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What Makes Nepal 'Bravest Of The Brave'? Tale Of Bir Gurkhas

Published Sun Jun 23 2019 By Dibas Pratap Basnet
What Makes Nepal 'Bravest Of The Brave'? Tale Of Bir Gurkhas

Gurkhas are known all over the world for their bravery and do or die attitude on the field of battle. The Gurkhas are synonymous to bravery, valor, sacrifice, and loyalty. Militaries all around the world fear the Gurkhas or Gorkhali as they were originally called are khukuri-wielding warriors originally from the Gorkha Kingdom which is in Nepal.      

The stories of their valor reached all the corners of the world after the bravery they showed in the war against the then East India Company, the war known as the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16) showcased the best warriors in all of the world.  

Their heroism was cemented by the Former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once stated that “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha”. Learn about the Gurkhas, their history, tales and how they got the legendary status in the world.

Gurkhas: History, Legends, Motto, Awards, And Accolades,


When Nepal was ruled by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, he conquered Nepal basing with his troops from his home in Gorkha. The soldiers and people of Gorkha were known as Gorkhalis in the native tongue. Prithvi Narayan Shah started the unification of all the kingdoms (Rajyas) of Nepal and used the Gorkhali soldiers to achieve this arduous task.

A historical photo of Gurkha men, women and children fighting against the British
A historical photo of Gurkha men, women and children fighting against the British

In fact, the unification of Nepal would not have been possible without the Gorkhali soldiers. With Generals like “Badakaji” Amar Singh Thapa (Badakaji was an honorific title given to high ranking military personnel in the past) in the ranks of his army, Prithvinarayan Shah expanded Nepal west as far as Dehra Dun and Sikkim in the east.

They wielded swords, bows, shields and were especially famous for wielding the khukuri (kukri) which is as famous as the Gurkhas themselves. The crooked blades used by the Gurkhas are considered holy by the people of Nepal and are legendary for their efficiency in battle.

How They Became Known All Over The World

In the present context, Gurkhas are easily recognized all over the world and are famous for their valor and sacrifice in battle but there was a time that they were not that well known.

The statue of the Gurkha soldier outside the ministry of defense in Westminster
The statue of the Gurkha soldier outside the ministry of defense in Westminster 

Looking back, in the 18th century especially the warriors spread their name all across the globe after showcasing almost superhuman gallantry against an enemy who was much more technologically advanced and bigger than them.  

At the time British colonial forces had colonized Indian and established the East India Company.  As Nepal had a much more favorable climate and was the gateway to Tibet the British wanted to expand their territory to include Nepal.

However, the Gurkhas were also equally ambitious and wanted to expand further into India, this led to a conflict between the two which became known as the Anglo-Nepalese War.

Present Day

As of June 2019 Gurkhas are serving in various regions and the peacekeeping force of the UN. There are Gurkhas present in the British Army, Indian Army, Singapore Police, and Bruneian Security Forces. 

Gurkhas serving in Afghanistan
Gurkhas serving in Afghanistan

The Gurkhas have a long history with the British and are serving as mainly infantry units for Queen and country. In fact, there is a regiment within the British Army who are recruited from Nepal who is not a territory of Britain nor a commonwealth country.

The regiment has the motto of

 "Better to die than to be a coward" 

which is a reflection of their bravery.

Signature Weapon, Battle Cry, And Beret

Gurkhas are known for using the distinct curved blade, the Khukuri (Kukri) which originated in Nepal and is the signature weapon of a Gorkhali one he/she may even prefer more than a gun.

Gurkhas holding the legendary khukuri and wearing their signature berets
Gurkhas holding the legendary khukuri and wearing their signature berets 

The attack of the Gurkhas is preceded by the signature battle cry "Ayo Gorkhali" which translates to "Here Come the Gorkhalis".

The soldiers serving in Gurkha battalions and regiments also wear a signature beret with two crossed khukuris at the front of the beret.

Tales Of Gallantry And Heroism

The Gurkhas have set the standard for bravery in the world and many consider them to be the ideal soldier. The historical tales of the soldiers, as well as present-day events, have made them.

From preserving the independent state of Nepal to fighting off goons when outnumbered 40 to 1 are all part of the Gurkhas Reputation.

Here are some stories of the incredible fearlessness shown by the Gurkhas

Lachhiman Gurung: Fighting Off 200 Japanese Soldiers Literally Singlehandedly

While British forces were fighting off the enemy at various fronts, they also deployed Gurkha soldiers to fight the Japanese in 1945. Gurung and his comrades faced a lot of fire from the enemy as well as grenades which Gurung started throwing back at the enemy to protect his comrades.

A photo of the legendary Sgt. Lachhiman Gurung

While throwing a 3rd grenade thrown inside the trench he was stationed it exploded in his hand and his right hand blew off. He did not stop fighting even then and fended off 31 Japanese soldiers preventing them from capturing the position. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross which is the highest and most prestigious award given by the British Government to military personnel.   

Bishnu Shrestha: Retired Soldier Who Fended Off 40 Robbers On A Train With His Khukuri And Also Saved A Passenger From Rape

Retired Army man Bishnu Shrestha was commuting via train on 2nd September 2010. The same day an ill-fated group of 40 thugs tried to loot the train the Gurkha was in. To add to their bad luck the Gorkhali soldier who served in the Gurkha faction of the Indian Army was carrying his khukuri.

Shrestha recieving a military award
Shrestha recieving a military award 

He stood up and started using his khukuri to fend off the thugs and successfully killed 3 people and injured a further 8 which forced the goons to flee. An 18-year-old girl on the train was almost raped by the perpetrators but thanks to the actions of Shrestha she was safe and sound.

His incredible valor saved the lives, properties, and honor of the people on the train but almost cost him his left arm. 

Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar: Facing 4000 British Soldiers With 600 Gurkhas

While Nepalese troops were facing British troops on almost all fronts, Capt. Balbhadra Kunwar was the commander of the 600 troops in Dehradun which then was in Nepalese territory. He had only 600 troops which included women and children and fought bravely against the almost 4000 strong British troops.

A painting of Balbhadra Kunwar who led 600 troops against 4000 British troops
A painting of Balbhadra Kunwar who led 600 troops against 4000 British troops 

Every one showed incredible sacrifice as they defended the town but were forced back into a fort on a hill in Nalapani. The Anglo forces ensued their battle and attacked the Gorkhalis within the fort with cannons.

They even put cannons inside the holes in the wall of the fort, but the gallant Gurkhas defended the fort with all their will and they stepped in front of the cannon to stop them from injuring their comrades. As a matter of fact, a pregnant woman also stepped in front of the cannon sacrificing not only herself but her child for the country.

The monument honoring Balbhadra Kunwar's bravery
The monument honoring Balbhadra Kunwar's bravery 

After a very alluring proposal by the British that they would make him Governor of the Western Garhwal if he and his troops surrendered but he did not even consider the offer and ripped their proposal. After not being able to win by brute force and military effort they blocked the water source going into the fort.

Even this could not deter the will of the Gurkhas as when they became thirsty they stepped out of the fort in a single file in front of British troops in awe and drank water from a creek. He did not surrender till the very end and his gallantry was even acknowledged by the British who erected a monument praising the bravery of the Gurkhas.

He did not lose his life in the battle but later became a General of the “Lahure” regiments which recruited soldiers solely from Nepal.

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