Monday, 25 January, 2021

What’s So Great About PN Shah?

Pradipna Raj Panta


Prithvi Narayan Shah is considered a big inspiration in Nepal. From innovative war tactics like guerilla warfare to abrupt attack during Indrajatra festival, he fought several wars till his death. His adventures and his many victories became the stuff of legend, and he was forever known as the generous and brave king. He was the one who initiated the process of unification and prevented the then tiny 54 state rulers going to the hands of alien powers. His patriotism towards Nepal made the foreign power go green with envy. He wrote the following lines that showed his love for Nepal: “It isn’t a nation made by my little efforts and sufferings; it is rather a common (beautiful) garden of four complexions and 36 ethnic groups”.

Origin of Gorkha
Shah was born and grew up in Gorkha. The Gorkha owes its name ascetic Gorkhnath who was a prominent saint of Nath sampradaya. A representative of Savaith faith, he has made immemorial in folklore through stories. Gorakhnath was also associated with King PN Shah. One popular legend was that once Shah was playing in his Durbar. At that time, he was just 11 years old. Suddenly, a sadhu appeared in front of him and gave him some yoghurt to eat. The sadhu was very rough and daubed the whole body of his skin with ash. Seeing such slimy yoghurt given by rough figure, Shah refused to eat it.
Then, he threw the yoghurt but some of the yoghurt fell on his feet. Sadhu told him, “Prince, if you drunk this yoghurt, the country you wanted to won became yours. Yet this yoghurt has fallen in your feet so the country where you will set foot will be yours.” When Shah became king at his young age, he started expanding the Gorkha kingdom and whatever side his foot turned, the whole of the country in that direction came into his possession. The sadhu was none other than Guru Gorakhnath.
Shah was not just a king but also one of the greatest military commanders of his era. During one of the battles in Kirtipur, an enemy captured him. But he snatched his knives and attacked him. This terrorised his enemies and later started referring him as king of the king. Some historians wrote: the enemy simply pardoned him because he was the king, but in Gorkha, no one agrees with historians because Shah was not a coward and he preferred to die rather than accepting mercy from enemy.
During the battle of Kirtipur, a woman in a male dress was fighting against a Gorkhali soldier, who recognised her and captured the former. Later, the Gorkhali soldier brought not only the fighter woman but also many women of Kirtipur area to their camp and prisoned them. When Shah came to know about the captivity of women, he detested such a mean act and commanded his soldiers to set them free. Shah’s generosity touched upon the Kirtipur women’s hearts and later they mainstreamed wholeheartedly in the Gorkha’s kingdom.
Shah’s life is a lesson about how to stand ground against all odds. During his reign, he and his loyal troops suffered many hardships. In those times, the Gorkha kingdom was poor and unorganised. In addition, the then king of Kathmandu, Jaya Prakash Malla, in his predicament sought military assistance from the British East India Company. The British seized the opportunity and sent warning and decided to deploy an expedition to relieve Jaya Prakash Malla. Such a warning forced him to think surrendering to the British and signing an unequal treaty. He discarded such thoughts and mustered courage to tide over the waves of misfortune and face the British and defeated them.
Many claimed that Shah is the proponent of Nepal’s foreign policy. PN Shah’s statement that “Nepal is a yam between two big boulders” has been the country’s foreign policy guideline. Nepal is perched in between two giants -- China and India. So his statement that yam between two big stones is self-explanatory. But he also wrote, “The emperor of the south is very clever” and advised his soldiers to remain alert. This preaching is sufficient to understand the contemporary behaviours of the neighbours.
Some historians characterised his style as brutal and claim he slaughtered civilians en mass. They also wrote that he ordered a massacre to punish a rebellion and had eighteen and an half Dharni (2.39) of mutilated nose buried in Kirtipur. This is simply concocted story. In fact, he was kind-hearted king and his reign was much calmer. And it can be judged from his behaviour easily.
Bribery and corruption were significant public problems even in the time of Prithvi Narayan Shah. So, in his preaching, he stated “bribe takers and givers are both enemies of the nation.” During his reign, corrupt officials faced various kinds of punishment. Depending upon the severity of punishment, people were sent to imprisonment in exile. Also, rhinotomy from mild to severe nose mutilation was a form of punishment not just for war criminals but also for corrupt government officials during his rule.
He was of devout of Hindu faith and showed compassion and charity to all. He followed the more efficient system of justice proposed by his ancestor Ram Shah who was highly revered king of Gorkha and famed for giving justice. The saying “Go to Gorkha if you don’t get justice” started from his time.

Great patriot
Under his rule, literature and fine arts flourished as he allocated special funds for them. He also made immense contributions in the field of military policies and reforms. And, he also played a vital role in building roads, guest houses in the temples, etc. His life was eternal tale of bravery. He was a diehard patriot, statesman and caring king. Moreover, he is remembered as the founder of modern Nepal. Prithvi Jayanti is celebrated on 27th Poush as per the Hindu calendar.

(The author is a contributor to TRN)


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