What’s in a name? Names are given to people, places, and products, yet few often ever know the stories behind them. Sometimes it’s as simple as one having liked a particular name or word and thus assigning it to someone or something that he or she held dear. Other times, the significance goes far beyond that. It often goes that the odder a name sounds, the more significant it’s back story. That certainly is the case with Ghurka.
Throughout recorded history, there are tales of brave warriors who proved their worth through diligent service and sacrifice in the face or insurmountable odds. Every country and culture has their own entries into this canon of bravery. In Nepal, there’s is the Brigade of Gurkhas, a renowned group of soldiers known for their bravery and discipline. Today, their legacy lives on in both the elite company of soldiers in the British military that carries their name, and the line of luxury leather accessories that has come to symbolize their spirit.
The Brigade of Ghurkas
The legend of these warriors begins with Bappa Rawal, an ancient ancestor of the Nepalese royal family. The story goes that as a boy, Raval was wandering the jungles of Rajasthan when he encountered a holy warrior deep in meditation. So impressed was he by the warriors discipline that Raval cared for him while he remained in his trance-like state. Once awake, the warrior showed his gratitude by giving Raval a Kukar knife. It was with that same knife that Raval, as a man, led his warriors in stopping the penetration of Islam into Nepal, helping Hindu to become the state religion. Ghurka soldiers became renowned for carrying such a knife in battle with them.
In the early 1800s, disputes over border territories led to a clash between the Nepalese kingdom and the forces of the British East India Company. What came to be known as the Ghorka War ended with the British ceding to the Nepalese. So impressed were the British officers by the bravery and courage displayed a particular group of enemy soldiers known as the Ghurkas that they encouraged this company to join their ranks. Thus began 200 years of loyalty to the British army.
The Ghurka Brand Today
The Gurkha name began its other venture to popular culture when a man by the name of Marley Hodgson discovered the gear of one of these renowned soldiers being sold at an antique auction in the early 1970s. Himself a lover of leatherworks, Hodgson was impressed by not only the quality of the gear, but the story of the dedication of these soldiers to the following ideals:
- A cheerful indifference to all difficulty
Hodgson eventually decided to make his own Gurkha-style bag. The creation of that bag would be the first step in the founding of a world-renowned line of leather bags and accessories, Ghurka. While updates and adaptations have seen the line evolve over time, the enduring quality of the bags captures that same spirit of the soldier’s story that inspired Hodgson 40 years ago.
For years, the name “Gurkha,” now changed to Ghurka for Hogdson’s line, has come to symbolize excellence in leather craftsmanship. That excellence is merely a continuation of the legacy that’s associated with that name. Just as leather maintains its quality throughout its use, the fighting spirit of those soldiers maintains its nobility through the ages.