsher's mother Johar Kumari's caste remains a mystery till date and it is widely believed that she came from a no-caste Sanyasi (Giri-Puri-Bharati) background.
Despite this both Dev and his wife were very supportive to Juddha Shamsher throughout and were crucial in ensuring him in the line of succession. They were like his foster parents. So when Juddha Shamsher eventually became Prime Minister of Nepal he called back all of Dev's descendants in exile back to Nepal. They were given back their palaces in Thapathali and large plots of land in Banke and Bardiya districts of Nepal where some of his descendants still reside. They were once again enlisted in top military position and all of Dev's children and grandchildren were given allowances from the state. As a tribute to his foster mother, the wife of Dev Shamsher, Juddha Shamsher later built a huge statue of her which can be seen inside the premises of the present day Zoo in Jawalakhel. It is the biggest statue of any female in the country. Much of Dev Shamsher's descendants can now be found either in Thapathali in Kathmandu, the traditional home of the Ranas, or in Nepalgunj in western Nepal and in Dehradun in India.