Three facts about Bhakti Thapa, the new Nepali luminary

Photo: Wikipedia

Birat Anupam

  • Read Time 3 min.

Itahari: Recently, Bhakti Thapa has got the new limelight. A great warrior who lost his life in the Anglo-Nepal war some 206 years ago has been declared the new Nepali luminary on Wednesday. A cabinet meeting that day declared Thapa as the new national hero which has given euphoric reactions from all institutions and individuals demanding a luminary declaration for Bhakti Thapa.

With the declaration, Bhakti Thapa has been placed together with the other 16 luminaries of Nepal. They include Amshuverma, Amarsingh Thapa, Araniko, Gautam Buddha, Janak, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, Prithvinarayan Shah, Balbhadra Kunwar, Bhanubhakta Acharya, Bhimsen Thapa, Mahaguru Phalgunanda, Motiram Bhatta, Ram Shah, Sankhadhar Sakhwa, Tribhuwan, Sita.

Bhakti Thapa Foundation, Brave Bhakti Thapa National Unity Study Center, Puwar Thapa Chhetri Welfare Committee, among others, were the institutions lobbying for luminary declaration to Bhakti Thapa. Likewise, various individuals who have studied the bravery and contribution of Bhakti Thapa in Nepal’s unification drive and the Anglo-Nepal war had also been demanding the same.

There is a newfound curiosity among various people about Bhakti Thapa. Here are three facts about this legendary Nepali warrior:

Arrival at Kathmandu as Prisoner of War (POW)

Bhakti Thapa was born in 1742 at today’s Dhangaibeshi of Marshyangdi Rural Municipality-3 of Lamjung district. Bhakti Thapa is revered as one of the greatest soldiers of all time in the Nepal Army. It is interesting to note that his entry into Nepal Army was as a war captive. He had fought with Nepal Army who launched a military offensive to integrate Lamjung into Nepal. It was in 1783 when the military confrontation erupted and Nepal Army deployed from Kathmandu got victory over Lamjung, the then principality but now a district of Nepal. He was brought into Kathmandu as a Prisoner of War (POW). He was around 41 years when he was captured.

Despite his previous position as POW, Bhakti Thapa turned loyal to Nepal Army and joined it wholeheartedly, says retired Brigadier General Prem Singh Basnyat who has written and researched on Bhakti Thapa.

According to Basnyat, Bhakti Thapa was given an entry position called ‘Suvangi’ in the Nepal Army. Later on, he was promoted into ‘Sardar’ which was a synonym of present-day’ captain’ of Nepal Army in 1794. This shows that within a decade of being a POW of the Nepal Army, Bhakti Thapa rose himself above the rank of the same organization owing to his sincerity, dedication, patriotism, and military leadership.

Indispensible military leader to expand Nepal’s unification

Integration of principalities in western Nepal was accomplished under the leadership of Bahadur Shah. Ranabahadur Shah was the official monarch at the time. For integrating the western section of today’s Nepal, Bhakti Thapa was an indispensable military leader. According to military historian Prem Singh Basnyat who has 18 books to his credit, Bhakti Thapa proved his military leadership after successfully quelling revolt against Nepal in Jumla.

In 1789 Jumla was integrated into Nepal. However, the then seemingly stronger principality Jumla revolted against Nepal Army. Jumla was bolstered by additional support from the Tibetan side. It was Bhakti Thapa who managed the revolt and gave no space for further revolt. Likewise, Doti also revolted against Nepal. Bhakti Thapa quelled the revolt and asserted Nepal’s sovereignty there. Bhakti Thapa made a huge contribution to assert Nepal’s sovereignty beyond the Mahakali river which is now the border between Nepal and India.

Oldest military official from Nepal Army who got martyrdom at the battlefield

Bhakti Thapa got his martyrdom on the battlefield. He got his martyrdom on 16 April 1815. He was 73-year-old then. According to Basnyat the historian, Bhakti Thapa is the only officer from Nepal Army who was killed at that elderly age on the battlefield.

”He is my greatest iconic military officer in Nepal Army,” says Basnyat. Nepal and British India, commonly known as the East India Company, fought a war for consecutive two years. The official announcement of the war was proclaimed on 1 November 1814 which formally ended on 4 March 1816 after the signing of the Sugauli Treaty. During the war, Bhakti Thapa is regarded as the bravest one. He breathed his last at Malaun fort which currently lies at Bilashpur or Rajgadh area of India’s Himachal Pradesh.

According to Basnyat, the battle of Malaun fort was significant for three reasons. ”First, Sardar Bhakti Thapa was 73 while he was fighting the British from this fort and he was martyred here. Bhakti Thapa was actually gunned down while he was on the top of the cliff 300 yards east from Malaun” said Basnyat, ”Second, the war at Malaun started after the British troops, defeating Nepalis in Sutlaj-Nalagadh area, advanced towards Malaun. Badi Kaji Amar Singh Thapa reached the conclusion that the war with the British could not be won and he has an agreement with David Ochterlony on 15 May 1815 at this fort ceding lands from Sutlaj to Mahakali in the east. ”

He added, ”The agreement on 15 May 1815 has the provision which allows those serving in Nepali Army, those defected and even other Nepalis for legal recruitment in British Indian Army.” RSS

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