Buddhist monks appointed in British-Gurkhas

By Ang Chhiring Sherpa, Kantipur Online, Aug 2, 2007

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- For the first time in the almost two hundred year old history of the British-Gurkhas, Buddhist monks will now also carry out religious rites for Gurkha soldiers and their family members. Earlier, only Hindu priests were appointed for religious purposes.

Followers of Buddhism within the elite army complained that they were unable to conduct and follow their religious rites in the absence of Buddhist monks. "The British government finally agreed to meet our demands," Chairman of Buddhist Community Center, UK Kaji Sherpa said over the phone. "We had demanded five Buddhist monks," he added.

However, the British government has only agreed to appoint 3 Buddhist monks. The center has asked for an additional two monks.

Taking the move as a positive one, albeit long overdue, British-Gurkha Army Association's member Pronjon Rai said, "This is the result of the pressure and struggle of the British-Gurkhas consisting of a majority of indigenous communities."

The tradition of appointing Hindu priests for traditional festivals and to conduct religious rites in the Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries within the British-Gurkha camps is a long and ancient one.

According to former British-Gurkha soldiers, the British government was reluctant to appoint Buddhist monks due to the fact that Nepal was a Hindu state earlier.

Around 70 percent of the British-Gurkhas are Buddhists.