Showing posts with label Gurkhas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gurkhas. Show all posts

Gorkha Regiment : The legendary badass warriors

6:45 PM
Writes Naba Raj Chetri

“Better to die than to be a coward" is the motto of the world famous Gorkha army, whose might and valour has transcended boundaries, but what do we really know about the gorkhas, lets try to find out.

Origins
Historically the term ‘Gorkha and Gorkhali” is derived from the hill town and district of Gorkha from where the “Kingdom of Gorkhasthan” expanded. The Gurkhas introduction to the British Army begins in 1814 during the Anglo-Nepalese war.Though the British were militarily successful, attempts to annex Nepal failed and the hostilities ended with the signing of the Sugauli Treaty. The British were so impressed with the Gurkhas fighting abilities, their loyalty and ferocity that they later encouraged them to volunteer. Gurkha troops then fought for the East India Company in its wars in the subcontinent.  The Gorkhas became an integral part of pre-independence British army. From then on, Gorkhas have been a part of Afghan Wars, Indian Rebellion of 1857, both world wars (More than 200,000 fought in both world wars, 43,000 of which lost their lives) and other United Nations peace keeping missions in Lebanon and Sierra Leone too.
British Gurkhas
The very first Gorkha regiments were raised by British to serve in British Indian army. After India’s Independence, six regiments, the 1 GR, 3 GR, 4 GR, 5 GR, 8 GR and 9 GR were retained in the Indian Army, while 2nd, 6th, 7th and 10th joined the Brigade of Gorkhas in the British Army. Another regiment was raised by the Indian Army, the 11 Gorkha, to accommodate the soldiers who refused to be transferred to the British Army.

Currently, the Indian army is indebted to the service of 40,000 brave Gorkha soldiers in 42 different battalions of 7 regiments. One of the most famous platoon of Gorkhas, 1/11 Gorkha Rifles is one of the most decorated with 11 vir Chakras, 2 Maha Vir Chakras, 3 Ashok Chakras and 1 Param Vir Chakra. The stories of its Param Vir Chakra winner Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey are a case study in their glorious history of courageous war footings.​

Another famous battalion of Gorkhas is the third battalion of the 4 Gorkha Rifles which was instrumental in Operation Meghdoot in Siachen. The 8 Gorkha Rifles are also have a glorious past as they produced one of the only two Field Marshals for India – Sam Manekshaw. India’s current chief of army staff, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, is also from the Gorkha Regiment which is a testament of the most incredible services of Gorkhas.

The Gorkha Brigade
Facts:
i) Gorkhas has been instrumental in all Indian victories in every battle since 1948 till now.The character played by Ajay Devgan in the film LOC Kargil  (Capt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, PVC awardee) was a gorkhali of 1/11 regiment.

ii) Officers in the Gorkha Regiments of the Indian Army have to learn the Gorkhali language to be able to interact with their men in their native tongue.

iii) Recently a battalion comprising entirely of Indian Gorkhas was set up, this is the 1st time a new gorkha battalion have come up in 50 years. The Sixth Battalion of the First Gorkha Rifles (6/1GR), christened  "Kanchi Paltan" has been raised at Sabathu in the Shivalik foothills near Shimla, that houses the 14 Gorkha Training Centre.

iv) “If a man says he‘s not afraid of dying, he’s either lying or he’s a Gorkha.”This quote by Sam Manekshaw, Indian Army’s first Field Marshal, aptly describes what it means to be a Gorkha.

v) The queen has two personal Gorkha officers who directly attend official state and key events with the queen. They’ve been present in all state affairs since the Gorkha’s introduction during queen Victoria’s reign.

vi) Dalbeer Singh Suhag the current chief of army staff is also from the Gorkha regiment, he was comissoned in 4/5GR in 1974, and according to the traditions of the 5th GR wears his head gear with the strap below the lower lip. Other regiments wear chin straps below the jaw.
An interesting account need to be told here about the chin strip---
When the Gorkhas joined the British army they proved to be slight primitive in war, they always screamed and then charged at the enemies, which was harmful for launching surprise attacks. So the commander of a gorkha regiment asked his men to wear the chin strips under the lips, So that they would be reminded not to scream when they get into attack mode. The 5th Gorkha Rifles still maintains it.

The Khukri 
The Gurkha’s traditional weapon and all-around utility tool, is the powerful Khukri, an inwardly bent cross between a machete and a knife, measuring 18 inches and able to split a man’s head down the middle midway to the chest in one blow. Ghastly indeed. According to tradition, once drawn, the kukri demands blood, if not the enemy’s, then the owner’s will suffice. The regimental insignia of the gorkha regiment also consists of paired crossed Khukri.

The Khukri
Decorations
Gorkha Regiments are one of the most decorated regiments of Indian Army.They are considered finest soldiers worldwide..

Three Gorkhas has been awarded the highest military decoration "Param Veer Chakra" Which are most by any regiment of Indian army.In addition to this, various Gorkha Regiments have been awarded 33 Maha Vir Chakras, and 84 Vir Chakras besides 26 victoria cross. the British military’s highest distinction for valor,while 2,700 were awarded other medals in World War II alone. More recently, a Gurkha sergeant was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for single-handedly fighting off a Taliban attack to his base in Afghanistan.


Recruitment
More than 28,000 Nepalese from the hills strive to become a Gurkha every year to fill just 200 places. The selection process is said to be the toughest in the world and the competition is stiff. The ranks have always been dominated by four ethnic groups: the Gurungs and Magars from central Nepal; and the Rais and Limbus from the east, who live in impoverished hill villages.


Training
As part of their training, recruits are expected to pass several educational, language and fitness tests, among them running a 3-mile uphill course carrying 70 lbs. on their backs and doing 70 sit-ups in 2 minutes. After meeting the initial age, height, weight and schooling requirements, recruits go on to the second stage for English language training, maths, fitness and an initiative test. The third stage includes: 3-month language training, military skills, Western culture and customs, general weapons training and, of course, several fitness tests.


Stories
Stories of the Gurkhas bravery and skill abound have been well documented, such is the reputation of these hardy nepali hillsmen that stories of enemy fleeing their position upon hearing rumours of their advances abound.


During the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, in the thick of World War I, the Gurkhas gained immortal fame by capturing a heavily-guarded Turkish-held position with relatively few casualties. On the Western front, a Gurkha battalion fought until the last minute and to the last man at the Battle of Loos.

Recently in India, a retired Gurkha officer travelling on a train in India found himself in the midst of a massive robbery by a band of 40 bandits. When they tried to rape a young girl, the retired Gurkha unsheathed his kukri, killed 3 bandits, injured another 8 and sent the rest fleeing.

In Afghanistan, A Gurkha on a mission to kill a “high-value target” needed proof of his mission’s success in the form of DNA, swiftly decapitated the target and brought his head in as proof instead.

Diprasad Pun  a sergenant of the Royal Gorkha Rifles single handedly defeated 30Talibans who were storming the complex, he fired 400 rounds of Ammunition, used 17 hand grenadews and a Claymore mine before battering the last fighter with the tripod of his machine gun.

Cardozo's was a major of the the 5th gorkha rifles, his remarkable military career saw him losing a leg when he stepped on a landmine in the 1971 war. He cut off his mangled leg with his own khukri and told his Gurkha man: "Now go and bury it." Determined not to let the disability affect his career as a soldier, he later became the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry brigade. The regiment which then had 750 personels then made 7326 Pakistanis surrender.

These brave soldiers are an asset to all the nations they serve, In India every year there is a tussle in the IMA as the top cadets try to get into this regiment of the braves. Courage on war front and innumerable gallantry awards notwithstanding, the aura of Gorkhas on the field demands immense respect and makes the enemy tremble with fear.


Ganju Lama VC ADC to the President of India for Life

7:24 PM
Ganju Lama was born in Sangmo, southern Sikkim, India, on 22 July 1924. He enlisted in British Gurkha Army in 1942 at the age of seventeen. His parents were both of Sikkimese Bhutia descent and lived in Sikkim, which made him unusual, as he was neither an ethnic Gurkha nor a Nepalese subject. At that time, however, Gurkha regiments were prepared to accept any recruit who closely resembled the Gurkha and lived near the border of Nepal. Ganju Lama's tribe lived in the kingdom of Sikkim. His name was Gyamtso Shangderpa, but a clerk in the recruiting office wrote it down as Ganju, and the name stuck. After leaving the regimental centre in 1943, he joined the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, near Imphal, India.

Ganju Lama was nineteen years old, and a rifleman in the 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, in the Indian Army during World War II when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

On 12 June 1944, near Ningthoukhong, India , 'B' Company was attempting to stem the enemy's advance when it came under heavy machine-gun and tank machine-gun fire. Rifleman Ganju Lama, with complete disregard for his own safety, took his PIAT gun and, crawling forward, succeeded in bringing the gun into action within 30 yards of the enemy tanks, knocking out two of them. Despite a broken wrist and two other serious wounds to his right and left hands he then moved forward and engaged the tank crew who were trying to escape. Not until he had accounted for all of them did he consent to leave to his wounds dressed.
To the left Ganju Lama and to the right Two tanks destroyed by Rifleman Ganju Lama, 1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, Ningthoukong, 12 June 1944.
To the left Ganju Lama and to the right Two tanks destroyed by Rifleman Ganju Lama,
1st Battalion, 7th Gurkha Rifles, Ningthoukong, 12 June 1944.
A month earlier, during operations on the Tiddim Road, Ganju Lama's regiment had surprised a party of Japanese and killed several of them. He was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the action. Strangely though, this award was actually announced in the London Gazette after his Victoria Cross, appearing on 3 October 1944, almost a month later.

Subsequently India got independence. The man from 7 GR who opted to stay back, formed part of 11 GR (Kirati Regiment) which was raised on 01 Jan 1948. The legendary Ganju Lama opted to stay back and joined 11 GR. In 11 GR he rose to the highest rank of Sub Major and was given the honorary rank of Capt and was appointed life time aide-de-camp(ADC) to the President of India. In 1972, he hung up his uniform.He was declared a very important person or VIP for life and was allowed to fly a personal flag on his car with the letters "VC".

Via GYASA


GORKHAS IN NORTH INDIA (PASCHIMANCHAL) (J&K, HP, PUNJAB & UTTARAKHAND)

4:58 PM
THE TERM GORKHA AND ORIGIN:
There is occasional controversy regarding the term ‘Gorkha’ or ‘Gurkha’ or ‘Goorkha’. We are mostly dependent on the definition assigned by British authors. The Britishers being the holder of colonial power, always interpreted or wrote the history in their favour. An example of mis-representation is Second Anglo-Maratha war of 1720-1740, in which Chhatrapati Shau Peshwa conquered Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajputana and Haryana area, but Wellesley’s account of “battle of Assaye” claimed British victory. Whereas, Indian archives, Peshwa History and memoirs of Patwardhan generals bring out the facts that Marathas inflicted heavy casualties on British forces and Marathas were the victorious. Notwithstanding the historical misrepresentation  by the Britishers, one has to depend on British historians/authors .

Eden Vanisttrat defines term Gorkha (Goorkha or Gurkha) “a generic name for all the Nepalese employed in Indian Army, though strictly speaking the name should apply to those who came from regions around the district of Gorkha about fifty miles West of Kathmandu” (Notes on Goorkhas, Calcutta, 1890, page 10). Further, he mentioned in his book – “The Goorkhas” (Classical Publishers & Distributor, A/91/2, Naraina, Phase-1, New Delhi 110028), that the district of Goorkha is situated in the North-West portion of the basin of Gandak, occupying the country between the Trisulganga and Sweti Gandak. The chief town is called Goorkha and is 55 miles of West of Kathmandu. This town and eventually the district is said to have obtained its name from a very famous Saint called Gorakhnath (11th Century) who resided in a cave, which still exists in the hills in which city of Gorkha is built. Gorakhpur  and Gorkhath temples in India further lend  testimony to the term of Gorkha to a particular class or clan, who resided in or around the city of Gorkha, and extended their conquest far and wide over the eastern and western hills. Baba Gorakhnath was their spiritual guide. Prithvi Narain Shah (or Sahi) 1742 – is considered first powerful king of Gorkha and founder of the Gorkha dynasty. In March 1792 Lord Cornwallis entered into commercial treaty with the Gorkhas. In 1793 the Gorkhas conquered Kumaon (Uttarakhand) and their exploit in Western and Northern India started. Azad Hussain “British India’s Relation with the Kingdom of Nepal 1857-1947, George Alen and Unwin Ltd., London 1870, page 234” wrote that “the term Gorkha is applied to the majority of inhabitants of Nepal, but strictly  speaking it belongs to those races who formed part of old kingdom of Gurkha, a comparatively small part of the Kingdom.” The oxford Encyclopedia Dictionary defines the term “Gurkhas” as “one of military people of Hindu descent and Sanskritik speech, who settled in province of Gurkha, Nepal, in the 18th century and made themselves supreme member of one of the Gorkha regiments of the British Army”.
Gorkha Rifles khukuri dance
Gorkha Rifles khukuri dance
In independent India, the word “Gurkha” was changed to “Gorkha” and it was adopted so in Indian Army in Feb. 1949 (Reference History of 5th Gorkha Rifles, Chapter 12, Page 102), while changing the designation of King Commissioned Indian Officer and Viceroy Commissioned Officer to Indian Commissioned Officer and Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) respectively.

Tracing back the history and origin of Gorkhas in India, through North-East, in brief, it dates back to many centuries. Shri B.A. Das in his book, “The Sikkim Sagar” traced the Gorkha (Lepeha) history to the year 1641. The Nagaland-Nepalese is traced to 1635 A.D. One Gorkha ‘Rai’-boy was found in a jungle near Chiechama village in Nagaland and was married to a beautiful girl of Angami class. The descendant of Rai is called Metha Trophies i.e. Non-Angami Mehtama class. Till today one of the children in the Angami class is named as “RAYI”. These facts were narrated by one Mr. Hari Prasad Gorkha Rai of Chanmari, Kohima, Nagaland and the old land-record also bear its testimony. I shall not dwell much on north-east states, since my talk is restricted to “Paschimanchal”, i.e. Gorkha dwellers in State of J&K, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

JAMMU & KASHMIR
Gorkhas settled in J&K in 18th Century and majority of them were those soldiers and families who had fought war alongwith Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, a great warrior, who fought many wars till his death. Gulab Singh a land-lord of Jammu was his Commander-in-Chief. After the defeat of Sikhs in their march to J&K after Afgan-war, Gulab Singh purchased Kashmir valley for Rs. 36 lakhs and became Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. It was Maharaja Ranbir Signh, the ruler after Gulab Singh, who organized the Army in J&K and enlisted Gorkhas. Notable amongst them were Brigadier (General Staff) Bhagat Bir Thapa, his son Brigadier Bhagwan Singh Thapa and General Khadak Bahadur of Nepal Army who migrated to J&K and was rewarded with a post of General Officer.  Major Badri Nar Singh showed outstanding valour in battle of Chitral (Now in Pak Occupied Kashmir POK) and was awarded IOM. Gorkha troops also fought shoulder to shoulder, with Dogra troops in conquest of Chitral, Hunza, Nagar & Haveli  (Now in POK). A familiar story  is recalled in J&K of a brave Gorkha woman who swam Indus River and informed the headquarters of presence and concentration of a large force of enemy. The timely re-informcement of the troops saved the situation. She was nick-named as “Bhutni’ (devil) because of her dare-devil courage to cross Indus river at night.

Gorkha of J&K took part in Great War (1914-18) and excelled in the battle of “Beho-Beho” and “Kilmanjoo” in East Africa. Colonel (Later General) Durga Singh received gallantry award and Jagir with the honour of “Sardar Bahadur”, OBE, IOM for the bravery and extra-ordinary courage against German troops.

Gorkhas of J&K faced worst kind of communal violence in 1947-48. At that point of time, Gorkha regiments of J&K had mixed troops, and class-composition largely comprising of Mirpuri Muslims and Dogra troops. The communal frenzy and prevailing situation in 1947 made them enemies over-night. Those misguided elements (muslim troops) who joined Pakistani troops alongwith their arms and ammunition, trained their guns on Gorkha troops and completely wiped them out. Capt. Prem Singh Bist was brutally murdered at “Ban Bridge” (now in the commercial route open for trade with Pakistan) and another officer Major Ram Saran Karki was also killed while escorting Hindu refugees from Mirpur (POK). There were hardly any Gorkha  survivor to tell their tales of woes and valour. During J&K OPs, 1947-48 at another front Gilgit-Sakardo, through Zozila pass , Brig. (then Major) Sher Jang Thapa fought bravely for  six  months with his troops seiged inside at Sakardu Fort (POK) and was awarded gallantry award of Mahavir Chakra (MVC). In 1962, Indo-China War one Havildar Sire Thapa put up a brave fight with his machine gun at Rio-Bridge (Subansari Division) and met a heroic-death. The Chinese troop burried his body on the spot and left a written note appreciating his courage and fighting qualities.

The bravery of Gorkhas were sung by street singers of Kashmir and the old Cantonment (Now J&K Police Lines and Head quarters) was named as Magar-Mall Bagh (presently the army Cantonment has been shifted to Badami-Bagh). The Gorkha- Nagar in Jammu also came into existence on the bank of River Tawi in the early fifties. The Gorkhas have to toil hard and clear the dense forest to turn the entire area to a small township (Gorkha Nagar), a small identity symbol for Gorkhas in J&K. The list of first allottees of land by Govt of J&K is annexed for the convenience of readers
The Gorkhas though have made supreme sacrifices towards integrity of India and safety of J&K, but their miseries have increased mani-folds. They are economically, socially and educationally backward. They face a great problem of getting permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) or State-subject Certificate of J&K, without which, Gorkha young boys and girls cannot get any good job or admission in educational institutes. They are kept away from the main-stream.  No politician or any mainstream political party or administration care about them. Their population is about 10-15 thousand, spread over entire j&K, ncluding  Kashmir Valley. J&K Govt. should take immediate step to grant them PRC because most of the families who have not been able to purchase land or house due to their poor economic condition are considered foreigners/non-state-subject. where shall they go? Bhartiya Gorkha Parisangh has an important role to play to ameliorate their sufferings. This perspective was narrated to me by Lt  Col  Kaloo Singh Kanwar, an Ex-officer of J&K Rfles (86 years old), presently residing at Dehradun (1, Bakralwala, Dehrdun).

PUNJAB & HIMACHAL PRADESH 
I wish to club these two states because the majority of Gorkhas, who are presently living in HP, till recently, was a part of Punjab. One of the oldest associations of Gorkhas in Dharamshala (HP) was “Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association” whcih was established  on 29th October, 1916. Its first President was Madho Singh Rana  (Magan Pathik – Hamro Sanstha Pachachattri Barsa, Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association , page 11). The settlement of Gorkha in HP has a long history of nearly two hundred years. In this context, Shri Sat Mahajan, ex-minister of HP & MP of Lok Sabha, wrote: “the first regular settlement of in Dharmasala is known to have taken place sometime between 1879 and 1882, when the pensioners lines, some area in pine groves known as ‘Chilghari’ was earmarked for the poor pensioners. ……” (Bindu – quarterly magazine 1987, Page-17, article “Gorkhas : Personification of courage” by Sat Mahajan.)

About the earliest settlement, Grokhas settled near Village Sahura in Kangra during seige of Kangra Fort (1805-1809). In this context Shri Khushwant Singh wrote in the “History of Sikhs, Vol. 1, Oxford University Pres  – 1987, at Page 1”, that Sansar Chand Katoch, ruler of Kangra had approached Maharaja Ranjit singh for help against Gorkha invasion. Ranjit Singh had no love for Sansar Chand, but feared Gorkhas, as a potential threat to Punjab, if they succeeded in taking Kangra Fort (20-24 Aug. 1809). General Amar Singh  Thapa had also approached Ranjit Singh  but the later spurned his request. Gorkha troops suffered from epidemic of cholera and could not face for long the might of Sikh troops. Gorkhas  retired to Mandi (HP) swearing vengeance on Ranjit Singh and freed King of Mandi from the archaic rule of Sansar Chand Katoch. Later on, in the famous battle at Malaun Fort (14, 15, & 16 April, 1815),  under the brave commander  Bhakti Thapa (70 years old warrior), the Gorkhas inflicted heavy casualty on British Forces but succumbed to the superior weapon and artillery power of British Forces. The Gorkhas surrendered on 15th May, 1815. By then,  treaty of Saguali, between Nepal and East Indian Company was in offing . Thereafter, on 24th April, first NUSSEREE (Friendship) battalion was raised at Sabathu (hp) by the Britisher and enlisted the brave Gorkha soldiers of Gen. Amar Singh Thapa, which later on became 1st Gorkha Riffles. General (Kazi) Amar Singh was considered crownless King of States (History of Sikhas by Khushwant Singh). The Gorkhas fought with British Forces at Nahan, Subathu, Maulan, Taraarh, Nalagarh, Kangra & Jatok.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh suffered reverses in his expedition to west Kashmir from Afgans in the middle July 1814, and lost his brave Commander Main Ghausa and Afghan army pushed out Ranjit Singh forces from hills. This unsuccessful campaign compelled Ranjit Singh to recruit Gorkhas in Khalsa Army because he knew that Gorkhas are excellent in hill – warfare. Gorkhas who went to Lahore for recruitment, since then has been termed Lahure (who goes to Lahore) by the Gorkhas. However, during Anglo-Sikh war 1846, the British Gorkhas faced a battalion or two of the Grokhas in the Khalsa Army. This reinforces the peculiar characteristic of Gorkhas that they serve their master and motherland faithfully, irrespective of their temporary affiliation. In March 1823, in battle of Namshera, the renowed Sikh General Phula Singh and Gorkha Commander Bal Bhadra Thapa died (History of Sikhs by Khushwant Singh).

Himachal Pradesh is very rich in Gorkha heritage, culture and custom and has many places named after Gorkha vocabulary – such as Chanmari, Cheelghari, etc. HP has unique privilege of associating with, Martyrs Durga Mall & Dal Bahadur Thapa of INA, Musician Ram Singh Thakur, Singer Mitter Sain & Master Dalip Singh (Harmonium accompaniment of Mitter Sain hailing from Joginder-Nagar). Gorkhas who had settled in the areas around Maulan fort consists the forefathers of one of the prominent families of Arjun Singh Bist, who was a former legislature from Nalagarh.
Gorkhas of Himachal Pradesh have merged well with the customs, dialect and culture of Himachal Pradesh, without loosing their own distinct mother-tongue, culture and identity. Govt of HP has created Gorkha Kalyan Board, to help the Gorkhas economically, socially and educationally. But they also live in shadow of doubt of being labelled foreigners and equally desire for a home-land for Gorkhas in the map of India, to end the identity crisis.
Dharamsala and Bakloh were home station of 1st Gorkha Rifles and 4th Gorkha Rifles till recently. Gorkha population is predominant in these two pockets of Himachal Pradesh.

UTTARAKHAND
India has a common border of about 1750 Km. with Nepal, and 20 percent of it adjoins the State of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is considered a natural home of Gorkha due to its geographical location, “Dev-Bhumi” for Hindus, commonality of Hindu culture, old temples and historical monuments, and above all the dwelling of about 10 lakhs Gorkhas, spread over in 13 districts of Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is linguistically and culturally divided into two mandal; Garhwal and Kumaon mandal.
Gorkha influence in this region can be traced back to 1119 AD, when a Raja from Mall Dynasty of Nepal erected a ‘TRIHUL’ at Rudranath- Shiv Mandir at Gopeshwar, Chamoli (Uttarakhand), the mention of which has been made in the broucher of National monuments, published by Archaeological Survey of India, Dehradun – 2008 at page 6.

The history of Gorkhas settlement in Uttarakhand goes as back as to two hundred years. The district of Kumaon went to the hands of Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa in the year 1790. A fort “Bhauali-ki-Garh” exists at Pithoragarh even today, with inscription of its construction during 1790., Govt of Uttarakhand at the request of Gorkhas through the efforts of a political party, Gorkha  Democratic Front, has indicated it to be a protected monument alongwith Khalanga site, where Anglo-Gorkha war took place in the year 1814. At Khalanga battle-site, a Gorkha war Memorial (45 feet high’satup’) is being constructed by Govt of Uttarakhand. The site is  expected to draw tourists from all-over the country and abroad, besides its historical importance. The inauguration of Gorkha War Memorial is being planned at a large scale in the near future after completion of the works.
Gorkhas fought with British Forces at three places/forts : (1) Khalanga (2) Almora (3) Khurbura (Dehradun) in Uttarakhand.

All India Gorkha league under the Presidentship of Thakur Chandan Singh of Dehradun, was formed at Dehradun on 15 Feb. 1924.

The important sites are : Gangotri Shiv Temple (constructed by General Amar Singh Thapa), Gopeshwar Shiv Temple, Datkali Mandir (Tamar – Pattar awarded by Commander Bal Bhadra Thapa), Jhandaji Darbar Sahib (Tamar – Pattar awarded by Commander Bal Bhandra Thapa), Ghuchukpani (natural spring-water), Ghate-khola, Nalapani etc. (common name given by Gorkhas.
Shaheed Maj. Durga Mall (INA) and Kharga Bahadur Bist, Dandi marcher along with Mahatma Gandhi, are inspiration to Gorkhas in Uttarakhand Gorkha organisations : (1) Gorkhali Sudhar Sabha, 17th April, 1938, (2) All India Gorkha Ex-serviceman Welfare Association established in the year 1950, by Ministry of Defence to help out Gorkhas, educationally and socially. Shri Ari Bahadur Gurung was its founder-President and Shri D.S. Thakur from Shimla was its first General Secretary. Their far-signtedness has created this prestigious organisation, (iii) Khalangan Bal Bhadra – Vikas Samiti, (iv) All India Nepali Bhasa Samiti, (v) Uttarakhand Nepali Bhasa Samiti, (vi) Nepali Parshad, (vii) ‘Gurans’ Sanskiriti Kala Manch, (viii) Gorkha Democratic Front, a political voice of Uttarakhand Gorkhas.

PROBLEMS FACED BY GORKHAS:
The first and fore-most is Indianness of Uttarakhand Gorkhas. The major community in Uttarakhand, more often that not, view Gorkhas as citizens of Nepal, not withstanding their moorings in Uttarakhand for the last two centuries or more. No main-stream political party openly espouses the cause of Gorkha for the fear of back-lash of major community, in vote-bank politics. The proximity and open border (approx. 170 Km.) with Nepal has caused a thin veil of suspicion to the Indainness of Gorkha in Uttarakhand.

One Karam Chand Baral in Pithoragarh has been denied approval of his building plan, inspite of the fact that he owns a land, mutated in his name in land/revenue records. He has been branded out-sider and faces an eviction notice issued by District officials. Gorkha Democratic Front came to his rescue and the matter has been put in abeyance and hopefully, it shall meet its natural death.
46 families in Uttarkashi suffered due to withdrawal of their ration card, gas connection etc. The mater was forcefully raised by GDF and since then it has subsided.
Nepali labourers are murdered, cut into pieces and thrown in jungle. Persecution of Gorkhas occasionally take place mostly in Tueni, Chakrata, Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts.
Even those who are bonafide residents of Uttarakhand are branded outsiders. One Gorkha municipal Parishad from Rishikesh faced embarrassment on this score.

Exploitation by main-stream political parties as a vote-bank without any reward.


By:-  Lt Col (Retd) V K Sharma, Advocate, President – Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangh, Dehradun, vksharmaadvocate1@gmail.com


Via thegorkha

India offers to send its Gurkhas to Brunei

7:11 PM

Britain’s last military outpost in the Far East may be at risk amid reports India has offered to send its Gurkhas to protect the Sultanate of Brunei, a role currently performed by the British Army.

The tiny oil-rich sultanate of Brunei was a British protectorate for almost a century, and has continued to pay to host a battalion of British Army Gurkhas since independence in 1984.

But in recent years Brunei has found itself caught up in a struggle between its larger regional neighbours including India and China over the South China Sea.

On an official visit ending on Wednesday, Indian vice-president Mohammad Hamid Ansari signed a bilateral defence agreement involving joint military exercises and training, in part designed to shore up Brunei against Chinese claims on its disputed maritime territory.

Sources present at the meeting told The Indian Express that India had also offered to provide troops including retired soldiers from its own Gurkha Regiment, potentially supplanting the current role of the British Forces Brunei.

The claims will raise fears over the future of a deal in which the Sultan pays tens of millions of pounds annually to support a 1,000-strong British Army presence that informally guarantees his rule.

It comes at a time when the Sultanate is making swingeing defence cuts as its economy reels from plummeting global oil prices.

Officials briefed after the meeting that a team from Brunei would shortly visit India to “identify areas" of cooperation.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesman did not deny the reports, but said the proposal was “not a firm offer” and could be limited to provision of bodyguards rather than active military.

India is keen to build stronger ties with many Southeast Asian countries as part of a ‘Look East’ strategy designed to counterbalance China’s expansion in the region.

Energy-hungry India also imports large amounts of oil and gas from Brunei, while the sultanate is home to a 10,000-strong Indian community.

During the Sultan of Brunei’s visit to Chequers last February, David Cameron signed a deal to renew the presence of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei for another five years.

A Number 10 spokesman said at the time: "The PM noted that the garrison enables the UK to provide a permanent presence in South Asia while also providing an opportunity for British forces to undertake extreme environment training.”

Britain keeps a battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles in Brunei in an agreement with the Sultan, and keeps another battalion in Folkestone.

The Sultanate also has a separate military which includes a reserve Gurkha unit, made mainly of former British Gurkhas who decided to stay on in the country after retiring.

A defence source said it would likely be this reserve force that would be affected by any deal with India.

The source said: "There's absolutely no question that the Royal Gurkha Rifles battalion is going to replaced by Indian Gurkhas."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The employment of forces from other countries in Brunei is a matter for the Government of Brunei."

Via DefenceNews

Facts about Gurkhas or rather Gorkhas

7:06 PM

1) Gurkha is spelled as Gorkha in Nepali, the correct way to pronounce it (Gor-kha).

2) Gorkha is a Sanskrit word which means Protector of Cows, Gau(Cow)+Rakha(Protector)=Gorkha.

3) Gorkha is one of the 75 districts of modern Nepal. It is a misconception that the Gurkhas took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal. The region was given its name after the Gurkhas had established their control of these areas. In the early 1500s some of Bappa Rawal's descendants went further east, and conquered a small state in present-day Nepal, which they named Gorkha in honour of their patron saint.

4) The Gorkha war cry is "Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali" (Hail Great Goddess Kali, Here Comes Gorkhali)

5) Gorkha are people from Nepal and North East India who take their name from the eighth century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. His disciple Bappa Rawal, born Prince Kalbhoj/Prince Shailadhish, founded the house of Mewar. Later descendants of Bappa Rawal moved further east to found the house of Gorkha, which in turn founded the Kingdom of Nepal.

6) The Gurkhas were designated by the British as a Martial Race. Martial Race is a designation created by officials of British India to describe "races" (peoples) that were thought to be naturally warlike and aggressive in battle, and to possess qualities like courage, loyalty, self sufficiency, physical strength, resilience, orderliness, hard working, fighting tenacity and military strategy. The British recruited heavily from these Martial Races for service in the colonial army.

7) Gurkhas claim descent from the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmins of Northern India, who entered modern Nepal from the west. Guru Gorkhanath had a Rajput Prince-disciple, the legendary Bappa Rawal, born Prince Kalbhoj, founder of the house of Mewar, who became the first Gurkha and is said to be the ancestor of the present Royal family of Nepal.

8) The legend states that Bappa Rawal was a teenager in hiding, when he came upon the warrior saint while on a hunting expedition with friends in the jungles of Rajasthan. Bappa Rawal chose to stay behind, and care for the warrior saint, who was in deep meditation. When Guru Gorkhanath awoke, he was pleased with the devotion of Bappa Rawal. The Guru gave him the Kukri knife, the famous curved dagger of the present day Gurkhas. The legend continues that he told Bappa that he and his people would henceforth be called Gurkhas, the disciples of the Guru Gorkhanath, and their bravery would become world famous. He then instructed Bappa Rawal, and his Gorkhas to stop the advance of the Muslims, who were invading Afghanistan (which at that time was a Hindu/Buddhist nation). Bappa Rawal took his Gurkhas and liberated Afghanistan - originally named Gandhar, from which the present day Kandahar derives its name. He and his Gorkhas stopped the initial Islamic advance of the 8th century in the Indian subcontinent for the time being.
There are legends that Bappa Rawal (Kalbhoj) went further conquering Iran and Iraq before he retired as an ascetic at the feet of Mt. Meru, having conquered all invaders and enemies of his faith.

9) It is a misconception that the Gurkhas took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal. The region was given its name after the Gurkhas had established their control of these areas. In the early 1500s some of Bappa Rawal's descendants went further east, and conquered a small state in present-day Nepal, which they named Gorkha in honour of their patron saint.

10) By 1769, through the leadership of Sri Panch (5) Maharaj Dhiraj Prithvi Narayan Shahdev (1769-1775), the Gorkha dynasty had taken over the area of modern Nepal. They made Hinduism the state religion, although with distinct Rajput warrior and Gorkhanath influences. Thus the modern Nepal as we know it today was created as one nation, one kingdom.

11) A Gurkha can be of any caste, creed or race (since there are racial variations in Nepal) but only a Hindu (that includes Nepalese Buddhists) can be a Gurkha, since it is de rigueur that one believes in the teachings of Guru Gorkhanath and the Warrior code of the Ancient Hindus. Without these teachings one cannot develop the mindset, spirit, essence and soul of a Gurkha. 

12) Although Hinduism is a general term encompassing a wide variety of faiths in the sub-continent, both Vedic and non-Vedic, it is worth mentioning that the Bon religion, an animistic, shamanistic faith is also practised by certain ethnic tribes that have also become encompassed and brought into the circle of the Gorkhas and thus should also be noted as being part of the Gorkhali culture.)

13) In the Gurkha War (1814–1816) they waged war against the British East India Company army. The British were impressed by the Gurkha soldiers and after reaching a stalemate with the Gurkhas and making Nepal a protectorate they were granted the right to hire them as mercenaries organised in Gurkha regiments in the East India Company army with the permission of then prime minister, Shree Teen (3) Maharaja (Maharana) Jung Bahadur Rana, the first Rana Prime-minister who initiated a Rana oligarchic rule in Nepal. Originally Jung Bahadur and his brother Ranodip Singh brought a lot of upliftment and modernisation to Nepalese society, the abolishment of slavery, upliftment of the untouchable class, public access to education etc. but these dreams were short lived when in the coup d'etat of 1885 the nephews of Jung Bahadur and Ranodip Singh (the Shumsher family or Satra (17) Family, later to be known as S.J.B. or Shumsher J.B.) murdered Ranodip Singh and the sons of Jung Bahadur and took control of Nepal bringing one of the darkest periods of Nepalese history (104 years of dictatorial rule). This Shumsher Rana rule is regarded as one of the reasons of Nepal lagging behind in modern development and a dark age of Nepalese History. The children of Jung Bahadur and Ranodip Singh mainly live outside of Kathmandu, in Nepal and mainly in India after escaping the coup d'etat of 1885. Relations among family members have now normalized.

14) The Gurkhas from reputed families refused to enter as soldiers and were instead given positions as officers in the British-Indian armed forces. The common peasant/farmer/village Gurkhas entered as soldiers. One Gurkha, the Great Great Grandson of Sri Teen Maharaja Jung Bahadur, was entered as officers, (retired) General Narendra Bahadur Singh, Gorkha Rifles, rose to become aide-de-camp (A.D.C.) to Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, when he was only a young Captain in the British Indian Army. After the British left India Gorkhalis continued seeking employment in British and Indian forces, as officers and soldiers, as well as maintaining the sovereignty of their nation.

15) Under international law present-day British Gurkhas are not treated as mercenaries but are fully integrated soldiers of the British Army, operate in formed units of the Brigade of Gurkhas, and abide by the rules and regulations under which all British soldiers serve. Similar rules apply for Gurkhas serving in the Indian Army.

16) “As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you". -Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC, who served with the 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles in the First World War

17) "For over 180 years the Gurkhas have helped to fight Britain's wars and keep the peace. They have won 13 Victoria Crosses and served in most of the major conflicts of the 20th Century." (The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.)

18) "If there was a minute's silence for every Gurkha casualty from World War 2 alone, we would have to keep quiet for two weeks

First Gurkha officer in the British Indian Army

1:18 PM
 A FIRST AMONG THE GURKHAS

Writes Pratap Chhetri

In October 1915, when a young Gurkha officer with royal blood, was recuperating at a London hospital, from wounds sustained in action at the famous Battle of Loss in the course of the First World War, a reporter chanced to interview him. Having heard about khukris of the Gurkhas, he asked the convalescing officer whether his boys got a chance to use their feared khukris. To this, Jodha, the officer said: “They do not often get the chance of using them. When they get near, the Germans hold up their hands. They have heard of our kukris.” Such was the fear of the simple but fierce khukri among the Germans. This brave and gallant soldier was Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur – the first Gurkha officer in the British Indian Army.

For the almost two hundred thousand Gurkha soldiers who fought in various theatres of the First World War, the name - Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur might have just passed off fleetingly as the name of just another soldier-comrade. Very few perhaps might have known about his accomplishments then and very few perhaps today know about his special place in the history of Gorkha soldiering in the past 200 years. Or the fact that he was one of the first nine Indians and the first Gurkha to receive a King’s Commission in the British Indian Army, who preceded even Field Marshal K.M. Carriapa’s batch. Or that, he gallantly fought and saw action in Egypt, France, Belgium and Mesopotamia during the First World War; was awarded the Military Cross and was Mentioned in Despatches, twice.
Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur was a product of the Imperial Cadets Corps (ICC), an exclusive preserve based in Dehra Dun which provided military training to young men from the aristocratic families of the princely Indian states. The ICC was a limited and deliberate experiment by the Raj to appease its Indian subjects particularly the rulers of the princely states, who had military expectations, of their wards or relatives being commissioned as officers in the regular British Indian Army, also known as His Majesty’s Army. Though the Corps was a failure, the Imperial Cadet Corps in some ways paved the way for the establishment of the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College in 1922, known today as Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and the Indian Military Academy in 1932; these two institutions were pioneers in the slow but gradual Indianization process of the Army during the British rule. One fact which pointed to failure of the ICC was that of the 68 graduates that ICC produced; only eleven were granted Commission in the Native Indian Land Forces.
First Gurkha officer in the British Indian Army
 'Rana Jodha(seated far right) with British officers of the Garhwal Rifles at Pont du Hem France 1915'
- Photo credit Ashok Nath Foundation Sweden
Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur was one of the several grandsons of Sir Jang Bahadur Rana who founded the Rana dynasty in Nepal – the system of hereditary Prime Ministership. Jodha Jung Bahadur’s father was Padma Jung Bahadur Rana, one of the thirteen sons of Sir Jung Bahadur Rana. His father fled to India in 1887 following an unsuccessful palace coup in Kathmandu and settled in Allababad. It was in Allahabad that Jodha was born in 1890. He perhaps had his early education in one of the four chiefs’ school established to impart British system of education. In 1910 he gained admission into the ICC and in 1913 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Native Indian Land Forces (HMNILF). He had initial training with the 1/3rd Gurkhas and the 1st King George’s Own Sappers and Miners and in February 1914, he was appointed as the Commandant, Tehri-Garhwal State Sappers. The Native Indian Land Forces were the standing armies of the princely Indian states.  They were also known as Imperial State Forces and served in various theatres of the First World War along with the regular Indian Army.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, India was dragged into the War unwillingly while the Indian rulers, of their own volition offered their troops for war service. As the War progressed on the Western Front in France and Belgium, the British forces and the Indian Expeditionary Force ‘A’ consisting of cavalry, infantry and Imperial service troops suffered devastating losses. Reinforcement drafts were urgently required. One such reinforcement draft was a contingent of 108 men of Tehri Garhwal State Sappers commanded by the young Lieutenant Rana Jodha sent to bolster the 39th Garhwal Rifles, who had suffered heavy casualties on the frontline. They reached France in March 1915 via Egypt.

Earlier in 1914, major battles such as the First Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Festubert and Givenchy had been fought while in 1915 offensives like the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Second Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Aubers Ridge, the Battle of Festubert and the Battle of Loos took place on the Western Front in France and Belgium.

It was in the Battle of Loos – first, in the action at Pietre, not far from Neuve Chapelle on September 25th 1915 and the second at La Bassee on October 13th 1915 that his bravery was noticed. During both these instances; he was Mentioned in Despatches. Subsequently, Jodha was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in November 1915. He was then just a young 25 year old officer.

On October 12, 1915 he was hit by a rifle bullet in the arm but it luckily missed his bone, so he got the unit doctor to bind the wound and was ready for action the next day. However whilst heavy fighting the next day, a bomb explosion wounded him on the neck and he lost consciousness. It was during his treatment for this that the famed newspaper interview too place.
Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur
Photo credit to Wikimedia Common
An extract from the official War Office account of Jodha’s winning of the Military Cross reads: “During a feint attack made by the Indian Corps to the north of La Bassee Canal on October 13, this officer commanded a double company with great ability and conspicuous gallantry in the face of fierce fire from rifles, machine-guns, grenades and bombs……… His bravery was previously observed on September 25th last, when he led his company with marked gallantry and dash right up to the German wire under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire.”

Rana Jodha and Captain Zorawar Singh were the only Indian officers(Commissioned) to get the Military Cross during the First World War. It may also be worthwhile to mention Darwan Singh Negi, the second Indian to be awarded the Victoria Cross (1914), and another Indian recipient of the Victoria Cross in 1915 – Gabar Singh Negi both belonged to the 39th Garhwal Rifles. It was this unit, which Jodha was attached to, as young officer on the Western Front.

It was also in the Battle of Loos that Jodha was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) for the first time and the following MiD published by the British Military London News mentioned: "Rana Jodha Jang Bahadur, who, in spite of being wounded, continued to lead his men against the Germans, and did not desist until a second wound in the neck rendered him unconscious. The Rana displayed great tenacity, leadership and conspicuous gallantry by leading his company right up to the German defenses in the face of heavy fire".

In August 1917, the War Cabinet deliberated on granting of King’s commission to the natives of India and they accepted in principle the appointment of Indians to commissioned rank in His Majesty’s Army; the nature of which was to be finalised later. The War Cabinet also agreed granting King’s Commission (seven captaincies and two lieutenancies) to nine Indian officers of the Native Indian Land Forces who had served in Imperial Service Troops in the War, immediately. One of the lieutenants was Rana Jodha Jung Bahadur. Their appointment was published in the London Gazette on the 25th August 1917. Thereafter, he was attached to the 3rd Brahmins and served in Mesopotamia from September 1917 to October 1918. For his service in Mespotomia, he was made a Member of the British Empire (Military Division). He was also appointed as Honorary Aide-Camp to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford from 1916 to 1921.

In 1919, Jodha served in the Afghan War and later in the Waziristan Campaign of 1919-1920, serving there till 1924. Thereafter he was posted with the 1/23rd Sikhs, 12th Bombay Pioneers and Madras Pioneers and retired as a Major from the Indian Army is 1933. After his retirement, he served as Commandant, 1st Mysore Infantry from 1933 to 1936. In 1936, he was appointed as Commandant, Tripura State Forces and in 1940 was promoted to Colonel and made the Commander-in-Chief, Tripura State Forces.

Despite being such a decorated and accomplished officer, it is intriguing and surprising as to why Jodha was not given more important appointments of greater responsibilities in the regular Army during the post World War I period. The British were very reluctant to give Commissions to Indians from the start and this perhaps made them skeptical of Indians officers in the Army. This could have been one of the reasons. By his retirement in 1933, he had served for 20 years and maybe he was due the normal course of retirement. Or, was he just unlucky. Or was it that since, Jodha was not a Sandhurst trained officer, the younger officers edged him.

Acknowledgements 
1. The Imperial Cadet Corps and Indiansation of the Indian Army’s Officer Corps, 1897-1923 : A Brief Survey – Dr. Chandar S Sundaram, formerly with CAFHR, USI of India.
2. Online resources of CAFHR, USI of India
3. Ashok Nath Foundation, Sweden

 'This article was published in the November 2015 issue of Eastern Panorama'

The gods of war - the Gorkhas

9:49 PM
Writes Bhupesh Bhandari 

Two books provide insights into Gorkha martial traditions, but is it time for a new narrative

GURKHA
BETTER TO DIE THAN LIVE A COWARD: MY LIFE WITH THE GURKHAS
Author: Kailash Limbu
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 340
Price: Rs 499

THE KHUKRI BRAVES
THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE GORKHAS
Author: Jyoti Thapa Mani
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Pages: 407
Price: Rs 2,795

The legend of the Gorkha warrior was born 200 years ago when the forces of the East India Company collided with the Nepal army. The Gorkhas won many battles but lost the war, and had to cede large territory, which includes present day Uttarakhand and large parts of Himachal Pradesh.
The two books GURKHA and THE KHUKRI BRAVES
The two books GURKHA and THE KHUKRI BRAVES
Even before the war could end, the East India Company had started to recruit these hardy men from the hills. They were undoubtedly good fighters. The popular expression Band baj gaya, which evokes images of substantial hardship, dates back to the war when the Gorkha bands used to play their bagpipes and drums before an attack.

The East India Company found them of great utility. And, unlike the upper caste Hindus who formed the backbone of its army till then, the Gorkhas didn't get bogged down by religious and caste-based taboos, and had no bonds of kinship with people from the plains. They were ready to fight anywhere - and anybody.

The East India Company knew they could be a counterpoise to the mutinous Bengal Native Infantry Sepoys. And this is exactly how it played out in 1857 when Gorkha troops helped the East India Company put down the Sepoy Mutiny. The Sepoys, who made the East India Company's conquests in India and beyond possible, were dumped unceremoniously, and all the communities that supported the Company were designated martial races, with the pride of place reserved for the Gorkhas.

After the mutiny, the British assiduously cultivated the Gorkhas, using them against their enemies inside as well as outside India. In the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919, one set of troops that fired on unarmed protesters were Gorkhas. The British kept them segregated from other Indian troops. That's why till Independence, the officer cadre of all Gorkha battalions was exclusively British.

To this day, the legend of the Gorkha solider continues to grow. Two books in quick succession extol the martial traditions and military conquests of the Gorkhas. Jyoti Thapa Mani's Khukri Braves is some sort of a Gorkha omnibus, and is truly spectacular in its sweep, covering the Anglo-Nepal war up to present times. Jyoti, a friend and a fellow highlander, is well versed in the martial history and customs of the Gorkhas, and her research is impeccable.

The Gorkha kingdom at its peak stretched from the Teesta in the east to the Sutlej in the west. Some historians believe that the Gorkha kings had even bigger ambitions - they wanted to extend their rule into Kashmir and beyond. But at Kangra, they ran into the tough-as-nails forces of Ranjit Singh. That is where their expansion ended. Later, when war with the East India Company looked imminent, the Gorkha Darbar even proposed a grand Hindu alliance with the Maratha and Sikh kingdoms, but it failed to excite the others.

War between the Gorkha kingdom and the East India Company was inescapable: all the trade routes to Tibet fell in hostile Gorkha territory. Though the immediate provocation for the war was some border skirmishes in which Gorkha forces had seized some villages that belonged to the East India Company, there was a sustained campaign to suggest that Gorkha rule was oppressive, and the assault was to liberate local people from Gorkha tyranny. According to several accounts, there was a chowki at Rishikesh, where Gorkha soldiers used to sell slaves - Garhwali men, women and children who could not afford to pay their taxes because of a famine.

Jyoti calls these reports exaggerated. She could well be right: after all, the East India Company was the master of mind games and was not averse to mixing fiction with truth to serve its ends. The fact of the matter is that there is still in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the areas vacated by Nepal, a large Gorkha population - people who decided to stay on. Had the locals been hostile, it's difficult to imagine how so many of them could have stayed back. But it is also true that to this day people in Kumaon use the expression Gorkhali Raj to describe anarchy, be it untended fields, dirty homes or bugs in the mattress.

Kailash Limbu's Gurkha, in contrast, is a straightforward account of a British Gorkha solider in Afghanistan, interspersed with tales from Gorkha history and vignettes of life in a distant hill village in Nepal. (The British call them Gurkha, though Gorkha is more correct, as the community draws its name from Guru Gorakhnath.) Though dreary at times, the book gives a good idea of the camaraderie between Gorkha troops on the battlefield.

Limbu is a sensitive writer and captures the nuances of hill life accurately. He tells uniquely hill stories like his grandmother who used to get drunk every evening and then feed the local brew to her grandchildren as well, or the fascination of hill folks with weapons, even if it's a slingshot, and hunting.

There are several books on the Gorkha military history, yet there is not even one account by a Gorkha soldier. Much of the history has been written by the officers of these regiments - it therefore comes heavily laden with their perspective. Limbu's book is the first time a Gorkha soldier has written about his life. In that sense, it deserves shelf space with Sita Ram Pandey's From Sepoy to Subedar, which detailed life in Bengal native Infantry from 1814 to 1857 and was a must-read for all British army officers in colonial times - except that it happens to be far less interesting. (Some commentators feel Pandey gave his imagination a free run while writing his book.)

Most books, including Jyoti and Limbu's books, deal with the martial qualities of the Gorkhas. That obliterates all other Gorkhas from popular conscience: agriculturists, professionals, businessmen. These people resent that bravery has become the calling card of the entire community. In their view, Field Marshall Manekshaw did a great disservice to the Gorkhas when he said: "If a man is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gorkha" - it robbed the community of all other attributes apart from bravery. A new narrative may one day emerge - hopefully.

Source - business-standard

 
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