Why do Gurkhas choose to join the military?

Potential recruits participating in a gruelling doko race. Source: The Times


If you take a stroll around the eastern city of Dharan or the western city of Pokhara, the sight of young men, training relentlessly with dokos strapped across their heads, or up hills is unmissable. The heavy sense of wanting to join the foreign army is palpable among these Nepali cities and towns. Centuries may have passed, yet the culture of pursuing a military career is unchanged and unwavering. This is proven by an increase in numbers recruited by the British army in recent years with the 2019 intake increasing to a figure of approx. 400 soldiers.

Although most Nepali men’s desire to join the foreign army’s is undoubtedly influenced by the rich tradition and family legacy as well as financial incentive to support the family back home. However, many of them are attracted by the prospect of being a soldier; and a good one at that. What the military offers is a sense of pride, respect and an opportunity to prove themselves on the battlefield. Such an adventure that no other job in Nepal can offer them.

They are given an opportunity to earn a name for regiments that have seen their forefathers fulfil glorious and medal earning careers. Young boys in Nepal would give anything to emulate this. They have grown up hearing brave stories of Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung VC (Victoria Cross) who single-handedly held his trench, armed with only his rifle withheld grenade attacks and multiple waves of enemies, whilst being wounded. His citation reads “Of the 87 enemies dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman’s section”.

Such heroism is folklore in the hills, towns and cities of Nepal. It is strong enough to attract thousands into the recruiting depots, spread along the country every year, without fail.