Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unification Campaign of Prithvi Narayan Shah

Along with the expansion of Gorkha kingdom, Prithvi Narayan Shah wanted to protect the country from the claws of the British Empire. He wanted to foil the evil designs of the British, by uniting the small kingdoms into a strong nation. Therefore, just after his accession, he set his foot on to the task of expanding the Gorkha kingdom which ultimately led to the unification of Nepal.

Invasion of Nuwakot

Prithvi Narayan Shah was an ambitious king. Along with the expansion of Gorkha kingdom, Prithvi Narayan Shah wanted to protect the country from the claws of the British Empire. He wanted to foil the evil designs of the British, by uniting the small kingdoms into a strong nation. Therefore, just after his accession, he set his foot on to the task of expanding the Gorkha kingdom which ultimately led to the unification of Nepal. He wanted to extend the territory of his kingdom far and wide. He also wanted to conquer the small kingdoms and unite them into a strong nation. His main target was the kingdoms of Kathmandu valley. Before invading the valley, he had to capture Nuwakot, which was the gateway to the valley and main trade route between Kathmandu and Tibet. His father Narabhupal Shah had been unsuccessful in his attempt to conquer the kingdom of Nuwakot.

Prithvi Narayan Shah sent his force under the command of Kazi Biraj Thapa to attack Nuwakot. Biraj Thapa did not attack immediately after reaching Nuwakot, but he started to study the strength of the Nuwakot army and the situation of the kingdom. Prithvi Narayan Shah did not like the delay of Biraj Thapa and so he sent another force under the command of Maheswar Panta. The Gorkha troops under the command of Maheswar Panta attacked Nuwakot instantly but the Gorkha troops were badly defeated. Thus, Nuwakot was victorious against the Gorkha invasion for the second time. At that time, the Gorkhali Army was unknown about the geographical situation of Nuwakot. During the war, the two Gorkhali commanders blamed each other. On the other hand, the Nuwakot soldiers were aware of the strategic points and they fought at the risk of their lives to save the sovereignty of their kingdom.

Visit of Benaras:

The defeat at the invasion of Nuwakot taught Prithvi Narayan Shah a good lesson. He realized that the standard of his army was below what he had estimated. His troops lacked arms and ammunition and sufficient rations. Leaving his kingdom under the care of his trusted Kazi Kalu Pandey, he went to Benaras (Kashi) to collect war weapons, and to study the polotical and economic condition of the East India Company and other Baise, Choubise Rajya. He reached Benaras, worshipped Bishwanath and changed his Gotra from 'Bharadwaj' into 'Kasyap'. With the hielp of his father-in-lay Abhiman Singh, he acquired different kinds of arms and ammunition necessary for his army. He came back to Gorkha via Butwal and began to train his soldiers in the art of warfare. With the advice of Kalu Pandey he sent for young men from the Terai, recruited them in the Gorkha army and gave them proper training. He began to prepare for the next invasion of Nuwakot.

Peace Alliance with Lamjung:

Kazi Kalu Pandey was a wise, brave and a far-sighted statesman. King Prithvi Narayan Shah had great trust in him. It was Kalu Pandey who advised the king to maintain peace and friendship with the neighbouring kingdoms. He was afraid that the neighbouring kings might attack Gorkha while Prithvi Narayan Shah would be away on his invasion campaign. Prithvi Narayan Shah thus sent Kalu Pandey who had a cordial talk with the king of Lamjung at the basin of the river, Chepe. Because of the diplomatic mind of Kalu Pandey, and alliance could be made between Gorkha and Lamjung, the two traditional enemies. After that, Gorkha made an alliance with Kaski, Tanahun and Palpa.

Conquest of Nuwakot:

Gorkha was now made secure from all sides. Both Prithvi Narayan Shah and Kalu Pandey thought that it was the right time to invade Nuwakot. Under the command of Prithvi Narayan Shah himself, the Gorkha troops attacked Nuwakot on 26 September 1744 from three sides. A troop under the command of Kalu Pandey, ascended the hill from the North through Gerkhu. The Second troop took the Dharma Pani route under the command of Kirti Mahoddam Shah. A third troop was under the command of Prithvi Narayan Shah himself, attacked from the front. Shandermani Rana, the commander of the Nuwakot army was killed in the battle-field and the troops fled to Belkot. Thus, Nuwakot fell in the hands of Prithvi Narayan Shah.

Then Prithvi Narayan Shah attacked Belkot. Kalu Pandey was not in favour of the hasty action but Prithvi Narayan Shah, who was encouraged by his conquest of Nuwakot, gallantly attacked Belkot. The Gorkha troops suffered a heavey loss in this battle. At last, the Gorkha troops won a victory over Belkot. Jayanta Rana, who was in the past, the commander of the Gorkha army during the reign of Narabhupal Shah, was the commander of the Malla troops installed at Belkot. It is said that Prithvi Narayan Shah ordered his soldiers to skin the living body of Jayanta Rana. He was said to have treated Jayanta Rana in that manner to show the fae of a betrayer of Gorkha. After the conquest of Nuwakot, Prithvi Narayan Shah began to control all the areas around the valley. He captured Naddum, Mahadev Pokhari, Dahachowk, Ippa, Malta, Siranchowk, etc.

War with Lamjung:

Lamjung was the age old enemy of Gorkha. It broke the alliance with Gorkha, and taking advantage of the absence of the Gorkha army, crossed the Chepe and took Sirhanchowk. Prithvi Narayan Shah responded by sending an army under the command of Kirti Mahoddam Shah and Bansa Gopal Panta. The Gorkha troops met the Lamjung-troops at Salimpa and a fierce battle was fought. The Horkha troops defeated the Lamjung troops and captured it. Again, the Gorkha troops had to face the combined forces of Lamjung along with other small principalities at Sirhanchowk. Reinforcements arrived from Nuwakot under Kirti Mahoddam Shah, Kalu Pandey and Ambar Pandey. Rudra Shah from Gorkha sent more reinforcements. The Gorkha troops attacked the invaders in the middle of the monsson and successfully drove them back. Many drowned in the rainswollen Chepe. After that the 'Chaubisi' were too weak to trouble Prithvi Narayan Shah any more.

Annexation of Tanahun:

Prithvi Narayan Shah now thought to annex Tanahun to his kingdom. The king of Tanahun, Tribikram Sen, was his father's friend. So, he decided not to invade Tanahun but to capture the king by diplomany. Guru Gaureswar was the common preceptor of Narabhupal Shah and Tribikram Sen. Through this Guru, Prithvi Narayan Shah called KIng Tribikram Sen to the bank of the Trishuli on the pretext of making friendship. Prithvi Narayan Shah had hidden arms in the sand of the bank of the river. When Tribikram Sen came, he was captured by the Gorkhas. He was taken in chains to Nuwakot and was imprisoned there. By such a treacherous act, got hold of Tanahun and annexed it to the kingdom of Gorkha.

Invasion of Kirtipur:

After capturing Lamjung, Tanahun and other neighbouring territories, Prithvi Narayan Shah marched with his troops for the conquest of the valley. He first captured Farpin, Bandegaon, Sunagaon, Khokana and other villages. Veteran leaders and warriors like Kalu Pandey, Dalajit Shah, Dalamardan Shah, Tularam Pandey and Bir Bhadra accompanied him. The Gorkha troops violently attacked Kirtipur. After a terrible fight for six hours, the Gorkha troops got a severe blow from the hands of the combined force of KIritipuris and Jaya Prakash's army. Prithvi Narayan Shah himself had a narrow escape. The brave forty-forus years old Kalu Pandey and four hundred Gorkhali troops were killed in the battle of Balkhu (Kirtipu). The Gorkha troops suffered a heavy loss and the surviving soldiers, along with the king, had to retreat back to Nuwakot.

Victory over the Muslim forces: To defend the aggression of the Gorkhas, the king of Makawanpur, Digbandan Sen, appealed for help to Mir Kasim, the Muslim king of Bengal. Mir Kasim was preparing to wage war aggainst the East India Company. At that time, Mir Kasim was in need of friends, he also wanted desperately to test his newly organized army. So, he accepted the request of Digbandhan Sen and sent his 2000 strong soldiers under the command of Gurgin Khan in 1763. The Gorkhas defeated the well-equipped army of Gurgin Khan. The Muslim troops fled away from the battle-field and the Gorkhas captured their arms and ammunition. This victory over the Muslims raised the morale of the Gorkhas and discouraged the native states of India from interfering in the affairs of the Gorkhas.

Conquest of Makawanpur:

Makawanpur had a control over the southern routes to the Kathmandu valley. Prithvi Narayan Shah thought to conquer and occupy it. Because of the growing power of the Gorkha, Makawanpur was terrified and the king of Makwanpur had planned to join in an alliance with Jaya Prakash Malla to resist the attack of Gorkhas. When Prithvi Narayan Shah came to know this, he sent an army under the command of Kahar Simha Basnyat, Bansaraj Pandey and Ram Krishna Kunwar. Makawanpur forces were defeated in the ten hour battle and they surrendered before the gallant Gorkhas on 21st August 1762. During the war, one-hundered Gorkhali and four-hundred Makawanpur soldiers were killed. Then the Gorkhas attacked and occupied Hariharpur, Timalkot and Sindhulikot. The Gorkhali troops arrested Digbandhan Sen, the king of Makawanpur, on February 13, 1763.

Victory over the British Forces:

Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu was alarmed at the growing power of Prithvi Narayan Shah. He sought help from the East India Company in order to defend his kingdom from the Gorkha aggression, just as the king of Makawanpur had appealed to Mir Kasim. The East India Company sent 2400 soldiers in 1767 under the command of General Kinloch who tried to enter Nepal via Sindhuli. The 120 Gorkha soldiers under the leadership of Bir Bhadra Thapa and Kaji Bansha Raj Pandey, attacked them in the hills above Sindhuli. The British soldiers were not aware of the techniques of hill warfare nor the bravery of theGorkhas. They could not fight against the Gorkhas and ran away from the battle-field. This time also, the Gorkhas captured a huge supply of ammunition and cannons which they used in future wars.

Economic Blockede to the Valley:

Prithvi Narayan Shah had learned a good lesson from his defeat at Kirtipur. Therefore, planned thoroughly his invasion of Kathmandu valley and captured all the strategic positions around the valley. He had already captured Naldum, Mahadev, Nuwakot, Belkot, Shivapuri and Dahachowk, in the north and west of Kathmandu valley. He then occupied Makawanpur, the southern gateway of the valley. He also captured several villages that surrounded the valley. he cut off the imports and exports of the valley and brought about an economic crisis in the valley kingdoms. Prithvi Narayan Shah used to give capital punishmentv to those who would supply a little bit of salt and cotton to the valley during his economic blockade period. In this way, due to his far-sighted diplomacy, Prithvi Narayan Shah weakend the position of the valley kingdoms and invaded them at the right time.

Conquest of Kirtipur:

Prithvi Narayan Shah had already occupied Dhulikhel, Banepa, Panauti, Panga, Farping and Chobhar, by 1764. On 16th September 1764, he attacked Kirtipur for the second time. But he was defeated again by the Kirtipuris. Sur Pratap Shah, the youngest brother of Prithvi Narayan Shah, lost his eyes in this battle. However, Prithvi Narayan Shah did not give up his hope to conquer the valley kingdoms. For the third time, Prithvi Narayan Shah sent his army under the command of Bansa Raj Pandey who made a sudden attack on Kirtipur in December 1767. This time, the Gorkha troops got victory over Kirtipur. Prithvi Narayan Shah became so furious from his former defeats in the hands of Kirtipuris that he ordered that the nose of the people of Kirtipur over the age of 12 be cut off and the city to be named as 'Naskatipur'.

Conquest of the Valley:

On 26th September 1768, when the people of Kathmandu, along with King Jaya Prakash Malla, were celebrating the Indra Jatra festival, Prithvi Narayan Shah made a sudden attack. The 1000 Gorkha soldiers under the command of their king attacked Kathmandu from three sides-Bhimsenthan, Naradevi and Tundikhel. The troops of Jaya Prakash Malla fought for some time, then they surrendered. Jaya Prakash Malla hid in the Taleju temple and fled to Patan for shelter. Prithvi Narayan Shah declared himself to be the king of Kathmandu and sat on the throne set up in the palace square (Basantapur Durbar Square) for the festival.

After somedays, Patan was also attacked by the Gorkhas. The six Pradhans were ready to surrender before Prithvi Narayan Shah without any bloodshed. Tej Narasimha Malla, the king of Patan, became afraid of the Pradhans as well as of Prithvi Narayan Shah. So, he went to Bhaktapur along with Jaya Prakash Malla. On 6th Oct. 1768, Prithvi Narayan Shah annexed Patan to his kingdom. After a year, on 12th November 1769, Prithvi Narayan Shah conquest Bhaktapur and occupied it. In this way, Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the valley kingdoms one by one and several other kingdoms out side the valley, and laid the foundation of a Grater Nepal.

After conquering the valley, Prithvi Narayan Shah began to prepare for war against Chaubise Rajya. The Gorkhali troops tried to control Kaski, Rishing, Dhor, Bhirkot, Parbat, etc; but they were unsuccessful. Then Prithvi Narayan Shah turned his attention towards the eastern satates and established the boundary of Nepal up to Kankai in the east, Marshandi and Chepe in the weswt, Rasuwa in the north and Parsa to Jhapa in the south.

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