Gurkha War and diaspora in Manipur
- Part 1 -

Deepak Aley *

Introduction :

Nepal is one of the world's least developed countries in South Asia. About 85% of the population live from subsistence agriculture in rural areas, coping with great disparities in caste, gender, and geography. Poverty, unemployment, declining natural resources, and more recently the Maoist insurgency are major reasons why international labor migration is an increasingly important source of income.

Due to its poor economic condition Nepal has been supplying labour to India since Nepalese were recruited as 'Gurkhas' in the British Indian army after the Anglo-Nepal war of 1814-15. Nepalis have been migrating to other countries as well, but India remains the main destination. The 1991 Census of Nepal recorded that absentee population from Nepal towards India constituted 89.2 per cent of the total migrants, though this phenomenon is changing in the recent years.

Migration to Gulf and Tiger States, United States of America or Europe started about 15 years ago. Most of the people from Nepal who have enough resources and are literate and skilled are migrating to Europe, America and Far East Asia. Others who are not that much skilled and have not enough resources are going to south East Asian countries, mainly to Malaysia, and Middle East.

But this phenomenon is still limited within the cities and towns among the population who are knowledgeable, somewhat educated and have good access to information. But the first choice for a large illiterate or lowly literate, unskilled and marginal population of rural Nepal, which consists of almost 80% of the whole population of Nepal, still remains migrating to India, its bigger and more developed neighbour.

More than four-fifths of above said 89.2 per cent absenteeism from Nepal remained in four States of India ie Uttar Pradesh, (undivided meaning including New State of Uttrakhand) Bihar, Assam and West Bengal.

History of Migration

The migration between India and Nepal has not been difficult. The compact geographical nature, socio-cultural continuity and the open border have made it always easy. It is believed that migration between India and Nepal started in the ancient times. At that time the flow was believed to be from India to Nepal. After the Mughal intervention in India, lots of the ruling class Hindus flew away to the hills of Nepal.

At the same period of time or may be before, it is believed that there may have been flow of Nepalese to India. But these evidences are still not accounted. The known evidence of migration started from the period after Gurkha established rule in Kumaon and Garhwal of current India in 1804. This was the time when first known flow of Nepalese to India started as they started moving to Kumaon, Garhwal and up to Sutlej.

At the same period of time, Gurkha moved beyond Sikkim towards the east and the flow started there simultaneously. During the expansion process in 1905, Gurkha had battle with Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, who was assisting King Sansar Chand of Kangra. Although Gurkha lost the battle, impressed by the bravery and fighting skills of the Gurkhas, the Maharaja of Punjab offered to recruit them in his Army.

That can be considered to be the first professional migration from Nepal to India. There is an evidence of one of the great Nepali army commanders, Balbhadra Kunwar, being recruited by the Maharaja of Punjab and fighting in an Afghan war for Maharaja of Punjab.

After 1814-15 war with the British India, the formal entrance of Nepalese to India is believed to have begun. 4656 Nepalese recruited in the British Gurkha Regiment is the first accounted evidence of Nepalese employed in India. At the same time large number of Nepalese migrated to India for better employment opportunity in tea-estates of Darjeeling and wood works of Assam. Later on increasing number of migrants started working as watchmen, porters and gate-men.

Historical background

For centuries Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon (now Bhaktapur), the three kingdoms of the Kathmandu valley, had quarreled among themselves, too consumed by internal rivalry to seriously take the danger posed from outside their borders. That insularity had, by 1769, enabled Prithvi Narayan Shah the king of Gurkha to conquer the valley, forming the foundations for the modern Kingdom of Nepal.

In 1742 Prithvi NârâyaG became king of Gurkha. An ambitious ruler, he was able to quickly enlarge his territory by conquering the quarrelsome and disunited principalities around Gurkha.

In 1767, the traditional valley kings, under threat from Gurkha expansion, had requested Great Britain's help. Captain Kinloch responded quickly, failing to make adequate preparations for the campaign. He led 2,500 soldiers against a superior Gurkha army, suffering heavy casualties from combat, malaria, and desertions. Britain's defeat gave the Gurkhas a windfall of captured firearms as well as a misplaced confidence in their war waging abilities against the British.

The conquest of the Kathmandu valley marked the beginning of the rise of Gurkha power throughout the region. They conquered all of eastern Nepal by 1773. By 1788, Gurkha forces had also annexed western portions of Sikkim. In the west, all rulers as far as the Kali River had submitted or been replaced by 1790. Farther west still, the Kumaon region and its capital Almora, had also succumbed to the Gurkhas.

The British had also expanded their sphere of influence. The British East India Company's acquisition of the Nawab of Awadh's lands brought the region of Gorakhpur into reach of the Raja of Palpa, the last remaining independent town within the Gurkha heartlands. Suspicion of the Raja's collusion with the British led first to his imprisonment by the Gurkhas, then to his assassination. Bhimsen Thapa, the Nepalese Prime Minister (1806–1837), installed his own father as Governor of Palpa leading to serious border disputes between the two powers.

Those disputes arose because of a lack of a fixed boundary separating the Gurkhas and the British. A Border Commission imposed on Nepal by the Governor General failed to solve the problem. Gurkha raids into the flatlands of the Tarai, a much prized strip of fertile ground separating the Nepalese hill country from India, increased tensions.

The British felt their power in the region and their tenuous lines of communication between Calcutta and the northwest under threat. Since neither side had any idea of the real border, confrontation between the powers proved inevitable.

Anglo-Gurkha War 1814-1816

1814: In the 19th century, the Gurkha raids into their southern neighbor's territory were relentless. A small EIC force sent to better garrison the area was wiped out in April. Hastings sent four separate armies into Nepal, but three of these columns were repeatedly defeated in several hard-fought encounters.

The Gurkha army only numbered between five and eight thousand men during the war, but crucially, they were fighting on familiar home territory. The terrain made it difficult for EIC armies to transport their artillery and give the general logistical support armies in the field needed. The Gurkhas were fierce fighters above everything else.

o The kukri knife, which had a long, curved blade that resembled a machete and was used by the Gurkhas to infamously mutilate enemy bodies, was their most well-known weapon. o It was useful for slashing and cutting through dense vegetation. o The Nepalese had matchlock weapons as well. o Guerrilla tactics were used by the Gurkhas to best take advantage of the challenging terrain of the mountains and forests.

To be continued....

* Deepak Aley wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 06 2023 .

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Relief Materials @Sawombung : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023 :: News Timeline
  • December Calendar for Year 2023 : Tools
  • Manipur champions 29th Natl Thang-Ta
  • Rollback of Kangpokpi District
  • India's G20 Presidency & multilateralism
  • 8th eNorth East Award 2023
  • Politics over dead bodies
  • The darker side of Kuki CSOs
  • Sagol Kangjei Esei #1 : Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2023 #5: Gallery
  • Petition to Rectify UN PR surpasses 100000
  • Workshop : Integration of Social Change
  • Homemade face packs with honey
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Where have the guns come from ?
  • Securing future for the next 1000 years
  • Oinam Chaoba Devi: Sepak Takraw : Gallery
  • Mirik Memories
  • Program Explores Gender & Mental Health
  • Ensuring proper sanitation as careers
  • Purul Paoki (Paddy Plantation) #2 : Gallery
  • Young Adulthood: A Blank Canvas
  • Demand for Naga Flag, Constitution are hurdle
  • Meitei Alliance officially launched [Upd]
  • Indian fisheries : The sunrise sector
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #12: Download
  • 6th NE Fashion Week : Final Report
  • Misuse of medicines is making infections ...
  • A unique initiative by Coal & Lignite PSUs
  • Relief Materials @Moirang : Gallery
  • Plant disease management in organic farming
  • AMEA - 40th foundation day
  • HPV Vaccination Services launched
  • 40th Foundation Day AMEA : Gallery
  • 43rd Foundation - Manipur Women's college
  • Is Myanmar on the brink of 'breaking apart'
  • Guideline for preparation of UPSC exams
  • Art Exhibition: RKCS Art Museum #3 : Gallery
  • Growing call to find all TB to stop TB
  • Ethnic strife in Manipur :: Poem
  • Meitei 'Tribal', almost ST now
  • Honouring tribal tradition and pride
  • Questions on sticking to SoO
  • Pinning hopes on justice delivery system
  • Naga-Kuki Clash 1992-94
  • Volcanoes of India
  • Climate in 2023, a tipping point for crisis
  • Day 3: 6th NE Fashion Week
  • Photography & Creative Writing Contest
  • Time to go after the big fishes
  • Political insensitivity to suffering of citizens
  • Interview : Ayekpam Maipak (Sepak Takraw)
  • Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival
  • Technologies in veterinary extension services
  • National Integration & Social Harmony
  • Paradox of ignorance & quest for knowledge
  • More than sighting a flying object
  • Seeking central help to end conflict
  • Relief Materials @Phubala : Gallery
  • Adolescence Crisis
  • European Higher Education Virtual Fair
  • Day 2: 6th NE India Fashion Week
  • Will govts firewall health from Big Tobacco
  • Missed call campaign from MTU
  • Questioning the legitimacy of Kuki history
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #11: Download
  • For Whom the Bell Toll ?
  • Cancer Awareness at Imphal East
  • Winter Relief for IDPs at Moirang
  • Licypriya to miss UN Climate in Dubai
  • Careers related to controlling diabetes
  • Relief Materials @Sawombung : Gallery
  • Those responsible for 'removal' of RN Ravi...
  • Relief Distribution at Sawombung
  • JAC against Brutal Killing of Birchandra
  • National Lok Adalat at Lamphelpat
  • India's UPI: Global front-runner in digital
  • The ill-logic of ITLF's self-rule declaration
  • Frustrated call for 'self rule'
  • Sonia Khundrakpam: Yuva Puraskar Award
  • Moirangthem Nilamani: Lifetime Achievement
  • The Power of Poppy - 9 :: Poem
  • Maipak Inka: 1st Inpui Christian Convert
  • Cancer Awareness & Screening at Thoubal
  • World Diabetes Day 2023
  • The self-rule ultimatum of ITLF
  • Debate over ST for Meiteis demand
  • Designate Moreh as a Special Admin Zone
  • Relief Distribution at Keibi Heikakmapal
  • Black Rice & Glycemic Index
  • Innovative nanofertilizer for green agriculture
  • Art Exhibition: RKCS Art Museum #2 : Gallery
  • Surviving Pre-adolescence
  • Ride Against Narco Conspiracy
  • 15th Manipur State Film Award 2023 Results
  • In the stillness of night :: Poem
  • Skincare essentials for travellers
  • Dark Diwali & Fasting Chakkouba
  • Killing two birds with one stone ?
  • Morning : Mera Houchongba #1 : Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba Funds to Support IDPs
  • A book & a story for the kids
  • World Diabetes Day - 2023
  • Burning hay is suicidal for farmers
  • NCC Car Rally - Nagaland Leg
  • Tasks before the Government
  • The sound of silence - missing teens
  • Tangkhul legends & Tenimiyas
  • Catch them Young! Early Childhood
  • Merciless November :: Poem
  • Free Eye Camp on diabetic retinopathy
  • Ningol Chakkouba or Chakkoudaba
  • Internal displacement, not separation
  • An indication to road ahead
  • Manipuri Student in Bangladesh : Gallery
  • Meeting with SABF, NID & CCU Taiwan
  • Livelihoods Development Program for IDPs
  • NSUD Diamond Jubilee Celebration at Delhi
  • Sleep :: T Lingcholi Sangtam
  • Disaster Management as Career
  • Mass rally demanding NRC #2 : Gallery
  • Licypriya appears in CBSE textbook
  • Mapam Lamdam Chatnatha :: Poem
  • Absurd rebuttal of Shimray
  • Rebuttal to article "Meitei's exclusion"
  • Writing India's growth with logistics efficiency
  • A place of pride on the medals tally
  • Time for India to rethink on its balancing act
  • Promoting Chakhao : Manipur's Black Rice
  • Truly powerhouse of sports : Manipur
  • Scholarship for Nursing & Paramedical
  • Legal Services Day & Commendation
  • Cancer Awareness at MU
  • Digital Library for the benefit of students
  • Drop the two Ministers
  • The bane of prolonging internet shutdown
  • Interview with Shanglakpam Nilakanta
  • Successful fruiting of Thailand Yongchak
  • 5 selected to attend 54th Intl Film Fest
  • Know your pest : Spiralling Whitefly
  • Flagging off ceremony of Mobile Van
  • World food India 2023 & beyond
  • Disturbing writings on the wall
  • At odds with the SoO pact
  • Guard of honour: Anand Kumar #2 : Gallery
  • Relief Services @Serou : Gallery
  • 6th North East India Fashion Week
  • Know more about canine parvovirus
  • Preventing Exploitation of Environment in War
  • Missing : The thread that connects
  • The right way to deal with miscreants
  • Hope Fest, for people displaced #2 : Gallery
  • The Power of Poppy - 8 :: Poem
  • Tokhu Emong: Post Harvest Fest of Lotha
  • Mizoram: AAP leaders from Nagaland ..
  • Theatre Workshop & Book Review
  • Hand-over Moreh to Army
  • Manipur needs to come to her senses
  • Capitalising on Manipur crisis
  • Mass rally demanding NRC #1 : Gallery
  • The Sentinelese, World's Lonely Tribe
  • Mental Health and our Environment
  • Condemns Committee's Highhandedness
  • Beauty tips for the perfect Diwali look
  • Lying for a lost cause
  • Is internet ban the answer ?
  • The descent of Radha-Krishna #10: Download
  • The last gaze- makes millions weep :: Poem
  • Which is responsible- greed or grievance
  • Felicitation of Awangbow Newmai
  • Let's safeguard our heritage through AV
  • Garo Language in Eighth Schedule
  • Mera Houchongba #2 : Gallery
  • Time's ceaseless voyage :: Poem
  • Vegetable/ fish IFS by using water tank
  • World Food India 2023
  • Leap for higher education in India
  • Defang the militants
  • Decoding objection to state force deployment
  • Guard of honour: Anand Kumar #1 : Gallery
  • Meira Paibis- between violence & narratives
  • Winter Relief Services : Gallery
  • Meetei ST Status: An artificial Controversy
  • The Human Mind Unravelled :: Review
  • Detecting illegal immigrants
  • Who is responsible for death of Moreh SDPO
  • Ayekpam Maipak (Sepak Takraw) : Gallery
  • Condemn cowardly killing of Moreh SDPO
  • SC Jamir recalls encounter with BK Nehru
  • Veganism- big way to save environmental
  • The essence of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas
  • Time to act with an iron fist
  • Dragging on for nearly 180 days
  • Water as cultural symbol of Meiteis
  • Condemn the brutal act at Moreh
  • The Power of Poppy - 7 :: Poem
  • Tuesday holiday not Friday !
  • Relief at Temporary Shelter Home
  • Ningthamtha changlakpagi relief camp
  • The politics of conflict : Why is AR here ?
  • Role of fringe elements in prolonging crisis
  • Chaga Ngee: Age-Old festival of Liangmai
  • Kolkata, the Roshogolla City
  • Breast Cancer Awareness at Khwairamband
  • Career for women in police
  • What to do when your dog is poisoned
  • Ensuring rule of law matters more than ever
  • Mind your common sense: Carcass in Loktak
  • Bor khoiramba @Hiyangthang #2 : Gallery
  • When will we start caring for our caregivers?
  • For those who stood :: Poem
  • Meetei exclusion from ST- queer controversy
  • Visit to relief camps : Gallery
  • Signature campaign: Rectify UN press release
  • Winter Relief @ Kakching : Gallery
  • Tarpon chaklen @Andro #1 : Gallery
  • 4th Rongmei Freshers' Meet (Delhi)
  • Shanglakpam Nilakanta (Hockey) : Gallery
  • Rally against Narco-Terrorism #4 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #3 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #3 : Gallery
  • Help for injured students : Gallery
  • Collective fund for injured students
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #2 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 26] #2 : Gallery
  • Students Murder Protest [Sep 27] #1 : Gallery
  • Protesters & AR @Pallel #2: Gallery
  • Rebuttal: EGI Fact-finding Mission Report
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD
  • Model of Spelling-bee Competition
  • HSLC 2023 :: Top 25 Rank Holders
  • HSLC 2023 :: Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2023 :: Full Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Compartmental Result
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2023 :: Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Science
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Arts
  • HSE 2023 Toppers :: Commerce
  • From May 3, 1993 to the present
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline