Gunga Din

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"Gunga Din" (1892) is a poem by Rudyard Kipling.


"Tho' I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

from "Gunga Din"

The poem is a rhyming narrative from the point of view of an English soldier in India, about an Indian water-bearer (a "Bhishti") who saves the soldier's life but is soon shot and killed. In the final three lines, the soldier regrets the abuse he dealt to Din and admits that Din is the better man of the two for sacrificing his own life to save another. The poem was published as one of the set of martial poems called the Barrack-Room Ballads.

In contrast to Kipling's later poem "The White Man's Burden," "Gunga Din" is named after the Indian, and portrays him as the hero while the English soldiers are portrayed as callous and shallow, and ultimately inferior to Gunga Din.

Although "Din" is frequently pronounced to rhyme with "bin" /ˌɡʌŋɡə ˈdɪn/, the rhymes within the poem (as well as the pronunciation in the 1939 film) make it clear that it should be pronounced /ˈdin/ to rhyme with "green".


The poem inspired a 1939 adventure film of the same name from RKO Radio Pictures starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Fontaine, and Sam Jaffe in the title role. The movie was remade in 1961 as Sergeants 3, starring the Rat Pack. The locale was moved from British-colonial India to the old West. The Gunga Din character was played in this film by Sammy Davis, Jr.. Many elements of the 1939 film were also incorporated into Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[1]

A much shorter animated version of the poem and film was made as an episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, with the ultra-myopic Mister Magoo in the title role. He was voiced by Jim Backus.

In 1962, Sonny Gianotta recorded a novelty song "The Last Blast of the Blasted Bugler" based on Gunga Din.

In 1963, Flanders and Swann recorded "At the Drop of Another Hat", which in the song "Sounding Brass" includes the line, "The object is to Gunga-din your neighbor". This means to one up your neighbour in the context of the song.

In 1966, Jim Croce adapted the poem into a song for his album Facets.

In 1967, Bob Dylan mentions Gunga Din in his song You Aint' Goin' Nowhere.

In 1969, The Byrds recorded a song named "Gunga Din".

In 1996, the TV show Animaniacs parodied the poem in the episode "Gunga Dot"

In 1998, Ian Gillan recorded a song named "Gunga Din" on the album Dreamcatcher.


  1. ^ Jaap van Ginnekan, Screening Difference: How Hollywood's Blockbuster Films Imagine Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, p.143. ISBN 0-7425-5584-4, ISBN 9780742555846143 "Spielberg conceded that Gunga Din was one of the major sources of inspiration for the second Indiana Jones movie, and it does indeed contain many of the same elements."


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