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THE SHUMSHER SUPREMACY

The news travelled quickly on galloping horseback in the chilly November night; it was relayed with cupped hands next to alarmed ears from house to house, street corner to street corner. Maharajah Ranauddip Singh had been assassinated and those on the Roll of Succession were the next target. Once powerful sons of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana would be hounded and hunted like common criminals in the unfolding saga of Rana rule in Nepal.

The root of discontent within the ruling clan was the advocacy of Maharani Hari Priya Devi in favour of General Jagat Jung Bahadur Rana, the eldest son of the illustrious Maharajah Jung Bahadur, now dead. She was in favor of pardoning Jagat, known as "Mukhiya Jarnel", and bringing him back from exile and restoring him to the Roll of Succession to the post of prime minister and Maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung. Her hen-pecked husband and uncle of Jagat Jung Maharajah Ranauddip Singh was the prime minister of Nepal. Although nephew Jagat had plotted to overthrow him and usurp his post with the help of royalists, Ranauddip was in two minds. Should he listen to the nagging Hari Priya his consort or to his nephews, the sons of his younger brother Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher, the pillar of strength behind his regime? He recalled how Dhir had acted decisively in stripping Jagat of his titles and exiling him to India after his nefarious plot was discovered. At many times he hoped he had died before Dhir's sudden death in 1884 A.D. He did not have the strength of character required to arbitrate between the warring factions. He preferred his bhakti, religious rites and hymn singing to governing.

Maharajah Ranauddip Singh and Maharani
The dithering Maharajah Ranauddip Singh finally made the fatal decision that would convulse Nepal soon after. He agreed to pardon Jagat Jung, restore him to the Roll of Succession and bring him back to Kathmandu and to his magnificent Manohara Durbar. No sooner had he returned Jagat started to play politics. Not only was he feared and loathed by the Shumsher clan but also despised by his own brothers including Commander-in-Chief Jeet Jung, the next in line to succeed Maharajah Ranauddip Singh. In fact Jeet was pretty sure that something terrible was going to happen so he removed himself to the safety of British India and resided in Benaras before the coup d'├ętat of November, 1885 A.D.

What happened that November night has passed into folklore. Four brothers had stealthily gone to Narayanhiti Durbar and killed their uncle the maharajah and prime minister. One brother was sent to drink the night away with Kedar Narsingh Rana the A.D.C. to the prime minister to divert his attention away from the palace. While a whole regiment was stationed just a stone's throw away, not a soul knew what was going on. The eldest Bir Shumsher was waiting for the cue to take command and crown himself maharajah and prime minister of Nepal.

Maharajah Bir with wife and younger brothers who participated in the coup
The news of their uncles' assassination soon reached the ears of the sons of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana. The next in line to the post of prime minister and maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung after Jeet Jung were Commanding General Padma Jung and General Ranabir Jung, half brothers of Jeet. In the dead of night they reached the British Residency to escape the wrath of the Shumsher brothers. General Dhoj Narsingh the adopted son of the assassinated maharajah also sought refuge. Other family members followed. They gathered whatever valuables they could get hold of - gold and silver bullion, jewellery, share certificates in Indian companies - for an uncertain future in exile.

Charles Girdlestone the British Resident in Kathmandu was on leave and Colonel J. C. Berkeley was officiating for the resident that fateful night when people in high positions started swarming the residency. Colonel Berkeley had a small bungalow in the Lodging Part of the residency. He had the presence of mind to open up the residency building and gather the dazed generals and their families in the reception hall. He heard bits and pieces of what might have happened and he gathered that the Shumsher clan had struck. He knew about the rumblings of discontent in the family as after all he was the person who transmitted the news to his political masters in Calcutta that the disgraced Jagat Jung was now allowed to return to Nepal. The colonel knew that his boss was already tired of trying to get concessions from the Rana regime the British government wanted but to no avail. Hence the disenchanted Girdlestone took more and more time off from Kathmandu. This meant Berkeley now had to live in the confines of the residency in this god-forsaken valley as he could not even visit the vicinity of the foothills, far less outside the valley, without the explicit permission of the Rana regime!
Assassinated Prime Minister Ranauddip Singh
Colonel Berkeley had a whole list of things to do starting with seeking permission from Viceroy Hamilton for the refugees to enter India. He wondered how so many of Jung's family members could make it to the residency without the Shumsher clan apprehending them. Jagat Jung was the main target and not his brothers. Perhaps they were tipped off on purpose? The colonel knew the Shumshers well and even liked them. He marvelled at the Machiavellian nature of the eastern potentates.

Berkeley also wondered what had become of Jagat Jung and his son as they were not among of the refugees.

Comments

  1. I wish this article had been more detailed.
    Main question that arises is why couldn't all those refugee Generals couldn't summon up courage to march their army against Shumsher Clans.
    Did Jung's sons Lack Leadership and chivalry unlike their gallant father?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The assassination and consolidation of power was very well calculated. The Shumshers not only won on the military front but also on the diplomatic front. British India concluded it was the domestic affair of Nepal and recognized Bir. Ranabir Jung did organize an army in India to invade Nepal but he was routed and killed.

      Delete
    2. So possibly the plot was co-conspired by the British Resident as Shree 3 was unyielding to their interests.
      So Ranas/shumshers in one hand wanted the power but in other hand tried to avoid less fratricide as possible, by letting them to leave the Nepal Valley, with wealth & other fortunes. This is the twisting side of the story.
      Didn't Jagat Jung got caught in Nepalgunj and got slained there with his Army. Today those Ranas who are in Nepalgunj, (even in Gothatar, KTM) are descendants of Jung's Family.( Correction Sought)

      Interestingly enough like Khadga shumsher was banished from the Nepal Valley but still had enough wealth to live his life like a king and build palaces.
      Trying to understand how these contradictions really works? Just Amazing to me & very interesting.

      Thanks.

      Delete

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