The famous Anglo-Nepali battle of Malaun took place between February and May 1815. Exactly 190 years later, Jyoti Thapa Mani, a sixth generation descendant of Jahar Singh Thapa from Chisopani, Nepal, pays a commemorative visit
Kathmandu: Malaun Fort, May, 1815. The two brilliant military adversaries - Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa of the Nepali army and General David Ochterlony of the East India Company - unsheathe their talons for their final battle. In this encounter, Commander Bhakti Thapa had laid down his life. Finally, in what would be the most tragic moment of his life, Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa and the brave Nepali army were compelled to lay down their arms as per orders given to them by the then premier of Nepal. Under the Treaty of Sugauli, signed the same year, the Nepali army had to cede most of their hard won territories to the East India Company. Their great victorious campaign across Garhwal, Kumaon and the districts of Sirmoor, Solan and Kangra amongst others had come to an end, but they earned the biggest victory that any soldier could ever hope to achieve — the title “Bravest of the Brave” for their adherence to the motto “Better to die than live a coward.” Many Nepalis have visited the Nalapani memorial site in Dehra Dun. But Malaun has remained fairly uncharted and undiscovered. The fort is located above the small Malaun village in the Solan district of Himachal Pradesh, India. The old walls of the fort are now giving way to a stronger life force — that of nature. Until recently, two big cannons, built in Jullunder, Punjab, lay unmoved here since 1815. Legend has it that the Nepali army had hauled them up here with the help of elephants. Now the cannons have been taken to nearby Subathu, the 14 Gurkha Training Centre, for preservation and display. Do not expect to find Malaun on the Himachal map, though. Also it would be quite helpful for any Nepali visiting the Himachal sites to seek contact with the Gurkha Associations of the lakh strong Gorkha community of Himachal Pradesh. They are descendants of Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa’s army who stayed behind on the land they had conquered to hold onto it and keep the memories alive. Dharamshala, Kangra district, is the main Gorkha stronghold. Today, thanks to their endeavours and the cooperation of the Himachal government and ex-royal families, most of the Nepali army’s conquests have been duly acknowledged at site in the form of inscribed memorials, promotion
literature and websites. One Himachal tourism site also refers to the “Gurkha castles of Himachal Pradesh.”
How to reach Malaun: a) From Delhi, the route to take would be first to Chandigarh. From Chandigarh, Malaun is about four hours by road. You will pass through Nalagarh and Swarghat. Grab a stopover at the beautiful Nalagarh Fort Palace Hotel or Ramgarh Fort Hotel (both were seized by the Nepali army in the 1900s), close to Chandigarh or further away at Hotel Hill Top, HP Tourism, at Swarghat, only 15 km away from Malaun. If entering from Kangra, it will take you about five hours by road to Malaun via Bilaspur. From Shimla, move towards Swarghat, Bilaspur district. On reaching Malaun village, there is a footpath that takes you up to the fort. It is an hour’s climb through a picturesque landscape, yet untouched by urbanisation.
(Jyoti Thapa Mani is design editor at Businessworld, New Delhi. Mails are welcome at Jyoti@bworldmail.com)