Jang Bahadur – Controversial Historical Figure

Jang Bahadur is a controversial figure in the history of Nepal. Many historians have differing views regarding his influence over the country, and it is believed that his actions have led to the country still being in economic difficulty today. He was born in Kathmandu in 1816 as Bir Narsingh Kunwar. The name of Jang Bahadur was given to him by his maternal uncle and is the name that he adopted. He founded the Rana Dynasty and became the ruler of Nepal. Due to laws introduced by Bahadur, Nepal underwent numerous changes and earlier historians saw some of these developments as positive influences.

Rana Bahadur Shah was attacked and killed in court by his half brother, and by chance, Jang Bahadur’s father was witness to this atrocity and took action by killing the half brother. His actions were viewed as heroic and he was given the position of Kaji, which could be passed down to his descendants. At the age of sixteen Jang Bahadur signed up with the military and returned home in 1840 as a captain. On his return, he was offered the job of bodyguard to the king in 1841, and became the Kaji the following year. Mathbar Singh Thapa, his maternal uncle, rose to power, and so did Bahadur. His uncle resented his ambition to become successful. Queen Lakshmidevi also resented Bahadur’s presence, wanting her son be eligible for the throne. Her plans to eliminate Bahadur did not work, as her plans were revealed and she was exiled and stripped of her position.

Bahadur kept playing his cards right, and by 1850 all his most threatening rivals were eliminated and he was able to appoint his own throne candidate, as well as secure positions for family members and friends on the administration, securing his promotion to prime minister. He traveled to France and Britian, returning in 1851, and even though his efforts to forge bonds with Britain failed, it did spark an understanding and open relationship between the two countries. He began to introduce European fashion, design and architecture to Nepal, which became popular with the aristocracy.

Jang Bahadur was devoted to modernizing Nepal, and managed to bring bureaucracy to the country as well as work out factional fighting that took place in court. He slowly gained complete control of Nepal by imprisoning the King in his own castle, and renewed the laws, punishments and judiciary system of the country. He did form trade relations with other countries that were positive for Nepal, and through arranged marriages he saw to it that his children were married into royal families, leading to many of his descendants rising to the throne and remaining within the royal bloodlines. Jung Bahadur Rana passed away in 1877. Modern historians believe that Jang Bahadur was responsible for creating a dictatorship that oppressed the country for years.