The booming cannon volleys heralding Nepal's transformation to a republic for the 5th year running woke me up from my deep slumber even as the motley crew of the canine population of our neighbourhood started their protests in a hideous cacophony of yelps and barks, growls and howls. Staring outside my window I was transported to another time, another place.
The twenty second of November 1885 A.D. dawned bright and the winter sun brought warmth that Jagat hoped would alleviate the untimely arthritic pain the 38 year old was suffering from. Manohara Durbar, the lavishly built palace that came as a dowry from King Surendra, needed better housekeeping. Things had started to fall apart since his banishment to Calcutta with his maharani, the daughter of King Surendra Bikram Shah Dev. His 24 year old son born of the princess royal Commanding General Juddha Pratap Jung had shifted to his grandfather's Thapathali Durbar with his wives and small children. This was another reason why the palace started to wear a desolate look. Juddha Pratap was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Grandson of both His Majesty King Surendra and Maharajah Jung Bahadur, "Nati Jarnel" Juddha Pratap Jung was given the title of General of the Nepalese Army at birth, perhaps the first in the history of the world! Maharajah Jung Bahadur had placed the 7 year old boy in the Roll of Succession in 1868 A.D. superseding many of his uncles. The twenty second of November would end in nightmare.
Unbeknownst to the father and son - Jagat Jung and Juddha Pratap - who had both gone to bed early in their respective abodes Prime Minister Ranauddip Singh was assassinated that night. Early next morning the heralds of death approached them on swift horseback. Jagat Jung was shot dead when he tried to run away from his palace. Juddha Pratap Jung was in the company of his uncles General Padma Jung and General Ranabir Jung hastily proceeding to the British Residency to seek asylum and safe passage into India when alas, unlike his uncles, he had forgotten to bring jewellery and other precious items in his possession that would guarantee him a semblance of luxury outside Nepal. He went back for them. On his way to the residency camouflaged as a jyapu farmer he was nabbed at today's Army Headquarter's private road leading to Bhadrakali on the Tukucha bridge. Apocryphal stories tell about the big diamond ear-rings that glittered on his ears and his faithful cocker spaniel following him that gave him away. He was shot and beheaded by a zealous subaltern eager to prove himself to the new masters and collect a reward.
Bir Singh Tamang a brave and faithful 'dadaa' minder of children managed to whisk the wives and children of Juddha Pratap Jung to safety by way of Banepa and Batase Danda. His two pregnant ranis gave successive births to healthy boys on the run. Their children's children would one day get 50 Ropanis of land in Manohara Durbar compound for compensation as destiny's victims from the Nepalese government after the Supreme Court recognized their rightful claim. That is another story!
The cannons boomed seventeen salutes to the person who had just been re-installed in the Roll of Succession in the Rana rule of Nepal. General Jagat Jung Bahadur Rana watched the cannon salute from his palace at Manohara Durbar with a telescope he had imported from England. From his vantage point he, Jagat, could watch the whole of Thapathali Durbar his father's palace where he grew up, Tundikhel the vast parade ground, the spire of Dharahara built by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa and the three eyes painted on the stupa atop a hill beyond Kathmandu city. He felt that justice had been finally done as he was the rightful heir of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana his illustrious father and to the legacy he had bestowed on his progeny - the title of Maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung. By a quirk of fate the succession to the post of prime minister however had gone to Jung's successive younger brothers in recognition of their solidarity and support during the Kot Massacre of 1846 A.D. Jagat felt cheated. He had always questioned why Jung had not given him the prime ministerial berth too. He was another titled king second in importance to the King of Nepal and both did not have any executive power which resided with the prime minister. However, as his only remaining uncle Ranauddip Singh was the prime minister now, Jagat was next in line.
Jagat knew that he had nearly blown it. In his haste he had conspired to unseat his uncle and take his post with royal backing as he was married to the princess royal. Unfortunately the plot was uncovered and his resolute uncle Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher had struck him off the Roll of Succession, stripped him off his title of maharajah and banished him to British India. His co-conspirator Prince Narendra shared the same fate. All this was history now as, after his uncle Dhir's death, he had succeeded in getting re-installed in the Roll of Succession with the support of Maharani Hari Priya Devi his aunt. Oh! how he hated his Shumsher cousins and he vowed to take revenge after assuming power. What he did not know was that the Shumshers were brewing their own plot and that they would be the first to strike!
|Maharajah Jung Bahadur with sons Jagat (on his right) and Jeet|
|Manohara Durbar of Jagat Jung Bahadur Rana|
|Right to Left, C-in-C Dhir Shumsher, Jeet Jung, Padma Jung, Ranabir Jung, Juddha Pratap Jung in order of Roll of Succession during the time of Maharjah Ranauddip Singh, circa 1882 A.D.|
|"Nati Jarnel" Juddha Pratap Jung Bahadur Rana|
and his wife