The Gorkha.com is an idea that was born from a people’s movement in Dehradun. It was this very movement that brought together a group of like- minded people to search for ways to bring the fractured Gorkha community together in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.
History has it that the Gorkha army first came from Nepal on the behest of a Garhwali nobleman, Harsh Dev Joshi, with designs on the throne of Kumaon. In 1790, the Gorkhas crossed Kali river and overran Kumaon. In 1803 Garhwal fell as the Gorkha army continued its march right up to Punjab Hills (now Himachal Pradesh) right up to river Sutlej. In 1814 the British and the Gorkhas clashed in a historic battle in Khalanga, Dehradun. The British unable to beat the Gorkhas, cut off the water supply to flush them out. The British went on to defeat the Gorkhas in Malaun before they signed the Treaty of Sagauli that made the Gorkhas give back the 105,000 kms they had won from Teesta (Sikkim) to Sutlej, to the British who began recruiting them in the army since 1815. The British never forgot their encounter with the Gorkhas and a mark of respect made the only kind of war memorial anywhere in the world dedicated to their valiant foe the Gorkhas, in Dehradun.
Despite their proud history the Gorkhas after independence found that they were seen as imports of the Raj and were constantly questioned about their identity. Most continued to follow in the footsteps of their fathers as soldiers, the popular perception being that a Gorkha speaking Nepali meant being a citizen of Nepal. With no voice, no leadership, no education to rise up and fight for their place, the Gorkhas felt that the best way to survive and gain acceptance was to emulate the more dominant Indian culture. Assimilation came at a huge cost. Gradually the Gorkhas began to lose their history, their folk lore, language, songs, food and culture. As Uttarakhand gained statehood, the Gorkhas who had fought alongside found themselves further marginalized, with no access in governance save for the one avenue as soldiers where no one could replace their valour and ability to die for their salt.
It was this fractured community that we wanted to bring together, for which the idea was to do an event that would not only bring about unity but a great resurgence of pride for being a Gorkha. Very like the seeds the wind carries from one homeland to another to have it blossom and hold forth, the group felt that the Gorkhas of Uttarakhand too needed to come together to reclaim their place in the sun.
Born from this idea was to celebrate the 200 years of Gorkhas in India. It was only after the Tibetans lost their homeland that the world recognized their cause and knew of their religion, Buddhism, the group felt that the legend of the Gorkhas became known worldwide in different theatres of wars only after they were recruited in the army. While Gorkha regiments worldwide celebrated the 200 years of battle honours won across the different theatres of war, there was nothing the community had done to celebrate themselves.
With this in mind the group decided to hold a two day event that could be a Gorkha mela with cultural entertainment thrown in. The group called themselves the Gorkha Dwi Shatabdi Mahotsav Samiti led by two retired Lt Generals – Lt General Shakti Gurung, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM and Lt General Ram Singh Pradhan, AVSM, SM, VSM. The President was an army veteran Brig PS Gurung YSM, who had been doing tremendous social work since his retirement. As all ideas once pinned on the drawing board expands and grows so did the idea of holding the Mahotsav.
It was decided to hold a cultural parade aimed to dissipating any myths about Gorkhas and educating the general public who know the community as mere soldiers and guards. That was when public participation was sought using the 44 Shakhas (units) of a 77 year old — the oldest Gorkha organization, the Gorkhali Sudhar Sabha, that was created by forward thinking Gorkhas and aimed to uplift and promote the community. The aim was to showcase our culture, dances and history through tableaus. To this was added yet another dimension aimed to bringing the youth and propagate our proud history of Khalanga to the next generation. This was planned as a Khalanga Run that was guided by marathon runner Roshini Rai – herself a long distance and marathon runner who had won many laurels.
The four day event far exceeded our wildest imagination, the write ups and photos will speak for themselves – but I think the underlying triumph for the Dwi Shatabdi Mahotsav was the immense resurgence of pride that erupted in an unstoppable deluge of people that thronged the venue dressed in traditional Gorkha dresses, the Dhaka topi, daura sural and chobandi cholo, spilling the venue with their GORKHANESS. On the final day, we had over 10,000 people that braved the freezing cold, dancing to the tunes and whistling, and the film “GORKHANAMA” made specially to commemorate the two hundred years of the Gorkhas.
As organizers the benefits of the Mahostav still resound – we were very clear that the Mahostav would be completely apolitical. It was for the community, by the community and of the community. We were lucky to find a good media partner with Amar Ujaala, the biggest selling paper in UP and Uttarakhand, rooting in for us and carrying stories, interviews and edits on the Mahotsav. This helped in public anticipation like the banners and hoardings that changed Dehradun’s landscape. As the first time event people were curious of what the Gorkhas were up to. The political parties fought for attention inundating the Dwi Shatabdi Mahostav Samiti with requests for invitations and a chance to address the crowd. All such requests were turned down because the four days belonged only to the community. We did not have to hanker for media attention either – the unprecedented attention and crowd did it for us. But I think the real winners in this entire four day event, was the community itself. They celebrated who they were and vowed to come together in such endeavours again.
It is with this in mind that what we have gained should not go to waste and hence the idea of setting up a one stop platform with thegorkhas.com. Our endeavour is not just share what we have done but to create a bank of GORKHANESS – which means history, culture, music, film, write up, collection of old forgotten sayings, recipes, folklores, folktales and the continued work with the rest of the world. In turn we invite everyone to be a part of the continued celebration of Gorkhaness, may nothing be left unturned to allow us a patch of our own sunshine.
In the wake of the Mahotsav, a long standing demand of the Gorkhas has been fructified with the formation of a government appointed Gorkha Kalyan Parishad. It could be termed as good timing or an understanding by a far sighted government that such a demand would have to be made viable soon with such coming together of the Gorkha community. It was a long standing request of the Gorkhas of Uttarakhand to have a government appointed body so that their ideas and problems could find a quick solution. The President of the Gorkha Kalyan Parishad is Lt General Shakti Gurung, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM. Perhaps the road to sunlight is already taking shape.
Through ‘The Gorkha’ social community, our endeavor is to reach out to Gorkhas living across the globe and serve as an active platform to showcase and promote culture, history, and identity of Gorkha community in India and at global stage.