"It is a curse to live to be this old", the dowager maharani reflected to herself. Her woebegone days were here to stay with her; would she have had the honour of committing sati after the death of her beloved husband Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana this nightmare would be over! She had not accompanied the maharajah in that fateful last hunt as she was mourning the loss of her son. Alas, her only son Baber Jung, a favourite of Jung, had passed away in the prime of his life. It was bad enough to not be able to see properly, to be wracked by arthritic pain in all her joints, to even have to bear the loss of her foster son Maharajah Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana after 16 years in power, but to see the old alliances of her adversaries again emerging in Nepali politics was something the dowager maharani could not stomach. She was still alive she reminded herself and what she had started out as her life's ambition of installing Bir Shumsher on the gadhi of Kaski and Lamjung and prime ministership of Nepal by side-lining her step-sons Jagat Jung and Jeet Jung and their families might unravel now with Maharajah Dev Shumsher in power. She had to act quickly.
|The young Putali Maharani|
Dev Shumsher and his first wife with sons, Juddha is
sitting on the right of Karma Kumari, his foster mother
Karma Kumari the first wife of Dev Shumsher was a royal princess from the house of Rolpa and Mugu in western Nepal. She was a kind-hearted person and she was very generous to her husband's less fortunate siblings. She raised one of his youngest brothers Juddha Shumsher as her own since his father had passed away at a young age. Unfortunately she herself passed away in 1895 A.D. Perhaps this situation would not have arisen had she been alive today, mused the dowager maharani ruefully. Dev had married his second wife Krishna Kumari in 1896 A.D. and she was now the maharani. She belonged to the royal household, a junior princess from one of the wives of His Majesty King Surendra Bikram Shah. Therein lay the problem thought Putali Maharani. She feared Maharani Krishna Kumari.
On the instigation of his maharani Maharajah Dev had started making overtures to the families of the exiled sons of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana. Some had been given back their confiscated property; some had been given civilian posts in the far-flung territories away from Kathmandu. Chandra Shumsher and his younger brothers started to feel threatened by these moves of Dev. They were afraid that their power bases would be eroded and the Royal sympathies for the unfortunate ousted families of Jung Bahadur tied to them by holy matrimony would make them re-emerge in the Nepalese court. Putali Maharani was aware of the intrigues in the court. Hadn't she been Putali nani, a mere palace maid, in the tumultuous days of weak King Rajendra Bikram Shah when three power bases vied against one another?
She had been the informer for her lover Jung Bahadur Rana and leaked to him all the cries and whispers from within the walls of Narayan Hiti Palace. Jung had rewarded her by taking him as his wife after he assumed power following the Kot Massacre. Forces allied to the palace and to Queen Rajya Luxmi would never forgive Putali her treachery. But Putali was safe as long as Maharajah Jung Bahadur was alive. Of all the wives of Jung - some he married for political alliances, some due to hubris that comes from power and position, some to give him male progeny - Putali Maharani was his favourite and he loved his doll putali, the most. In Jung's Thapathali Durbar complex a whole garden was named after her - Putali Bagaicha. She squinted at the garden from her terrace where she was still living, now worse for the wear with long neglect. Tears of her loss welled up in the eyes of the dowager queen and a drop coursed down the craggy contour of her once porcelain cheek.
Maharani Krishna Kumari came from the same Royal Palace, the sworn
enemy of the dowager queen. Dev had started his moves to rehabilitate her
nemesis, families of her step-children. There was only one thing now left for
her to do. She must quickly ask Chandra and his brothers not to forget the
legacy of her foster son Maharajah Bir Shumsher and roll back the wrong moves
of Maharajah Dev. She was determined that Dev Shumsher must be asked to step down and
exiled before he did further damage. The dowager maharani decided to summon Chandra.
|Dowager Maharani Putali in her old age|