Bahadur Shah: The Regent of Nepal covers a detailed study of the nine year regency of Bahadur Shah, who ruled the country from 1785 to 1794. This book based mainly on unpublished documents and papers, from home and abroad, is a rare piece of research.
Thoroughly original and authoritative, the book is really a critical review of Bahadur Shah's nine year regency, and an analytical judgement of the whole system of that period.
Bhadra Ratna Bajracharya (b. 1946) did his M.A. in history in 1970, and Ph.D. in 1990 from Tribhuvan University (TV). Started his academic career as Headmaster at Adarsha Saral Vidyalaya at Lalitpur. Joined TV in 1974 as an Assistant Lecturer in History, became Lecturer in 1978 and Reader in 1990. Became campus Chief Terahthum Campus for a period of six years.
He has published over a dozen research articles in different historical journals and magazines. He is co-author of Medieval Administrative History of Nepal, and Military History of Nepal (Sponsored by Centre for Nepal and Asia Studies and Department of Royal Army respectively).
Bahadur Shah, the son of Prithvinarayan Shah (I 743- I 775), ruled the country from 1785 to 1794 A.D. as a regent to his nephew Rana Bahadur Shah, the king of Nepal during the latter's minority. During this period, a series of victory in the west made the Nepalese territory extend up to the Ganges and introduced Nepal as a powerful state in this part of the world. The Digarcha expedition of 1791 took place when Bahadur Shah was at the zenith of power He fought against the well- determined Chinese invaders, who had come to rescue the Tibetans, and defeated them in the battle of Vetravati in 1792. Hence he was considered a sucessful unifier of Nepal after Prithvinarayan Shah.
Despite a successful unifier, Bahadur Shah remained controversial throughout his life. Immediately after his father's death, he was imprisoned at Nuwakot in 1775 on suspicion of hatching a plan for staging a coup against king Pratap Singh Shah, his elder brother. Later on, he was exiled. During his exile, he spent his life in the Chaubisi states of Nepal at Betiya of India. After nearly two years in exile, he was called back by the Nepalese court to help them in running the administration during the reign of King Rana Bahadur Shah, his nephew, who was then just two and a half years old in 1771.
Bahadur Shah could not remain in the office for long. Queen mother Rajendra Luxmi did not want to totally depend upon Bahadur Shah. She wanted to rule the country herself. This brought clash between the two regents-Rajendra Luxmi and Bahadur Shah In the ensuing tug of war for political supremacy both the regents attempted to have the supports of the Bhardars. The clash between the two regents provided the Bhardars suitable opportunity to hatch intrigues formore to such an extent that Bahadur Shah had to go to Betiya in exile.
However, the court of Kathmandu could not totally ignore Bahadur Shah. Attempts of the Chaubisi states to invade Gorkha compelled the queen mother to seek advice from the prince residing at Betiya. Although Bahadur Shah's services proved valuable in the court of Nepal, he failed to win the faith of his sister-in-law. The letter's death in 1785 finally paved way for Bahadur Shah to come to power.
Successful expansion campaign of the west marked Bahadur Shah's regency as the glorious era of the early Shah regime. It made him more aggressive. He dreamt of conquering Tibet. To his great disappointment, the dream dragged him into war with China. He even defeated the invading Chinese troops. (They had come to rescue the Tibetan from the Nepal army in 1792.) But his aggressive policy faced a lot of criticism from his rivals at the court. He was solely held responsible for Nepal-China war of 1792.
Bahadur Shah's aggressive policy towards the north introduced him as a pro-British. To seek the military help from the British he signed a commercial treaty with the Company Government in 1792. It provided the Britishers opportunity to pentrate Nepal. They deputed a mission under the leadership of Capt. Kirkpatrick in 1793 to get themselves acquainted with the resources of Nepal. Bahadur Shah's rivals grabbed every opportunity to exploit the situation in their favour. They poisoned the mind of King Rana Bahadur Shah who had then come of age, fit to administer the country. They advised him to rule the country himself. Backed by this group of courtiers, Rana Bahadur Shah dismissed his uncle from the post in 1794 and ruled the country himself.
After his dismissal from the post, Bahadur Shah led a very miserable life. Rana Babadur Shah gave him no respect. instead, he reacted against him in many ways. He prepared a charge-sheet against his uncle to demoralise him in front of the Chinese Emperor. He threw his uncle into prison, when the latter refused to recognise his marriage with Kantvati, a Brahmin widow from Tirhoot. In the prison, Bahadur Shah was tortured in both physically and mentally. As a result, he never recovered his health and died in 1797.
Informations about Bahadur Shah is scattered in various books, journals and letters. Jaya-Ratnakar Natak (a play book) written by a contemporary scholar throws much light on Bahadur Shah's personality as an unifier. Similar records are made by other contemporary writers like Banivilas and Sundarananda in their books entitled Bhakta- vijaya Kabya and Tri-Ratna-Saundarya Gatha respectively- Besides, there are many other books written by modern scholars revealing the different aspects of Bahadur Shah. Baburam Acharya's Sri Panch Badamarajadhiraj Prithvinarayan Shahko Samchhiptta Jivani and Nepalko Samchhiptta Brittant deal with the early career of Bahadur Shah, his clash with Pratap Singh Shah and Rajendra Luxmi. Ludwig F. Stiller has dwelt on Bahadur Shah's expansion campaign in The Rise of The House of Gorkha.
A prominent Nepali scholar D.R. Regmi has discussed Bahadur Shah's confrontation with Tibet and China in his book Modern Nepal. He opines that Bahadur Shah was an able son of Pritbvinarayan Shah. On the contrary, Chittaranjan Nepali has accused him of becoming a pro-British and hatching a plan for coup against his brother. He produces the charge-sheet levelled against Bahadur Shah by Rana Bahadur Shah. How-ever scholars like Dhan Vazra Vajracharya, Dineshraj Pant, Maheshraj Pant, Gyanmani Nepal have revealed Bahadur Shah's career and achievements. Some aspects of Bahadur Shah's administrative policy have been discussed by Mahesh Chandra Regmi in his 'A study in Nepalese Economic History.
Apart from native scholars, foreign scholars like Captain Kirkpatrick, Hamilton who visited Nepal have written books on Nepal. Kirkpatrick met Bahadur Shah in person while leading the British mission to Nepal in 1793. His book, based on his personal explorations, entitled. An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal has not only exposed the resources of Nepal but also dwelt upon the then political condition of Nepal. He discusses the then administrative hierarchy in a comparative way. Hamilton in his 'An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal' has written about the various petty states of Nepal which were annexed into Nepal by the regent (Bahadur Shah) dealing with their position, on the eve of the Gorkha conquest.
Scholars like K.C. Chaudhary, H.N. Agrawal, Leo, E. Rose have written on the Nepalese foreign policy and administration. Chaudhary's Anglo Nepalese Relation deals with Nepals relation with the Company's Government. While Leo E. Rose refers to Bahadur Shah's confrontation with Tibet and China, discusses, in brief, the administration of the period.
Various writers have written various things about Bahadur Shah, but none has produced a substantial work on a personality of his makeup whose contribution to Nepal is no less important than that of Prithvinarayan Shah. Ava Shrestha's Bahadur Shah (an M.A. Dissertation) fails to explore Bahadur Shah in depth. Reasons behind this clash with his brother, and the sister-in-law, his success in the western campaign, his intimacy with the Company's government, and his removal from power will remain In a fog mystery until and unless his career and his policies treated judiciously. With this point in view, the present effort delves into Bahadur Shah's regency with help of inscriptions, correspondence. Sanads and con temporary writings of the scholars.
To deal with regent Banadur Shah, the present work is divided into seven chapters. Chapter I deals with the early life of Bahadur Shah in view of his relation with his brother Pratap Singh Shah and his sister-in-law Rajendra Luxmi; narrates court intrigues to reveal causes of the dash between Pratap Singh Shah and Bahadur Shah, Rajendra Luxmi and Bahadur Shah, and Rana Bahadur Shah and Bahadur Shah, throws light on the group politics of the court whose feul tricks played major roles in the rise and fall of Bahadur Shah.
Chapter II deals with the expansion campaign of Bahadur Shah. It discusses the basic difference between the policies of the father (Prithvinarayan Shah) and the son (Bahadur Shah) to point out the reason behind Bahadur Shah's success in the west. Moreover his expansion campaigns are critically analysed to threw light on the position of the petty states before they were annexed into Nepal. His policy towards the dependent states receives judicious discussion.
Bahadur Shah's administrative innovations are discussed in Chapter IV. The chapter concentrates on Bahadur Shah's reforms in administration based on the draft he submitted to the king in 1793. The major issue in the Nepalese political administration-whether Bahadur Shah was successful in unifying the inhabitants of the newly unified territory -is critically examined. There is thrown light on the changing administrative hierarchy of the period. The administrative set-up between the control and district officers with their powers and functions is discussed comparatively. Chapter V deals with the socio- economic policy of Bahadur Shah. It attempts to analyse the social position of the period and while dealing the economic policy, his attempts to stabilise the state economy during his regency is elaborated with the help of the available documents.
Chapter VI is devoted to Bahadur Shah's relation with the Company's government in India. It discusses the attempts of the Company's government in establishing friendly relation with the government of Nepal; analyses the Nepalese attitude towards the British throwing light on the changing politics of the Indian subcontinent. Reasons behind the signing of the commercial treaty of 1792 are discussed at length. The failure of the treaty apart from other evidences, is explained in consideration of the narrative description of Kirkpatrick mission report of 1793. Discussion is made on whether the regent was a pro-British.
Chapter VI deals with Bahadur Shah's confrontation with Tibet and China with an introduction of the relationship between Nepal and Tibet and China, on the eve of the Gorkha conquest. Friction among the Tibetans is discussed to narrate Bahadur Shah's aggressive policy towards the north. Relation between Tibet and China is examined critically to deal with Nepal's invasion over Tibet that resulted into Nepal-China war in 1792. Major events of the Nepal- Tibet war are discussed to expose tile role of Pachung, the Chinese general, who widened the gap in the diplomatic relation between the King of Nepal and the Emperor of China. Tile Digarcha expedition is discussed to link tile war with China. The chapter throws light on the position of the Chinese General Thung Thang who led the army in1791. The results of the war are analysed critically to conclude whether Nepal lost the war or not. Nepal-China relation is discussed to examine Bahadur Shah's foreign policy.
Chapter VII produces the essence of the whole study.
The writing of the work has depended most on the primary sources collected from the National Archives. Foreign Ministry (HMG), Nepal, National Archives of Nepal and the National Archives of India. Documents preserved in the Archives or tile foreign ministry of Nepal and National Archives of India are used to deal with the foreign policy of Bahadur Shah. These unpublished documents helped throw light Oil tile changing diplomatic relationship between Nepal, the Company's government, Tibet and China. Also unpublished documents under the possession of scholars are used to focus the topic.
The published books of various scholars like Capt. Kirkpatrick, Hamilton, Vanibilas and Sundarananda, which reveal the contemporary accounts are used as sources. Ph.D. dissertations and M.A. dissertations are given prime importance. Other published documents and books are used as secondary sources to interprate various new evidences. Historical journals like Purnima, Rolomba, Voice of History and a literary journal like Madhuparka are refered to share the views. Their views have helped analyse the new facts about the policies and reveal the historical importance of the period. It is certain that the work confidently explored Bahadur Shah's career and achievements and introduced the regent as an outstanding historical personality of the period after Prithvinarayan Shah.
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