Gurkha War and diaspora in Manipur
- Part 3 -

Deepak Aley *

History Of Gurkha Diaspora In Manipur

In 1819, a large Burmese army under General Maha Bandula invaded Manipur. It was a time of growing Burmese power under Bagidaw. Marjit Singh was defeated and fled to Cachar, where he surrendered to the authority of Manipur. Chourajit Singh forgave his brother and distributed the confiscated lands; he ruled Sonaimukh, Marjit Singh ruled Hailakandi and Gambhir Singh ruled the rest of Cachar.

On 5th March, 1824, the first Anglo-Burmese war was declared and hostilities between Burma and British existed. David Scott had well knowledge of the three Manipuri princes and his proposal was approved by the Governor General that Gambhir Singh be chosen as the ally of the British to drive away the Burmese from Manipur.

With this view, a group of Manipuris known as 'Raja Gambhir Singh's Levy', which was then in Cachar, was accepted to join the British army at Badarpur (now in Assam) in April 1824 as war against Burma.

'Raja Gambhir Singh's Levy' left for Manipur on 17th May, 1825, with Lieutenant R.B. Pemberton. The party, after facing so many difficulties, reached Maklang (a village in the valley of Manipur) on June 10 and expelled the Burmese from Manipur. Therefore, the conquest of Manipur in the First Anglo-Burmese War.

The first batch of Ghurkhas as a group came to Manipur in 1824, during the time of Raja Gambhir Singh. During this period Ghurkhas of the 16th Sylhet Local Battalion, later to become the 8th Gurkha Rifles, were included in the Police Levy of Gambhir Singh. During the first quarter of the 19th Century, Manipur was much troubled by Burmese intruders and their military.

To secure his boundaries Gambhir Singh raised an army in 1825 and recruited Gurkhas from Sylhet and this militia was named the Victoria Paltan.( On it, Cheitharol kumbaba, also highlights that the Maharaja (Gambhir Singh) coming with two Ferunghees (British) entered the capital on Friday, the 23rd December, 1825, and arranged a grand feast for the 'Four Victoria Battalions.').

Having earned the trust of the British, Gurkha soldiers were detailed to protect all the Political Agents, the VIPs of those days. They were also brought in as cooks, milkmen, traders and agriculturists.

The number of Gurkha soldiers in Manipur increased when the East India Company moved the 23rd, 43rd and 44th battalions of the 8th Gurkha Rifles to Manipur around 1880. According to the records of the Chief Commissioner of Assam, 400 Gurkha soldiers from Golaghat and 200 from Silchar were also brought in. By 1891, more Gurkhas were relocated to Manipur from other places in Assam.

In the beginning of the 20th Century, Gurkhas were being recruited in the Assam Military Police, where 82 of them were posted at Tura in the Garo Hills Battalion, 730 were at Dibrugarh in the Lakhimpur Battalion, 331 at Kohima in the Naga Hills Battalion, 111 at Silchar in the Silchar Battalion and 105 at Dhaka in the Dhaka Battalion.

Resultantly, these areas still have large number of Gurkha community; however, their fate in Dhaka after the partition is not clear. In 1915, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles, stationed at Imphal was replaced by the Darang Military Police when the battalion was moved to Europe. This Darang Military Police stationed at Manipur was converted into the 4th Assam Rifles in 1917 that also had 80 percent Gurkha personnel.

Almost all the Gurkhas who came to Manipur on active service settled there permanently after retirement. The British government allotted lands to the personnel in Imphal and later in special colonies in Eroisemba, Chink, Tangri, Kalapahar, Torbung, Maram, Irang and Kanglatombi.

In 1894 Nepali literature's first poetical work, "Manipur Ko Sawai" by Tulachand Aley was published in Imphal. "Manipur Ko Sawai" is a Nepali patriotic song written by Tulachand Aley. The song's title can be roughly translated to "The Glory of Manipur" in English. It's a tribute to the beauty, culture, and heritage of the Manipur region. The song captures the sentiments of pride and admiration for the land and its people.


The Gurkhas, renowned for their valor and discipline as soldiers, have a notable history of upholding their commitment to never harm other communities. Originating from Nepal, the Gurkha regiments have a legacy of serving in various armed forces around the world, including the British Army and Indian Army. Despite their formidable reputation in combat, the Gurkhas are widely recognized for their principled approach to warfare.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Gurkhas is their adherence to a code of conduct that emphasizes respect for civilians and enemy combatants alike. This ethical stance stems from their cultural and philosophical beliefs, which emphasize compassion and integrity.

Throughout their history, there have been numerous instances where Gurkha soldiers have demonstrated restraint and compassion in the face of conflict, even when confronting adversaries from different communities.

Their commitment to never harming other communities is rooted in a sense of honor and a deep understanding of the human cost of war. Gurkha soldiers prioritize minimizing civilian casualties and treating prisoners of war with dignity, showcasing their unwavering dedication to upholding their values in even the most challenging circumstances.

In a world often characterized by conflict and division, the Gurkhas' approach to soldiering stands as a powerful example of how military service can coexist with compassion and respect for humanity. Their legacy serves as an inspiration to foster understanding and unity among diverse communities, reminding us of the potential to bridge differences and promote peace even in the midst of turmoil.

The Gurkhas' ability to harmonize their distinct heritage with the ethos of Manipur is a remarkable example of how diverse communities can coexist and enrich each other's lives. Their valor and dedication in both the military and civilian spheres are exemplary, embodying the spirit of cooperation, resilience, and commitment.

As Manipur continues to evolve, the Gurkha community's presence stands as a bridge between tradition and modernity, reminding us of the importance of honoring heritage while embracing progress.

In contemplating the Gurkha experience in Manipur, it becomes evident that their story resonates with universal themes of human migration, adaptation, and cultural fusion. Their history offers valuable insights into the potential for unity amid diversity and the power of individuals and communities to shape the course of their destinies.

As the Gurkhas and Manipur move forward together, their shared journey underscores the significance of mutual respect, understanding, and collaboration in nurturing a harmonious and inclusive society.

"The Gurkha keeps faith not only with his fellow men but with great spiritual concepts, and above all, with himself." John Masters, 'Bugles and a Tiger' (1956)

Concluded ....

* Deepak Aley wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 14 2023 .

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