Gorkha regiments (India)

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Men of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) of the Indian Army operating alongside soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Army in 2013

Since the independence of India in 1947, as per the terms of the Britain–India–Nepal Tripartite Agreement, six Gorkha regiments, formerly part of the British Indian Army, became part of the Indian Army and have served ever since. The troops are mainly from ethnic Gurkha community of Nepal. They carry their signature, a Kukri knife, with them. A seventh Gorkha Rifles regiment was re-raised in the Indian Army after Independence to accommodate Gorkha soldiers of 7th Gurkha Rifles and the 10th Gurkha Rifles who chose not to transfer to the British Army.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Impressed by the fighting qualities displayed by the Gorkhas during the Gurkha War, Sir David Ochterlony was quick to realise the potential of the Gorkhas in the British Indian Army. Until then, Gorkha defectors were generally used as irregular forces. On 24 April 1815, the first battalion of the Gorkha Regiment, was raised as the Nasiri regiment. This regiment later became the 1st King George's Own Gurkha Rifles, and saw action at the Maulun fort under Lieutenant Lawtie.

They were instrumental in the expansion of the British East India Company throughout the subcontinent. The Gorkhas took part in the Gurkha-Sikh War, the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, Afghan wars, and in suppressing the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Throughout these years, the British continued to recruit the Gorkhas and kept increasing the number of Gorkha regiments.

By the time First World War started, there were 10 Gorkha (spelt Gurkha at the time) regiments in the British Indian Army.[1]

The Gorkha regiments played a major role as part of the Commonwealth armies during both World Wars seeing action from Monte Cassino in the west to Rangoon in the east, and earning extensive battle honours. During the North African campaign, the German Afrikakorps accorded respect to the Nepalese knife khukri-wielding Gorkhas.

Post-independence of India[edit]

War memorial to slain Gorkha soldiers, Batasia Loop, Darjeeling.

Following India's independence, India, Nepal and Great Britain signed a Britain-India-Nepal Tripartite Agreement in 1947. Provision was made for six of the 10 Gorkha regiments in the British Indian Army to transfer to the new Indian Army:[2][3] This agreement did not apply to Gurkhas employed in the Nepalese Army. As of 2020, India has 39 Gorkha battalions serving in 7 Gorkha regiments.[3]

The four Gurkha regiments transferred to the British Army were posted to other, remaining, British colonies. In Malaya and Singapore, their presence was required in the Malayan Emergency, and they were to replace the Sikh unit in Singapore which reverted to the Indian Army on Indian independence. Those units in Malaya (Malaysia and Brunei) and Singapore, after these British colonies gained independence, are still part of Brunei and Singapore armed forces respectively.

The six regiments incorporated in the new army of Independent India were:

In 1949, the spelling of 'Gurkha' in the Indian Army was changed to the traditional 'Gorkha', while upon becoming a republic in 1950, all royal titles associated with the Indian Gorkha regiments were dropped.

Following the divisions of the Gorkha regiments, it was decided that transferring to the British Army would be a voluntary decision for the individual Gorkha soldiers affected. As a result, large numbers of men from the 7th Gurkha Rifles and the 10th Gurkha Rifles, which recruited predominantly from eastern Nepal, decided not to remain with their regiments when these became part of the British Army. In order to retain a contingent from this area of Nepal, the Indian Army made the decision to raise the 11 Gorkha Rifles. Although there was an ad hoc regiment with this number, raised during World War 1 with troops drawn from the various existing Gurkha units, the troops mostly retained the uniform and insignias of their respective regiments (with a few exceptions who wore 11 GR badges which was unofficial as no sanction was given for such). This regiment was disbanded in 1922 and has no relation to the present-day 11 Gurkha Rifles, though some do claim so.

Since independence, the Gorkhas have fought in every major campaign involving the Indian Army being awarded numerous battle and theatre honours. The regiments have won many gallantry awards like the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra. The 2/8 Gorkha rifles has given one of the most popular and notable Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw to this nation.

The 5th battalion of 5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force), 5/5 GR (FF), fought gallantly in the Hyderabad police action in 1948, during which Nk. Nar Bahadur Thapa of 5/5 GR (FF) earned the first Ashok Chakra Class I of independent India, on 15 September 1948. The 1st battalion, 1/5 GR (FF), captured the Sehjra bulge fighting against a whole Pakistani battalion during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The 4th battalion, 4/5 GR (FF), fought in the Battle of Sylhet, earning the distinction of being the first regiment of the Indian Army to be involved in a heliborne attack. Under the Indian Army, Gorkhas have served in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Siachen, and in the UN peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, Sudan and Sierra Leone.

Major Dhan Singh Thapa of the 1st battalion, 8 Gorkha Rifles, 1/8 GR, won the Param Vir Chakra for his heroic actions during the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. The 1st battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles, 1/11 GR, was involved in the Kargil War of 1999 where Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey won the Param Vir Chakra for his gallant actions. Lt Hari Singh Bist of the 3rd Battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles was awarded a Shaurya Chakra posthumously for his gallant close combat encounter with terrorists of JeM in Mendhar in Kashmir. Lt Bist and his patrol party had got information that a group of terrorists were hiding in a village hut. On receiving the intelligence, Lt Bist volunteered to conduct further surveillance. During the actual encounter, Lt Bist killed five of the militants but was shot five times during the encounter.

Structure[edit]

Current regimental strength[edit]

Soldiers of the 99th Mountain Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 5 Gorkha Rifles, during Yudh Abhyas 2013.

Currently, there are 39 battalions serving in 7 Gorkha regiments in the Indian Army. Six regiments were transferred from the British Indian Army, while one was formed after independence;

Regimental Centres[edit]

The Gorkha Rifles marching contingents passes through the Rajpath, on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day Parade, 2016.

The Regimental Centres of Gorkha Regiments are situated around the major cities in India. Basically there are 4 Gorkha Training Centres across major cities. They are:

Apart from this the Gorkhas are mainly recruited from GRD (Gorkha Recruiting Depot) Kunraghat, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

Affiliations[edit]

The Gorkha Rifle regiments have the following affiliations:

  • 15 Rashtriya Rifles battalion – 1 Gorkha Rifles & 4 Gorkha Rifles
  • 32 Rashtriya Rifles battalion – 3 Gorkha Rifles & 9 Gorkha Rifles
  • 33 Rashtriya Rifles battalion – 5 Gorkha Rifles & 8 Gorkha Rifles
  • 137 Composite Eco-Task Force Battalion (Territorial Army) 3 Gorkha Rifles & 9 Gorkha Rifles – Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
  • 107 Infantry Battalion Territorial Army (11 Gorkha Rifles) – Darjeeling, West Bengal

The individual Gorkha rifle regiments of India are collectively known for regimental purposes as the 'Gorkha Brigade' between themselves and are not to be confused with the Brigade of Gurkhas of the British Army.

Gorkha Hat[edit]

Illustration of Gorkha Hat, commonly used by as a banner by Gorkha Regiment.

The Gorkha hat is wide brimmed and comprises two layers of material. It is made of felt and is worn tilted.[4] It was originally adopted prior to World War I for wear with the khak drill service uniform of the time. The round "pill-box" cap worn with the traditional rifle-green dress uniform of Gorkha regiments was retained after 1947 for off-duty use.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

A platoon of the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles, led by Lt. Manoj Kumar Pandey, has been depicted in the Bollywood movie LOC: Kargil.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mollo, Boris. The India Army. p. 155. ISBN 0-7137-1074-8.
  2. ^ Gurkha regiment history in Singapore, singapore21.org.sg.
  3. ^ a b Gurkha recruitment legacy of past, says Nepal; calls 1947 tripartite agreement 'redundant', Times of India, 31 July 2020.
  4. ^ "The Gorkha Hat – The Gorkha Museum". thegurkhamuseum.co.uk. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  5. ^ Gaylor, John. Sons of John Company. The Indian & Pakistan Armies 1903-1991. pp. 328–329. ISBN 0-946771-98-7.

External links[edit]