Unification of Nepal: A Brief Glimpse

Unification of Nepal: A Brief Glimpse

Divided we fall - united we stand. This simple phrase is the reason behind the existence of every nation in History. It is the reason behind the unification of Nepal. Back in the old days, Nepal was not a united country, it was a combination of many small states under the rule of many kings and their vessels. 

But King Prithvi Narayan Shah united them all. Although his intention for unification was not solely for unity, he still did it nonetheless. What are the other reasons you may ask- expansion of his territory and access to resources. Of course, he wanted all of the segmented small nations to be united under the single banner as well. After all, there were much large kingdoms nearby in India that could have wiped out every Nepali nation if they wanted to. So a united Nation was necessary to fend off these stronger Nations. 

Here we will cover the Brief History on the Unification of Nepal by late great king Prithvi Narayan Shah! The entire Unification of Nepal can be divided into 7 chapters.

Chapter 1: Young King of Gorkha 

Unification of Nepal

Born prematurely on 11th January of 723, King Prithvi Narayan Shah was the first child of  King Narayan Bhupal Shah and Queen Kaushalyavati. Although he was born prematurely, he was a smart child who keenly took interest in state affairs that his father was involved in. Not long after that, he began to take responsibility for small tasks. As he grew, so did his list of responsibilities and knowledge about how the world around him was working as well. Being born in the hilly kingdom of Gorkha, he had big dreams - dreams to conquer lands and establish a strong nation. 

Even in his early days, he had dreamt of conquering Nuwakot. Half of the reason for his desire to conquer Nuwakot was revenge. Since his father had lost the land to the Malla kings of Kathmandu Valley in a war, it was obvious for a young prince to take back the land that his father lost. The other half, was because he learned about other larger kingdoms and wanted to build a country where his people could remain safe. There was of course an obvious benefit of gaining additional resources as well. But it was necessary if he wanted to have a happy nation.

After his father died, he ascended the throne in 1743 AD. Once he became the king, he maintained a friendly relationship with his neighboring kingdoms. There was only one exception - East India Company. The reason behind this was simple, it ignored Nepal and refused to open a trade relationship with Nepal. Through this, he also saw the threat it presented. And this was his desire to establish a unified Nepal Grew.

Chapter 2: Invasion of Nuwakot

Unification of Nepal

But there was a bigger reason behind this invasion other than the petty revenge. Nuwakot was one of the major trade routes between Tibet and Kathmandu. By conquering this state, Kind Prithvi Narayan Shah would essentially hit two birds with one stone. The first was to secure a valuable trade route - it would give him access to tons of resources. And the second was to weaken the economy of Kantipur.

To do this, he sent his troops under the command of Kaji Biraj Thapa. Biraj Thapa planned to launch an ambush near the Trishuli River and so he waited. While this was an effective strategy for defeating enemy forces, King Prithvi Narayan Shah didn't like this. So he called back Thapa send the troops under Maheshwor Panta, the same person who reported King of Thapa's ambush plan.

Pantas force was defeated - ironically

Kalu Pande Incharge

After the defeat of both the troops, Kalu Pande was made the commander in chief of the Gorkha army. And as soon as he was made the commander chief, he advised King Prithvi Narayan Shah to raise an army that consists of men from other regions. This then formed an elite group of men who were all but ready to attack and capture the Nuwarko Hill Fort. 

The troops attacked this small hill fort from three different sides. The hillfort was captured on September 26th of 1744. A year later, troops of Kantipur under the lead of Kaji Ram Thapa tried to take back this forth. However, they were successfully repelled and Gorkhali troops retained their hold over this fort. 

Chapter 3: Invasion of Tanahun

Unification of Nepal

Taking advantage of the absence, Tanahun, a small state kingdom to the west, launched an invasion on Gorkha. The troops successfully crossed the Chepe river and managed to capture Sirhanchowk. 

Despite this successful capture of an important location, reinforcements were sent from both Gorkha and recently captured Nuwakot to repel the enemies and capture it back. King Prithvi Narayan Shah was naturally enraged. However, this also presented him with an opportunity to invade Tanahun. Since they were the first attackers, it would only be fair to invade them back. He has his ultimate goal of the Unification of Nepal after all. And he would use every chance he would get.

However, his advisers suggested King Prithvi Narayan not invade Tanahaun since its King, King Tribikram Sen was an old friend of his father. Here, we learn of the strategic mind and stubbornness of King Prithvi Narayan Shah. 

Since he couldn't directly attack Tanahun, he invited Tribikrah Sen to the banks of the Trishuli River. Then he captured the king and took him into custody. Since there was no king in Tanahun, it was all his for the taking. And so he did. King Prithvi Narayan Shah imprisons Tribikram Sen in Nuwarkot and took control over Tanahun. 

Chapter 4: Makwanpur Conquest 

Unification of Nepal

After the side conquest of Tanahun, King Prithvi Narayan focused back on this primary goal - conquer Kathmandu Valley.  After all, it was a fertile valley that would be heaven against attack from all sides and ensure the safety of his people. 

To do this, he had decided to conquer all the surrounding nations of Kathmandu Valley. This would cut their supply short and cage the three kingdoms. By this time, everyone knew about the goal of Prithvi Narayan Shah his force only seemed to grow as the day passed by. 

Sensing this danger, King Digbadardhan Sen and his minister Kandak Singh Baniya sent all of their families to other locations. Even if they would die, their families would be safe. nd they were right. The Gorkhali troops surrounded Makwanput and after a battle of merely eight hours, Makwanpur was captured. 

King Bigbardhan and Kanak Singh barely escaped with their life to Hariharpur. 

Chapter 5: Hariharpur and Qasim

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Hariharpur Gadhi was a strategic fort on a mountain ridge located in the south of Kathmandu. Not only did it offer a good vantage point, but Hariharpur Gadhi also controlled one of the routes to enter Kathmandu Valley as well. By taking over this fort along with Makwanpur, he would be eliminating two access routes to Kathmandu Valley. This would severely limit the escape routes as well as supply routes for the army of Kathmandu Valley. 

And so, on the 4th October of 1762, the Gorkhali troops invaded the fort. After a fierce battle, the shoulders from Harihar fort had to vacate it, to escape and seek revenge. In this battle, roughly 500 men died.

For the sake of revenge, Digbardhan Sen would the help of Qasim, a Nawab from Bengal. He agreed as well for he could gain loot from the battle and gain the favor from the British. So, for this, he sent around 3500 troops under the lead of Gurgin Khan.

His forces arrived on Makwanpur in January of 1764 - two years after the capture of the fort. And the battle ensued. Needless to say, they were able to capture this fort since Gorkhali only had 400 soldiers left defending the fort. They retreated to Makwanpur. Not long after that, Gurgin Khand and his soldiers attack Makwanpur as well.  They first held off the invasion valiantly. Then after the reinforcements arrived, the Gorkhali conducted a night raid and killed many. The remaining soldiers of Gurgin khan returned to Bengal, leaving the Hariharpur back to the Gorkhali troops. 

Chapter 6: The Fall of Kritipur 

After the conquest of Makwanpur and Haiharput, it was now time to conclude his process of the Unification of Nepal. By conquering the three kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley, he would gain an extremely secure base and conquer. He would tackle down his biggest hurdle in the unification of Nepal and take revenge side by side.

But this conquest was a lot harder than his previous ones. While his previous invasions were bot without their drawbacks and losses, in this conquest of Kathmandu Valley, he would nearly lose his life. 

On the outskirts of three kingdoms, there was a small fortified city called Kirtipur. He first set his sights on this small city. But his general Kalu Pande assessed that the city, as well as all three kings of the valley, were very well prepared. Despite this, they still launched an attack. In 1757, the Gorkhali troops set up a base in Naikap and began their assault. They were armed with swords, bows, and muskets. Swords were standard weapons, Bows were great for long-range. And as for muskets, although their reload time was slow, they could penetrate through any form of armor back in the days.

Battle of Tyangla Phant nad Victiory

In a battle across Tyangla Phant, the Gorkhali troops lost. General Kalu Pandey was killed and King Prithvi Narayan Shah barely escaped with his life. He was forced to live in the disguise of a saint. After this defeat, he gathered his force again and launched another attack under the command of Surya Pratap Singh. This was another lost battle where Surya Pratap Singh Lost his left eye to an enemy arrow. 

But hope came in the form of a traitor from Kritipur named Danuvanta. It didn't matter if he was scared of dying in war or had some other greed, he let the Gorkhali troops in the town. This was the end of Kathmandu valleys control over Kritupur. This was also one of the biggest Victories of King Prithvi Narayan Shah on his quest for the Unification of Nepal. 

Chapter 7: The End of Three Kingdoms

Unification of Nepal

After the conquest of Kritipur, it was time for the three kingdoms. This process was more of a political drama and "Game of Thrones" Esque event rather than a frontal war. There were betrayals, nobles selling out their kings for the sake of survival, and lots of internal conflicts. 

This deserves a separate article on its own because it will be too long to cover here. But the summary is that King Prithvi Narayan Shah blocked the food routes, then sent his spies to spread propaganda against the existing kings of Kathmandu, bailed the nobles to betray their king, and finally dealt the final blow through a frontal confrontation. 

This had to be done. The reason was that Kathmandu valley was a highly fortified area. With hills on all its sides and rich fertile land, if king Prithvi Narayan Shah didn't dry up the external source of food and make the Nobel betray their kings, it would be extremely hard to capture this valley. 

The entire conquest was completed on 14th April 1769 AD

Chapter 7: The Final Straw, Kirant Kingdoms

After conquering Kathmandu Valley, the unification of Nepal had finally neared its end. All he needed to do was to conquer the smaller Kirant kingdoms. To do this, he sent Krishna Kunwar to lead the invasion. He did that very well and rather quickly. After crossing the Dudhkoshi on 29th August 1722, the invasion began.

After the conquest, the king bestowed 22 pairs of Shirpau in appreciation to his general.

The conclusion,

This is where the history of the unification of Nepal ends. Although this is not a complete one, this one does cover the gist of everything that happened. The unification process was a brutal one. Thousands of people died in this process. And we cannot say for sure that all of this was done with purely the wish to unify the smaller state. Let's not forget that King Prithvi Narayan Shah wanted a place that was safe for his people but at the same time had his eye on Kathmandu Valley as well.

But regardless of his reason behind the unification of Nepal, it was indeed a necessary one. Why? Because it enabled United Nepal to Stand against the British invasion that would arrive soon. If it was not for this unification, then Nepali very well might have been colonized by the British.

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