Image of a Sadhu (Shiva devotee) holy man

Image of a Sadhu (Shiva devotee) holy man
©Gurkha Museum

Guru Gorakhnath (also known as Gorakshanath) was a legendary warrior-saint and yogi - a holyman and follower of the god Shiva who is said to have lived around the 8th Century CE (Common Era or 'AD'). Legend suggests that Prince Bappa Rawal, who went on to rule the Indian Mewar Dynasty, was a disciple of Guru Gorakhnath and that he was the first person to be given the title 'Gorkha' (from the Prakrit words 'go rakkha' meaning 'cow protector', an allusion to the fact that cows are sacred to Hindus) by Guru Gorakhnath.

People disagree about when and how long Guru Gorakhnath lived, but what is known is that descendents of Bappa Rawal later migrated north into Nepal and founded the kingdom of Gorkha, from where Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to conquer and unify Nepal with his Gorkhali army. The city of Gorakhpur in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh also takes its name from Guru Gorakhnath.

The Guru's Curse: a Prophecy of Doom?

According to Nepali folklore, Guru Gorakhnath appeared to Prithvi Narayan Shah in the form of a meditating sadhu (holy man) around the time of the Unification of Nepal in 1768. Prithvi Narayan Shah made an offering of 'dhuy' (yoghurt) to the sadhu, who ate ate it and spat some out, which he in turn offered to the the king as 'prasad' (blessed food or sacrament) for him to eat. The king, insulted and offended by the holyman's suggestion dropped the dhuy and, according to legend, it spilt on his bare feet.

Guru Gorakhnath, a patron 'saint' and guardian to the Shahs, was enraged and laid a curse on the proud king, saying that his dynasty would last 10 generations, one for each of his toes, after which it would be no more.

At the time of the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal in 2008, the Media were quick to seize on the story of Guru Gorakhnath's curse and to point out that the deposed king Gyanendra was indeed the 11th Shah king - if you discount Prince Dipendra, widely-acknowledged as the perpetrator of the 2001 Royal Massacre, who was named king while he lay dying in a coma for 3 days, and Gyanendra himself who was named king aged 3 in 1950 by the then Rana regime in a bid to oust his grandfather, King Tribhuhvan.

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