LOOKING BACK AT A BETRAYAL MOST FOUL

Maharani Haripriya Devi was now a refugee in Benaras. She looked back in anger at what had transpired in Nepal. She trembled with fear and paled at the memory even now when she remembered that terrible event! Yes, she had delved in politics while she was the titled maharani to Maharajah Ranoddip Singh, the prime minister and de facto ruler of Nepal. But wasn’t it warranted? Her husband was a kind-hearted man but weak. He could never be as commanding and forceful as his elder brother Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana. He was constantly being over-shadowed by his younger brother Commander-in-Chief General Dhir Shumsher as her husband was content in having his brother rule but in name. She could not tolerate this affront for ever. Could she? But she had failed, she began to tear up….

Maharajah Ranoddip and Maharani Haripriya

Haripriya was the second wife of Ranoddip Singh, the 5th brother of Maharajah Jung Bahadur. By his good fortune he had inherited the mantle of Maharajah and post of prime minister after his eldest brother Jung Bahadur Rana’s sudden death during a hunting trip in February 1877 A.D. At Jung’s passing his older brothers Bam Bahadur and Krishna Bahadur had already died and Badri Narsingh had been removed from the Roll of Succession after an unsuccessful plot to unseat Maharajah Jung Bahadur had come to light. Ranoddip Singh was involved in many of the campaigns launched by Nepal to redress past wrongs. He was in the front when the Tibetans sued for peace. He was with his brother Jung knocking at the gates of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny. He represented the King of Nepal in the Imperial Durbar in Delhi in January 1877 A.D. He did not have much family life until he remarried in the hope of having an heir.

The Maharani could not forgive the British for so casually ditching their friend Ranoddip Singh and Maharajah Jung Bahadur’s family. The current prime minister Bir Shumsher could not have survived the crime he and his brothers perpetrated without the British turning the other way. They had forgotten the years of friendship fostered under her husband. She couldn’t understand how the British could support the children of General Dhir Shumsher who was staunchly anti-British during his years as Commander-in-Chief. In deference to his stance the Maharani believed Ranoddip would not do the bidding of the British. However soon after the death of Dhir, most of the demand of the British with regards to the induction of the soldiers from Nepal for their Gurkha regiments had been fulfilled. Ranoddip had acceded to the plans of the British to raise another 5,600 troops from Nepal. In return he was successful in importing breach-loading rifles and gunpowder and lead to make cartridges for them in the country. Ranoddip had plans to lift the self-imposed state of isolationism of Nepal favoured by his brother Jung Bahadur.

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana with his sons Jagat and Jeet

Haripriya felt a lot of sympathy for the eldest son of Maharajah Jung Bahadur, General Jagat Jung Bahadur Rana. Although she witnessed from the sideline the tussle between her husband Ranoddip and Jagat Jung on who would inherit the title of Maharajah of Kaski and Lumjung, she believed that it was unfair to remove Jagat from the Roll of Succession on trumped up charges of planning a coup d’etat against his uncle the maharajah. She knew that more than her husband’s it was the determination of Dhir Shumsher that ultimately sealed the fate of Jagat. Haripriya started advocating on Jagat’s return and restoration of status quo ante soon after Dhir passed away. She felt it only just that after her husband’s death the post of prime minster and the hereditary title of Maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung granted by King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah should be Jagat’s. She was a humorless, firm lady who started to call the shots now in lieu of her hen-pecked husband. She demanded that she wear a crown with plumes just like her husband’s and got it!

Two Daughters of Jung Bahadur from Maharani Hiranya Garva Kumari (1) Deep Kumari married to Prince Dhirendra famous as Bagh ki Kanchi Maiya, (2) H.M. Lalit Rajya Luxmi (mother of King Prithivi), Maharajah Ranoddip and his wife Haripriya Devi

Haripriya felt bitter that fate would not give her children. She knew that her husband had married her in the hope of having a male heir as his first wife died without any. She felt guilty that she had let him down. He was a good and deeply pious man who spent his time writing devotional songs and singing hymns. She persuaded Ranoddip in adopting a son of his elder brother the hapless Badri Narsingh Rana as their own. Thenceforth he was to be known in Durbar circles as Crown Prince Dhoj Narsingh Rana. But all this had come to nought.

General Dhoj Narsingh Rana

Her forceful advocacy on behalf of General Jagat Jung the deposed and exiled heir of Maharajah Jung Bahadur had started to ring alarm bells in the Shumsher Rana camp. Jagat Jung’s half sisters, the four daughters of Jung Bahadur Rana’s principal wife Maharani Hiranya Garva Kumari were firmly in the Shumsher camp too. They were very influential as all of them were married to members of the Nepalese Royal family, two of them to Crown Prince Trailokya. General Jagat Jung’s return would create havoc in Nepalese politics with unforeseen consequences. They were not going to allow this to happen at any cost. But happen it did! They put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Ranoddip the prime minister. Now all they wanted was revenge.

That November night in 1885 while Maharajah Ranoddip Singh was reading his hymns and getting an oil massage from the palace maids, Maharani Haripriya Devi was present too in the bed chamber, content in the knowledge that after Dhir Shumsher’s passing her will was being imposed on her husband, slowly but surely. General Jagat Jung was already back in Nepal from his exile and restored to the Rana family’s Roll of Succession in 1884 A.D. The British were happy now that their demand for more Gurkha recruits were being met. They had both adopted Dhoj Narsingh as their own son. Suddenly all this secure feeling for her future unraveled before her eyes in a matter of a minute! Maharani Haripriya now relived the nightmare once more; she saw again through her tear-filled eyes sons of General Dhir Shumsher bursting into their bed chamber and shooting her husband dead in front of her very eyes! Her husband died in her arms with the name of Ram in his lips. Why hadn’t they not shot her too? Her life in Benaras was one of misery. The petitions to Lord Dufferin the Viceroy of India from the ousted sons of Jung Bahadur and her own adopted son to not recognize the regime of Bir Shumsher fell on deaf ears. The British Raj and providence had abandoned them.

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