After the death of his father, Nara Bhupal, Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723-1775) became the king of Gorkha on April 3, 1743. A young man brimming with farsightedness and determination, his overriding ambition was to enlarge his small kingdom. And so, he set about conquering other kingdoms, a campaign that eventually led to victory over many of the 22 kingdoms known collectively as baisi raijya, as well as the 24 kingdoms known as chaubasi rajya west of Gorkha, the Sen kingdom in the east, and Kathmandu Valley. In 1769, he shifted his capital to Kathmandu, and named his unified kingdom as Nepal.
His conquest of the Valley was the most challenging of his entire campaign. In this endeavor, one of his most strategically valuable conquests was that of Nuwakot. It was not an easy task, and his army was repelled on the first try. Not only was his army ill-equipped, there was another reason for his defeat—his two ablest supporting clans, the Pandeys and the Basnets, were at loggerheads. The king decided that unless he settled their dispute, he wouldn’t be able to go far. So, he promoted the leader of the Pandeys, Kalu Pandey, to the post of Mul Kazi, equivalent to the post of a prime minister. Now, Kazi Kalu Pandey was one of the most war-savvy and bravest warriors around, and he put in his all to win Nuwakot for his king, which he did on Oct 2, 1744.
This was the beginning of the end for the various kingdoms of the Valley. Kazi Kalu Pandey’s strategy was to blockade the Valley by taking over strategic positions on the surrounding hills. In the next two years, the Gorkha army under his generalship seized important sites such as Pharping, Shivapuri, Mahadevpokhari, Chitlang, Naldrum, Dharmasthali, and Siranchok. He then made Kirtipur the center of his attention because he reckoned that its subjugation would ease the conquest of the whole Valley. However, the Kirtipur army was a tough nut to crack, and on December 4, 1757, during the first attack on the town, Kalu Pandey was killed, and the king himself nearly beheaded. It was the worst possible thing to happen to an army at war, the loss of its greatest general, a warrior of legendary proportions. The Gorkha army’s second attempt in August 1765 was also repelled. A severe blockade was the applied, which resulted, finally, in Kirtipur’s surrender on March 17, 1766.
To say that Kazi Kalu Pandey was one of the foremost figures responsible for the unification of Nepal would not be an understatement. He inspired great confidence in his soldiers as also in his king, and it was due to his excellent strategies that King Prithvi Narayan Shah could fulfill his ambition of creating a single country out of numerous smaller kingdoms. The body of the legendary Kazi Kalu Pandey was buried in a place called Daha Chowk in Kirtipur.
Knowing a bit of the country’s history and Kazi Kalu Pandey’s role in it certainly makes the day-long hiking trip to this historic place more interesting. The hike begins from Thankot, goes through Naikap and Balambu, and then carries on up a steadily climbing dusty road towards Daha Chowk. The route is lined with rhododendron trees, and the thickly-wooded Chandragiri hills present an imposing backdrop. By and by, your hike finds you walking up a set of stairs, at the top of which is a small hexagonal temple dedicated to Goddess Bindabasini. Originally, before the statue of the goddess was made, a tree stub used to be worshipped instead as the Baan Kali deity, and the story is that this is where King Prithvi Narayan Shah prayed for success before embarking on his conquest of Kirtipur.
Passing the temple, soon enough, you come to a pasture, and it too is a part of history due to the fact that the king’s army did their drills here to keep themselves in shape for the upcoming attack. Up ahead is a small settlement called Indrasthan where there’s a communication tower guarded by some soldiers. This tower’s history isn’t good; in 1999, a passenger plane flying the domestic route crashed into it, killing all 15 onboard. After walking for some more time, you come to the village of Daha Chowk, where there’s a sacred pond called Indra Daha, and nearby, at some 10-minutes walking distance, the tomb of the man who helped make King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s dream come true, that is, Kazi Kalu Pandey. Apparently, the general, in his dying moments, made a wish to be buried at a site from where Gorkha could be seen, as also Manakamana Temple, one of the more famous shrines of Nepal. There’s a replica of this temple here, as well, which was built in 1757, and dedicated to Goddess Bhagawati.
So, you see, a hike to Daha Chowk is a hike through the pages of history, for some very important events took place in and around it during the time when a new country by the name of Nepal was being created.