With the motto of “Better to die than be a coward”, Gurkhas have a fearsome reputation built over the last two centuries. Hailing from the mountainous region of Nepal, the Gurkhas were first witnessed by the world over 200 years ago; when they were invaded by the British East India Company.
They carry Kukri with them, also known as the national knife of Nepal; every time they go for a battle. However, recently they have also been equipped with guns and bullet-proof vests to protect the summit. The kukri is like a working tool which is used every day in rural communities and for different ceremonial purposes. The Kukri come in different sizes including the giant versions capable of beheading buffaloes.
According to past tradition, it is believed that once drawn, this 18-inch curved knife have to “taste blood”- if not from the enemy, its holder had to cut himself before returning it to its sheath.
Serving in Nepal’s own national army, Gurkhas have formed a part of the British Army since 1815. Currently, around 3600 Nepalese men are serving in the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas. Along with British Army, more than 32,000 Gurkhas are serving in the seven regiments of the Indian Army.
For many people in Nepal, a place in Gurkha Army is a route out of poverty. With an application of around 20000 people, only 200-300 men join the Brigade of Gurkhas every year. Including Maths and English exam, the applicants also have to carry 25 kilograms in a basket on their backs attached by a head strap while running a steep, 4.2 km course. They are also required to do 75 bench jumps in one minute and 70 sit-ups in two minute. Only after all these attempts, few applicants are selected.
However, as technology is advancing and weapons are being operated independently, the future role of these soldiers in the years to come isn’t certain. Their numbers in the British army have already declined from 1300 to around 3600 now due to budget cuts.
Also, the retired Gurkhas who return to Nepal often face financial hardship and their right to settle in the UK and pensions amount have been the subject of several well-publicized disputes between the pro-Gurkha campaigners and the UK Government.
Due to issues such as budget cuts, disparate treatment and pension amount; the future of these soldiers may be affected but their deeds and hard work have already been engraved in the pages of history as some of the world’s toughest, strongest and fiercest fighters.
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