Nepal’s Naya Muluk and the Gurkha[1] Regiments

Lest History Forgets                                               

SB Pun[2]

                                                                                                                August 2010

Foreword: Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and Naya Muluk

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, ‘History is a record of the victors. History would be kind to me for I intend to write one.’ Nepalese history records that Naya Muluk, the present districts of Kanchanpur, Kailali, Bardiya and Banke, was returned to the Maharaja of Nepal by the British Government for the services rendered by the State of Nepal during the Mutiny of the Native Army of Bengal in 1857, known as the Sepoy Mutiny. The transcript given below of the Treaty with Nipal – November 1, 1860 does bear testimony that ‘the whole of the lowlands between the Rivers Kali and Raptee, and the whole of the lowlands lying between the River Raptee and the District of Gorukpore’ was bestowed to the ‘Maharajah of Nipal in full sovereignty … in recognition of the eminent services rendered to the British Government by the State of Nipal …   during the disturbances which followed the mutiny of the Native army of Bengal in 1857.

On May 10, 1857 the Sepoys of the East India Company mutinied at Meerut. This was because the cartridges of the new Enfield rifles were believed to be greased with a mixture of cow and pig fat; and both Hindu and Muslim soldiers felt defiled as the cartridges had to be bitten when loading the rifle. Nepal’s Council of State/Bharadars debated heatedly on whether or not to send Nepalese troops to assist the British. Jung Bahadur always had that uncanny gift to choose the final winners. Jung persuaded the Council to support the British in their hour of need. It, however, took ten days for the canny Canning, Governor-General of East India Company, to accept Nepal’s offer. Canning had that deep suspicion, if the Sepoys who had partaken the Company’s salt mutinied, can the Nepalese be trusted. So, fifty four days after the mutiny outbreak, the first six regiments of the Nepalese army marched off to India on July 3, 1857. Later in December 1857, Junga Bahadur himself led eight thousand Nepalese troops to assist the British government in quelling that mutiny. History is replete with Jung’s Lucknow exploits and his return to Nepal with ‘4,300 carts of loot that trailed sixteen miles long … To the consternation and chagrin of British quartermasters, the Nepalese troops also marched off with the 10,000 new model rifles supplied to them on their arrival in India.’[3] But Nepalese history is either ignorant or eerily silent of ‘the eminent services rendered to the British Government’ by the three Gurkha Regiments already serving the East India Company during that Sepoy Mutiny of 1857! By the time the first contingent of Nepalese army moved to India on 3rd July 1857, the Sirmoor regiment had already fought their way to Hindoo Rao’s House on the dominant Delhi Ridge.

Rajgurh Convention of 1815: Gurkhas in East India Company: Dawn of Lahure Era

Article 5 of the ‘Convention of Agreement entered into between Kajee Ummer Sing Thappa and Major General Ochterlony’ on the 15th of May 1815 at Rajgurh states: ‘All the troops in the service of Nepaul, with the exception of those granted to the personal honor of the Kajees Ummer Singh and Ranjore Singh, will be at liberty to enter into the service of the British Government, if it is  agreeable to themselves and the British Government choose to accept their services, and those who are not employed will be maintained on a specific allowance by the British Government, till peace is concluded between the two States.’ Impressed by the skill, tenacity and courage of the Gurkhas during the Anglo-Nepal war of 1814 – 1815, the British inserted this important clause in the Convention of Rajgurh that would have far reaching implications in the Anglo-Nepal relationship. It will be pertinent to point out here that Kazi Amar Singh, in signing that Rajgurh convention, inserted a separate article in the end stating ‘Kajee Ummer Singh Thapa wishes it to be understood that he shall give immediate orders for the instant surrender of the distant forts, in the hope that it may lead to an early renewal of the relations of amity which have subsisted between the two States for these sixty years, and by the advice of Bum Sah and the Bharadars of Kamaon.’ The Kazi had hoped in the ‘early renewal of the relations of amity’ and also envisaged that ‘peace is concluded between the two States.’ The delay by the intrigue-ridden Kathmandu durbar in signing the peace accord led General Ochterlony to launch his second offensive against Nepal. When the Makwanpur gadhi close to Kathmandu fell, Nepal was forced to eat the humble pie. The Sugauli Treaty down-sized the Gurkha Empire of Sutluj-Teesta to Mechi-Mahakali of present day.

A much disillusioned Kazi Amar Singh Thapa, unhappy with Durbar intrigues, died at Gosaikund on 29th July 1816. Senior commanders like Bal Bhadra refused to join the British, against whom they had fought. Unhappy with their own country’s intrigue-filled Durbar, Bal Bhadra and many veterans like him opted to join the Khalsa army of Punjab’s Ranjit Singh. A memorial put up by the British stands, to this day, derelict at Kalunga/Dehradun: ‘In tribute to our gallant adversary Bulbuddr, Commander of the fort and his brave Gorkhas who were afterwards while in service of Ranjit Singh, shot down in their ranks to the last man by Afghan Artillery.’  This was at Yusufijei in Afghanistan[4] in 1823.

1857 – The Three Malaun, Sirmoor and Kumaon Gurkha Regiments:

At the time the Sepoy Mutiny broke out in May 1857 at Meerut, the East India Company had three Gurkha Regiments: i) the Nusseree[5], raised at Malaun near Subathoo that became the 1st Gurkha Rifles – the Malaun Regiment ii) the Sirmoor[6], raised at Nahan in Sirmoor that became the 2nd Gurkha Rifles – the Sirmoor Regiment and iii) the Kumaon[7], raised at Almorah in Kumaon that became the 3rd Gurkha Rilfes – the Kumaon Regiment. British and Indian records indicate that all these three regiments were raised on the same day of April 24, 1815. Records also indicate that the British utilized the services of the Gurkhas in various other units as well like the 1817-raised Infantry Levy at Fatehgarh (root of 9th Gurkha Regiment) and the 1824-raised 16 Sylhet Local Battalion (root lineage of 8th Gurkha Regiment). The astute British used these Gurkha regiments, particularly the Malaun and Sirmoor regiments, against the Jats in 1826 at Bharatpore and against the Sikhs at Aliwal and Sobroan in 1846. The regimental centre of Nusseree was at Dharamsala, of Sirmoor at Dehradun and of Kumaon at Almorah.

Sirmoor Regiment during 1857 Sepoy Mutiny: From Dehradun to Delhi Ridge

When the Sepoy Mutiny broke out on May 10, 1857, the Dehradun-based Sirmoor regiment received orders on May 14, 1857 to march to Meerut. The 490-strong Sirmoor, under Major Reid’s command, marched out four hours after receipt of orders with just what they carried on their backs, sixty rounds of ammunition each in pouches, and two elephants with spare ammunition. The British, in April 1854, had just brought into operation the massive Ganges Canal they had built for irrigation purposes. The innovative British used that canal to transport the Sirmoor Gurkhas on a fleet of forty five boats to reach Nanoo, the point nearest to Meerut, on May 18. As the mutineers had already left Meerut for Delhi, the Sirmoor again received orders to march on to Bulandshahr which was reached only on May 24 with great difficulties. The regiment then moved on to Hindun river near Ghaziabad where they met the British regiment, the 60th Rifles, on 1st June. As per the order, the Sirmoor reached Alipore on June 7th to join hands with General Barnard’s force there. The Sirmoor, being the only Indian regiment in General Barnard’s force, was at first viewed with extreme distrust which, in a few days, gave way to one of friendliness and admiration. On June 8th, the Sirmoor fought their way through Badli ke Serai to the Ridge where they occupied Hindoo Rao’s House, just 1,200 yards from Delhi’s city walls. The occupation of the Ridge by the Gurkhas was cheered by other British regiments thus ending ‘all doubts as to their loyalty … The Sirmoor battalion was the first Indian regiment in the field, the first to pull a trigger against the mutineers, and was the only Indian regiment present at the Battle of Badli ke Serai, as well as at the opening actions of the great Siege of Delhi.’[8]

Hindoo Rao’s House on Delhi Ridge during the Great Siege of Delhi:

Hindoo Rao’s House on the Ridge was the key position the British took up before Delhi’s city walls. The mutineers, realizing the importance of this House on the Ridge, tried to capture it, attacking regularly throughout the entire 98 days’ siege period. The Sirmoor together with the British 60th Rifles and Guide Corps (that had one Gurkha company) defended this key position without any relief for 98 days – from June 8 to September 14, 1857. The Sirmoor ‘ was never once relieved during the whole siege, … sustained and defeated no less that twenty six distinct attacks on the Ridge and, moreover, made two attacks on the enemy’s position at Kissenganj, …  was the only regiment of the whole force which was exposed to constant fire, Hindoo Rao’s House being within perfect range of nearly all the enemy’s guns, … for a period of three months and eight days, the battalion was under fire morning, noon and night, … and finally, that its losses, including the great assault on 14th September 1857, totaled 327 of all ranks out of the 490 with which it entered the siege, of the nine British officers eight were killed and wounded.[9]

The Sirmoor’s losses of 327 dead from the strength of 490 meant an incredible loss of 66.7%. Records do indicate that the Kumaon Regiment was used during the great Delhi assault of 14th September 1857 and the Malaun Regiment also has Delhi Mutiny as its battle honours. With the fall of Delhi, the triumphant British happily noted that ‘Delhi with all its strength and all its imperial prestige was now in our hands.’ After the capture of Delhi, the Sirmoor Regiment and the British 60th Rifles were detailed to hold the prestigious Delhi Fort. Impressed with the services of the Sirmoor, Queen Victoria herself designed a six foot truncheon with the crown supported by three Gurkha soldiers and below inscribed in silver letters: “Main Picquet, Hindoo Rao’s House, Delhi, 1857.” Below this was the Delhi Gate of the Palace of Moghuls with two khukuries also in silver. Beneath the Delhi Gate was inscribed the words Sirmoor Rifles. Till its demise[10] in 1999, the Sirmoor Regiment celebrated Delhi Day each year on 14th September displaying Queen Victoria’s Truncheon.

Notes from Sirmoor’s Regimental History:

The regimental history of Sirmoor Rifles noted that the following Gurkha officers were wounded during the Great Siege of Delhi: i) Subahdar Inderbir Lama – 8th June ii) Subahdar Govindo Mahara – 23rd June iii) Subahdar Oojeri Kandari – 26th June iv) Subahdar Rutton Newar – 30th June iv) Subahdar Sing Bir Thappa – 9th July and v) Subahdar Makanda Basniath -14th September. Due note must be taken that the then Sirmoor Regiment had a good mixture of Thapa, Basnet, Newar, Kandari (Bhandari?), Mahara and Lama – that inclusiveness mantra, one hears so much these days. It was not the exclusive domain of the Magars and Gurungs that the British later made. The regimental history also mentioned that the under-mentioned individuals were awarded the Order of Merit:

                Jemadar Badal Thapa, advanced to the 2nd Class

Havildar Ransur Lama, awarded 3rd Class Order of Merit

Havildar Ransur Thapa, awarded 3rd Class Order of Merit

Naik Surbir Rana, awarded 3rd Class Order of Merit

Seventeen Riflemen were awarded 3rd Class Order of Merit while by General Order of 21st June 1857, at Major Reid’s recommendation, Subahdar Singbir Thapa was appointed a member to the 1st Class of the Order of British India with title of ‘Sardar Bahadur’ and Subahdar Jokkoo a member of the 2nd Class of the same Order with the title of ‘Bahadur’. The regimental history[11] also mentioned that Commander-in-Chief Sir Hugh Rose during the inspection of Sirmoor Regiment at Kalunga Hill on 23rd April 1863 met the Gurkha officers. Among them was Subahdar-Major Sing Bir Thapaone of the first lot enlisted for the Sirmoor Battalion in 1815 and had been one of the garrison of Fort Kalunga which, under Balbadr Sing with 700 Goorkhas, held out against the English in October and November 1814, and finally evacuated it, the remnant of the force, some eighty men only under their leader, cutting their way out through our cordon and escaping.’

Final Word: Lest We Forget!

Recognizing the services of the Gurkhas, the British quickly raised two more Gurkha regiments during the Sepoy Mutiny: 4th Gurkha Rifles as 33 Extra Gurkha Regiment in1857 at Pithoragarh and 5th Gurkha Rifles as 25th Punjab Infantry or Hazara Gurkha Battalion on May 22, 1858 at Abbotabad. History must acknowledge the services rendered by these Gurkha regiments in the return of Naya Muluk to Nepal by the British. Junga Bahadur’s crucial decision to assist the British during their hour of need undoubtedly played a major role. Though Jung’s Lucknow loot exploits are well documented in Nepalese history, there is no mention at all, none in fact, of the heavy sacrifices made by the three Gurkha Regiments, in particular the Sirmoor Regiment, during the 1857 Mutiny. When Nepal’s first six regiments headed for India on 3rd July 1857, the Sirmoor Regiment was already entrenched at Hindoo Rao’s House on the Delhi Ridge since the 8th of June 1857. When Junga Bahadur himself led the 8,000 strong Nepalese army in December 1857, the British had already captured Delhi on September 14, 1857, with over two-thirds of the Gurkhas in the Sirmoor Regiment dead. Some British Generals now indicate that if the Hindoo Rao’s House on the Delhi Ridge held by the Gurkhas had fallen into the Mutineers’ hands, then the ‘jewel of the British Empire’ could have slipped out of British hands. The capture of Delhi’s Hindoo Rao’s House by the mutineers would have boosted the morale of mutineers elsewhere and at the same time demoralized the forces loyal to the British Raj. In General Sir Francis Tuker’s[12] own words: ‘If the Main Piquet had fallen, the Ridge would have gone, and, as likely as not, the Bombay and Madras armies and the Punjab would have blown into blazes….. The Main Piquet at Delhi stood firm for more than the people of Britain realized in 1857 or, even now, in 1957.

The final point to note is that, immediately after the territorial grant of ‘Naya Muluk to Nepal in November 1860, the shrewd Junga Bahadur in 1861 connived to have King Surendra assign the whole district of Bardiya as Birta to himself and his brothers. Jung had the Bardiya Birta divided in true Rana style[13]: fifty percent to himself as Prime Minister and the remaining to all his other brothers! Such has been the travesty of Nepalese politics to this day. It is the rulers who have the final say – be it in writing the nation’s history or in harvesting the nation’s loaves and fishes! Lest we forget, it is time that Nepalese history recognizes the sacrifices made by her ‘sons of the soil’ during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny that was instrumental in the territorial grant of Naya Muluk to Nepal - the whole of the lowlands between the Rivers Kali and Raptee, and the whole of the lowlands lying between the River Raptee and the District of Gorukpore!


The End


Treaty with Nipal – November 1, 1860

During the disturbances which followed the mutiny of the Native army of Bengal in 1857, the Maharajah of NIpal not only faithfully maintained the relations of peace and friendship established between the British Government and the State of Nipal by the Treaty of Segowlee, but freely placed troops at the disposal of the British authorities for the preservation of order in the Frontier Districts, and subsequently sent a force to co-operate with the British Army in the recapture of Lucknow and the final defeat of the rebels. On the conclusion of these operations, the Viceroy and Governor-General in recognition of the eminent services rendered to the British Government by the State of Nipal, declared his intention to restore to the Maharajah the whole of the low lands lying between the River Kali and the District of Gorukpore, which belonged to the State of Nipal in 1815, and were ceded to the British Government in that year by the aforesaid Treaty. These lands have now been identified by Commissioners appointed for the purpose by the British Government in the presence of Commissioners deputed by the Nipal Darbar; masonry pillars have been erected to mark the future boundary of the two States, and the territory has been formally delivered over to the Nipalese Authorities. In order the more firmly to secure the State of Nipal in the perpetual possession of this territory, and to mark in a solemn way the occasion of its restoration, the following Treaty has been concluded between the two States:

Article 1st

All Treaties and Engagements now in force between the British Government and the Maharajah of Nipal, except in so far as they may be altered by this Treaty, are hereby confirmed.

Article 2nd

The British Government hereby bestows on the Maharajah of Nipal in full sovereignty, the whole of the lowlands between the Rivers Kali and Raptee, and the whole of the lowlands lying between the River Raptee and the District of Gorukpore, which were in the possession of the Nipal State in the year 1815 and were ceded to the British Government by Article III of the Treaty concluded at Segowlee on the 2nd of December in the year.

Article 3rd

The boundary line surveyed by the British Commissioners appointed for the purpose extending eastward from the River Kali or Sardah to the foot of the hills north of Bagowra Tal, and marked by pillars, shall henceforth be the boundary between the British Province of Oudh and the Territories of the Maharajah of Nipal.

This Treaty, signed by lieutenant-Colonel George Ramsay, on the part of his Excellency the Right Honourable Charles John, Earl Canning, G.C.B, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, and by Maharaja Jung Bahadoor Rana, G.C.B, on the part of Maharajah Dheraj Soorinder Vikram Sah Bahadoor Shumshere Jung, shall be ratified, and the ratifications shall be exchanged at Kathmandoo within thirty days of the date of signature.

Signed and sealed at Kathmandoo, this first day of November, A.D, one thousand eight hundred and sixty corresponding to the third day of Kartick Budee, Sumbut nineteen hundred and seventeen.



Resident at Nipal


Viceroy and Governor-General


This Treaty was ratified by His Excellency the Governor-General, at Calcutta, on the 15th of November, 1860.

                                                                                                            A.R YOUNG,

                                                                                                                Deputy Secretary to the Government of India



[1]  This article uses the ‘Gurkhas’ nomenclature used by the British army. The Indian army prefers to use ‘Gorkhas.’

[2] As the writer’s family was associated with the Sirmoor Regiment, he had access to that regiment’s history – hence, detailed account of this regiment. Unfortunately, despite the attempts of Lt. Colonel Dhan Bdr Thapa 5th GR, access to the regimental history of Malaun and Kumaon failed. Those on internet websites were very sketchy lacking details. The Kumaon Regiment was used in the final attack of 14th September 1857 on Delhi. Though the Malaun Regiment was also used during the 1857 Mutiny, the writer has no details of that regiment during that period. The writer, hence, would be grateful to any readers of this article who can provide him the regimental history of these two premier regiments, the Malaun and Kumaon. The writer can be availed at phone # 01-4431393 or at email address: .

[3]  Stiller, Ludwig F, SJ. 1993. Nepal: Growth of Nation. HRD Research Center. Kathmandu.

[4]  Chandra B Khanduri. 1997. A Re-Discovered History of Gorkhas. Gyan Sagar Publications. Delhi.


[5]  Nusseree re-designated 1st King George V’s Own Gurkha Rifles – the Malaun Regiment.

[6]  Sirmoor re-designated 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles – the Sirmoor Rifles.

[7] Kumaon re-designated 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles – the Kumaon Regiment.

[8]  Colonel LW Shakespear. History of the 2nd King Edward’s Own Goorkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles). Aldershot: Gale & Polden Ltd. 1950. First published 1912.

[9]  Ibid.

[10]  The British army disbanded the four original regiments (2nd, 6th, 7th and 10th) and now has only two regiments – the 1st and 2nd Gurkha Rifles. The days are not too far off when the Indian army will similarly disband her seven Gurkha Regiments (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th) that presently has 38 pure Gurkha battalions. While our ‘Political Masters’ fight among themselves for the loaves and fishes of the nation, they are more keen to send her citizens  to Middle East and Malaya not as Lahures but as Labourers for dirty and dangerous jobs!

11 Colonel LW Shakespear. History of the 2nd King Edward’s Own Goorkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles). Aldershot: Gale & Polden Ltd. 1950. First published 1912.

[12]  James H and Sheil-Small D. 1975. Pride of Gurkhas. The 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas (The Sirmoor Rifles) 1948 – 1971. Leo Cooper Ltd. London.

[13]  Stiller, Ludwig F, SJ. 1993. Nepal: Growth of Nation. HRD Research Center. Kathmandu.