See studies by H. James and D. Sheil-Small (1965) and D. L. Bolt (1967, repr. 1969).
Prithvi Naraya Shahdev and Sri Teen Maharaja Jung Bahadur), The Way of Sacrifice: The Rajputs, Pages 28-30, Graduate Thesis, South Asian Studies Department, Dr. Joseph T. O'Connell, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario Canada, 1996. His disciple Bappa Rawal, born Prince Kalbhoj/Prince Shailadhish, founded the house of Mewar, Rajasthan (Rajputana). Later descendants of Bappa Rawal moved further east to found the house of Gorkha, which in turn founded the Kingdom of Nepal. Gorkha is one of the 75 districts of modern Nepal.
Gurkhas are best known for their history of bravery and strength in the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas and the Indian Army's Gorkha regiments. The Gurkhas were designated by British officials as a "Martial Race". "Martial Race" was 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, the ability to work hard for long periods of time, fighting tenacity and military strategy. The British recruited heavily from these Martial Races for service in the colonial army.
The word Gorkha is derived from the prakrit words "go rakkha" (Sanskrit gau raksha) meaning "protectors of cows".
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 (Khukuri) knife, the famous curved blade 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 Gandhara, 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.
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.
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.
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 made Nepal a protectorate. Much later, they were granted the right to freely hire them as mercenaries from the interiors of Nepal (as opposed to the early British Gurkha mercenaries who were hired from areas such as Assam (ie. Sirmoor Rifles) and were then 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. Jung Bahadur was the grandson of the famous Nepalese hero and Prime minister Bhimsen Thapa. 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'état of 1885 the nephews of Jung Bahadur and Ranodip Singh (the Shumshers J.B. or Satra (17) Family) murdered Ranodip Singh and the sons of Jung Bahadur, stole the name of Jung Bahadur and took control of Nepal bringing the darkest period 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'état of 1885.
The "original" Gurkhas who were descended from the Rajputs (Thakuri and Chetri) refused to enter as soldiers and were instead given positions as officers in the British-Indian armed forces. The non-Kashaktriya Gurkhas entered as soldiers (ie, Magar, Gurung).
The Thakur/Rajput Gurkhas were entered as officers, one of whom, (retired) General Narendra Bahadur Singh, Gurkha Rifles, great grandson of Jung Bahadur, while a young captain, rose to become aide-de-camp (A.D.C.) to Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India.
The Gurkha soldier recruits were mainly drawn from several ethnic groups. When the British began recruiting from the interiors of Nepal these soldiers were mainly drawn from Magar, Gurung, Rai and Limbu, although earlier British Gurkhas included Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Assamese and others as well.
After the British left India, Gorkhalis continued seeking employment in British and Indian forces, as officers and soldiers.
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.
The Gorkha war cry is "Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali" which literally translates to "Glory be to the Goddess of War, here come the Gorkhas!"
Professor Sir Ralph Turner, MC, who served with the 3rd Queen Alexandra's Own Gurkha Rifles in the First World War, wrote of Gurkhas:
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.
From the end of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 until the start of the First World War the Gurkha Regiments saw active service in Burma, Afghanistan, the North-East and the North-West Frontiers of India, Malta (the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78), Cyprus, Malaya, China (the Boxer Rebellion of 1900) and Tibet (Younghusband's Expedition of 1905).
Between 1901 and 1906, the Gurkha regiments were renumbered from the 1st to the 10th and redesignated as the Gurkha Rifles. One hundred thousand Gurkhas fought in the First World War. They served in the battlefields of France in the Loos, Givenchy, Neuve Chapelle and Ypres; in Mesopotamia, Persia, Suez Canal and Palestine against Turkish advance, Gallipoli and Salonika. One detachment served with Lawrence of Arabia.
During the Battle of Lalos the 8th Gurkhas fought to the last, and in the words of the Indian Corps Commander, "found its Valhalla". During the Gallipoli Campaign the 6th Gurkhas captured a feature later known as "Gurkha Bluff". At Sari Bair they were the only troops in the whole campaign to reach and hold the crest line and look down on the Straits which was the ultimate objective. Second Battalion of the 3rd Gurkha Rifles was involved in the conquest of Baghdad.
During World War II, the Gurkhas started with 8 one-battalion regiments and 2 two-battalion regiments; the Nepalese crown let the British recruit 40 extra battalions — 55 in total — and let them serve everywhere in the world. Nepalese Gurkhas numbered 250,000 in total. In addition to keeping peace in India, Gurkhas fought in Syria, North Africa, Italy, Greece and against the Japanese in Singapore and the jungles of Burma. The 4th battalion of the 10th Gurkha Rifles became a nucleus for the Chindits. They fought in the Battle of Imphal.
British Indian Army and Current Indian Army /Current British Army Equivalence
After Indian independence – and partition – in 1947 and under the Tripartite Agreement, six Gurkha regiments joined the post-independence Indian Army. Four Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army. To the disappointment of their British officers the majority of Gurkhas given a choice between British or Indian Army service opted for the latter. The reason appears to have been the pragmatic one that the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army would continue to serve in their existing roles in familiar territory and under terms and conditions that were well established. The only substantial change was the substitution of Indian officers for British. By contrast the four regiments selected for British service faced an uncertain future in (initially) Malaya - a region where relatively few Gurkhas had previously served. The four regiments (or eight battalions) in British service have since been reduced to a single (two battalion) regiment while the Indian units have been expanded beyond their pre-Independence establishment of twelve battalions.
The principal aim of the Tri-Partite Agreement was to ensure that Gurkhas serving under the Crown would be paid on the same scale as those serving in the new Indian Army. This was significantly lower than the standard British rates of pay. While the difference is made up through cost of living and location allowances during a Gurkha's actual period of service, the pension payable on his return to Nepal is much lower than would be the case for his British counterparts.
With the abolition of the Nepalese Monarchy, the future recruitment of Gurkhas for British and Indian service has been put into doubt. A spokesperson for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), which is expected to play a major role in the new secular republic, has stated that recruitment as mercenaries is degrading to the Nepalese people and will be banned.
Four Gurkha regiments joined the British Army on January 1 1948:
They formed the Brigade of Gurkhas and were initially stationed in Malaya. There are also a number of additional Gurkha regiments including the 69th Gurkha Field Squadron and the 70th Gurkha Field Support Squadron, both of which are included in the 36th Engineer regiment.
Currently (Nov '06) "The Brigade of Gurkhas" in the British Army has the following regiments:
2 Infantry Battalions -
Queen's Gurkha Signals which includes -
Queen's own Gurkha Logistics Regiment
Queen's Gurkha Engineers -
In addition to these Regiments The Brigade of Gurkhas has its own Clerks and Chefs who are posted among the above mentioned units.
Gurkhas in Hong Kong -
Upon independence in 1947, the spelling was changed to Gorkha and six Gurkha regiments remained with the Indian Army:
Additionally, a further regiment, 11 Gorkha Rifles, was raised. All royal titles were dropped when India became a republic in 1950.
In 1999 5/8 Gorkha Rifles were sent as part of the Indian Army UN contingent of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to secure the diamond fields against the Revolutionary United Front.
The Gurkha Contingent (GC) of the Singapore Police Force was formed on 9 April 1949 from selected ex-British Army Gurkhas. It was raised to replace a Sikh unit which had existed prior to the Japanese occupation during the Second World War and is an integral part of the Police Force.
The GC is a well trained, dedicated and disciplined body whose principal role is as a specialist guard force. In times of crisis it can be deployed as a reaction force. During the turbulent years before and after independence, the GC acquitted itself well a number of times during outbreaks of civil disorder. The Gurkhas displayed the courage, self restraint and professionalism for which they are famous and earned the respect of the society at large.
Recently the GC can be seen patrolling the streets and have replaced local policemen to guard key installations. Before the 9/11 attacks, they were seldom seen in public.
The most recent deployment of the GC was to provide additional security for the Singapore Airshow, Asia's largest airshow and the hunt for the escaped terrorist, Mas Selamat.
Ethnically, Gurkhas who are presently serving in the British armed forces are Indo-Tibeto-Mongolians. Gurkhas serving in the Indian Armed Forces are of both groups, Indo-Tibeto-Mongolian and ethnic Rajput. Gurkhas of Indo-Tibeto-Mongolian origin mostly belong to the Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Khasa and Kiranti origin, many of whom are adherents of Tibetan Buddhism and Shamanism.
All Gurkhas, regardless of ethnic origin, speak Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language. They are also famous for their large knife called the khukuri, which is featured in an X shaped congifuration on their emblem.
In the mid 1980s some Nepali speaking groups in West Bengal began to organize under the Gorkhaland National Liberation Front, calling for their own Gurkha state. In 1988 they were given broader autonomy as the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
Despite this, many Gurkhas who had not served long enough to entitle them to a pension faced hardship on their return to Nepal, and some critics have derided the Government's decision to only award the new pension to those joining after the 1 July, 1997, claiming that this left many ex-Gurkhas still facing a financially uncertain retirement. A charity, the Gurkha Welfare Trust, provides aid to alleviate hardship and distress among Gurkha ex-servicemen. The nationality status of Gurkhas and their families was also previously an area of dispute, with claims that some ex-army Nepalese families were being denied residency and forced to leave Britain. The new policy on Gurkhas (announced by the British Government on 8 March, 2007) guarantees residency rights in Britain for retired Gurkhas and their families. In a landmark ruling on 30 September 2008 the High Court in London decided that Gurkhas who left the Army before 1997 did have an automatic right of residency in the United Kingdom. Before this ruling only Ghurkas who left the British Army after 1997 were granted automatic residency benefits. In line with the ruling of the High Court the Home Office is to review all cases affected by this decision.
A considerable number of ex-Gurkhas and their families live in Hong Kong, where they are particularly well represented in the private security profession (G4S Gurkha Services, Pacific Crown Security Service, Sunkoshi Gurkha Security) and among labourers. Ex-Gurhas left barracks and moved into surrounding urban area. There are considerable Nepalese communities in Yuen Long and Kwun Chung.