Two Aspects of Hinduism Associated with Military Labour Migration : Hinduism in the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas before the Abolition of the Nepalese Monarchy <Research Note>
Military labour migration
This paper explores two aspects of Hinduism associated with the employment of Nepalese soldiers (Gurkhas) by the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas before the abolition of the Nepalese Monarchy. Hinduism was the only religion formally authorized in the brigade. The first aspect of Hinduism explored is its role in employment policy to maintain ties between the Gurkhas and Nepal―the world’s only Hindu kingdom at the time―and their allegiance to it, enabling Gurkha employment in a foreign military. The second aspect is the form of military Hinduism that was embedded in the workplace of military labour migrants; a sense of Nepalese identity was reinforced by Hindu beliefs and practices, which provided cohesion in multi-ethnic/caste Gurkha units. In army camps, Gurkhas worshiped military gods; Hindu beliefs and practices offered a way to maintain discipline and strengthen the military rank system among Gurkhas who were serving in a foreign army. Hindu symbols and practices were also appropriated by the Gurkhas to interpret their experiences in battle and the relationship between them and their British officers. However, influenced by the democratization of Nepal and the decline of the monarchy, this unitary religious policy was abandoned in 2005.
Field and literary research was conducted as part of the following Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences: “Historical Anthropology of Transnational Features of Militaries in Asia” (FY 2004-2006)(No. 20320134); “Study about Registered/unregistered Marriages between Colonizers and the Colonized” (FY 2007-2009) (No. 19510277); and “A study on social movement, ideas and life practices around Nepali immigrants’ plural citizenship in the UK” (FY2011-2013) (No. 23520998).
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