|Balkrishna Sama's portrait of the nine Rana prime ministers, 1846 - 1951 A.D.|
I often look at the fading pictures of the family to trace the hierarchy at the times they were taken. The Soviets were famous for cleverly air-brushing out the disgraced party members from chesty pictures of proletarian solidarity. The Ranas just removed them from the frames. The tussle between the Jung clan and the Shumsher clan is common knowledge. The Shumshers gained ascendancy after the coup d'etat of 1885 and the assassination of the hapless prime minister Maharajah Ranoddip Singh, uncle to both the warring factions. Why then was there discord among the members of the Shumsher clan?
The executor of the coup if not the master mind was Lt. General Khadga Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, the eldest son of Commander-in-chief Dhir Shumsher from his second wife. His elder brother General Bir Shumsher was the only son of Dhir from his first wife and he was actually brought up from an early age in the household of his uncle Maharajah Jung Bahadur after his mother died. Putali Maharani, one of Jung's wives, was his foster mother. The daring Khadga had taken his younger siblings to the Narayan Hiti Durbar of Prime Minister Ranauddip Singh that fateful night to assassinate the uncle while Bir was nervously waiting in the wings at Bagh Durbar with some of his co-conspirators. Two of the daughters of Jung Bahadur, both married to the children of the royal prince Upendra Bikram, uncle to the king, played a crucial role in the coup. As soon as the news emerged of the assassination, Bir was taken by them to Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace to have the boy king Prithivi Bikram accompany him to Tundikhel Military Parade Ground before a hurriedly assembled army and bestow on him the oath of office and the Royal Seal.
Soon after tongues started wagging. The court was awash with rumors that the days of Bir was numbered as the ambitious and brilliant Khadga would soon take over. Moreover he was backed by his younger brothers while Bir was alone. Maharajah Bir felt cornered. Maharaj Bir struck. He had his Commander-in-Chief Khadga arrested, exiled to Palpa and struck off the roll of succession. The person next in line to become the prime minister and inherit the title of Maharajah would forfeit this privilege forever. Later as an act of goodwill on the part of Bir, he was given the post of Governor of Palpa but was never allowed to return to Kathmandu Valley. He is now best remembered for assisting the British Archeological Survey Team led by Dr. Fuhrer discover Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha and for building Rani Mahal, Nepal's own Taj, on the banks of Kali Gandaki River in memory of his beloved wife Tej Kumari.
|Rani Mahal made by Khadga Shumsher|
|Khadga Shumsher Rana as Governor of Palpa|
Prime Minister Maharajah Bhim Shumsher with Juddha Shumsher (1st in line
of succession to his right) and Rudra Shumsher (2nd in line of succession to his left)
Next to Juddha is Padma Shumsher and next to Rudra is Mohan Shumsher
Family pressures bearing on Maharajah Juddha had made him uneasy and he had lost much sleep. Rudra was a close confidante and a childhood friend as they were of similar age, uncle-nephew relationship notwithstanding. Rudra's father Maharajah Bir had enrolled youngest brother Juddha to the roll of succession at the same time Rudra was. Juddha himself was the youngest son of his father Commander-in-Chief Dhir from a junior wife and thus his own future had been uncertain until Bir recognized and elevated him.
In March 1934 A.D. during a full ceremonial Durbar Maharajah Juddha unexpectedly announced the removal of his successor Commander-in-Chief Rudra from the roll of succession along with the sons of Maharajah Bhim Shumsher from his second wife by making the Rule of Succession retro-active. Armed guards quickly disarmed Rudra and stripped him of his stripes. He was to be exiled to Palpa and his assets in the valley nationalized. Padma Shumsher was then elevated to the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Nepalese Army.
My father General Kiran always felt that this decision taken by his father Maharajah Juddha was, leaving aside the unfairness of it, the single most costly mistake the Rana oligarchy made as it divided the family one last time hastening its own demise. Once powerful but still wealthy and influential members such as Rudra openly sided with the coming revolution by raising an army of insurgents in the west just as Nepali Congress had raised one in the eastern part of the country. Opposition parties such as the Congress Party was bankrolled by Subarna Shumsher and Mahabir Shumsher, grandchildren of Maharajah Bhim Shumsher struck off the Roll of Succession, from their safe haven in Calcutta. Without these forces having aligned with the democratic movement and King Tribhuvan the end of the Rana Regime would not have come as easily.
|Field Marshall Rudra with General Kiran|
In 1954 A.D., following the change of the political power in Nepal, Rudra was rewarded with the high title of Field Marshall of the Nepalese Army by King Tribhuvan, my father as the Commander-in-Chief of the new army playing a lead role in it.