A revival of interest in Jung Bahadur's persona began a few years back with his scattered family members grouping together to perform an annual Shraddha in his name. There are plans afoot to make a docu-drama about Jung Bahadur's life for the small screen where more contributors than just his family members are involved. It is interesting to note that certain historical anecdotes have come to light recently that bear testimony to Jung Bahadur's strength of character, his patriotism and his considerable diplomatic skills. I recently had the privilege of sitting down with a prominent Nepalese historian who had been granted special scholarship by the British Government to study documents relating to Anglo-Nepal relationships during the Raj. He poured over thousands of documents and concluded that Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana played a unique role in keeping the country independent and his often times Machiavellian statecraft always ensured the interest of Nepal first and foremost.
What follows are some snippets of the alluring tales of Jung Bahadur's patriotism unearthed in the tomes of papers from those times.
* When the British requested Nepal for help during the Sepoy Mutiny, Jung cleverly asked the old and retired British Resident Brian Hodgson to calculate how much Nepal had lost in land revenue since the British took away huge swathes of Nepalese territories after the Treaty of Sugauly. When the figure was calculated, Jung sent this to Lord Canning the Governor General requesting reparation. The amount was so high that it was impossible for the British to pay us and instead promised to give back Kailali, Kanchanpur, Banke and Bardia after the mutiny.
* At the start of Jung's visit to Great Britain in 1850 A.D., upon arrival at Southampton he and his retinue were informed that they would be subjected to customs check. Jung angrily refused to allow the checking of "an Ambassador and Plenipotentiary of the Sovereign King of Nepal" and threatened that if he and his retinue were checked, he would turn around and head for France. The Customs officials finally relented.
* His official visit to Queen Victoria's Durbar was delayed by two hours as Jung would not budge without the Rishallah horse riders (comparable to the modern day outriders) accompanying his carriage, an honour bestowed on foreign heads of state, as Jung maintained that he was representing the Sovereign King of Nepal.
|Sir Colin Campbell|
* Several years after the Indian Mutiny and the consolidation of Great Britain's power as the governing authority in India, it was decided by the British Crown to create a new order of knighthood to honour Indian Princes and Chiefs, as well as British officers and administrators who served in India. Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana was one of the recipients of this highest order. After Jung received the Order of the Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India in 1873 A.D. he went to collect the medal from Viceroy Lord Northbrook in Calcutta the following year. He was given only 17 guns salute and not 19 guns given to him earlier as the plenipotentiary of the King of Nepal during the visit to England, probably at the instigation of jealous Indian princess. Jung was furious. Back in Kathmandu he wrote to Brian Hodgson to write to London saying that he would return the decoration if the British government did not apologize. This letter was found in the archives.
* Actually Jung's second visit to Britain came to an end in Bombay not because he fell off his horse and was injured as reported to Nepal, but because the British did not grant him a visa! The real reason was that they realized Jung was a nationalist and would always put the interest of Nepal first and his friendship with Britain was tactical. The British decided not to cultivate him further.
The stories behind the making of such a legendary figure are many. I have done my modest part as a tribute by documenting some of the less known stories besides the historical Jung Bahadur we are familiar with. We Nepalese are hankering after a Jung Bahadur befitting our present age! We all wish that Nepal can produce one.