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Indian Army’s Mahar regiment: Home to two army chiefs and a Param Vir Chakra

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The Mahar regiment has had a circuitous journey — from serving the British during the Anglo-Maratha wars to its distinguished service post-Independence.

At the centre of the Dalit-upper caste violence in Maharashtra is the celebration of the 200-year-old battle of Bhima-Koregaon, where Mahar Dalit troops serving the British defeated the troops of the Brahmin Peshwas. But even today, ‘Mahar’ is a key component of the Indian Army — since Independence, it is the name of a regiment that has produced two Army chiefs, won several battle honours, and has to its credit the nation’s highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra.

One of first few regiments to have soldiers from different areas like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Odisha, the modern Mahar regiment went through a series of highs and lows before Independence, before emerging as a 19 battalion-strong force that has seen action in all theatres and given a good account of itself.

With its war cry of ‘Bolo Hindustan Ki Jai’, the Mahar regiment has been active during Partition, in Ladakh during the 1962 war, in Punjab during the 1971 war, and received the Param Vir Chakra for the action of Major Ramaswamy Parameswaran during peacekeeping action in Sri Lanka in 1987.

The logo of the regiment is a pair of crossed Vickers medium machine guns – it was one of the first regiments of the Army to switch to machine guns – with a dagger. Before Independence, in place of the dagger was the pillar of Koregaon, which is at the centre of the recent violence that has gripped Maharashtra.

Under the British

Within the British Army, the Mahar regiment had a circuitous journey — first used during the Anglo-Maratha wars, later abandoned by being classified as a ‘non-martial’ class, only to be resurrected as Britain scouted for troops during World War II and sent to join the Burma campaign.

The regiment served the empire for over a hundred years, including the battle of Koregaon in 1818 when Mahar troops of the British Army prevailed over Peshwa troops. However, after the revolt of 1857, its fortunes declined.

In 1892, the Mahar regiment was disbanded, leading to protests and a movement to resurrect it at the earliest. A shortage of troops during World War I led to the enlisting of only one battalion of Mahar troops, which was merged with the Punjab regiment and did not see action during the war.

Dr B.R. Ambedkar, whose father had been a soldier in the British Indian Army, was a strong advocate of raising the Mahar regiment again, an effort that paid off only during World War II, when the British Empire once again stared at a lack of troops to cover all fronts.

The first battalion of the Mahar regiment was raised in Belgaum, with the Koregaon pillar featuring in its logo. The 1st and 3rd Mahar units served in the North-West Frontier Province during the war, and the 2nd Battalion was pushed into duty for the Burma campaign.

In 1946, after the unit switched to machine guns, the logo was changed to include two crossed Vickers machine guns over the Koregaon pillar.


“During the disturbed conditions in the aftermath of partition, the regiment helped in the safe transfer of lakhs of refugees, in the face of violent armed mobs,” the official history of the Mahar Regiment reads.

“In 1956, the regiment absorbed three battalions of the Border Scouts, which had been earlier raised for manning the disturbed Punjab border. The class composition of the regiment changed over the years, to accept men from all states and classes while retaining basic Mahar composition in some battalions.”

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  1. Basically one thing is to be made clear regarding Sepoys mutiny of 1857 which Bramhin Historians called

    First war of Independence. it was Bramhin milliatary officers of Bengal and UP demanded disbanding of Maharashtra regiment as they don’t want to salute dalits in response to their salute. Second was not to send Bramhin millitary officers abroad as they don’t eat non veg. These non Maharashtra officers mostly made Muslim to come their side by bringing in pig fat applied to hullets which Muslims dislike. Maharashtra were famous since Chatrapati Shivaji maharaj time for bravery and dedication. After 1857 war British disbanded Maharashtra regiment and phule, Ambedkar struggled to restore it.

  2. A favoured regiment under India’s long serving Jagjeevan Ram (Dalit Defence Minister) who waved a sword at Pakistan after 1965, the Mahars had a good patron. But with very few Mahars and certainly none as Chiefs of Staff Their checkered career has been wall papered over by post 1947 political historians that have spurred this silly episode at Koregaon. Hats off to the Mahar who cremated Sambhaji in defiance of Aurangzeb but their role at Koregaon is much exaggerated.

    The British forces that engaged in this battle were the Dogra Regiment (some 2,000 soldiers), a Detachment of British (EIC) Troops ( 200 or so) and a platoon (35 soldiers) of Mahar Machine Gunners (In 1818 this was probably an improved version of the unreliable Puckle that was produced for British Ordinance in 1722, as the Maxim was not yet invented)

    The Mahar Regiment was not disbanded in 1892 by the British because of the theory of “martial races” but because they were ungrateful, disloyal and disobedient. They were resurrected in 1941 because after WW 1 and into WW 2, the British were seeking any port in a storm.

    Like the Pathans and the Madrassis in the Bengal Presidency, the Mahars in the Bombay Presidency did not cease from massacring Brahmins (men, women and children) and plunder as reprisals for 1857 when ordered to do so by wiser British counsel, but carried on their orgy of their own free will and accord. (The Sikhs who were also Dallits i.e. Light Infantry) stood down from the massacre of Brahmins in the Bengal Presidency when ordered to do so). This was in no way acceptable to Commander in Chief, Bobs Bahadur, Lord Roberts who was deeply committed to the British learning the lessons of the Mutiny which included respect for Native religions and Cultures which continued until discontinued by the Civilian Aurhority that took over from the British in 1947 and was reversed by the Constitution of 1949 to respect, honour and elevate the Dalits and Alien religions with contempt for native religions and cultures.

    Daalit is a British made myth woven out of Phule’s noun intended to Divide to Rule by enshrining inequality under law, casteism and communalism in the Constitution so that India would remain suppressed, import goods and export wealth

    Daalits were never Shudras. Daalits were outlaws whereas Shudras formed the main congregation of temples and the land owning class. The “Daalit” myth is a British confection designed to destroy Native religions, culture and the the Temple Congregational Commonwealth Welfare System (effectively abolished by Nehru’s Congress in 1959 together with native religious freedoms and the freedom of the tribals to forage in their forests and of thoroughfare)

    It took fifty years after our Independence from British rule, before a Captain Chavan of the Dogra Regt, refused to drink a toast raised to the Koregaon day because his forefathers were a part of the Peshwa Army and had lost their lives in the battle. Realisation dawned on the Army authorities who then sloughed several such Battle Honours and celebrations including Plassey. But, casteism and communalism are enshrined in the Indian Constitution that was drafted by Sir Maurice Gwyer for Nehru and Ambedkar to embroider notions like “Four legs good, two legs bad”, and “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” borrowed from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and so condemn India to a perpetual civil war and rule by the Constitutionally Certified Congenitally Incompetent and otherwise also incompetent-corrupt to keep India suppressed, an importer of goods and exporter of wealth, and subservient to aliens and alien ideologies

    • You Brahmans have meticulous succeeded in false propaganda of BRITISH DIVIDE & RULE POLICY.

      In Fact the DIVDE & RULE POLICY was conceptualised by Brahman known as Maharishi MANU who divided Hindus into 4 varnas by Scripting ManuSmriti which is even practised today by exploiting ladies of All Castes and depriving the living rights of the Shudras.

      Please don’t blame Mughals & British for Divide & Rule Policy

      Actually Villains of India are Brahmans whereas British are the Real Heros of India because they introduce Social Justice by enforcing the equality and giving Education Rights under the Great Leadership of Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and enshrining the Constitutiion of India by Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar with abholishment of Untouchability.

      • He rightly said british adopted a policy of divide and rule. Blue coat first person to fall trap in this ditch. Reserved category ppl are greedy, nothing else.

    • Sir, I am from South India and a Reddy which comes under the Shudra varna. From childhood, I have personally seen dalits being subjected to untouchability by many of my elders but was quite since I was only a child. I asked questions occasionally and the data I have gathered and have reached a conclusion in my adulthood with all my education and experiences is that, even though Shudras were not considered Suvarna, they were still religious and the rituals of the Hindu religion which were governed by the Brahmin community.
      This Brahmin community, even before the advent of RSS or VHP, have consistently pushed the ideas of Manusmriti without rational criticism of the Hindu scriptures. They play around with the beliefs of the people who ask for advise in a day and age when even rich landholder Shudras were not literated and just trusted what was told to them by the educated Brahmin classes. Even when a literate would put forward a counterpoint from any source other than the Manusmriti, the questioner would never receive a rational answer but rather would be shouted down which is the tradition that the current ruling party and past ruling classes have always used.
      Please get out of your agraharam and see the world outside that has been created in the name of Manusmriti and is an insult to Hindu religion itself.
      I have also read history from different perspectives, both of India and the world. I completely understand why some people would refuse to worship a God in a religion run by priests, who do not even consider them as human [or even, worse than certain animals], based on a single book among so many Hindu scriptures. And a result, convert into another religion which considers them atleast human and treats them as such.

  3. We are all Hindustani. Let bygone be bygone. Let inteligent & fighter communities unite And togather we shall fight for upliftment of INDIA&INDIANS. To make INDIA A SUPERPOWER.

  4. Why are people so scared of Dalit assertion? Just replace your favourite ‘Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai’ with ‘Garv se kaho hum Dalit hai’. It’s very innocent, and peaceful and a happy-happy slogan. Why is being “Indian” suddenly so important, but wasn’t when they were lynching Indian Muslims and slaughtering Indian Dalits all these years? Come on. It’s just Dalits saying they are Dalits. Like Hindus say they are Hindus. Simple. Easy weasy. Chill. But it’s amazing to watch upper caste Hindus go all queasy about Dalits asserting their identity and crying like children about reservations. They are joined by the other entitled Hindus – those who are gonna be sent back because they don’t have the H1b visas. Justice is so, so poetic.

  5. I m Brahman, my almost all society members r Dalits, we all celebrate our birthdays, weddings n all other religious occasions like Ganpati festival, garbha etc, never felt such things neither I nor my neighbour n live without any misunderstanding, but few leaders r gaining with divide and rule, for their political advantage, n these people become their blind follower also as I told that I m Brahman, right that we can be easily divided into Brahman dalit Jaat maratha Patidar n many more for those who don’t know n care of us but can’t be united for being Indian,.

  6. Pranav, Pl. Do not indulge in this matter like this. Politicians nd specially the Congress has already ruined all the institutions so Pl. Spare the ARMY. IN TODAY’S BHARAT this is the only institution which is above politics caste nd creedThe only aim of these politicians to remain in power and loot the resources of the country and only we the ordinary people are the sufferer’s nd no body else

  7. Dear Sir and Madam
    Mahar, Rajput, Maratha, Yadavs , Jajtav, Brahmins all are hindu brothers and sisters.Some are rich brothers and some are poor.Even there are many brahmis are very poor in our country.
    Dear Hindu brothers and Sisters please be unite now .Mughals and British devided us to loot and rule our country for 500 years ….Hindu Brothers and Sisters dont make same mistake again ….. otherwise we shall become slave of Rome again

  8. Demons of politics of castes, religions, regions, class, linguistics, etc., have been revived again. Hope shameful, retrograde, suicidal acts don’t bleed Incredible India further.

  9. @pranav, your comments show your ignorance about indian army, fm sam manekshaw was from gorakha regiment so was he gorakha by birth, gen jj sing was from maratha light infantry, you mean he was a maratha by birth. When you join a regiment, you are born again, and that is why sam is more gorakha than a gorakha like was our generals coming from mahar regiment are more maharshi than mahar. Jai hind, jai bharat, jai mahar.

  10. Why don’t we understand all these are political games. All these killings, vandalising only affects the common man. It’s sad to see people from all walks of life involved in it. Please stop these caste and religious fights. After so many years of independence we are no where.

  11. high time we stop highlighting caste and creed.time t move fwd t modern age and times.Time is running out and we a large bright and brliant young minds to take on the future.we stand for India and stand proud.let is not allow so called politicians and media to destroy our future.

  12. Very sad to hear about the incident.I really do not know ,this country is going where.This country need not have outside enemies. We are our own enemies. Then we aspire to challenge and compete with China.One more point if one community really feels that they are warriors and intellectuals, then they should prove it in all fields. When it comes to reservation, then they start quoting their caste. Really double standards.

  13. Mahar, Peshwa, Dalit we are all Hidustanies, brothers.
    Do not let politicians or miscreants politicise minor conflicts into major conflicts.
    Let good sense prevail.
    Let,s work together to uplift all sections of the society by strengthening the hands of govt of the day!

  14. @Pranav. The first ever recognition to this valiant Mahar Regt was the Maha Vir Chakra awarded to Hav Krishna Sonawane in 1948 who later retired as subedar Hony C!apt. Likewise there are n number of Mahars who have won gallantry and distinguished awards post independence whom you are not probably aware.

    The epitome of the Regt is its ‘Unity in Diversity’ and projecting a “mini and secular India ” within itself

    Don’t join the politicos and current generation self styled leaders in distorting history and fanning communal hatred.

  15. It’s pertinent to point out that neither the Army chiefs from this regiment nor the Param Vir Chakra awardee were dalits, and at least 2 of the 3 were Brahmins, since an impression is created that the Dalit Mahars received these honours.

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