New flag for Ghurkas blessed at Ripon Cathedral

The Ghurka flag blessing in Ripon Cathedral. (S)
The Ghurka flag blessing in Ripon Cathedral. (S)

The first flag of its kind for the Nepalese community has been blessed at Ripon Cathedral.

Members of the Leeds Nepalese Community Association, friends, family and dignitaries packed the cathedral on Sunday night for the official multi-faith ceremony.

The event was organised by Howard Whiting – chairman of the Ripon branch of the Royal British Legion, who originally came up with the idea of a flag for ex-Ghurkas – and chairman of the Leeds Nepalese Community Association, Major (Ret’d) Laxmi Bhakta Bantawa.

Mr Whiting said the flag was a trailblazer for the community.

“This has never been done before. There are no flags for ex-Ghurkas and I wanted to change that. They had nothing to represent them in public or at formal parades so we decided to create a flag.”

Along with representatives from the Ghurka Welfare Trust, a design was chosen and the cost of creating the flag was met by Pam Dyson from Cascade Garden Centre in Bishop Monkton.

But in order for the flag to be recognised by official associations which would allow the former Ghurkas to march under it at events such as Remembrance Day, it needed to be blessed.

Mr Whiting said they approached the cathedral and received a very positive response.

“They were very keen to hold the service and felt it was important it was a multi-cultural ceremony to embrace all faiths and nationalities.”

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, Rt Rev John Packer, conducted the blessing in English with Guru Chewant Gurung performing a Buddhist dedication and Pandit Attmaram Dahal a Hindu blessing.

Jeet Sahi, a member of the Leeds Nepalese Community Association who lives in Ripon, was chosen as the official flagbearer and he will perform the duty for the next 12 months.

“This flag means a lot to the Ghurka community,” he said.

“It is the first of its kind and gives us recognition in the community as until now only the Brigade of Ghurkas had a flag. We can now have the flag on public display and become a real part of the community.”

Mr Sahi’s wife, Peya, also took part in the blessing ceremony performing the first reading from the book of the prophet Micah. The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Coun Rev Alan Taylor, also gave a reading.

Mayors and Mayoresses from Ripon, Harrogate, York, Leeds, Boroughbridge and Easingwold were among the guests along with representatives from the North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire Lord Lieutenants’ offices and standards from the Royal British Legion branches of Wetherby and Ripon.

A surprise during the service was the reading of a letter from Prime Minister David Cameron by Flt Lt Chris Crebbin from 886 squadron of Ripon ATC.

Nepalese dancing and music later took place on the market square.