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Balbhadra Kunwar (30 January 1789 – 13 March 1823)[1] was a Nepalese military commander and administrator in the Kingdom of Nepal. He is one of the National heroes of Nepal.[2] He was highly praised for his military skill for the defence of the Nalapani fort in the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–1816).[3][4] He was Captain[5] in the Nepalese military and was tasked as commander to protect the forts of Dehradun.[6]

Shree Captain

Balbhadra Kunwar
श्री कप्तान
बलभद्र कुँवर
Balbhadra Kunwar.jpg
young Balbhadra Kunwar around Anglo-Nepal war
Personal details
Born30 January 1789
Bhanwarkot, Kavrepalanchok District, Nepal
Died13 March 1823
Naushera, Panjab, British India
FatherGovernor Chandrabir Kunwar
Relativessee Kunwar family; Family of Amar Singh Thapa; Rana dynasty
Military service
RankCaptain (Nepali convention)
Battles/warsAnglo-Nepalese War


Family and Early lifeEdit

He was born to father Chandrabir Kunwar, a resident of Bhanwarkot in Kavrepalanchowk District.[7][8] His mother Ambika Devi was a sister of Kaji Ranajor Thapa[9] and daughter of Bada Amar Singh Thapa.[10][11] His father Chandrabir was son of Jaya Krishna Kanwar, a son of Ashiram Kanwar.[7][12] His brother Birabhadra Kunwar was military commander in Kumaun[10] and Kangra front (1809 A.D.)[11] as well as governor of Garhwal.[13]

The Anglo-Nepal War 1814–1816Edit

Balbhadra Kunwar

As commander of the Gorkhali forces in Dheradun, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar was handed the responsibility of defending the area. The expanding Nepali/Gorkhali State had since the mid-late 18th century expanded the nation's border on all sides, which eventually led to conflict with the British East India Company and a war followed.

Realizing he could not defend the town of Dehradun, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar withdrew to the strategic hill fort of Khalanga with an army strength of 600 including women and children against the British East India Company British stronghold of 3000–3500 troops. He turned down an incentive proposal of the British who would make him Governor of the Western Garhwal should he surrender or leave Nepal.

"Go capture the fort that you could not win by war, but now we have left it at our own will".

In the month of October 1814, Major General Sir Rollo Gillespie of the British army had advanced along with 3,500 troops and eleven pieces of cannon to occupy the Nepali territories situated between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in the Gharwal and Kumaon regions that had been occupied by the Nepali forces. Captain Balabhadra Kunwar had maintained his position at a 400 cubits high hill in a place called Nalapani, situated north-east of Dehradun, to check his advance.

On Kartik 8, 1871, Bikram Samvat (October 1814), British troops reached Dheradun. A battle took place between British and Nepali troops at Nalapani on Kartik 10, 1871 B. Samvat. The British were unsuccessful and withdrew to Dehradun. Another battle was fought between the two sides at Nalapani on Kartik 17, 1871 Samvat (ca. Oct 31, 1814). General Gillespie, the British Commander, lost his life in that battle along with Col. Alice.

The siege continued for a month until the British, convinced that they could not win by military ways, blocked the source of water to the fort so that the Nepalese would die of thirst. For the Nepali Army it was a hard struggle fighting a very well equipped and trained modern army, belonging to one of the largest colonial Empires of the world. Balbhadra Kunwar had asked for reinforcements from the capital but Kathmandu could not send them any soldiers as the Nepali army had no reserve army and were an emerging power which means that they did not have troops to match the East India Company. The Nepalese army was outnumbered in Nalapani as it was in every battlefield.

Even though the Nepali army lacked water they were still determined to defend their position. Because the walls had collapsed, cannonballs fired by the British started reaching the interior of the fort. Many men were killed or injured. Despite losing their comrades and friends the remaining men were still determined to defend their position. In order to drink water from the river they came out of the fort in a single line, and the British forces watched in surprise as the Nepali troops quenched their thirst and returned to their fort.

On Marga 16 (Nov 1814), four of the commanders, including Capt. Balabhadra Kunwar, in the night was forced to abandon the fort of Nalapani with their remaining Gorkhali troops. On seeing the Nepalis abandon the fort, the British attacked them. The Nepalis resisted the attack but continued to advance. They reached Dwara in the morning of Marga 17, 1871 and stayed the whole day there.

Balabhadra sent a courier to the British with the following message: We had handed over to you your dead and injured soldiers on your request. We now request you to hand over our injured soldiers to us. The British replied that they would look after the injured (Nepali) soldiers themselves. Accordingly, they treated the 180 injured soldiers at the Nalapani fort.

The next day, Marga 18, 1871 Samvat, the Nepalis left Dwara for the Gopichand Hill, where they had decided to build a fort. Dwara was not considered suitable for that purpose.

The Nepalis spent the night at the Gopichand hill. At midnight, the British forces started shelling their camp. The Nepalis retaliated. Meanwhile, Sardar Ripumardan Thapa sustained an injury in his right arm from an enemy shell. He was unable to walk, and so was helped by his jamadar to climb the hill. However, he could not go on and was forced to stop. The other Nepalis continued to ascend the hill.

The next day, Marga 19, 1871 B. Samvat, men sent by Balabhadra carried Ripumardana to Chamuwa. Kaji Ranadipa Simha Basnyat also had arrived at that place. On Marga 20, Kaji Rewanta Kunwar reached there Subedar Dalajit Kanwar were killed by enemy fire.

Ultimately after 4 days of thirst, and a severe loss of troops, without surrendering, Capt. Balbhadra emerged from the fort with drawn kukris in his hands (along with other 70 survivors) and roared to the British – "You could have never won the battle but now I myself voluntarily abandon this fort. There is nothing inside the fort other than dead corpses of the children and women"! He and his remaining troops escaped into the hills on November 30, 1814.

A peace treaty was signed on Dec 2, 1815 between the then King Girvan Yuddha Vikram Shah and the British East India Company, known as the Sugauli Treaty. [4]

Later lifeEdit

He did not lose his life during the Anglo-Nepalese war. After the war, he went to Lahore, capital of the Punjab where many Nepalis had gone, to join the two new regiments formed by the Sikh Maharajah/King Ranjit Singh of the Punjab, following the war with the British but a tradition formed prior to the war. Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar was appointed General and commander of the new "Lahure" regiments consisting entirely of Gorkhali/Nepali troops. Those that had taken service under the Mughal Emperors were known as "Munglane" and was seen as less prestigious and unclean. After the Anglo-Nepalese war the recruitment of Gurkhas/Gorkhas started in the British-India Army (Army of British East India Company) and has continued until today in both the modern Indian and British Army; the Gorkha Regiments (India) and the Royal Gurkha Rifles (UK).

During the Sikh-Afghan war of 1879 B. Samvat (1822), the Nepalis in the Sikh Military had fought bravely, but was also in which Balabhadra Kunwar was killed by Afghan artillery in Naushera, Peshawar region, Afghanistan on Chaitra 3 (March/April in the Roman calendar and is the last month in the Hindu Lunar calendar). Bhimsen Thapa had sent men to Lahore to collect information about this war and the death of his nephew.

Following the Anglo-Nepali War, the British East India Company erected a war memorial at Nalapani in honor of the Gorkhalis and Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar (often referred to wrongly as Bulbuder Singh or Balbudder Thapa) praising their bravery.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "National heroes of Nepal". Retrieved 2017-04-01.
  3. ^ Acharya 1971, p. 5.
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ The use of English terms for their grades of command was common in the Nepalese army, but the powers of the different ranks did not correspond with those of the British system. The title of General was assumed by Bhimsen Thapa, as Commander-in-chief, and enjoyed by himself alone; of Colonels there were three or four only; all principal officers of the court, commanding more than one battalion. The title of Major was held by the adjutant of a battalion or independent company; and Captain was the next grade to colonel, implying the command of a corps. Luftun, or Lieutenant, was the style of the officers commanding companies under the Captain; and then followed the subaltern ranks of Soobadar, Jemadar, and Havildar, without any Ensigns. (Prinsep, p. 86-87)
  6. ^ Acharya, Jan. 1971.
  7. ^ a b Regmi 1986c, p. 185.
  8. ^ Regmi 1987a, p. 48.
  9. ^ Acharya 1971, p. 3.
  10. ^ a b Dabaral 1987b, p. 51.
  11. ^ a b Regmi 1987b, p. 150.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Regmi 1988a, p. 46.


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