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Shree Teen Maharaja Sir Jung Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji,GCB, GCSI (born as Bir Narsingh Kunwar (Nepali: ), 18 June 1817, Borlang, Gorkha - 25 February 1877, Patharghat, Rautahat; popularly known as Jung Bahadur Rana (Nepali: ? ?)) was a Khas Rajput (Chhetri)[note 1] ruler of Nepal and founder of the Rana of Nepal. His real name was Bir Narsingh Kunwar but he became famous by the name Junga Bahadur, given to him by first Prime Minister and C-in-C Mathabar Singh Thapa, his maternal uncle.
His mother Ganesh Kumari was the daughter of Kaji Nain Singh Thapa, brother of PM Bhimsen Thapa of then ruling Thapa. Through the influence of his maternal side, he enjoyed privileges. During his lifetime, he eliminated the factional fighting at the court, removed his family rivals such as Pandes and Basnyats and paved way for the finding of Rana, introduced innovations into the bureaucracy and the judiciary, and made efforts to "modernize" Nepal. He remains one of the most important figures in Nepalese history, though modern historians have also blamed Jung Bahadur for setting up the dictatorship that repressed the nation for 104 years from 1846 to 1951 and left it in a primitive economic condition. Others exclusively blame his nephews, the Shumsher Ranas, for Nepal's dark period of history. Rana rule was marked by tyranny, debauchery, economic exploitation and religious persecution.
His father, Kaji Bal Narsingh Kunwar, was in court the day Rana Bahadur Shah was murdered by his own half-brother Sher Bahadur Shah; as a retaliation Bal Narsingh killed him on the spot. For this action, he was rewarded with the position of Kaji, which was made hereditary in his family, also he was the only person allowed to carry weapons inside the court. He was the great-grandson of Ram Krishna Kunwar, a great military leader at the times of King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Through his mother Ganesh Kumari, he was related to the aristocratic Thapa of PM Bhimsen Thapa, which helped him enter the royal court at a young age. Through his maternal grandmother he was related to the aristocratic Pande family as his maternal grandmother Rana Kumari was the daughter of Kaji Ranajit Pande, an influential royal courtier.
Bal Narsingh Kunwar was appointed as the bodyguard of Rana Bahadur Shah. When Shah was attacked on 24 April 1806, he was working at the same spot. Bal Narsingh Kunwar's second wife Ganesh Kumari was the sister of Mathabarsingh Thapa. Jung Bahadur was born in Langantol of Kathmandu. In those days the Thapas had influence over the administration of Nepal. From an early age, Jung Bahadur showed interest in courageous deeds. When he was 11 years old he was married to Prasad Laxmi, the daughter of Prasad Singh on 1 May 1828. His father then went to Dhankuta and took his sons with him. In 1833, Bal Narsingh moved to Dadeldhura where Jung Bahadur accompanied him and was admitted in the Military. When Bal Narsingh moved to Jumla in the year 1835, Jung Bahadur was already promoted to the rank of Second lieutenant. In 1837 when Bhimsen Thapa was dismissed, all his relatives were freed from the services. In this course, Bal Narsingh and Jung Bahadur too were dismissed from their services and their properties was seized. This incident made it difficult for Bal Narsingh to fulfill even the fundamental necessities of his large family. Jung Bahadur then went to Varanasi in search of work. There he wandered around to no avail. After a brief stay there, he returned to the Terai to work as a Mahout, but there too, he couldn't achieve any success. In 1839 he returned to Kathmandu where his wife and infant son had already died.
In 1839 Jung Bahadur was married to the daughter of Kaji Sanak Singh. Jung Bahadur received decent amount of dowry from the marriage which resulted in a slight betterment in the financial condition of the family. In 1840, the King Rajendra went to Terai where coincidentally Jung Bahadur was also accompanying him. There Jung Bahadur impressed the King by displaying great courage. The King was pleased with him and immediately gave him the position of Captain. After returning, Jung Bahadur was included amongst the bodyguards of the Crown Prince. Once, in the command of the Prince he had to jump into the Trishuli River riding a horse which he did and only just survived.
After a while, Jung Bahadur was transferred from the Prince's group back into the King's. There he was appointed as a Kaji and was sent to the office of Kumarichowk. There he got an opportunity to properly understand the financial transactions of Nepal.
Jung Bahadur was known to be extremely ambitious. During those days, the youngest Queen was the actual ruler of the country with King only of name. Gagan Singh Bhandari was closest to the queen. Jung Bahadur had managed to please the Queen, the Prince and the Prime Minister with his diligent efforts. He had also managed to influence Henry Lawrence and his wife Honoria Lawrence.
When Mathavar was still the Prime Minister, a cousin of Jung Bahadur was sentenced to death penalty. Jung Bahadur had requested Mathavir to convince the Queen to excuse his cousin but Mathavar denied. This had resulted in Jung Bahadur holding grudge against him.
Jung Bahadur befriended Pandit Bijayaraj who was the internal priest of the palace, and from him he started to gain valuable information about the Durbar. He had also managed to befriend Gagan Singh Bhandari.
After assassinating Mathavar Singh, the queen gave Jung Bahadur the rank of a General and included Gagan Singh in the council of ministers.
The Kot massacre took place on 14 September 1846 when Jung Bahadur Rana and his brothers killed about 40 members of the Nepalese palace court including the Prime Minister and a relative of the King, Chautariya Fateh Jung Shah, at the palace armory (the kot) of Kathmandu. This led to the loss of power by King Rajendra Bikram Shah and by Surendra Bikram Shah and the establishment of the Rana autocracy.
By 1850 Jung Bahadur had eliminated all of his major rivals, installed his own candidate on the throne, appointed his brothers and cronies to all the important posts, and ensured that major administrative decisions were made by himself as prime minister.
After the Massacre, on the 15th of September the Queen appointed Jung Bahadur as the Prime Minister and the Commander-in-chief. After meeting with the Queen and the King, Jung Bahadur went to meet the Resident at the British Residency. There he informed the Resident about the massacre and also convinced him that the new government will be a great friend of the English. In the 23rd of September all officers of military and bureaucracy were called upon to their respective offices within 10 days. Then, Jung Bahadur appointed his brothers and nephews to the highest ranks of the government.
The Queen commanded Jung Bahadur to remove Prince Surendra from the rank and declare Rajendra as the new Prince but Jung Bahadur ignored it which resulted in Queen holding vendetta against him. A few people had survived the Kot Massacre who were secretly planning to avenge Jung Bahadur. The Queen secretly contacted them and conspired to assassinate Jung Bahadur. A plan was formed to do so in a gathering to be organized in the garden of Bhandarkhal situated at the eastern end of the palace.
Jung Bahadur had already placed his spies inside the palace to gather information about the Queen and the events in the palace. These spies were handed the duty of informing Jung Bahadur about the happenings in a secret manner. A certain Putali Nani whom Jung Bahadur had already taken in his side also worked inside the palace and she informed Jung Bahadur about the conspiracy.
After receiving a command from the Queen to come to Bhandarkhal, Jung Bahadur took his fully armed troops and headed towards the garden. Birdhwaj was given the duty to bring Jung Bahadur in time. When he reached to the temple of Jor-Ganesh, he saw Jung Bahadur approaching with the troops. Sighting him, Jung Bahadur signaled Capt. Ranamehar and Ranamehar killed Birdhwaj Basnyat. The troops then marched towards Bhandarkhal where seeing Jung Bahadur approach fully armed with his troops, the conspirators started to flee. 23 people were killed in the massacre while 15 escaped. The next day, everything was seized of those who had been involved in this massacre. Jung Bahadur then imprisoned the Queen. Jung Bahadur then called for a meeting of the Council in the name of King Rajendra and charged the Queen of trying to assassinate the Prince and the Prime Minister. The Council agreed upon the charges after which the Queen was freed from all her rights. The Queen asked Jung Bahadur to let her go to Benaras with all her family which Jung Bahadur agreed to. The King went alongside the Queen.
After the massacres of Kot and Bhandarkhal, the Thapas, Pande's and other citizens had settled in Benaras. Similarly, some citizens had gone to setlle in Nautanwa and Bettiah. Guru Prasad Shah of Palpa too had gone to live with the King of Bettiah. After knowing about the presence of the King and the Queen in Benaras, Guru Prasad went there and started to congregate an army and a plan to execute Jung Bahadur started to be formed. After staying for about two months in Benaras, the King Rajendra started to show interest in the matter. The King then, appreciating the plan, met with Guru Prasad and assured him of his support for the plan. The King also provided some financial aid.
After receiving the support from the King, Guru Prasad started to organize the Nepalese people living outside the country. They started gathering people who had come in search of work and started training them.
Meanwhile, the spies in Benaras who were analyzing each step of the King were providing reports to Jung Bahadur every week. Having understood the activities going on in Benaras, Jung Bahadur called a meeting of Council where he issued a charter mentioning, ' Now we cannot obey the King, from now on we will work in accordance to the commands of the Prime Minister Jung Bahadur', and sent it to Benaras. After receiving such letter from Jung Bahadur, the King panicked and consulted with his new minister as well as his Guru.
The Guru and others suggested the King to send a letter to the Army mentioning that the troops shall assist the King not the Prime Minister. The King put his stamp in the letter and sent it with Kumbhedan and Sewakram. They secretly reached Kathmandu and stayed in the house of one owner of Killagal. The spies of Jung Bahadur captured them from the house and destroyed the house the next morning. A pistol and a letter was found from them. Immediately, they were imprisoned and after a few days were hanged till death.
On May 12, 1847, Jung Bahadur gave a speech in Tundikhel. There he accused the King of attempted assassination of the Prince and the Prime Minister. The Council then decided to dethrone King Rajendra deeming him mentally ill, and on the same day Surendra was crowned as the new king of Nepal.
Hearing the news of the coronation of Surendra, Rajendra decided to take the responsibility of removing Jung Bahadur upon himself and declaring himself as the leader of the army, he left Benaras. Rajendra then appointed Guru Prasad Shah as the Chief of the Army for the operation of removal of Jung Bahadur Rana from Nepal and started to accumulate weapons and training the troops. The training of the troops were done in the camp of the King of Bettiah who was a good ally of Rajendra. Along with this, some treasure and weapons were bought from secret groups in Benaras, Prayag, etc., and sent to Bettiah. The King of Bettiah also provided some arms and elephants. A plan to attack Nepal was made.
Antagonism from the Company forced Rajendra and his troops to enter Nepal. On the 23rd of July, the troops reached to a village called Alau in Bara and set a camp there. The number of troops available at Alau was around three thousand, thousand less than the number at Betiah who had fled mid-way.
One spy group of the Government of Nepal was keeping close eyes on the event of the rebel groups at Betiah. They sent the news to Jung Bahadur, immediately after which he sent a troop in the leadership of Sanak Singh Tandon to Alau. They were told to suppress the rebellions, arrest Rajendra and bring him to Kathmandu. On the 27th of July, the Gorakhnath Paltan reached and rested in a village called Simraungadh, not too far from Alau.
At dawn the next day the troops from Kathmandu started firing cannons at the camp. Great panic spread over the camp. Few armies from the King's side resisted and fought with Government forces. The former King too, for a certain period lead his troops. Guru Prasad fled from the location. Around a hundred soldiers of the King were killed in the battle and the King was captured and brought to Kathmandu.
The battle of Alau was a decisive one between the forces of King and Jung Bahadur. The King lost significantly in the battle. If the massacre of Kot had established Jung Bahadur as a dictator, the battle of Alau had helped him strengthen his dictatorship. Rajendra was imprisoned in an old palace in Bhaktapur.
Towards the end of 1848 a vicious battle waged between the British and the Sikhs in Punjab. After hearing the news, Jung Bahadur met with the Resident and assured of Nepal Government's support to the British. But the Governor-General rejected the proposal fearing the possibility of the Nepali troops diverting to the side of the Sikhs at the crucial moment. Jung Bahadur then decided to demonstrate his power to the English. He was passionate for hunting but after being the Prime Minister he had not gotten an opportunity to hunt. In 1848, Jung Bahadur planned to go to the Terai with a dual purpose, one for hunting but primarily to show-off his power to the English. In the 22nd of December, with the King and a large group alongside him, Jung Bahadur left Kathmandu. The group included thirty-two thousand soldiers on foot, fifty-two cannons, three hundred risalla, and cannons to be pulled by two hundred and fifty mules. After getting the information of this large a force nearby its boundary, the Governor-General sent a message to the Resident asking him to figure out the reality of the matter.
The King and Jung Bahadur then camped in a village called Bisauli which was not too far from the territories of the Company. But the spread of cholera and malaria, which started killing the soldiers forced them to return.
After the Treaty of Sugauli, the British had gained access to the internal matters of Nepal. Although the previous Prime Ministers of Nepal before him had somewhat resisted the Resident's involvement in the internal matter of Nepal, Jung Bahadur was of strong opinion that neither the Resident nor the Governor-General shall have any right to show involvement in the matters of Nepal. He therefore, wanted to establish a direct relationship between the Government of Nepal and the Queen and Prime Minister of Great Britain. He also had a keen interest in understanding the real power of the British. For these ends, he desired to travel to the Great Britain.
Jung Bahadur expressed his desire to the then Resident, Col. Thorsby. Thorsby suggested Jung Bahadur to write a letter, which he did and sent it to Calcutta. The Governor-General conveyed the message to Britain where they accepted the request and also asked them (Governor-General) to manage the necessary provisions, after which, James Broun-Ramsay, sent a letter of acceptance to Kathmandu. The visit was to be of diplomatic nature and Jung Bahadur was to visit as a Royal Ambassador.
By placing his brother Bam Bahadur Kunwar as an interim Prime Minister, Badri Narsingh as the interim Commander-in Chief, on the 15th of January Jung Bahadur left Kathmandu to Calcutta. During his stay at Calcutta, he met with the Lord and Lady Dalhouse and participated in a royal program. He also went to visit the Jagannath Temple . On the 7th of April the Nepalese team left Calcutta in P & O Heddington . The ship reached the Suez Canal through Madras, Sri Lanka and Eden.
In Egypt, Jung Bahadur and the team visited Cairo and Alexandria where he met with Abbas Helmi .
On 15 May 1850, the team reached Southampton.
In Britain, Jung Bahadur met and discussed various topics with Sir John Hubhouse, the Chairman of the Board of Trade, the Duke of Wellington and others. On the 19th of June Jung Bahadur and Queen Victoria met at a program organized in the Royal Palace. Jung Bahadur also visited the Parliament and closely observed the workings of the House of Commons and the British system. He visited the ministers and dukes and in one such meeting he proposed a direct relationship between the British and Nepalese, which the British Government rejected.
In Scotland, he was welcomed by William Johnston (Lord Provost). There he visited various forts and industries.
On 21 August 1850, Jung Bahadur and the team departed towards France. There he met with the then President of France. In France too, he expressed his desire to establish a direct relationship between Nepal and France, but the French President insisted on forming the relationship through the British Embassy, as there was no diplomatic relationship between the two countries. Jung Bahadur and the team stayed at France for about six weeks. On the 3rd of October they departed from Paris and on the 6th of November reached Bombay.
In India, he married an Indian girl.
During his visits, although he unsuccessfully tried to deal directly with the British government while he was there, the main result of the tour was a great increase in goodwill between the British and Nepal. Recognizing the power of industrialized Europe, he became convinced that close co-operation with the British was the best way to guarantee Nepal's independence.
On January 29, 1851, Jung Bahadur reached Nepal.
Jung Bahadur was highly impressed by the rule of law, the parliament and the democratic system prevalent in Britain. In Nepal during those days, there were no written Acts. Different types of punishment were given to the similar kinds of criminal acts. Realizing that the prevalent system won't work for long term in Nepal, Jung Bahadur established a Kausal Adda in order to work on Acts. Electing around two hundred members for the Adda, Jung Bahadur commanded them to draft legal codes as soon as possible.
The adda began its work by carefully studying the tradition, castes, race, class as well as religious situation of Nepal. Some members also studied the Hindu Ain being used in the courts of the English in the Company. After three years of vigorous research, a detailed Act was prepared. This Act included the workings of Court, system of Punishment, and different Administrative sections. They however, could not address the issue of Caste inequality as a progressive policy on such could have resulted in protests and turmoils around the society.
On 6 January 1854, the Muluki Ain was implemented around the country of Nepal. The copies of the Act were distributed around all offices, courts. The issue of this Act freed the administrators of Nepal from the confusion that had been arising from the Religious laws. The decision on cases happened early.
Jung Bahadur, with the Muluki Ain had formed the base of Law in Nepal.
Nepal began to experience some successes in international affairs during the tenure of Jung Bahadur. To the north, relations with Tibet had been mediated through China since Nepal's defeat in 1792, and during the early nineteenth century, embassies had to make the arduous journey to Beijing every five years with local products as a tribute to the Qing emperor. By 1854, however, China was in decline and had fallen into a protracted period of disturbances, including the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64), revolts by Muslim ethnic groups north of Tibet and war with European powers. The Nepalese mission to Beijing in 1852, just after the death of the sixth Panchen Lama, was allegedly mistreated in Tibet. Because of this slight, the Nepalese government sent a protest letter to Beijing and Lhasa outlining several grievances, including excessive customs duties on Nepalese trade. In 1855 Nepalese troops overran the Kuti and Kairang areas. The Nepalese-Tibetan War lasted for about a year, with successes and failures on both sides, until a treaty negotiated by the Chinese resident and ratified in March 1856 gave Nepalese merchants duty-free trade privileges, forced Tibet to pay an annual tribute of 10,000 rupees to Nepal, and allowed a Nepalese resident in Lhasa. In return, Nepal gave up territorial gains and agreed that it, as well as Tibet, would remain a tributary state subject to China. As the Qing Empire disintegrated later in the century, this tributary status was allowed to lapse, and even Tibet began to shake off its subordination.
Begum Hazrat Mahal took refuge in Kathmandu with her 10-year-old son in 1859 Birjis Qadr and some other loyal staff. The then Prime Minister of Nepal, Jung Bahadur Rana, gave her shelter at the palace in Thapathali (which now houses an office of the Nepal Rastra Bank, Thapathali Durbar), said Samim Miya Ansari. Jung Bahadur Rana took the step despite being in good terms with the British at the time.
In 1858 King Surendra bestowed upon Jung Bahadur Kunwar the honorific title of Rana, an old title denoting martial glory used by Rajput princes in northern India.[a] He then became Jung Bahadur Rana, and the later prime ministers descended from his family added his name to their own in honour of his accomplishments. Their line became known as the house of the Ranas. Jung Bahadur remained prime minister until 1877, suppressing conspiracies and local revolts and enjoying the fruits of his early successes. He exercised almost unlimited power over internal affairs, taking for his own use whatever funds were available in the treasury. He lived in the high style of an Anglicised native prince in the British Raj, although unlike the Indian princes he was the ruler of a truly independent nation, an ally rather than a subordinate of the British.
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