Legendary Marriage of Mahasur Chhetri’s Son

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Ranjit Basnet Chhetri, who is 74, was just eight when his mother decided to arrange his marriage.  He didn’t accept the proposal outright. The only reason for his denial was, he wanted to enjoy his childhood before tying the most sacred knot, accepted by all religions. However, nothing could save him from rejecting the decision.

“Several have asked me how I tied the knot,” he explains, “But only a few could believe the breathtaking narration about my marriage.”

Whenever he is asked to narrate the event, he hesitates to do so as he thinks, he claims, people will just make fun of him since they even don’t try to accept a part of the whole story behind the scene considering the expenses incurred and number of people attending the function.

Ranjit Basnet

He looks at this writer with a laughing brook and  says, “Now-a-days, a marriage ceremony can be done with a few hundred rupees. While, my father told me the total expenditure for my marriage was around Rs 900 in 1944 when most of the things were granted free of cost or available at home.”

When his mother decided to arrange this function, his father, martyr Mahasur Chhetri was in India with the then Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji.

“He was not happy with the decision of my mother since he wanted me to study for some more years,” he recalls. However, he was forced to accept the proposal finally as Chhetri’s mother insisted him a lot with every reason.

The four-day event was amazing considering the participation from grass-root level to Brigadier Namgay Bahadur, popularly known as Chhabda.

“I am unable to guess the exact number of invitees who attended the ceremony. But, Chhabda was there with 20 police personnel from the beginning. Those police performed continuous dance throughout the event and still, I have a vivid memory of that.”

He claims that the marriage procession to bride’s home took hours to finally depart from his courtyard. There were over 150 horses and nine groups of Damais with various traditional instruments including 40 Narsinggas and controlled by a few commanders.

“There were 20 goats, four sheep and a six-year-old male buffalo for the invitees, who could finish 14 muris of rice (around 11 quintals) during the event,” he adds. By that time, a goat of around 40 kg used to cost not more than Rs 4.

Over 100 guns were fired to mark the event wasting some 60 kg of gun-powder offered to Mahasur as a gift by one of the Mandals called Baliman.

The only thing Chhetri missed during his marriage was the Prime Minister. “I was grown-up in his palace. He used to be as friendly as anybody else with me but I really didn’t know why he remained absent in the function,” he narrates.

According to him, relatives and friends from as far as Nepal and remote parts of India also were present in his marriage. There were Babu Sahebs, Caprasis, Muktiyars, Mandals and general people, among others.

“Even those who were not invited also attended the function fearing that Mahasur will take action against their absence the next day,” says he adding,” There was no option than to join the procession  or at least attend the feast to avoid scolding.”

He further says, “The event was also an opportunity to meet my dad to share their grievances and concerns, which he would later address with the Prime Minister or Babu Sahebs.”

Interestingly, the bride family asked Mahasur to bring as many people as possible along with horses that could feed at least five quintals of maize.

“When the procession reached the bride’s home, the bridal party was shocked to see such a large number of people and horses,” he recollects, “I heard people were eating until the next morning and many had to return back the next day with empty stomach.”

When allocated maize was insufficient to feed all horses, they were let free to graze on crops. Irate villagers tried intervening into the situation against this. But, Mahasur exposed a knife to threaten them.

“We have our horses as per your demand. It is your duty to feed them or you should allow them to graze on your crops,” Chhetri recalls his father as saying to villagers.

When asked if his marriage was the greatest of its kind in Bhutan, he has a ready-made answer, “I participated in a marriage ceremony of late Bhim Basnet, who was the son of well-known Setu Mahajan. I learnt that invitees on that function could only eat 480 kg of rice. So, probably I am in the top of the list.”

Chhetri, who is currently dwelling in Beldangi-II camp Sector A-2, wholeheartedly accepts that all marriages are made in heaven.

“The legend seems old by now,” he tells,” I am passing my days alone as the other-half of my life, who was a part of this great and momentous celebration, passed away in 2008.”

(Mishra, who is currently undertaking a research on the life history of martyr Mahasur Chhetri, can be reached at [email protected] for comments or suggestions, if any.)

37 COMMENTS

  1. Nice
    Legendary.
    Vidya ji, you should be able to extract more information and evidences from him. I hope you have secured those. I am sure Chabda’s stories will be equally interesting. My best wishes for more writings.

    Thanks

  2. interesting and unknown fact
    this reflects the popularity and authority mahasur had that time
    it would be very interesting to read through your book when it comes
    save a copy for me please

  3. Vidhya Bhai,
    This became more like a news to me rather than a research study. you have done a fabulous job. what a shame to me! i stayed as his neighbour in the camp for 17 years but never knew that he was Mahasur’s son. you have showed the courage to open the door, it now becomes your responsibility to keep it open until the strength of the hinges hold it. ” Make hay while the sun Shines”
    He should be a greater resource than we may imagine. see if you can get more informations on the PM Jigme Pelden Dorji and other people of the era.
    Good luck and best wishes on your research study.
    Dhruva
    Richmond

  4. That was a big event. It was the era of ‘bigger and longer’ mustache. Yes, the standard of a person or family were marked by the number of people attaining the marriage procession and funeral procession. The higher class people enjoyed in the mercy of poor mass as mentioned somewhere due to the fear of punishment or isolation. And the grazing of horses in the crops of poor neighbors indicate the ‘might’ that is what prevailed in the feudal society. Can you also interview them to know how many cows were donated to the priest and the amount of wealth given to Brahmins?
    And Mishrajee, I really enjoyed the article and its unique type that made it as an untold story. It is a good explore to document the glorious trend that our forefathers practiced. Cultural artifacts whether the tangible or intangible are the concerns of world and to preserve and promote ours is our conscious responsibility. And to identify the value of it, create an inventories, etc. is the duty of our learned circle like you who have the strength of pen. I’m also interested in the social dimension and the social perspectives that need more wisdom and maturity.
    Hope such articles will touch the heart of readers and recollect their fond memories or past glories.
    Best Wishes!

  5. Dear Vidhyapati,
    Your narration is interesting to read. I think all with enjoy it.

    Strange enough, we forgot these people. Honest shame – I never thought nor gave time to explore if Mahasur’s son ever was, that too in the refugee camps. When in Nepal, though I wrote a couple of articles, too superficial – never though of him. I have also never heard any seniors exposing this man as well. Dutch people say, “history dies in front, if you are also dead”. It does apply to us but fortunately not to you.

    Shocking was it, when you told me that son of Mahasur did not have a pair of decent clothes to get to podium to represent him as a son of martyr during the Salvation Program in Beldangi. “Samaya Chakra”, revolves rather rapid.

    Anyway, your write up is an appetiser. As the first commentator said, you are in the field, if yet missing evidences are at yours disposal. I am willing to make genuine support, of any kind, in case of need to dig these facts out. There shall be people to raise fingers. So documentation is most prior to bringing things out. Our history is dying. It will live only if younger generations like you feel a responsibility. Otherwise, we shall be just blaming yet for another few decades more of Bhutan making us refugees. Of course loosing less, living in good lands!

    Lots of success, with solidarity,
    Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal
    Amsterdam

  6. Mishrajee, accept my salute for unfolding the history. You have seen a walking history which others didnt. By the way when will you be printing a book on Mahasur? Can we be a part of your research project? All the best.

  7. Dear Friends,
    If you unfolded the chroniological history from Tama Patra to Mahashur to Rizal to Erasing the history of Lhotsampas (in stages of eviction, resettlement and changing the names of villages, towns, landmarks etc,) you did a right beginning. Cummunicate in such a way people understand easily and start to make connections!
    Best of Luck
    Dick Chhetri

  8. To add one more surprise to this article, my dad was present through out the course of Mahasur’s “Barkhanta”program.It was conducted at the banks of river sunkosh,a prospective point from where Mahasur was supposed to be thrown into the river.In this course of the Barkhanta ceremony, my dad remembers, one morning the main Guruji woke up to tell his unsual dream of flooding of the river(it was Baishak then). Likewise on the same day of the dream,around 1.00pm,in the broad day light and scorching sun(but no rain) the river swelled up until to touch the “Byas” and then retreated. Everybody present were stunned and could not believe themselves to witness such an incident relative to what the Guru said and happened.Isn’t it interesting?
    Hats off to Martyrs.

    Pasupati Regmi

  9. Congratulations Vidhya Bhai for peeping into history through a channel that is straight and very authentic. Mahasur is re-born. Vidhyapati is the God-father.

    If just a glimpse of Mahasur, offered through the kaleidoscope of his (then) tender son’s memories can be so interesting, imagine what a full story of Mahasur can do? You have brought to life – a man who has been forgotten by an unkind history. Kudos!

    My own curiosity to know more about the life and works of Mahasur has increased after I read this write up. Mahasur seems to have been an important person of that time. If he was privy to the Prime Minister’s counsel, and if he used to be a member of his entourage; he really should have been an important person. Was he a government official or just an influential person like Setu Mahajan? Why was he organizing political activities if he was so close to the pockets of power? (This is contradictory). What happened to his properties after his demise? I understand that Mahasur’s death took place under the direction and supervision of the Prime Minister himself, how did the relation turn around? An investigation into Mahasur’s life and works present a very challenging research, because questions will simply keep popping.

    Good luck Vidhya Bhai for setting up this important mission. The task is to tackle each question at a time and see where it leads to.

    Nari Rustomji has written a book on the Prime Minister, where he details about the life and activities of the PM. I do not recollect him mentioning about Mahasur in this book. It may be good to check out this book to cross check if some of your information co-relate. Of course, the whole research cannot be based just on the information and reflections provided by his son; it needs to be much broader.

    Yet, another piece of our history is lying deserted in ‘Saureni Kothi’ in Samchi district. Is any one interested to excavate a piece of that history through the life and works of Sri Garjaman Gurung?

    And there could be many more.

    Only when we discover each (missing) piece of our history and piece them together, shall we have a total understanding of the socio-political reality of our past.

    Rp Subba.

  10. Oh truly a Great story, I also enjoyed this piece with same magnatudes as any readers.I never contemplated about the existance of Mashur children in the camps.
    Vidhaya bhai, you became the eyes opener for me.
    Out of curiosity, I like to know how many children does he(Mashur)have and their where about.Since, you started the untold story of Mashur chhetri please try to explore more about the family and friends.
    I think it is our duty to muster courage to collect resources to explore this unexplored story of the first martyr of Bhutan.
    Thanks
    DB Adhikari
    Tucson, Arizona

  11. Pasupati Sir,
    Very interesting to know that your father as Pundit was present on that occasion. The function took place during Baisakh month and the swelling of river may not be the spiritual related cause or other significance related to Mahasur bravery. It could be the Glacier Lakes Outburst Flood (GOLF) which sounds more appropriate with two reasons – first- the function took place at river Sunkosh and the catchment area of that river are the glacier lakes. Second – such lakes burst during Baisakh time when the temperature rises, making the glaciers to move and land on lakes. Due to heavy impact of huge glaciers on the lake water, water centrifuge out with tremendous inertia, ultimately collapsing the embankment and ofcourse the flooding in the river course. Is here logic? Like myths in some folklore- heavy mudslides during Baisakh months. How is that?

  12. Wow……so interesting reality! Never heard or known berfore.Vidyapati dai,please help me quench more thirst i have regarding Mahashur’s life history.
    Hope to read another episode of Mahashur’s life history soon.
    Raghu Osti,
    Canada.

  13. Dear Tortola,
    Though you try to hide your identity, I know who you are. Thank you very much for your logic, to which I can also add one more. I am only astonished at the coincidence of one’s dream and its occurrence. Please everybody be informed that there is nothing more to explain through my statement like any one’s bravery or cowardliness nor am I seeking any explanations to it.Thank you
    Pasupati Regmi

  14. Mishraji,

    Things are presented well. You should be particularly interested with matters raised by RP daju and Pashupati daju for detail information if you have any access to people like Ranjit.

    The article is an eye-opener for many resettled folks including me. Waiting to read more in the days ahead.

    Best wishes
    Bidur

  15. This untold story of Mahasur by VP Mishra with which the volume opens is a story of this very important and neglected family. For all these years and despite having talked about Masur in almost all the occasions, the story was concealed either because it was never researched or the family member like Masur´s son were not supported or not even recognised to bring it to fore. A new research and writing about this family would be utterly absorbing; entirely charitable, but to tell you, in no way sentimental. The then PM, his relation to Mashur, the events like the extravagant marriage party, his not attending the event, and the same PM forming a murder squad has ample significance to our history as Bhutanese. The facts, assumptions and limitations that explain why these series of events metamorphosed in to subsequent happenings as they did, can be contextualised with a precise history. There could be features very assumptive, mythical and fable but to try to support with facts as much as possible and co-relate to the then multifarious occurrences would help us being not too exaggerative. I wish the research person very best of luck. If at all, if I could be of any use in any way, it would be an honour to me.

  16. It may be equally prudent to investigate the month and date of the horrible killing of Mahasur. Also the date, month and year he was born need to be spelled out properly so that no controversy will haunt our future historians. Let the records be straight. Find out what was Ranjit’s age when he lost his father. There are some books in Nepali that does this but I do not think they were properly researched. Devi Bhakta Lamitarey has tried reflecting on it. But he tries to make the event more like a mythical story.

    Mahasur’s acquaintances will be a good source of info if they are still living. There is one GP Sharma (Ganesh Prasad Sharma from Dagapela (?) who used to be the General Secretary of Bhutan State Congress, the party Mahasur worked for. He described me how the horse he was riding (during fleeing from Bhutan) fainted on the way. He made the horse run so fast and without any rest that the poor animal fainted. I do not know if GP is still living. He used to live in a village below Kanepokhari, Morang and is affiliated with the Nepali Congress now. I had visited him once and he was still talking about reviving Bhutan State Congress. He had written a small narration (about 32 pages) on the activities they did through BSC and he knew Mahasur personally well and talked a lot about him.

    It is also important to peep carefully at both the good and bad side of Mahasur’s personality. Going by the reflections his son made, he seemed to bear the character of a feudal lord who used to threaten the villagers at times when needed. (He took out his knife and warned the villagers, he let the horses graze on the villagers maize fields etc). This is not a democratic way of working with people.

    Rp Subba

  17. I found History of Mahasurji similar to Rizalji.Both were uplifted by the Royals and Drukpa leaders and provided them a good platform with a hope to maintain peace,harmony and development in the region with their active participations.

    But old saying goes “AOWLA DEDA DURALOO NEELAY”(given a finger of sweet,.but trying to eat solid hand).

    They failed to understand good gesture of drukpa leadership and took it as weakness, they underestimated their leadership,they undermind their power in the region and tried to take over the leadership in Bhutan.

  18. Vidhya Bhai, important also is to find out whether:

    Mr.Ranjit stepped into his father’s shoes and kept on his father’s legacy by continuing with the BSC?

    How many son’s or daughters did Mahasur have from his two wives? Are Ranjit’s other siblings surviving (if he has them). It may be wise to touch them too.

    Any other relatives from father’s/mother’s side?

    How was life for them after his father’s demise? Did they live in the same house, same place, how much property did they have before and after? Describe how and where did he live with is family from the time of his death until his departure from Bhutan?

    Was Ranjit involved in the 1990 movement, if not why did he not do so?

    How, why and when did Ranjit leave Bhutan? Describe the circumstances leading to his departure from Bhutan.

    In exile, why did he not meet the leaders and share his story. It is unusual that he kept silent for so long. No one even knew that Mahasur had a son living in the camps. Why so and why now?

    Did he support or become a member of any political parties? why?

    You really need to make a load of questionnaire and look for answers to each of them. It will cover most of what you need to do.

    Rp Subba.

  19. A few points to ponder in addition to the points above from: some ideas extracted from the internet sources.

    *Was there something in Mashur´s childhood that shaped his personality into becoming one of his favourites in the PMs Coterie? Or was he just another PM boot-licker who forgot to lick one of his laces?

    * Was there a personality trait that drove him to succeed or impeded his progress?

    * What adjectives would you use to describe him?

    * What were some turning points in this life? I mean how did he become an enemy so suddenly from a good trusted friend of the Government? Was there a conflict of political interest or any other?

    * What was his impact on our history if any? – Positive, negative, neutral?

    *Was he a leader at all or an arrogant puppet of the Government who did not mind brandishing his Khukri whom he liked to or ranching his cattle on the poor villagers´ crops?

    * Is there any ground of reason for us to reminisce him and feel proud at this stage? Or is this still another way for us go hysterical just because we have some scores to be made against the present Bhutanese Government?

  20. Other things we need to give a thought may be:

    Should we demonize Mahasur or idolize him? Pros and cons.

    He seems to at least sentimentally unify some people. If we, the living could not achieve a consolidated unity so far, we need a ‘dead’ Mahasur to work for us now.

    Mahasur lived in a time when personal bravery and clout was more valued than intellect. Mahasur does not seem to be educated, yet he seems powerful. Clearly that is a mark of a feudal system. The feudal system thrives on the rich and powerful presiding on the fate of poor and the powerless villagers (not supporters). Mahasur’s arrest depict that, not many of the villagers used to appreciate him, some of them were his own relatives.

    I have seen some of Mahasur’s consanguineous relatives and none of them portray such valor and bravery. Was he really brave or ‘just looked brave’ due to his authority over the villagers? Or is he just a legend that some people have created in their imaginations? In Bhutan every one in the government or having touch with the authorities are viewed as powerful. This was more prominent in the past than now. These people, often referred to as ‘the one with a long hand’ were to be seen with awe. Respect was commanded and not earned.

    What language was used in the conversation between or among Chhabda and Mahasur and the PM. I believe except the PM none others were bilingual or trilingual. The Prime Minister, I believe was an erudite man who spoke English, Hindi and Nepali well.

    Rp Subba.

  21. Dear Mishra,
    I truly appreciate the way you have put incredible efforts to dig-out the hidden story based on Mahasur’s political life and his execution by Bhutanese regime.In fact the true history never ends and never goes unnoticed.The job you did as a professional journalist or as a common citizen of Bhutan is higly appreciable.I wish you could still continue your research on that and come up with more documentation.I look forward to reading secound episode of your research based story of this great hero.

    Lok Adhikari
    Richmond,VA

  22. Dai,
    I appreciate with your effort for digging out the fact about Masur. History of struggle for Human Right & Democracy in Bhutan would not complete unless we discover about the fact story of Masur.As far as i know Masur was a first person who fought against administration in Bhutan.
    Naresh Bista

  23. I think Masur was a brute man, worse than a drunken MATUWALI in action. The story puts part of the Masur act during the marriage of his son when horses were let loose to graze in the cornfields. The POMP was a custom of the time and can be practiced even now if any one can afford. That is part of the culture and identity we share. But physical agressiveness is personal failure leading to the decay of any great person’s character.

    Regarding his brutal assasination, the pain has departed from him but not from the people of his community as proper hearing and judgement according to the law of the land is not brought out. It can be said that Bhutan belonged to Masur and taken away from him by taking him away from it. Such is the implication of removing political opponents by any ruler anywhere with any method… Facing the opposition mildly will lead to accumulation of sympathy of the public and legacy for the ruler in power that acted lawfully…

  24. Dear everybody,
    This is really a great story. I can’t say whether Masur was right or wrong. He was punished anyway.
    Before being judgmental about Bhutan and its history, lets take this into perspective. Chabda himself was a great confidante of king, so we can’t say leaders of Bhutan tortured them unlawfully.

    Secondly, they themselves confessed and what more evidence is needed than confession.
    Regarding, the personal character of MASUR, he might have been brute but that was the culture of authority at that time. I don’t blame him.