While Nepalis are known for their peaceful and friendly nature, they have also demonstrated fierce valor at times when the nation’s sovereignty has been threatened. That is why, after the conclusion of the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-1816, the British were so deeply impressed by the uncommon valor of their adversaries that they made an agreement whereby Nepali soldiers could henceforth be recruited into their own army.
Their bravery was conspicuous in many battles on many fronts. One such front was the Palpa-Butwal region where the Nepali forces under Colonel Ujir Singh Thapa soundly defeated the British forces under Colonel Joe Sullivan Wood. It was a battle in which the awed British could see for themselves the immense courage and skillful strategic ability of the Nepali force.
The Palpa-Butwal front was one of the four fronts in which the Indian British Army engaged the Nepal Army, the other fronts being: Bijaypur in the eastern region, Makwanpur in the central region, and the region beyond Mahakali in the far-west. While the foreign aggressors managed to gain the upper hand in most of the fronts, due primarily to their superior weapons and greater manpower, Palpa-Butwal became a battleground in which the Nepali forces prevailed.
The commander of this region, Colonel Ujir Singh Thapa, was well prepared; having arranged for adequate weapons, and the construction of fortified garrisons, and bridges and culverts. He was also as devout a man as are most Nepalis, and before going to battle, he made it a point to visit the many temples in the region to seek blessings of various gods and goddesses. One of the most sacred temples was the temple of the 16-handed Mahsasur Mardini Bhagwati, located in the center of Tansen, the district headquarter of Palpa.
Touching the goddess’s feet, the colonel made a vow that if they became victorious, he would build a grand temple, and conduct a Sindur Jatra (a victory parade) around the district in the deity’s honor. Then, he led his forces into battle, and in Jitgadhi of Butwal, forced the aggressors to retreat numerous times. Victory was theirs, and keeping his sacred vow, he ordered the building of a magnificent three-storied temple that took four years to be completed (1815-1819). The temple’s gajur (pinnacle) was made of gold, the colonel having donated gold equaling his height, and the canopy over the goddess was of silver. The 16 hands of the goddess were made of asta-dhatu (an amalgamation of eight metals).
Having done all this, he then began the Sindur Jatra in 1820, on the holy day of Bhadra Krishna Nawami, in honor of the goddess Mahisasur Mardini Bhagwati, who is also known as Palpa Bhagwati. While there are numerous jatras (parades, or more correctly, festivals) all over the country at various times of the year, the Palpa Bhagwati Sindur Jatra holds special significance, because it is a festival to commemorate a crucial time in the country’s history, a festival to celebrate a famous victory. The Sindur Jatra is held every year in Tansen with great enthusiasm, and is a reminder to all of the heroism of the soldiers of Nepal. It is now 200 hundred years since the end of the Anglo-Nepal War, and a good time to recall sacrifices of the past to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty.