Gurkha: Pride of the Himalayas

13th July 2012

Trekking the Himalayas is not the only courageous act people can see in Nepal as the mountain peaks are also a home to a race known for its fearlessness. The Gurkha is an indigenous community from Nepal who served the regional army and braced a throng of enemy soldiers before unifying the Nepal that people see today. Their name was taken from a town named Gorkha where the Nepalese kingdom grew. The Gurkhas are known for their bravery and toughness in the battlefield regardless if they have the upper hand or they were the underdogs.

There is a famous saying inside the Gurkha army -one that speaks volume about their will to succeed and fight. According to them, "It is better to die than to be a coward" so no matter how many enemies they face, or if they have a low chance of survival, they would still go out in the battlefields. The Gurkhas are known to carry a unique weapon with them called Kukri. The Kukri is a hunting knife measuring 18 inches and many of the Gurkhas believe that the blade has to experience blood in the battlefield. This means either the warrior wounds an enemy or he wounds himself. The Kukri is made by a village's Kami or blacksmith and all Gurkhas had their weapons made by their own village's Kami. Nowadays, the Kukri is still handled by the Gurkhas but they only use it for hunting and cooking purposes.

 

The Gurkhas became a part of the British Army after it signed a peace treaty with the British East India Company in 1815. The Gurkhas were an enemy before that but because of their immense bravery and prowess during wars, they were recruited to join the ranks of the enemy soldier after the peace treaty was formed. After India parted, another agreement was made where four Gurkha regiments were placed in the British Army. After this placement, the group was then dubbed as the Gurkha brigade. The Gurkha brigade is run by four ethnic groups. The Rais, Gurungs, Magars, and Limbus compose the ranks of the brigade and all of these groups were born and raised in villages where farming is the most common source of income. All young men from the different villages in the mountains can participate in the selection process but not all can become a part of the Gurkha brigade because of the toughness and difficulty of the test. This includes running uphill with a basket on their backs filled with rocks weighing 70lbs total. The uphill run takes about 40 minutes with the weight the applicants are carrying.

 

Because of their greatness in the battlefield, the Gurkhas have experienced and participated in wars such as the two world wars and served in different countries all over the world such as Iraq, Borneo, Falklands, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Cyprus. Because of the bravery and immense service to the British army, the Gurkha brigade has amassed 13 Victoria Crosses for their loyalty. Today, Gurkhas are not only fighters in the army, but they also provide important assistance such as with logisticians, signal specialists, and engineers. Even though they are fighting with the British Army, the Gurkha brigade never forgot their homeland and culture as they still celebrate festivals such as the Dashain where goats and buffaloes are offered.

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