The Gurkhas derive their name from Guru Gorakhnath of 8th century. The USP of Gurkhas is Khukri, a curved Nepalese knife used as both a tool and as a weapon. It is a traditional weapon for Nepalese people all over the world. Very effective when used as a weapon, it is a symbolic weapon of the Nepalese Army, and of all Gurkha regiments throughout the world, signifying the courage and valor of the bearer in the battlefield. The Gurkhas had fought against British during the Gurkha War of 1814-16, and the valour and bravery of Gurkhas impressed the army officials of the British East India Company. After the war, Nepal was made a British protectorate. Later , Gurkhas were started being hired as mercenaries from the insides of Nepal.
- Majority of the Gurkhas in the British army were drawn from the Kirat people, such as Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Rai and Limbu.
- Gurkhas served as troops under contract to the East India Company in the Pindaree War of 1817, in Bharatpur in 1826 and the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1846 and 1848.
After the British left India, Gorkhalis continued giving their services in the British and Indian forces, as officers and soldiers. Under international law, present-day British Gurkhas are not treated as mercenaries but are fully integrated soldiers of the British Army, operate in formed units of the Brigade of Gurkhas, and abide by the rules and regulations under which all British soldiers serve.
The original ten Gurkha regiments consisting of the twenty pre-war battalions were split between the British Army and the newly independent Indian Army in 1947. Six Gurkha regiments (twelve battalions) were transferred to the post-independence Indian Army, while four regiments (eight battalions) were transferred to the British Army. This arrangement was outcome of a Tripartite Agreement. Thus, upon independence in 1947, six of the original ten Gurkha regiments remained with the Indian Army. These regiments were:
1 Gorkha Rifles
3 Gorkha Rifles
4 Gorkha Rifles
5 Gorkha Rifles
8 Gorkha Rifles
9 Gorkha Rifles
Additionally, a further regiment, 11 Gorkha Rifles, was raised. In 1949 the spelling was changed from "Gurkha" to "Gorkha". These Gurkha regiments have been a permanent and vital part of the newly independent Indian Army. Indeed, while Britain has reduced its Gurkha contingent, India has continued to recruit Gurkhas in large numbers. Over 25,000 Nepalese currently serve in the Indian Army’s seven Gorkha Rifles (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th), each of which has five to six battalions (800 to 1,000 soldiers each), drawing basically from Rais and Limbus of eastern Nepal and Gurungs and Magars from the west. They make up almost 70% of the Gorkha Regiment. Another 20,000 Gorkhas in Indian paramilitary and police forces like Assam Rifles. The credo of the Gorkhas is ‘better to die than be a coward’ Indian govt pays Gorkhas 1,200 crore in salaries
Although their deployment is still governed by the 1947 Tripartite Agreement, in the post-1947 conflicts India has fought in, Gurkhas have served in almost all of them, including the wars with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and also against China in 1962. They have also been used in peacekeeping operations around the world. They have also served in Sri Lanka conducting operations against the Tamil Tigers.
The Gurkha war cry is "Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali" which literally translates to "Glory be to the Goddess Kali, here come the Gorkhas!"
This “Ayo Gorkhali” battle-cry, backed by the wickedly-curved khukris, may soon lose its long-standing resonance in the Indian Army, if the new recommendations are approved by the Nepal Government. The Indian defence establishment is watching with concern the Baburam Bhattarai government’s fresh move to eventually halt the recruitment of Gorkhas in Indian, British and other armies.