Chisapani Gadhi is the most important historical site in the Chisapani Village Development Committee of Makwanpur district. Chisapani Gadhi is a fort in Bhimphedi, Makwanpur, believed to have been built around 1744-1745. Only 50 kilometers from the Kathmandu Valley, it is the nearest historical fort that can be reached within two hours by car. Situated at an altitude of 1700 meters above sea level, it is considered the biggest bottleneck and the shortest route and lifeline of Nepal’s economy.
It is also the gateway to the Kathmandu-Chandragiri-Khulekani-Bhimphedi-Hetauda-Birgunj-Raxaul travel routes. This site is a hill on the southern slope of the Mahabharat range and is made up of strong rocks and loose soil, so no landslide is possible in this area as long as the natural form is not destroyed. The fort is built on an area of about five hectares surrounded by a stone wall and several cannons are used to protect it from enemies and to secure the valley as Makwanpur Fort.
Chisapani Gadhi is an important Sen Dynasty fort from a strategic point of view among the nearly 200 forts that exist throughout Nepal. History has it that during the time of the Malla rule in Kathmandu, the king of the Sen dynasty, Palpa Manimukunda Sen (1575-1610 BS), divided his property among his sons, the youngest of whom, Lohang Sen, was given the magnificent Makwanpur Gadhi and began his rule here as an independent state. It is believed that this spectacular fort was built in Chisapani during his reign for security purposes, as the place was only a gateway for the Tarai-Kathmandu route, but there is no solid evidence of this.
In the research work of former Nepal Army Brigadier General and historian Dr Prem Singh Basnayt, it is mentioned that the structure of Chisapani fort is very different from that of Makwanpur, Hariharpur, and Upardang forts, but the design is similar to that of Duguna fort and Rasuwa fort. While collecting research evidence, a letter written in the name of the then-local administrator of Dolakha and dated 1864 BS (1807 AD) was found which mentions the construction of the new fort at Chisapani.
This proves beyond doubt that there was no fort before 1864 BS. About 50 meters below the main fort is a small fort built to keep an eye on the enemy’s movements so that the army in the main fort could be alerted during the war. Between these two forts is a well that would provide water for the army during battle. The fort has a roofless prison, an administration building, a drill ground, and a training ground built to meet the requirements of the time.
Forts are the national military heritage. They should be preserved as national property.
Inside the fort is a Batuk Bhairav temple, which women are strictly forbidden to enter. Not only the temple but also entering the fort is prohibited for them. Inside the temple of Batuk Bhairav is a cannon called the sky cannon (Aakash toop), the opening of which is covered, and still no one dares to unveil it. The locals believe that the angry god Kal Bhairav lies inside the cannon. Legend has it that when King Prithivi Narayan Shah placed the god Kal Bhairav in the temple, he was frightened by the angry looks of Kal Bhairav and asked him to stay inside the cannon, whereupon he sealed the opening. Since then it has been covered and remains untouched. Even today, the cannon is worshiped every day by the local priests as the god Kal Bhairav.
According to the custom of the temple, people can only sacrifice male animals and the priest in this temple offers two glasses of alcohol twice a week to satisfy the god Bhairav. A huge cannon is the center of attraction in the main fort. The magnificent black cannon (kali toop) is nearly 15 feet long and was kept here for defense against the British during the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16 AD. It is said that it was fired only once, causing many pregnant women and animals to miscarry due to the sound and concussion. It is also said that it can mark the distance to Raxaul in India.
The fort was controlled by the Sen Dynasty, but after the Gorkha Kingdom (later known as the Kingdom of Nepal) conquered Makwanpur, they used the fort for military, administrative, trade, and immigration purposes. King Prithvi Narayan Shah used it to impose an economic blockade in the Kathmandu Valley. According to historians, the fort had a court, a check post, and an office for a local governor. Until 2018 BS, this place was used as the office of the chief administrator, where records of people entering the Kathmandu Valley via this route were kept.
During the Anglo-Nepal war, commander Ranabir Singh Thapa stationed many soldiers in the fort. But the troops did not directly face the East India Company. Thapa stopped the troops of the company at Makwanpur Gadhi from entering the fort, whereupon they proceeded to capture Sim Bhanjyang instead. Colonel Ranabir Singh Thapa was the sector commander of Fort Chisapani and several other forts in Nepal during the first defensive campaign against British troops in the Anglo-Nepal War. Kaji Chamu Bhandari was the commander of Fort Chisapani.
It was the second important fort to control the enemy’s approach until the Anglo-Nepal War. Historical events show that no battle took place at Chisapani Gadhi itself as the treaty was signed between Nepal and the East India Company. Most importantly this fort was in a good defensive position with natural obstacles. It is very difficult to go uphill from Bhimphedi and it was the shortest route to reach Kathmandu, although the British changed their plan of attack and switched to the Makwanpur axis to have an easier route to Kathmandu. Their tactical importance was very high.
The forts are the national military heritage. They should be preserved as national property and well maintained. In particular, the fort mentioned above is very strong and built of stones and mortar and is in a very good location. The main fort is 8 feet thick, 22 feet deep, 65 feet long, and 36 feet wide with a triangular shape at each point to complete it in a perfect octagonal design.
In 2019, the fort was renovated. The government provided one million rupees, Bhimphedi Municipality contributed six hundred thousand rupees and the provincial government funded three million rupees for its restoration. Finally, the Bhimphedi-Kulekhani highway has already been completed. So if the Nepal government’s tourism department is interested in the fort, it can also be a good place to promote tourism. Besides, it is the religiously important site of Batuk Bhairav Temple. Historical and military values are other aspects of the fort’s importance.
Sushil Hamal is a researcher who occasionally writes on topics related to social and geographical features.