11 Gorkha Rifles : Bravest Of The Brave

published on 25 May 2023

In this second post of a four post series on the Indian Army we explore why one of the Army's regiment '11 Gurkha Rifles' are known to be the bravest of the brave.

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“If a man says he’s not afraid of dying, he’s either lying or is a Gorkha” - Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

Battle Honor Received By 11 Gorkha Rifles in Kargil War
Battle Honor Received By 11 Gorkha Rifles in Kargil War

March 1999. 70 personnel from the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles have just returned from Siachen Glaciers to Pune after one and a half years of service.

Commanding Officer Colonel Ajay Tomar gets a call to wrap up and move to Kargil. They are the first units to move into the the Batalik sector of the Kargil war.

Traveling in Jhelum Express with arms, ammunitions and other essentials it was impossible to accommodate each soldier. Colonel says “We were in our uniforms and passengers saw us standing. That’s when almost all of the people got up and handed us their reserved seats. It was a great moment to remember. Passengers did not know the exact situation, Kargil conflict had just begun.”

The unit was assigned responsibility of the Jubar, Kukarthaam and Khalubar areas and their battalion headquarters was in Yeldor.

When we were fighting there, we witnessed the intensity of the firing and that’s when we all realised that this was much bigger than just an intrusion. We knew the Pakistan army was involved and our rifles (SLRs) were not helping us in the situation.” said Col Tomar.

Col Rai, who commanded the unit during the capture of Khalubar was awarded the Vir Chakra said he began getting reports that the SLR rifles (7.62mm) were getting jammed at high altitudes and therefore, new Insas rifles (5.56mm) were sent to the soldiers. However, the soldiers had not been trained to use these new rifles.

Once the decision was taken, the soldiers were called in small batches of four-five and were shown how to use the weapons “behind the boulders, hillocks while the firing was going on.”

This decision, according to Col Rai, turned the tables.

The heroics of their men, like Captain Manoj Pandey, still invoke a feeling of patriotism in every Indian and the brut courage of the kirantis (troops of the 11 Gorkha rifles) got the unit the title ‘Bravest of the Brave’. This was in addition to various citation, battle and theatre honours.

The last words of Capt Pandey, “Inle chhodnu na” (Do not leave them, in Nepali), echo through this saga of high altitude warfare, where troops climbed 80-degree vertical ridges and scaled their way on razor-sharp cliffs. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra.

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The nickname ‘Kiranti Veer’ comes from the word ‘Kirati’ used to define people of Eastern Himalayas extending eastward from Nepal to North East India and ‘Veer’ meaning brave. The nickname means ‘Kirantis - bravest of the brave’.

War Cry

Jai Ma Kaali, Ayo Gorkhali’ which mean ‘Hail Goddess Mahakali, The Gorkhas Are Here

Regiment Insignia

Regiment Insignia Of 11 Gurkha Rifles
Regiment Insignia Of 11 Gurkha Rifles

Pair of Khukris with the Roman number XI in between.

The khukri is a heavy crescent shaped multipurpose knife used both as a tool and a weapon. These knives are about 30-35 cms long and can put fear in the enemies eyes.

“Fear not the big man with small blade but be petrified of the small man with the big blade”.

Customs & Traditions

The Gorkha were tribal warriors that transformed themselves into professional soldiers.

The common greeting in the regiment is to say “Jai Gorakh”.

When in uniform a soldier is not allowed to wear sunglasses, hold an umbrella or a cap. In addition, one is not allowed to smoke while walking in uniform or when driving a vehicle. One’s hands should not be in their pocket especially when speaking to a senior officer or a lady.

When a junior addresses their senior, they add the word “Guruji” along with their army number.


The regiment has produced not one but two Generals that have gone to become the Chief Of Defence Staff (CODS). This is the highest ranking for a military office, leader of the armed forces.

General Bipin Rawat: Served as the first CODS of the Indian Armed Forces from January 2020 till his tragic death in a helicopter crash in December 2021.

General Anil Chauhan: Took over after General Rawat passed away and is the current CODS.

‘Jai Ma Kaali, Ayo Gorkhali’

Read part one where we explore the Indian Army's Love Affair With The Majestic Mountains.

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