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Aayo Gurkhali![1]

The Gurkhas are from Nepal, a country in the Himalayas with one of the toughest climates in the world. They are unique in that their chief fame comes from their service as Hired Guns rather than for their own country. The wages to be found in foreign armies are far greater and among the perks are immunization and education in technology. They came to English attention in a war between the East India Company and the King of Nepal. As part of the peace treaty the Company demanded permission to recruit from Nepali for, in a fashion reminiscent of John Wayne, the Company had liked the Gurkhas so much as enemies that they couldn't wait to have them as allies. The Gurkhas were recruited mostly from the Mager, Gurang, Limbu, and Rai tribes. Other tribes have occasionally joined, especially when manpower is desperately needed like in World War II. Curiously, the Sherpas, which are the most famous tribe in the area, have not been well represented: perhaps it's enough work getting rich glory hounds up Mount Everest. Another interesting curiosity is that only one regiment (9th Gurkha rifles) of Gurkhas is made up of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste. Most are Vaisha's (peasants), though such things were apparently not taken as seriously in the mountains as they have sometimes been in the valley.

Gurkhas are famous for their curious boomerang shaped Kukri knives, which serves as a sort of machete. Much of their prowess comes from the poverty and hardship of their homes, which is so tough that it provides its own Spartan Way. Military service for a richer country not only brings reputation but is also very attractive for material reasons, what with pay, as well as the inoculation and technical training that necessarily comes with the service. As a result, employers can afford to be extremely selective about whom they pick. Gurkhas serve mostly as infantry and though experiments have been made using them in other specialties, that is where their chief fame has been won. Like many a local ethnic group, their loyalty has been reinforced by the British regimental system in which each regiment is effectively a warrior-fraternity and the parochial eccentricities of each allow local traditions to be made an asset to the service of The Government. The Gurkhas have had many a Crowning Moment of Awesome and are among the worlds most highly regarded military forces. And ever since the Victoria Cross became open to non-British they have had a disproportionate representation.

Gurkhas until recently have seldom been officers and usually served in units with white officers. This was partly because of prejudice held by the British that Gurkhas were fine soldiers, but too ineducable to make good officers. Another reason was that the original Indian army was at least partly and often a very large part, a constabulary to prevent revolt and therefore the upper caste had to pull the strings. Despite that, relations have usually been fairly good between British and Gurkhas, arguably better than the British deserved. Perhaps it's simply that all soldiers live in a caste system while they serve and for the Gurkhas it more or less ended when they went home as far as British were concerned. And maybe British were nicer then their Feudal Overlord back home. Also the quality of leadership may have been better; British officers in Gurkha regiments were specially picked. In any case that has changed of late and there have been a number of Gurkha officers.

After independence the Gurkha regiments were divided between the British and the new Indian army (really the army of The Raj changing employers), by election of the soldiers as agreed in the treaty. Some continued in British service and others served the Indian government. They proved valuable in the little wars of colonial devolution and the Cold War, as well as the wars on the Indian border with Pakistan and China. They continue to serve to the present day.

Singapore also uses Gurkhas as police. Go on, tell him you won’t pay your parking ticket. I dare you.

  • Badass Army
    • Former Chief of Staff of the Indian Army Sam Manekshaw said it best:

"If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha."

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Gurkhas are famous for their friendliness.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Britain and later India as well.
  • Brits With Battleships
  • By-The-Book Cop:
    • During the riots following the Indian Partition when Hindus and Muslims were having a collective Ax Crazy moment of Rape, Pillage and Burn on each other, the Gurkhas were the only non-British who could be trusted with arms. They faithfully helped escort fleeing refugees with laudable bravery and impartiality.
    • The tale is told of a Gurkha sentry posted along the Suez Canal during World War I and told to let no one pass. When a British battleship came chugging up the canal, the sentry followed his orders to the letter; he aimed his rifle at the officer on the bridge and ordered him to halt the ship. Yes, that's right, a Gurkha sentry stopped a battleship with a bolt-action rifle.
  • Determined Homesteader: Who make homesteads in the Himalayas no less.
  • The Dreaded: There are various occasions when enemies who were quite happy to fight normal soldiers fleeing when they heard they would be facing Gurkhas. See Shrouded in Myth below for other examples.
    • Basically, if the Taliban, who are known for suicide attacks, are terrified of you, you know you're pretty scary.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Subverted notably. Gurkha non-coms are tough but not tyrannical and prefer to act as a big-brother to their men.
  • Fire-Forged Friends/Defeat Means Friendship: How the British got the idea of recruiting Gurkhas.
  • HAD to Be Sharp: Growing up in the Himalayas. One reason they were so valued as soldiers.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Gurkhas and Scottish Highland regiments have had a traditional friendship. Once when there was an earthquake in Nepal it was the Scots who raised the money for the relief.
  • High Octane Nightmare Fuel: A tactic of the Gurkhas during World War II was to sneak into German encampments, kill all the men in their sleep except for one, and then leave him alive to tell his superiors about it (one writer credited that to the Goum's, a similar group in French service).
    • An alternate account of that said they killed only half of the sleeping men, the man in every other bunk. Either way, enemy soldiers woke up surrounded by men with their throats cut, and knew it could've been them if the Gurkhas had started at the room's other end.
  • Hired Guns
  • Improvised Weapon User: It may have been an awesome one off but the man that killed 30 Taliban actually ran out of ammunition for his gun, but instead of giving up he just started cracking heads with the other end of it.
  • Indians With Iglas
  • Kukris Are Kool: These are the "Nasty Knives" of the Nepali.
  • Mountain Man: From the ultimate mountains.
  • Panthera Awesome : One Gurkha coming home from the wars was crossing a Rope Bridge. When he reached the end a Snow Leopard attacked him. The Gurkha slew it with his Kukri, skinned it, and carried its skin home on his back.
    • Which was a great confrontation between two of the most awesome killer beasts on earth. Leopard versus Gurkha.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Gurkhas are relatively small in stature, at least compared to the rest of the British forces.
  • Praetorian Guard: When he was serving in Afghanistan, Prince Harry of Wales was fighting alongside the Gurkhas. Allegedly, he was deliberately placed with the Gurkhas because the Taliban were absolutely terrified of them.
    • With good reason.
    • Taliban and Pashtuns generally absolutely HATE Gurka who did very well out of the Raj, while the Pashtuns did not. To this day Gurkas have a very short life expectancy if captured by troops of the Frontier Force, Pakistan's Pashtun regiment.
      • Not entirely without precedent among Pashtuns:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Rudyard Kipling

  • Proud Warrior Race
  • Screaming Warrior: Aiyo Gurkali
    • The full translation of their Battle Cry is Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gurkhali which means, "Blood for Kali, the Gurkhas are coming!"
      • To which their enemies say - in their respective tongues, and adjusted for culture: Oh Crap.
      • This is a myth, though. The "Jai Mahakali" part doesn't even mention any blood, it means simply "Glory to Great Kali".[2] Doesn't make any less of an Oh Crap moment, OTOH.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Gurkhas frightened away the Argentines during the Falklands war by sheer reputation.
    • Some in the Taliban believe that they are demons who eat their victims. The Gurkhas do nothing to dissuade these myths.
      • Given that one of them fought off thirty Taliban fighters recently, it can be said that they do even less than nothing to dissuade said myths...
    • The Japanese during the Second World War also had a tendency for their normally 'implacable warrior' image to crack when there were rumours of Gurkhas about. Largely because Japanese sentries would be discovered in the morning outside their camps missing their heads...
  • The Raj
  • Shangri La
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Amritsar Massacre where the Gurkhas fired on some demonstrators at a town by that name because they were Just Following Orders. What may be worse from one perspective (because there was no more fear that it might be a riot and thus it was For the Evulz), the commander spent a week doing such things as forcing locals to lick the blood up with their tongues. Fortunately that commander was at least Reassigned to Antarctica for it. But it was a nasty business and a stain on the Gurkhas' otherwise splendid record.
  • The Women Are Safe with Us : One British officer led the storming of a stronghold held by dacoits (roughly, India's Thieves' Guild) and was proud to note that not one woman had been harmed.


  1. Here come the Gurkhas!
  2. The modern Indian Anthem (in Bengali, though, not in Nepali, but there's enough overlap) last line is "Jaya hei", which translates as "Glory to thee".
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