THE LOYAL BROTHER: CONTRIBUTIONS OF BAM BAHADUR RANA

The weight of responsibility sat heavily on his shoulders after his elder brother’s epochal visit to England was finalized. As the next brother in line and Commander-in-Chief of the Army he, Bam Bahadur, would be the officiating prime minister during his brother’s long sojourn. When the politics in Nepal got re-calibrated after the Kot Massacre, Jung Bahadur Rana had secured an edict from the new king Surendra Bikram Shah to rule Nepal in perpetuity with the post of prime minister going to the next brother in agnatic succession.

General Bam Bahadur Rana portrait in French Military uniform fashionable at the time
Prime Minister Jung Bahadur was extremely grateful that his younger brothers had given him both moral and physical support on that fateful night at the Kot where all their lives were in peril. The family had rushed to the armoury at the midnight summons of Queen Rajya Luxmi Devi. News came that the battalion under General Abhiman Singh Rana Magar was on its way to the court. Jung alerted the queen and told her that it was not safe for her. General Abhiman at this point wanted to leave the court but was prevented from doing so by a guard. An altercation followed and the general was bayoneted to death. Alarmed by the turn of events the son of Prime Minister Fatteh Jung, Khadga Bikram, accused Jung and his brothers of the assassination of Gagan Singh. Sword drawn he rushed at Bam Bahadur and struck him. Shielding himself Bam raised his arm and lost his thumb that cushioned the blow and so the blow cut a deep gash in his head or else he could have been dead. A chaotic melee followed. Bam glimpsed his younger brother Dhir cut the assailant down. At this point Jung’s soldiers burst into the courtyard and started shooting. It is recorded that 58 persons in total lost their lives that night including the prime minister Fatteh Jung Shah! Now Prime Minister Jung Bahadur was taking his trip to faraway England as the plenipotentiary of the King of Nepal leaving behind a still insecure Nepal, the visit coming only 4 years since the Kot Massacre and 3 years since the Bhandarkhal Conspiracy to assassinate Jung Bahadur.
The pyramid showing Jung Bahadur Rana and his six brothers in command of army
Bam Bahadur Rana was a simple-minded, straight-forward kind of a person, bereft of the bravado and ruthlessness of his elder brother or ambition and cunning of some of his younger brothers. Born in 1818 A.D. to Ganesh Kumari the second wife of Kazi Bal Narsingh Kunwar, he was 2 years younger than Jung Bahadur. He had several sons and one daughter from four wives. There are today many descendants of the three sons, namely Teg Bahadur Rana, Yakshya Bikram and Bambir Bikram living in Nepal. Bam Bahadur’s first married wife Lila Devi gave him a daughter Bhubhaneshwori who was married to Guman Singh Karki, a war hero from the Tibet expedition. His second wife Indra Kumari Devi was a member of Palpa royalty but this marriage was not a formal one but a Deo-Kalash temple wedding and Indra gave birth to Teg Bahadur Rana. His third wife was a Basnet girl Badan Kumari Devi and this marriage too was a Deo-Kalash temple wedding. Badan Kumari gave birth to Yakshya Bikram. Bam Bahadur then took Girvananda Kumari as his last wife. She was a Malla Thakuri girl from western Nepal. She gave birth to Bambir Bikram his youngest child.
Stylized photo of Bam Bahadur probably taken of a painting
There is an apocryphal story doing the rounds in family circles that Girvananda Kumari was brought to Kathmandu from western Nepal as a dola as was the custom then for the 2 princes Surendra and Upendra to choose and marry at puberty and so she was brought up in the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace. Young girls of pure-caste families were raised in the royal household and given instruction in palace etiquette and training in art, music and social science. However, in Girvananda’s case she was rejected by both the princes and ended up taking Bam Bahadur as his wife at the prodding of Crown Prince Surendra. There is another interesting story surrounding the third wife Badan Kumari the Basnet girl. She was raised in Hanuman Dhoka as a maid-of-honor to Junior Queen Rajya Luxmi Devi. During the Basnet conspiracy to do away with Jung Bahadur Rana known in history as the bloody Bhandarkhal episode she managed to run away from the palace and take shelter in Lagan the home of the Rana family. This was how she saved herself and eventually Bam Bahadur took her as his wife. These stories were shared with me by Jhasendra Bikram Rana one of the oldest surviving members of the family today and 4th generation descendant of Bambir Bikram Rana.
Colonel Teg Bahadur Rana, photo shared by Jay Bikram Rana, a 5th generation descendant 
Colorized picture of Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana with his nephew Yakshya Bikram
Photo courtesy Kalpana Rana
Maharajah Jung Bahadur with Jagat Shumsher (brother), Baber Jung (son), Yakshya Bikram and Bambir Bikram
(sons of Bam Bahadur Rana), circa 1871 in मेला at Harihar Chhetra, Sonpur, Bihar, photography by Bourne & Shepherd 

Bam Bahadur knew that he would have to tread carefully in the minefield of probable conspiracies the vacuum left by the the absence of the prime minister was bound to create. Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana left Nepal on his visit to Britain on 15th January 1850 A.D. with his two youngest brothers Colonel Jagat Shumsher and Colonel Dhir Shumsher, a few leading courtiers, a court artist Bhajuman Chitrakar and a retinue of cooks and domestic servants. It was Bam Bahadur who would hold fort until his brother’s return. During the year-long absence of his brother Bam Bahadur Rana ruled over Nepal following the footsteps of his brother. Prime Minister Jung Bahadur wrote to him missives from Europe guiding him on the course of actions to be taken, ordering him to preside over the Pajani by promoting or demoting both civil and military ranks as reviewed. When any wrong decision taken by Bam became known to Jung Bahadur, he also got reprimanded in no uncertain language, such was the strict nature of Jung.
Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana finally returned home on the 6th of February, 1851 A.D. to a hero’s welcome after a thirteen month long odyssey of England, France, Egypt and, on the way back, after politicking in the important power centers of British India. Entering Kathmandu Valley Jung was feted by Bam Bahadur Rana and his brothers, the court and the huge masses of the citizenry of the valley. Across the Black Bridge at Pachali, great welcome arches were constructed and decorated with colourful banners and buntings hailing the prime minister and proclaiming the glory of Nepal. Welcome committees of every hue and color waited with garlands of marigold and traditional vermilion powder to shower the hero in orange and red. A military guard of honor played martial tunes of the times. A 21-gun salute was fired from cannons placed at the military garrison at Tundikhel. Smartly uniformed troops of the Nepalese army lined the street three rows deep from Pachali along the banks of the Bagmati River all the way to Thapathali the residence of the prime minister, their bayonets glistening in the bright wintry sun. Multitudes of common people jostled for view along the route. To paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill’s memorable exhortation in the British Parliament a century later, this was Jung’s “finest hour”.

A six-horse carriage slowly made its way to Thapathali Durbar with Jung and his brother Bam Bahadur the officiating prime minister sitting and waving to the jubilant crowds. Shouts of “Jung Bahadur ki jai” were heard reverberating from one temple pagoda roof to another Mughal-era influenced temple dome. Jung looked resplendent in a white silk robe draped over military breeches and the bird-of-paradise plumed coronet studded with expensive diamonds, emeralds  and pearls on his head, a striking sword gifted by Louis Napoleon the French president dangling by his side.

Jung Bahadur was grateful to his younger brother Bam Bahadur for making sure that every order of his was executed with precision. He could not have made a more suitable choice in the officiating prime minister. However, all was not as it seemed! Only 10 days later a remorseful Bam, visibly shaken by the burden of a secret he was carrying close to his chest, spilled the beans of a plot to assassinate Jung. A sobbing Bam confided to Jung that the plotters had even inducted Bam to be a part of it and he had tacitly agreed to it not to make them suspicious. Bam had not come forward earlier he confessed because he was afraid of what Jung would think of him. Jung listened to this outpouring with shock and disappointment. He trusted these people so! He knew that he had to act quickly as the very next day the plan was afoot to assassinate him on his way to Basantapur!
The ringleaders were quickly caught and brought in chains to Kot Armoury in Hanuman Dhoka. Jung had assigned his old trusted friend Colonel Ran Mehar Adhikari to bring in Jung’s own third brother Badri Narsingh Rana, the ring leader of the conspiracy. He sent brother Jagat Shumsher to apprehend Jaya Bahadur their cousin and another brother Ranoddip Singh to arrest Mahila Shahebjiu Upendra Bikram Shah, royal prince and younger brother of King Surendra Bikram Shah. The plot was to kill Jung, make Bam Bahadur succeed his brother as prime minister, Badri Narsingh as the Commander-in-Chief, and Prince Upendra was to succeed Surendra the incompetent as the new king of Nepal. Kazi Karbir Khatry who was with the visit of Jung Bahadur to England would bear witness to all his misdeeds committed there such as fraternizing with mlechas (outside caste), not observing Hindu rituals and besmirching the proud Rana heritage. This would justify the assassination.
Sahebjiu Upendra Bikram Shah, brother of King Surendra Bikram Shah
Writes Jung Bahadur’s son General Padma Jung Rana in his biography of his father published in India in 1909 A.D. that a tribunal including King Surendra Bikram Shah and his father ex-king Rajendra Bikram Shah was quickly constituted to preside over the fate of the plotters. The court recommended to hand out capital punishment. It would be the first time that a royal prince would face such a fate in the history of Nepal, just like King Charles I did in England and King Louis XVI did in France! But Jung Bahadur would have none of it and instead decided to petition British India to hold all the miscreants as prisoners in Allahabad Fort for a period of 5 years. After 4 years of imprisonment they were forgiven, reportedly at the bidding of Jung Bahadur’s mother Ganesh Kumari, and allowed to return to Nepal; however, Jaya Bahadur had died of cholera in prison in 1853 A.D. General Badri Narsingh was removed from the Roll of Succession and given residency in Palpa far away from the power center of Kathmandu. This episode was now over and Jung Bahadur was ever grateful to his faithful brother General Bam Bahadur Rana for bringing this plot to his notice, or else history of Nepal might have looked very different!
Insignia of Prime Minister Bam Bahadur Rana
On 1st August 1856 A.D. Jung Bahadur Rana, inexplicably, decided to retire from the day-to-day administration of the country and hand over the office of prime minister to his brother C-in-C Bam Bahadur Rana. He probably wanted some peace and quiet and bask in his glory as on 6th August 1856 A.D. King Surendra Bikram Shah bestowed the title of Maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung to Jung Bahadur, with the title going down to his eldest son and grandson following the principle of primogeniture. Prime Minister Bam Bahadur possessed excellent attributes of a ruler and – foremost in the mind of his brother – was loyalty. Bam Bahadur had served as vakil Nepal’s envoy in Calcutta during the prime minister-ship of Mathabar Singh Thapa. Bam was also at one time in charge of the Treasury Department.
 
During his tenure as officiating prime minister during Jung Bahadur’s Europe visit, Bam Bahadur had constructed a temple complex of Lord Ram and Hanuman at Teku near Pachali Bhairab Temple for absolution from the sins committed by the family at the bloody Kot and Bhandarkhal episodes. He had acquired by purchase 700 ropanies of land at Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur that was used to fund a family trust. Currently the temple complex is being meticulously renovated under the supervision of the Archaeological Department with a grant of 54 Crore Rupees (US$ 5 Million at current rate of exchange) from the Asian Development Bank. A fifth generation descendant of Teg Bahadur Rana, Raj Bikram Rana is looking after the Trust and he was kind to show me around. It is said that highly appreciative of the virtuous act of Bam, his elder brother then built the Kalmochan Temple Complex in Thapathali too as acts of penance and piety.
Shiva Linga mounted on a massive block of stone at temple 
Bambir Biketeshwor Shiva Temple built by Bam Bahadur Rana currently under renovation with ADB grant.
Each of the three turrets are named after his three sons Teg Bahadur, Yakshya Bikram and Bambir Bikram 
Commander-in-Chief Bam Bahadur was a war hero as he had led the 2nd Expeditionary forces of Nepal in its victorious war with Tibet 1855-56 culminating in the Treaty of Thapathali. Not keeping well he returned home early. On 20th June 1856 A.D. Jung presided over a huge victory parade organized in honour of the returning soldiers from the front and amidst the pageantry Bam Bahadur Rana read out the favorable terms of the new treaty cancelling the Treaty of Betrabati that was unfavourable to Nepal. However, due to an incurable form of consumption now known as tuberculosis, Bam Bahadur died in the post of prime minister at a youthful age of 39 years on 27th May 1857, on the eve of Nepal’s involvement in the Indian Mutiny. No sati was performed by his wives as Jung Bahadur expressly forbade it. His younger brother Ranauddip Singh Rana performed the formal 13-days mourning ritual. He left behind 3 minor sons, Teg 9, Yakshya 7 and Bambir 5 years of age and one married daughter Bhubaneshwori.  His younger brother Commander-in-Chief Krishna Bahadur Rana became acting prime minister for a short period until Maharajah Jung Bahadur was forced by circumstance to take back the post once again as Nepal was at war, this time in aid of the beleaguered British forces in Avadh.
                                                                ******************
 
Footnotes:
It is interesting to note what happened to the 3 young kids left behind by Bam Bahadur Rana.
 
Teg Bahadur Rana was sent from an early age to Pokhara as Badahakim (Administrator of the Province) and he lived there, raised his family and died there. He does not appear in the annals of Nepal history anymore
 
Yakshya Bikram Rana was in the Roll of Succession in 2oth place during the assassination of Maharajah Ranauddip Singh Ranaji on 22nd November 1885 A.D. This is attested by Percival Landon, the journalist of Daily Mail, who was given the task of writing on Nepal during the 1920’s by Maharajah Chandra Shumsher Rana. After the assassination of his uncle, Yakshya adjusted to the fait accompli and managed peace terms with the new Maharajah Bir Shumsher and so he and his family were allowed to live in peace in Nepal.
 
What happened to Bambir Bikram Rana is of particular interest. After the death of Jung Bahadur during the premiership of Maharajah Ranauddip Singh, Jung Bahadur’s eldest son and heir General Jagat Jung Rana hatched a conspiracy to kill both his remaining uncles Ranauddip and Commander-in-Chief Dhir Shumsher and take power in his own hands. The year was 1882 A.D. He had his backing among the Rana clan and also the blessing of the Royal Palace as his wife was the eldest daughter of King Surendra Bikram Shah, now dead, and his own blood sister Tara Rajya Luxmi Devi wife of Crown Prince Trailokya Bikram Shah was Senior Queen Mother to baby king Prithivi Bikram Shah. However, the plot was discovered and the perpetrators were punished. Jagat Jung and his cousin Bambir Bikram among others were struck off the Roll of Succession and banished to India to be interred at Chunargarh Fort. They were pardoned in 1884 A.D. and allowed to live in Nepal but without any power.

Comments

What Next?

Recent Articles