The confident brushstrokes belie the fact that this objet d’art was crafted by someone with always a finger on the trigger, ready to do or die for the country. Rifleman Padam Bahadur Thapa (21) from the 4th battalion of 3 Gorkha Rifles — who was killed in battle during the 1999 Kargil war — was the creator of this silhouette of a Gorkha soldier resplendent in his trademark Gorkha hat. On the occasion of the country’s 66th Independence Day, the Gorkha regiments adopted Thapa’s masterpiece as their emblem.
Speaking to MiD DAY from Dehradun, a senior officer from Gorkha Brigade said, “Rifleman Padam Bahadur Thapa was with the intelligence section of his battalion.
He painted a crest that depicted the fresco of a gallant Gorkha jawan on a large rock at the edge of the parade ground at Almora district, Uttarakhand. The slanted Gorkha hat silhouetted with the face of a Gorkha soldier epitomises the clean, upright and calm demeanour of a fighter, known for his ferocity. This symbol has been chosen by the entire Gorkha Brigade of the Indian Army as its Emblem.”
During the Gorkha Brigade conference in New Delhi in November 2011, around thirty senior officers from Gorkha regiments across the country had met. Here the idea was mooted by Lieutenant General Nandkishore Singh attached to the 3 Gorkha Rifles to honour the painting made by Thapa as the official insignia of the Gorkha Brigade.
The idea was well appreciated and immediately the preceding officer at the conference Lieutenant General S K Singh of 8 Gorkha Rifles gave his consent and all the officers acknowledged the same.
Quick on the draw
A former company commanding officer of Thapa said he spotted the fresco in the latter’s notebook. He was very impressed and asked Thapa to draw the same for the official greeting cards. Subsequently, in 1998, when the battalion moved to Almora, Thapa was once again asked to replicate the fresco on the rock face in front of the battalion parade ground.
The officer recalled that when his battalion was moved to fight the Kargil war, Thapa would gather intelligence in the middle of the night and get the exact strategic locations of the enemy.
He would return to base and draw maps and positions for superiors, and accordingly the future line of attack would be decided. He was with the battalion for 21 days during the war. Unfortunately, when the battalion was moving towards the north line at Batalik, four soldiers including Thapa were hit by enemy shelling and they died on the battleground.
“The creator of the symbol attained martyrdom during the 1999 war at Batalik, one of the highest and roughest battlefields of the world. The symbol is now a permanent feature on the beloved cover of the Gorkha Brigade Journal,” the officer added.