Greater Nepal

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Greater Nepal Map, Extent of the Gorkha empire at its height

Greater Nepal is a concept of Nepal extending beyond its present boundaries to include present day Indian territories controlled briefly by the Gurkha army after defeating some South Asian kingdoms in wars fought from 1791 to 1804 but ceded to the East India Company under the Sugauli Treaty (treaty for Partition of Nepal) after the Gurkha king was defeated in the 1814–16 Anglo-Nepalese War. In 1813, the historical Greater Nepal extended from the Sutlej to the Tista, spanning 1500 kilometres. Rule over this expanse was brief, however, and in the aftermath of the 1814-1815 war with the East India Company the Gorkhali realm was whittled down considerably. The real time Gorkhali presence in Garhwal was for over a decade; Kumaon for 25 years; and Sikkim for 33 years. The Treaty of Sugauli, between the Gorkhali king and the Company, was ratified in 1816. It caused Nepal to lose about 105,000 km2 of territory and left Nepal as she is today, with 147,181 km2 of present total area.

Campaigns by Shah kings[edit]

Main article: Unification of Nepal
British map of India, c.1785

King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723–75) of the Shah dynasty decided to enlarge the kingdom that was confined to the small Gorkha region of Nepal and had an area of just 2,500 square kilometres (970 sq mi). He defeated major principalities in wars and unified them under his rule starting from the 1740s ending with shifting of his Gorkha Kingdom’s capital from Gorkha region to Kathmandu in 1769. He then attacked and absorbed dozens of other small principalities of Nepal area to his Gorkha kingdom. After his death in 1775, his eldest son Pratap Singh Shah continued defeating other smaller princes and absorbing their fiefdoms. Pratap Shah died at the age of twenty-five in 1777. Then Prithvi Narayan Shah’s second son, Bahadur Shah, ruled until 1794.

British India and Nepal in 1795
British map of India, c.1804
This map of 1805 shows Nepal has enlarged, invading south asian princely states, expanding Nepal's western border near the Kangra across the Satluj river. The Sugauli Treaty ceded these areas back to India.
1814 map by John Thomson depicting northern India and Nepal.
Imperial Gazetteer Map of British India, 1909

Wars with kingdoms in neighbouring countries, British India and Tibet[edit]

Prithvi Narayan Shah’s second son, Bahadur Shah, wanted Nepal to become a pan-Himalayan kingdom and started demanding that kings of all the hill kingdoms in the Himalayas surrender to him. He won all small kingdoms up to Kali River in the west. He turned his attention to kingdoms in neighbouring British India across the Kali River. He defeated some of them in wars and won some areas. However, the next Shah soon lost them to the British East India Company which had come to rule much of north India by then and had become the de facto ruler of India east of Satluj river in place of the Moghuls, Marathas and other kings, especially after defeating the Marathas in 1803 in Second Anglo-Maratha War.

Bahadur Shah also attacked Tibet in 1789-1792 to control the trade routes through the mountains and the trade itself due to a dispute over contaminated silver coins and had initial success but was defeated by the Chinese who intervened in favor of Tibet. The Chinese pushed the Gorkha army back and a desperate Bahadur Shah appealed to the British East India Company for guns and help in saving his kingdom. Thus Bahadur Shah lost his northwards gambit in Tibet but his successor kings continued their attempts westward towards Kangra and eastward in Sikkim.

Victory over Kumaon Kingdom, Garhwal Kingdom and Kangra[edit]

The Gorkha army invaded Kumaon Kingdom and occupied it in 1790–91. [1][2] Then the Gorkha army invaded Garhwal Kingdom and occupied it in 1804 after defeating its King Pradyuman Shah. The southern border of Nepal extended to Allahabad[citation needed] after absorption of Palpa Kingdom, including the Terai sector of Butwal taken by the king of Palpa from the king of Awadh on lease in 1801. In 1806, the Gorkha army absorbed all the small kingdoms like Sirmudh state, Hindur and Besahar lying across the Garhwal and up to Satluj River. In this way, the Gorkhas unified the hilly regions such as Nainital, Almora and Dehradun without crossing the Satluj River. However, when the Gorkhas crossed the Satluj river, the Gorkha's attack on Kangra and siege of Kangra Fort west of Satluj river was repulsed by the Kangra king with help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab in 1809. Later the Gorkha army absorbed Kangra and extended the kingdom to Ravi river, India. This could not last long as Nepal signed Sugauli treaty.

Victory over Sikkim and Darjeeling[edit]

Previously Darjeeling formed a part of dominions of the Raja of Sikkim, who had been engaged in an unsuccessful warfare against the Gorkhas. From 1780 the Gorkhas continually made inroads into Sikkim. Sikkim lost most of its land to Nepal and by the beginning of the 19th century, the Gorkhas had overrun Sikkim as far-eastward as the Teesta and had conquered and annexed the Terai.[3]

Sugauli Treaty[edit]

Main article: Sugauli Treaty

The East India Company had come to rule much of north India by the time the Gurkhas attacked kingdoms in South Asia. The Company became the de facto ruler of South Asia east of Satluj river in place of the Moghuls, Marathas and other kings, especially after defeating the Marathas in 1803 in Second Anglo-Maratha War. After firmly establishing its rule over Delhi in 1803, the Company attacked the Gorkhas and repulsed them from Kumaon Kingdom and Garhwal Kingdom in the area west of Kali river and in Sikkim and north Bengal east of Teesta river by 1815. The Gorkhas were forced to accept a peace treaty with the British (the Sugauli Treaty) in 1816.

Historical boundaries[edit]

Nepal was a huge country even during Khas and Kirat Period. Its eastern border was Kamaru Kamakshya, southern border Katur and western border was Kangda. This has been mentioned in 81st Chapter of Skanda Puran and 1000 B.C. old Atharva Veda, Kautilya’s Arthashastra. It has been mentioned in the inscription of emperor Samundragupta in Allahabad that the border of Nepal was Kamaru Kamakshya in the east, Pataliputra Katur in the south and Udhampur in the West, Kamaskhya is the capital of Assam, Pataliputra is Patna, Katur is near Allahabad and Udhampur is north-west Bengal. This inscription is 350 B.C. old. Nepal was immense then. This was the period when the Kirat rule was in its last days and the Lichhavis were emerging. When they later became weak, the country got divided into 53 pieces.

Nepal as a nation has existed for 3000 years with old kingdoms of Kantipur, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur known as Nepal valley. Throughout history, Nepal was unified and then fragmented several times during the reign of Malla kings. During late 18th century, Nepal’s western boundary was east of Kali River when his second son, Bahadur Shah, thought of making Nepal a pan-Himalayan kingdom. Bahadur Shah and his successors won kingdoms west of Kali River after 1790 and extended Nepal’s boundaries westward to beyond Satluj River until the tide turned in 1809 and Kangra king repulsed Gorkha army eastward with help from Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In the east, Nepal’s boundary extended to Teesta River. The southern border was the Siwan district of Bihar.

The East India Company, defeated Nepal in 1814–15 Anglo-Nepalese War and on 4 March 1816 Nepal signed a treaty called Sugauli Treaty under which the Nepalese kingdom ceded to East India Company the territories that their ancestors had unified.

Some Terai area was restored to Nepal in December 1816.

15 November 1860 treaty (Ratified)[edit]

After the Nepali army helped the British suppress the 1857 "mutiny", the British government (that had taken control over India from East India Company in 1858) in recognition of this support returned some Terai lands lying between the Rapti and Mahakali Rivers to Nepal in 1860. These lands were surveyed by Commissioners appointed for the survey by the British government in presence of the Commissioners deputed by the Nepal Durbar; masonry pillars were erected to mark the agreed boundary of Nepal and British India and the territory was formally delivered over to the Nepali Durbar. A treaty was signed between the King of Nepal (by Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana, on behalf of Maharajah Dheraj Soorinder (sic) Vikram Sah) and the British government on 1 November 1860 to secure the agreed boundaries.

Article 3 of the 1860 treaty stated "The boundary line surveyed by the British Commissioners appointed for the purpose extending eastward from the River Kali or Sardah to the foot of the hills north of Bagowra Tal, and marked by pillars, shall henceforth be the boundary between the British Province of Oudh and the Territories of the Maharajah of Nepal."

The other territories in British India that the Gurkha army had unified but lost in 1814–16 remained in India illegally, though some territories were returned to Nepal in 1860 as per the treaty.

Gorkhaland Movement[edit]

The Gorkhaland movement in Darjeeling has clarified that there is no legitimate basis for annex Darjeeling to India. In 1986 the Gorkhaland movement began in the district of Darjeeling that lies between Mechi and Tista. Many Nepalis died in the movement. Subash Ghising, the leader of the movement sent a letter to then king of Nepal Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev pleading that Darjeeling belonged to Nepal and that they were his subjects. But the king did not sent any response. In 1991, Ghising wrote to the Indian prime minister to clarity the legitimate status of Darjeeling. He also sent a letter to the then prime minister of Nepal Girija Prasad Koirala. When all went in vain. He knocked the door of the Indian apex court. When the Gorkhaland movement was going on Ghising filed a case in the Supreme Court of India. He had filed it according to article 1-3-C of the Indian constitution. Constitutionally, according to the article Darjeeling would have to be decided as belonging to Nepal. To avert this, the court said that this was a political issue. This implied that it would have to be settled politically. So practically, Nepal would never raise the issue.

Official position of Nepal government and political parties[edit]

The former kings of Nepal, prime ministers of Kingdoms of Nepal and later prime ministers of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal have not discussed or approved of the concept of "Greater Nepal", though Nepalese at large view the occupation of these territories by present day Indian government as both illegal and immoral. They argue that a nation called India in its present form or shape, never existed in history and it was only the British who created it. They also hold the view that lines drawn by colonial powers should not be a basis for division of brotherly people of Sikkim, Darjeeling, Kumaon, Garhwal, Nainital and Nepal who share common language, culture, history and identity. Nepalese in general hold the Sugauli Treaty as document for Partition of Nepal.

However much to the disappointment of Nepalese citizens at large, much of the territories of Greater Nepal has been indianized, some believe, to the point of no return. For example in places like Kumaon and Garhwal there are now more Hindi-speakers than ethnic Nepali speaking people. Furthermore, late Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala told journalists in Jalapa that the Greater Nepal idea is "a product of unstable minds". He also had said that 'The ethnic cleansing of Nepalese speaking people from Indian state of Meghalaya and Bhutan' were internal affairs of those countries and people of Nepal should not sympathize with their cause. Girija is often accused by Nepalese inside and outside Nepal as being a traitor for not doing anything to end the Indian occupation of Nepalese territories like Kalapani, Susta and Tankapur which were occupied by India after 1962.[4]

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chairperson of Maoist party, who spent 10 years of his life in India after being declared a terrorist by the Nepalese government, after becoming PM of Nepal said in an interview with Times of India in 2005 that Greater Nepal was a "media-created stunt".[5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]