“Jai Maha Kali, Aayo Gorkhali!”
You hear that war-cry on the battlefield and the hairs on your neck will stand up. It precedes the arrival of the world’s fiercest soldier, the bravest of the lot – The Gurkha.
It was on this very day, 200 years ago, that the 9th Gurkha Rifles (GR) was formed. There are 7 GR regiments in India while there are a few in Britain as well since we were under their rule then.
Decorated officer and Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw, who had also served with the Gorkha Rifles, once said, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.”
That’s a strong quote. But every word is true. Their tales of bravery are handsomely spread across the pages of history.
Like the actions of one Lachhiman Gurung, who, in 1945 (WW2), was taking cover in a trench when 200 Japanese soldiers ascended upon him and two of his comrades and started throwing grenades. Gurung started collecting the grenades and throwing them back, but one exploded in his right hand. But he had his left hand. He used it to fire a rifle and killed over 30 Japanese soldiers.
A Gurkha’s bravery never ebbs away. In 2010, Bishnu Shrestha, an ex-Gurkha soldier fought off 40 armed goons on a train in West Bengal with nothing but a khukri! There was also a Gurkha in the British army who killed 30 Taliban men single-handed. That’s the mettle these guys are made of. Soldier is an understatement. They are warriors. Bred of pure courage and fearlessness.
Originally, 90% of Gurkha soldiers in the Indian Army were from Nepal, now the regiments are also formed by Gurkhas from areas like Darjeeling, Dharamshala and Dehradun.
Tilted hat and khukri in hand, the Gurkhas have served not just India but the world. They fought during the World Wars and have been deployed by the Indian Army in every war after 1947. Their consistency is their bravery.
Of course there are countless other stories. It is said that if you ask a Gurkha to man a door, he won’t leave until you relieve him and you might just find a pile of bodies on the other side of the door when you come back the next day.
Their motto, Spartan-esque, says: Better to die than live a coward.
To believe in something like that takes more than training, it takes commitment and belief to a single cause – fighting for what is right.
It is a privilege that such men, such warriors, serve in the Indian army and have been doing so for two centuries in extreme conditions and deadly situations. A celebration in their honour is being held in Varanasi at the 3&9 Gorkha Training Centre with a grand reunion om 9th and 10th November.
It was in 1817, when the British first raised it as the ‘Fatehgarh Levy’. The word fateh suits them. From then to now, 200 years of fearless service and love for the country. Men like them command respect and admiration for placing everything else before their own life. Sam Manekshaw is right, a man not afraid of dying is either lying or he has to be a Gurkha.