Conquest of Kirtipur

Introduction to Conquest of Kirtipur

The Conquest of Kirtipur was the most important footstep in securing the Kathmandu Valley for King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Kirtipur was fortified with High Walls and therefore, difficult to Conquer. So, The Gorkhalis had to fight many battles that spanned decades before actually finishing the Conquest of Kathmandu.

They were successful the Third time when they laid siege to Kirtipur for Six Whole Months before they actually conquered Kathmandu.

As stated earlier, The major obstacle to conquering Kathmandu Valley was Kirtipur. Built as a palace by King Simhadeva, Kirtipur acted as a fort and a means of escape from the Kathmandu Valley. So, The conquest of Kirtipur would be tough.

Also, Kirtipur gave agricultural yields to the fullest extent. Hence, getting a hold of Kirtipur would be necessary, not just to encircle Kathmandu Valley but also to prevent further war and difficulties.

Prithvi Narayan Shah was on a winning streak before his conquest of Kirtipur. Gorkha had a successful Pre-Unification Campaign and conquered Nuwakot in an interesting way as well.

He spent time maintaining administration, a uniform economy, and addressing political dissatisfactions of the time. Hence, 13 years after the conquest of Nuwakot, Shah set his eyes on the prize itself. The prize was Kirtipur.

First Battle of Kirtipur

P.N. Shah this period was passing his mid 30’s. He was losing his youth but not his immaturity. He can be believed to be short-tempered from his incidents with the King of Tanahu.

Anyways, P.N. Shah observed that Kantipur and two other Kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley were increasing their Military power. New soldiers were being recruited. Foreign Trainers were being introduced and towns were being fortified.

Hence, the urgency of striking a blow to Kantipur can be justified. P.N. Shah wanted to attack Kirtipur within 1858 A.D. So, he did.

Most of his courtiers were against attacking Kirtipur. His Commander-in-Chief Kalu Pande was against attacking Kirtipur. His Royal Priest Kulananda Dhakal was against attacking Kirtipur. Yet, Shah attacked Kirtipur.

He talked to another priest to find out an auspicious date, forced his armies, and encouraged them to defeat Kirtipur.

Attack on Kirtipur

Nearly 1200 Soldiers under the leadership of Kalu Pande set determined to be a victor against Kirtipur. Jayaprakash Malla, after knowing that Kirtipur could be under attack, informed Bhadgaon and Patan and took their combined army for war.

Two armies facing each other. Both a confident faces but a shaking war. Both knew this War would determine the future of Nepal for Ten years more or less. Thus, the war began.

Kantipur attacked from the back, Lalitpur from the front, and Bhaktapur from the center. The war continued for 12 hours. 3000 on 1200 was the situation. The Gorkhalis were bound to lose and hence took a defensive stance.

Kalu Pande was carefully guiding his army. Both of the parties had similar casualties and the war was continuing forever when Suddenly Kalu Pande was hit by an arrow to the head. Kalu Pande fainted and the rest of the Malla army Killed him.

The Commander in Chief was dead, the man that had been the companion, the guide, and the path setter was dead. King Prithvi Narayan Shah gave the order to end the war accepting their defeat.

Nearly 400 Gorkhalis were killed and 800 Mallas were killed according to an account. It can be presumed that the casualty was the same. Even P.N. Shah was nearly killed by a soldier when he was reminded that he could suffer from the sin of King Slayer. Hence, P.N. Shah was spared. But Gorkha lost the war.

The head of Kalu Pande was spun around the Kantipur City in celebration and hence Kantipur cemented its authority over the Kathmandu Valley. The first attempt at the conquest of Kirtipur ended in disaster for the Gorkhalis.

The Aftermath of the Failed Conquest of Kirtipur

After the defeat of Gorkha in the first attempt at the conquest of Kirtipur I, Kantipur and Gorkha conducted a commercial Treaty which laid heavily on the side of Kantipur, probably as a consequence of defeat. The Treaty of Kantipur and Gorkha was official on January 3rd, 1758 A.D.

This Treaty guaranteed that Gorkha could keep the lands of Patan but Naldum has to be returned to Kantipur. Also, Gorkha had to allow Kantipur to pass through Nuwakot for trade purposes.

Both Kingdoms would keep a diplomat in each other’s Kingdom. Also, both parties would have a lawyer in Tibet to represent their respective Kingdoms.

The Diplomat sent by Gorkha (Tularam Pande) acted as a spy and wrecked the static balance between the Mahapatras and the King of Kathmandu. This caused stirs in Kantipur’s Politics.

Hence, Jayaprakash Malla imprisoned Tularam Pande and killed two other Officers.  Kaji Tularam Pande escaped the prison through a tunnel pathway and reached Nuwakot.

After the extreme reaction of Jayaprakash Malla, P.N. Shah responded similarly. He annexed Shivapurigadhi and Palanchowk. He renovated the forts of Kavre and Sindupalchowk and kept his soldiers there.

Introduction to the Second Battle of Kirtipur

King Prithvi Narayan Shah expanded the geographical, economic, and political power of Gorkha to a large extent within 20 years of his rule. He completed the Conquest of Nuwakot from Kantipur and Lamidanda from Lalitpur.

He defeated the Kingdom of Makwanpur and other still strategic locations. He also captured Pharping, Chovar, Panga, and other areas.

So, Prithvi Narayan Shah was quite closer to reaching his destination of defeating Kathmandu. The final stop at that destination was the Conquest of Kirtipur.

P.N. Shah had been defeated in the Battle of Kirtipur once where he lost some of his finest generals and Commanders.

Second Battle of Kirtipur

The Siege of Lisbon

When P.N. Shah expressed his desire to attack Kirtipur for the second time. Both of his Royal Priests provided their view against the attack. His Kaji Bansharaj Pande, and Haribansha Upadhyaya, also opined against it.

Despite most of his courtiers opening against P.N. Shah, he decided to attack again. He sent letters to the court members of Kathmandu making Jayaprakash Malla suspicious of his courtiers. This increased pressure upon the King as well.

After knowing that Gorkhali would eventually attack Kirtipur, they kept huge stone blocks throughout Kirtipur and hired Bhotes or Tibetan-Nepalese Tribes for striking arrows.

On 1764 December 16, Surpratap Shah Kaji Daljit Shah, and Kaji Sriharsha Shah jointly representing Gorkha marched toward Kirtipur. However, Kirtipur, instead of battling closed its gates. As Kirtipur was surrounded by large walls and forts, it was impossible to penetrate Kirtipur.

The only choice for Gorkhali Soldiers was to conduct a blockade until the citizens of Kirtipur open the gates. As Kirtipur is situated on a hill, getting inside Kirtipur became tougher and tougher. Large rocks and boulders were thrown from Kirtipur to the Gorkhali Army as well. Hence, the Blockade was getting Harder to continue.

The Gorkhali Army had only one alternative. It was to climb through the walls of Kirtipur. Taking the initiative, Commander Surpratap Shah climbed the gates of Kirtipur.

Unfortunately, an arrow hit Surpratap Shah which struck his left eye. Seeing the Commander nearly killed, the Gorkhali Army ran away from Kirtipur to Dahachowk. It can be presumed that P.N. Shah generally lived in Dahachowk so it can be easier to access the valley. Dahachowk lies near present-day Thankot.

The Failure in the Siege of Kirtipur is shameful and frightening in many cases. This proved that Kirtipur alone could defend itself independently of other armies on the one hand. On the Other, it proved that Gorkhali Army was weak and divided because Commanders such as Bansharaj Pande didn’t take part in the War.

Third Battle of Kirtipur

Siege of Ranacagua

Gorkha lost two battles against Kirtipur. Keeping the Shame and the Humiliation on the one hand, conquering Kirtipur was mandatory to get his hands on Kathmandu. So, P.N. Shah and Bansharaj Pande started discussing strategies and plans to defeat and conquer Kirtipur. It was getting late for P.N. Shah as well. Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Kantipur united with each other against Gorkha and Shah.

So, Gorkha captured an area called Lutchowk near Balaju the night. They strengthened their military presence in Sankhu, Changu, Tokha, Gokarna, etc. He then decided to attack Kirtipur in 1765 B.S. May 10th. The Army was united under Bansharaj Pande, Tularam Pande, and General Ramkrishna Kunwar.

In Kirtipur, the gates were closed again and the Commander of Lalitpur was waiting for Gorkhali troops to arrive. They were ready for Siege and were expecting a tough blockade. The People of Kirtipur were worried about the consequence they would face from such a tough Siege. They couldn’t gather grains or other materials. Even the Three Kingdoms didn’t help Kirtipur in this siege making it easy for Gorkha the Conquest of Kirtipur.

Utilizing this moment, P.N. Shah tried to get the citizens of Kathmandu on his side. For this, he promised that he would provide security and facilities to Kirtipur. The siege continued for an unprecedented 6 months. If the siege continued further, the citizens had to resort to inhuman activities. People were getting naked and rough. Their body was deforming from Hunger and Poverty.

Finally, after 6 months the citizens of Kirtipur surrendered and Gorkhalis were provided the right to rule Kirtipur. After a vicious battle and a failed Sige, Gorkha finally captured Kirtipur for the third time. The Official date is recounted to be 1766 A.D. 12th March when Gorkha completed The Conquest of Kirtipur

Consequences of The Conquest of Kirtipur

It is said that Many citizens of Kirtipur opposed Gorkha and their soldiers. So, many of them were killed or punished likewise. Foreign Historians also write that the noses, hands, and ears of children, women, and men likewise were cut which Vaidhya argues is false as propaganda by the British who were being economically hampered by the Blockade.

No matter what, P.N. Shah conquered Kirtipur and finally surrounded the Kathmandu Valley. Only three Kings were blocking the path for Gorkha to defeat Kantipur, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur. After defeating Kirtipur, the victory of Gorkha over Kathmandu Valley became more certain.


Pokhrel, A. (2023). Conquest of Kirtipur – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History.