National hero Balbhadra Kunwar

A national hero and freedom fighter of Nepal, Balbhadra Kunwar served as the captain of the Royal Nepali Army (Gorkhali Army) during the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-1816. He was the commander of the Gorkhali forces at the Battle of Nalapani, outside Dehradun (now in India) in 1814. Born to Chandra Bir Kunwar in Bhanwarkot, Dhulikhel, he was also the nephew of Kaji Bhimsen Thapa, the first Prime Minister of Nepal. His ancestors, too, had the history of serving the Shah Kings.


Joining the military at an early age following his family traditions, Balbhadra Kunwar made a highly distinguished career in the Gorkhali Army. He had the responsibility of defending the area of Dehradun, however, realizing that he could not defend the town, he withdrew to the strategic hill fort of Khalanga with an army strength of 600 which included women and children. The army had to fight with the 3000-3500 troops of the British East India Company. Acknowledging his bravery and skills, the British proposed him to leave Nepal or surrender and join the British force as the Governor of the Western Garhwal, however, the patriotic soldier turned down the offer.

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The troops led by Major General Sir Rollo Gillespie of the British army had advanced along with 3,500 troops and eleven pieces of cannon to occupy Nepali territories situated between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in Gharwal and Kumaon region in October 1814. The regions were occupied by the Nepali forces and Captain Balbhadra Kunwar had maintained his position at Nalapani fort, a 400 cubits high hill situated north-east of Dehradun. A battle took place between the two troops at Nalapani (the Battle of Nalapani) where the British withdrew to Dehradun with defeat. On October 31, another battle was fought where the General Gillespie along with Col. Alice lost their lives. Understanding that they could not get victory over the Gorkhali troops through battle technique, the British troops cut the water supply to the fort that resulted in leaving the fort by the Gorkhali troops. The war ended after the Treaty of Sugauli was signed and because of this, Nepal lost many of its territory. However, this battle established the warrior reputation of the Gorkhalis winning them the admiration from their enemy. Balbhadra, along with his 600 armies had held against the British and native troops for a month and even with only 70 survivors remaining, he had refused to surrender.

The British had constructed two small obelisks in Nalapani, one was made in honor of Gillespie and another was dedicated to Gorkhali troops with inscription ‘Our brave adversary Bul Buddur and his gallant men’. The war made Balbhadra a national hero earning the reputation of Great Warriors for the Gorkhalis. He went to Lahore (capital of Punjab) and joined the new regiment formed by Sikh Maharajah/King Ranjit Singh of the Punjab as the General and Commander of the new ‘Lahure’ regiment consisting entirely of Gorkhali troops. The ones who had joined the Mughal Emperors were known as Munglane and were considered as less prestigious and unclean.

Balbhadra Kunwar was killed during the Sikh-Afghan war in 1822 by Afghan artillery in Naushera in Peshwar region of Afghanistan.

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