The Katoch king restored the glory of his ancestors after much bloodshed, but peace was still elusive because he was also looking to expand his territory. There was friction between rival clans in these rugged mountains and that spilled over into open hostilities — even as word came of the rapid advance of the Gorkhalis from the east.
A series of attacks and annexations followed, and a ruthless Sansar Chand took over the states of Chamba, Mandi, Kutlehar, and others surrendered. The remaining smaller principalities formed a federation to have a common defence, and invited the Gorkhalis, who by then had already occupied Garhwal and Kumaon, to subdue what they considered Sansar Chand’s “terror”.
Tales of Gorkhali valour and martial prowess had preceded them, and the smaller kingdoms found it expedient to lean on what they thought was a stronger invading force from Kathmandu as a bulwark against a ruthless and ambitious neighbouring king.
Nepali historian Dinesh Raj Panta says that the Gurkha Empire’s Kangra war against Sansar Chand and Punjab’s Ranjit Singh marked the bitter end of its expansion and conquest because in those two kings the Gorkhalis finally met their match in terms of fighting spirit and cunning.
“The Gorkhalis were already well known for their bravery and shrewdness, but Sansar Chand’s trickery and Ranjit Singh’s military strategy proved superior to the capacity of the fractious courtiers in faraway Kathmandu to plan an effective the military campaign to retain the territory they conquered,” Panta says.
The first battle in 1808 between the forces of Sansar Chand and the Gorkha army en route to the Kangra fort was fought 50km away at Mahal Morian, which the Gorkhalis won. Sansar Chand fled to his palace at nearby Tira Sujanpur. Led by Bhakti Thapa, the Gorkhalis were in hot pursuit, and Sansar Chand fled again: this time to Nadaun, his pleasure resort 28km away.
Nadaun did not have the fortifications to withstand a Gorkhali assault, so Sansar Chand fled further west to Kangra to make a last stand against the invaders. Kangra was so unassailable, and a frontal attack would be so costly, that the Gorkhalis had to lay a siege that lasted four years.