Who are the Gurkhas named after?

There a single common great man connecting the following – the Uttar Pradesh district that hosts the famous Gita Press’s headquarters; the only mountain in Sindh, Pakistan that receives snowfall every winter; the people of the Gurkha clan in Nepal and he also appears in the tragic Punjabi love story of Heer and Ranjha. Any guesses? – He is the famous Guru Gorakhnath (Gorakshanath in Sanskrit).

Guru Gorakhnath

Guru Gorakhnath

Gorakhnath was a great guru in the Nath Sampradaya. He was the disciple of another well-known guru – Matsyendranath (Macchindranath). Matsyendranath and Gorakhnath were disciplined yogis and excellent Shivite tantrics. They were believed to have travelled extensively across north India from Sindh to Nepal. Infact, Macchindranath is the patron deity of Nepal.

Gorakhnath was a keen and fast student, but following the end of his tutelage, his guru began to notice a tinge of arrogance in his disciple, which was causing Gorakh to believe that he was infact greater than his teacher. Matsyendranath decided to teach Gorakh a lesson on humility.

As Gorakh was walking through the forest to go to his hermitage, after giving a lecture to people in a village, he saw that there were lights and songs heard from a small hut. As he walked closer, he was shocked to see that his guru Matsyendranath was dancing, surrounded by a group of dancing women. To Gorakh, this was a disgusting sight. Led by his arrogance, he began to wonder how his guru could fall so down in morality to be dancing with women! Now he was determined to save his guru, and tried to get past the dancing women to get to his guru. But, the dancing women were trying to distract Gorakh and hence preventing him from approaching Matsyendranath. Gorakh tried to scream past the loud singing, but his guru appeared to be thoroughly enjoying himself and couldn’t hear Gorakh’s screams.

Gorakh had a brilliant idea! He transformed himself into a dancing woman and danced with the ladies and tried to go closer to Matsyendranath. Once he was able to get past the other ladies and stood in front of his guru, he immediately grabbed him and flew into the air. (Remember he was a tantric, and hence had exceptional powers). Halfway up the air, he revealed his true form to his guru and explained the evils of getting distracted from the spiritual world. The guru accepted his mistake and apologized profusely. Now, with an even more pumped up ego, Gorakh announced that he was going to take the guru back to the hermitage, so that he can continue preaching to the world.

When Gorakh brought Matsyendranath to the hermitage, he saw that there was another Matsyendranath sitting there and majestically preaching to a crowd of more than ten thousand people. Gorakh was confused. He just rescued Matsyendranath from the dancing women and brought him back with himself to the hermitage, but he is already sitting there and preaching! Now he looked beside him, and the Matsyendranath he rescued had disappeared. He asked many people who were listening to the lecture about how long his guru had been at the ashram teaching. They were surprised that Gorakh did not know that this preaching session had been going on for more than ten days. The people had been flocking here to listen to Matsyendranath from all neighboring villages.

Gorakh realized that he had been wrongly led by arrogance in believing that he was actually greater than his guru. He realized that he had been caught by the play of maya in believing that he had actually saved his guru from the clutches of those women. He at once saw that his guru had parallely manifested himself not only as the other dancing Matsyendranath, but also as the dancing women. All of them were infact Matsyendranath himself. Gorakh was immediately humbled and served his guru all his life, while also preaching the message of the Nath Sampradaya far and wide across India.

The district of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh is named after Gorakhnath. The hill station in Sindh, Gorakh Hill is the only place in the region that receives snowfall in winter. Gorakhnath travelled to Nepal also, and his followers are now the current-day Gurkhas. Moreover, since we believe that Gorakhnath and his guru are eternal and live forever, they appear in many stories and incidents across history, just like Gorakhnath appeared in the Heer-Ranjha story, in Punjab.

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