Nepal rites to banish ghosts of fallen Gurkha soldiers

KATHMANDU Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:56am IST

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Wrapped in white and with their heads shaven, retired Ghurkha soldiers sat cross-legged on the stems of dried rice plants for three days of symbolic and traditional mourning, laying to rest the souls of fellow soldiers who fought and died for Britain.

Hailing from the foothills of the Himalayas, the Gurkhas are known for their fierce fighting skills and big curved khukuri knife. They have served in the British army since 1815 when a peace agreement was reached by the British East India Company after it suffered heavy casualties during an invasion of Nepal.

The Gurkha Army Ex-servicemen's Organisation (GAESO), a group which works for the retired soldiers, said about 60,000 soldiers from Nepal were killed in the two World Wars but that this had never been properly acknowledged.

"Britain did not recognise their contributions and sacrifice", said GAESO President Padam Bahadur Gurung.

The group organised mourning ceremonies where priests from the 17 ethnic groups to which the Gurkha soldiers belonged performed separate rituals at Syangja, 135 km (84 miles) west of Kathmandu.

"Their souls are still wandering around because their funerals were never held according to customs and traditions," GAESO said in a statement. "The souls should be freed by performing the customary rites."

The mourners sat for three days in separate tents and lit butter lamps and incense sticks as thousands of visitors paid tribute to the soldiers in rituals which concluded on Thursday.

Many in Hindu majority Nepal believe that their children and grandchildren cannot live in peace if the customary mourning rites are not performed for deceased ancestors and their souls are left to roam like ghosts.

The Gurkhas were part of the British Indian army before 1947 but were split between the two countries after India became independent from Britain.

Gurkhas have fought in recent years in the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan but their numbers, which topped 112,000 in World War II, have fallen to about 3,000 in the British armed forces at present.

(Additional reporting by Yubaraj Sharma in Syangja, editing by Elaine Lies)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Rate Cut

Rate Cut

Markets pricing in rate cut, despite wary RBI.  Full Article 

Global Trade Deal

Global Trade Deal

WTO postpones trade deal by a day after last-minute objection.  Full Article 

Tax Dispute

Tax Dispute

India advised against challenging Vodafone tax ruling - source.  Full Article 

Racial Riots

Racial Riots

National Guard, police curb Ferguson unrest as protests swell across U.S.  Full Article 

Land Acquisitions

Land Acquisitions

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities.  Full Article 

Scrubbing Results

Scrubbing Results

EU watchdogs to apply 'right to be forgotten' rule on Web worldwide.  Full Article 

Special Report

Special Report

Putin's allies channelled billions to Ukraine oligarch.  Full Article 

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

Flashback: 26/11 attacks

The three-day attack in November 2008 left 166 dead.  Slideshow 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage