Bulbudder and the British

- RAM KRISHNA RAJ KUNWAR
Bulbudder and the British

Jan 31, 2012-

From the time I was in high school, I have been wondering about the English way of pronouncing the name of our great national hero of Nalapani during the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16. He was Bir Balabhadra Kunwar, also known as “Bulbudder” among his British foes. He was born in Kathmandu on Jan 30, 1789 to father Chandrabir and mother Ambika Devi. He was a descendant of the famous Rajput Kshetriya Ram Singh who is said to have migrated to Bhirkot in western Nepal in 1404 AD. Subsequently, his offspring Ahiram Kunwar migrated to Gorkha and then to Kathmandu.

Balabhadra showed exemplary chivalry combined with true patriotism as stated in the inscription on the pillar erected by the British on the bank of the Rispana River in Derhadun, India. The stone inscription now is on the verge of extinction because of the indifference of the governments of Nepal and India.

The Battle of Nalapani commanded by Captain Balabhadra made us renowned as the bravest of the brave in the world. So it is appropriate that we remember him on his 222nd birth anniversary. He was 25 years old when he took upon the responsibility of protecting his country. He had 488 soldiers and other helpers including women and children compared to the large and trained army of the British equipped with modern and sophisticated weapons. The Nepalis fought bravely with khukuris, rifles and bow and arrows for their motherland without surrendering. 

During the expansion of the Nepali state under the leadership of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, all the people irrespective of their caste and creed were united with one mind and heart for the unification campaign. At the same time, Nepali troops headed by the generals Amar Singh Thapa in Kumaon-Garhwal, Bhakti Thapa in Deothal and Balabhadra in Nalapani had to face the British expansionists on different fronts with little arms and ammunition.

Balabhadra was a captain in Doti in 1809, and he was sent to take charge in Kumaon in 1810. Later, he was designated to protect the fort of Nalapani, popularly known as Khalanga, which was being built with local materials like clay, stones, bamboo and wood. Unexpectedly, without a declaration of war, Col Mowie attacked the fort early in the morning of Oct 24, 1814. The Gorkhalis retaliated successfully and shot dead their General Gillespie there and then on the very first day, compelling the British troops to retreat.

Later, with reinforcements from Delhi, the British attacked again and broke 150 pitchers of water and parts of the fort’s walls. The Gorkhalis fought against the British for six days out of 37 days without having a drop of water as the British cut off the fort’s water supply. The 70 soldiers still alive left the fort feeling very thirsty to drink water from a nearby river waving their weapons. Before leaving the fort, Balabhadra shouted at the British, “Go and capture the fort that you could not win by war, but now we’ve left it at our own will.”

Among the British division, 31 officers and 718 soldiers were killed in that battle, and RC Williams remarked that it was their shameful defeat and they ran to save their lives. But the Gorkhalis never knew how to surrender, nor did they know how to retreat. Thus our ancestors earned great respect for their boldness and the British erected the stone inscription near Derhadun which reads:

“This is inscribed as a tribute of respect to our gallant adversary Bulbudder and his brave Goorkhas who were afterwards, while in the service of Runjitsingh, shot dead by the Afghan artillery to the last man.”

Such a brave son of our motherland Bir Balabhadra Kunwar died in the Afghan War on March 13, 1823. He was still fighting and dreaming to save the greater Nepal from the River Tista in the east to Kangra in the west. After the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 between Nepal and the British, Nepal lost one-third of its territory and was reduced to the area between the Mechi and Mahakali rivers. Such an incident hurt them and broke their hearts. Thus was this country made with the sacrifice of their blood, sweat, tear and toil and their lives.

While the European Union

comprised of 29 countries have united and are using a single currency, the Euro, to compete with the US and Asian giants like China and India in trade and commerce, we are here competing to break our small country into several pieces. This was certainly not the dream and vision that our forefathers had. We cannot remain silent about their contribution to the country at this moment for making us able to stand proudly in the world arena.

Published: 01-02-2012 07:42

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