The Legendary Gurkha Bulbudder
At a place called Nalapani near Dehradun stand these two Pillars as a memorial to the men who died fighting a Battle here more than 200 years back. One of the Pillars is dedicated to the British soldiers and one, strangely enough, is dedicated to their rivals in that battle, the Gurkhas. And out of the Gurkhas there was a dedication to one particular Gurkha. The Plaque says
“This is inscribed as a Tribute of Respect for our Gallant Adversary Bulbudder, Commander of the Fort and his brave Goorkas, who were afterwards while in the service of Ranjit Singh shot down in their Ranks to the last man by Afghan Artillery”.
So its a tribute to a Gurkha by the British, who died fighting for the Sikhs against the Afghans. Pretty intriguing but here is how it went.
At the beginning of the 19th Century there were three Powers who were engaged in a duel (not necessarily against each other) to gain supremacy over Northern India especially the Himalayas. These were the British, the Sikhs and the Gurkhas and it was but a matter of time before these powers ran into each other and taste the other’s sword.
The Gurkhas had in a series of Campaigns over the Himalayas subjugated Kumaon and Garhwal. From there on they swept into Sirmour and Bushahr as well and within a short period of time they had snatched the all important citadel, Kangra Fort from the powerful Katoch Hill Chief, Sansar Chand Katoch. Of course this put them on a course of collision with the Sikhs, and after a series of failed negotiations the Gurkhas were driven from the Fort by the Sikhs of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Gurkhas now crossed back over the Satluj knowing that the Sikhs wouldn't cross it due to their Treaty obligations with the British.
And the the inevitable clash between the British and the Gurkhas came. And one of the heroes of the Anglo Gurkha War from the Gurkha side was a certain gentleman called Captain Kaji Bal Bhadra who the British would come to know as Bulbudder once the hostilities broke out between the two.
It was Captain Kaji Bal Bhadra Kunwar, a Nepalese Gurkha officer who took on the might of the British Army at the Fort of Nalapani near Dehradun during the Anglo Gurkha War in 1814. Bal Bhadra Kunwar and his Gurkha braves held the Fort for a long time till the British cut off the water supply. The was one of the first major engagement of the War.
There were a series of engagements as the British Army fought hard to dislodge the Gurkhas from their various strongholds in and around Dehradun. The Gurkha resistance was legendary to say the least.
A Nepali musical- Nalapanima (written by Bal Krishna Sama) - dramatizes the plight of a wounded Gorkha soldier in the Battle of Nalapani, fought between the forces of the British East India Company and Nepal( then ruled by the House of Gorkha). This true story has been chronicled by a passing Scottish traveller James Baillie Fraser “While the batteries were playing, a man was perceived on the breach, advancing and waving his hand. The guns ceased firing for a while, and the man came into the batteries: he proved to be a Ghoorkha, whose lower jaw had been shattered by a cannon shot, and who came thus frankly to solicit assistance from his enemy.”
The soldier was administered medical assistance and once he recovered, he desired to return to his fighting unit….. to combat the British once again!!! (Thanks Sidharth Pradhan for this anecdote)
After their water supply was cut off they resisted for 4 days but couldn't go on any longer. At the end of the 4 th day Captain Bal Bhadra came out with his Khukri and roared "You could not win the Fort by War but now I abandon it to you". After saying this along with the other Gurkha survivors they disappeared into the hills. Eventually the Treaty of Sagauli was signed when the British finally evicted the Gurkhas from Garhwal, Kumaon, Himachal and Sikkim.
Having witnessed the Gurkhas at war, the British wanted to recruit the Gurkhas in the British Indian Army. And of so did the good old Sher E Punjab who had also seen the Gurkhas in action against his own Sikhs at Kangra. A large group of Gurkhas went onto to join the Khalsa Army at Lahore. They were also referred to as the "Lahures" bank home in Nepal. And the commander of the Sarkar Khalsa Gurkha battalion was none other than Captain Bal Bhadra Kunwar. He was appointed a General and head of all the Gurkhali / Nepalese troops serving the Lahore Darbar.
The Gurkhas distinguished themselves in battle being praised several times by the Maharaja himself. The Gurkhas also played an important role in the conquering of Kashmir by General Hari Singh Nalwa and the eviction of the Afghans. General Bal Bhadra Kunwar as usual always led from the front and as such lost his life when when hit by Afghan artillery in an engagement near Naushera in 1823 where the Lahore Darbar was fighting the Afghans.
The Prime Minister of Nepal, Bhimsen Thapa sent a group of men to Lahore to take back the ashes of General Bal Bhadra Kunwar to Nepal. Bal Bhadra Kunwar was a nephew of his. He was only 34 years old. The Rana Dynasty of Nepal descended from his family.
Afterwards in recognition of his great bravery the British erected this plaque at Nalapani alongside another memorial for Gen. Gillespie and his men who were killed in the engagement with Captain Kaji Bal Bhadra Kunwar.
Pic from Gurkha Antiques and Sir Kukri. Nalapani, Dehradun.