Gunga Din

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"Gunga Din" is an 1890 poem by Rudyard Kipling, set in British India. The poem is much-remembered by its final line: "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din"[1], often quoted in the UK in reaction to self-praise.


"Tho' I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

from "Gunga Din".

View the full poem on Wikisource.

The poem is a rhyming narrative from the point of view of an English soldier in India, about an Indian water-bearer (a bhishti) who saves the soldier's life but is soon shot and killed. In the final three lines, the soldier regrets the abuse he dealt to Din and admits that Din is the better man of the two. The poem was published as one of the set of martial poems called the Barrack-Room Ballads.

In contrast to Kipling's later poem "The White Man's Burden", "Gunga Din" (/ˌɡʌŋɡə ˈdin/) is named after the Indian, portraying him as a heroic character who is not afraid to face danger on the battlefield as he tends to wounded men. The English soldiers who order Din around and beat him for not bringing them water fast enough are presented as being callous and shallow, and ultimately inferior to him.

Although "Din" is frequently pronounced to rhyme with "pin", the rhymes within the poem make it clear that it should be pronounced /ˈdin/ to rhyme with "green".

T. S. Eliot included the poem in his 1941 collection A Choice of Kipling's Verse.


The poem inspired a 1939 adventure film of the same name from RKO Pictures starring Sam Jaffe in the title role, along with Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Joan Fontaine.

The movie was remade in 1961 as Sergeants 3, starring the Rat Pack. The locale was moved from British-colonial India to the old West. The Gunga Din character was played in this film by Sammy Davis Jr.. Many elements of the 1939 film were also incorporated into Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[2]

In 1958, Bobby Darin wrote and recorded the song "That's the Way Love Is" in which, referring to the unsolved riddle of love, he sings "And if ya come up with the answer, You're a better man, sir, than I … Gunga Din".[3]

An animated version featuring the vocal talents of Jim Backus was made in 1964, as part of The Famous Adventures of Mr Magoo. It is the third episode of the series.

The English singer Peter Bellamy included a setting of the poem on his record of Barrack Room Ballads.

In 2015, The Libertines, an English rock band, composed "Gunga Din" where they sing "Dreamt of Gunga Din" and "You're a better man than I" which make a direct reference to the poem. [4]

See also[edit]

  • No Heaven for Gunga Din, with a similar theme about the treatment of native servants by colonial military officers.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jaap van Ginnekan, Screening Difference: How Hollywood's Blockbuster Films Imagine Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, p. 143. ISBN 978-0-7425-5584-6 "Spielberg conceded that Gunga Din was one of the major sources of inspiration for the second Indiana Jones movie, and it does indeed contain many of the same elements."
  3. ^ Bobby Darin "That's The Way Love Is"
  4. ^ The Libertines "Gunga Din"


  • George Robinson: "Gunga Din" (article on the 1939 Hollywood film). Soldiers of the Queen (journal of the Victorian Military Society). September 1994.

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