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The Gurkhas: “Better To Die Than Be A Coward”

The Gurkha warriors live by the slogan "It's better to die than be a coward"

By- Khushi Bisht

The word ‘Gurkha’ derives from ‘Gorkha’, a hilly area in modern-day Nepal. They are the Nepalese soldiers who have served in the British Army for over 200 years. Gurkhas trace their lineage back to Guru Gorakhnath, a Hindu saint. They have a reputation for being as invincible in battle as they are in everyday life.

The Gurkhas have a rich history dating back to the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814 when British imperial powers attacked the town of Gorkha. The Gurkha soldiers, on the other hand, wreaked havoc on the British, forcing them to negotiate peace. British armies praised the Gurkhas’ military prowess and strategies, and in 1815, they began recruiting Gurkha soldiers to fight in the East India Company as volunteer soldiers.

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British Military
Eight Gurkha soldiers depicted in a British Indian painting,1815. Wikimedia Commons

The peace treaty that settled the conflict in 1816 allowed the British to formally enlist Nepali Gurkhas, which marked the start of British-Nepali relations. The Gurkha Brigade has performed admirably in a multitude of wars all around the globe, ever since. They have been awarded a total of 13 Victoria Crosses (Britain’s most esteemed award) as well as numerous other medals, for acts of exceptional bravery.

Since the early nineteenth century, Gurkhas have been a member of the British Military, serving together with them in the 1857 Indian Rebellion, often known as the Indian Mutiny (1857-59). The Gurkhas, in addition to being one of Britain’s strongest allies, have never let the country down. During the Sikh Wars (1845-46 and 1848-49) and the Indian Mutiny, the Gurkhas’ image for courage and staunch devotion was strengthened.

British Military
A khukuri, the signature weapon of the Gurkhas. Wikimedia Commons

The Gurkhas are known for their Kukri or Khukuri knives. They still wield the famous 18-inch Kukri knife, which was claimed to have to taste blood if drawn in combat. The relationship between Gurkha and Kukri has made great strides and is deeply rooted in Nepal’s majestic past. From the day when the British first encountered the Gurkhas to this day, in the twenty-first century, the Gurkha and Kukri have always gone from strength to strength. Nepal’s national weapon, the Kukri, has a long and illustrious history. It is a symbol of pride and an enduring sign that is used to reflect the nation and its achievements on a global scale.

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British Military
Gurkhas in action with a six-pounder anti-tank gun in Tunisia, 16 March 1943. Wikimedia Commons

Gurkhas are regarded as fearless and obedient by the British and are treated with great respect. The British Army continues to pick the best 200 new Gurkhas every year, the bulk of which come from mountainous villages in Nepal. Two personal Gurkha officers guard Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

The Gurkha warriors live by the slogan “It’s better to die than be a coward.” They are still known for their steadfastness, competence, and courage. Sam Manekshaw, former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal once stated, “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha.”

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