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Gurkhas: Better to Die Than Live a Coward

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93 pages1 hour

Summary

When we think of Gurkhas we think, not only, of brave soldiers fighting for Britain but also of a race of people. However, there is no such thing as a Gurkha in the ethnic sense – the word is, in fact, a corruption of Goorkha, a small town and one-time state in north-west Nepal.
Nepal has always been a religiously and ethnically diverse nation; the Rajputs and Aryans who arrived during the fighting against the Mongols brought Hinduism with them, while the rest of the country – represented by the Magar, Gurung, Limbu and Rai tribes of Mongolian origins – are generally of the Buddhist religion.
Prithvi Narayan Shah’s Able Army : The first soldiers whose ancestors would go on to be known as Gurkha soldiers were from a small but well-instructed and behaved contingent of troops raised by the leader of the Goorkha state, Prithvi Narayan Shah. Shah had watched and learnt from the Europeans who were infiltrating the Indian sub-continent in the first half of the 18th century, realizing that by following their standard of conformity and discipline he could overthrow other Nepalese chiefdoms that were dotted around his state. He and his Goorkha soldiers did just that, and by the time he died in 1775 they had conquered the majority of present-day Nepal.
For the next 30 years Shah’s successors followed in his glory and built up a fearsome state. Even though they were relatively small in comparison to the states that surrounded them, and rather archaic in terms of weaponry, they made up for it tactically and mentally. This meant they continued to make in-roads further and further into Nepal and closer to areas of British-occupied India. The East India Company had arrogantly attempted to get the tribe on side, but the Goorkhas knew that this was for the benefit of the British as opposed to themselves, therefore they refused to bow.

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