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Why lakhs of Indians celebrate the British victory over the Maratha Peshwas every New Year

Discussion in 'General History' started by InfoWarrior, Oct 24, 2017.

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  1. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Five hundred Mahar soldiers scattered the 25,000-strong Peshwa army for the East India Company in Koregaon near Pune in 1818.

    Jan 03, 2016 · 09:15 am
    Mridula Chari

    An hour after New Year struck on Friday, two retired army officers, PS Dhoble and Dadasaheb Bhosle, set out in a bus from the tomb of Independence-era leader BR Ambedkar in Mumbai's Dadar area. Accompanying them in the convoy were more 300 other uniformed men and women.

    Five hours later, they reached their destination: a large village just past Pune called Bhima Koregaon. It was here, on the banks of the Bhima river, that a ragtag group of Mahar soldiers fighting under the British flag in 1818 defeated the vastly superior forces of the Peshwa. More than 150 years later, evidence of the battle is still apparent. Residents of Bhima Koregaon say they find swords from the battle in the river bed even today.

    Bhosle recounted with pride the story of how 500 Mahar soldiers on foot launched a heroic attack against the 25,000-strong army of the Peshwas, staffed with mounted soldiers armed with guns

    “Bigod, humne Peshwe ko khatm kiye,” Bhosle said. “The Mahars only ended Peshwa rule and gave India to the British.

    This might seem an unusual sentiment for an officer who has several medals on his chest in recognition of his services to the nation. Bhosle served in the 1965 war, in Sri Lanka, in the Andamans and Jammu and Kashmir.

    Yet the Battle of Koregaon has a deep significance to Mahars and other Dalits in India, who remember it every January 1 as a mark of their triumph against the dehumanising rule of the Peshwas and as the first step in their ongoing struggle against caste-based oppression.

    [​IMG]
    Subedar Major PJ Kamble (retired) of the Mahar Regiment visits the Bhima Koregaon victory pillar with his son. Credit: Mridula Chari
    A heroic rout

    As the story goes, on New Year's Day in 1818, about 500 soldiers of the East India Company's Bombay Native Infantry regiment led by Colonel FF Staunton waded across the Bhima river and, at Bhima Koregaon, routed a superior force of 25,000 well-equipped soldiers of the Peshwa.

    There is some room for exaggeration. Contemporary English accounts, for instance, mention 900 Mahar soldiers instead of 500, and 20,000 Peshwa soldiers not 25,000. Besides, the Peshwas were already on the back foot by the time of this battle – the East India Company had taken Pune, the Peshwa’s capital, some months before and had raised its flag at the palace at Shanivarwada.

    Whatever the figures, though, the battle was one of great odds. The British viewed it as the clinching episode in the third Anglo-Maratha war, which ended with the Peshwas being forced to cede control of the Maratha Empire to the East India Company. This set the foundation for British rule in western India.

    Although the first Maratha ruler, Shivaji, freely recruited Mahars in his army, two centuries later, by the time of the Peshwas, the status of Mahars was lower than ever. The Peshwas were Brahmins of a particularly orthodox bent. Stories told even today recall how when Mahars entered towns, they were made to tie brooms behind their backs to sweep up the dust of their footprints and to tie pots in front on their necks to collect their spittle. It was also a criminal offence to hide one’s caste.

    Dalit recountings of the battle emphasise that when the English were approaching, Mahars offered their services to Peshwa Bajirao II. It was only when he rejected them yet again that they switched their loyalty to the British instead.

    In 1851, the British erected a memorial pillar at Bhima Koregaon, with the names of those who had died in the battle. Most of the names are of Mahar soldiers.

    [​IMG]
    Crowds gather at the pillar. Credit: Mridula Chari
    Escape from oppression

    Despite the long military history of the Mahars, the British government stopped recruiting them into their army in 1893. This was a consequence of the Indian uprising of 1857, after which the British reassessed their recruiting strategies to include only those from “martial races” in the army. Also excluded at the same time were the “effeminate peoples of the south” and “the so-called Mahrattas of Bombay”.

    While all groups removed from the army reacted with dismay, the blow to Mahars, considered to be untouchable in caste Hindu society, was keenly felt. With their loss of position in the army, Mahars also lost a chance for education and to work in an environment that was at least on paper non-discriminatory.

    Bhimrao Ambedkar himself spent his early years shielded from the violence of untouchability in a military cantonment in Mhow, where his father, Subedar Major Ramji Sakpal, was posted.

    Sakpal was the headmaster of the military school there that educated children and relatives of military personnel. He retired in 1894, a year after the British stopped recruiting Mahars to the army. Even after his retirement, Sakpal continued to lend his support to different campaigns to reinstitute the Mahar Infantry Batallion.

    On January 1, 1927, Ambedkar led a commemoration at the pillar just outside the village. The ceremony continues today – people come to the pillar, lay flowers at its base and then move on to the other amusements on offer at the 11-acre ground owned by the military.

    Credit: Mridula Chari
    At the ground

    The British began to recruit Mahars again during the First World War, but disbanded the regiment after the war was over. Finally in 1945, the Mahar Regiment was permanently reformed. Both Dhoble and Bhosle are members of that regiment, which is now based in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, not Mhow. Every year, members of the Mahar Regiment, in and out of uniform, come to the pillar to pay their respects.

    The two veterans, Dhoble and Bhosle, became trainers of the Samata Sainik Dal after their retirement in the early 1990s. The paramilitary organisation affiliated to the Buddhist Society of India, was established by Ambedkar in 1926, partly in response to the growing militarisation of Hindus in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

    “There are layers of memory surrounding the memorial,” said Shraddha Kumbhojkar, a historian at the University of Pune. “There is the battle of Koregaon, which was forgotten in immediate history. Then Dr Ambedkar visited it in 1927, which added a pilgrimage value to it. After his demise, it became a part of an attempt to create an alternate culture to mainstream Hindu culture.”

    Most visitors spend only an hour or two at the ground, moving on to be replaced by more. Credit: Mridula Chari


    Remembering valour

    The functions at Bhima Koregaon have similarities to other Ambedkar commemorations. Three large tents in the centre of the ground served as the base for a series of political parties to give speeches, for musicians performing stirring songs about the history of Bhima Koregaon and for visitors to simply take shelter from the unusually sharp heat this year.

    Outside the tents was the usual array of people selling books on caste, CDs (though fewer people buy them every year now that Whatsapp and Youtube have cornered the music market), statues of Ambedkar and Buddha, posters and calendars.

    A woman browses at a book vendor. Photo credit: Mridula Chari
    Also present were vendors of sweets, fruit, juice and snacks who are regulars at any fair. They knew their market. In the field adjoining the Bhima Koregaon ground was another mela complete with giant wheel, slides and whirling carousels. But compared to its neighbour, it was almost-deserted. Just beyond both were quiet fields of lush sugarcane that had not yet been cut for this year.

    Just before noon, the distant whir of a helicopter’s blades became audible. As everyone instinctively looked up, the chopper flew past the pillar and let streams of flowers rain down on it. Cheers went up from the crowd. The helicopter flew past four more times. Each time, it was greeted with loud approval.

    Play
    The helicopter was an advertising move for the Lashkar-e-Bhima, an up-and-coming Dalit-oriented political party based in Maharashtra.

    Scaling up

    They certainly got widespread exposure. This year, at least one lakh people are estimated to have visited the site to pay their respects. Until even a decade ago, old-timers say, though the commemorations were regular they were not very well attended.

    This, said Bhausaheb Bhalerao, husband of the sarpanch of Bhima Koregaon, was due to the efforts of the Bhima Koregaon Ranstambh Seva Samiti. The committee has 11 organising members from the village itself and 500 volunteers who come from all parts of Maharashtra. Most of these volunteers are relatives of the committee members.

    Bhausaheb Bhalerao, resident of Bhima Koregaon. Photo Credit: Mridula Chari
    Together, they regulate crowd flow, create organised paths for movement, have water and food supplies on standby for people who have travelled great distances and set up tents for more organised activities.

    “Ten years ago, there was not much of a crowd here,” Bhalerao said. “There were perhaps 50,000 who came in a day. Now there must be at least four lakh people.”

    The pillar also seems to have inspired at least 15 people to have joined the army, though there have been fewer recruits in recent times. Bhalerao’s son, for instance, wants to join the police.

    Bhalerao’s brother, now deceased, formed the committee in 2005, on seeing how much travellers suffered inconveniences every year. The gram panchayat itself contributed Rs 50,000 to ceremonies this year, while individual members contributed more on their own.

    “Though we started in 2005, we got a grip only by 2010,” Bhalerao said. “Next year, we hope to make this even better.”

    Making memories

    “This year everything is much better organised than the last time I came,” confirmed Durpatabai Ghorge, 80, who had travelled overnight from Nanded to visit the memorial. Her last visit was 10 years ago, at which point, she said, there were far fewer people visiting.

    Gayatai Kokre, 61, who organised Ghorge’s and 107 other women’s travel from Nanded district, was dismissive of the massive presence of various Dalit parties at the memorial.

    “We don’t want to be associated with any greedy political party,” she said. “We are happy with the progress of the Dalit community, but we are angry with the parties so will leave them. Remembering the valour of the Mahar soldiers is a matter of pride for us and those soldiers are an inspiration to women to take our lives into our own hands.”

    She spoke of how they sang songs all night as they travelled.

    “We came by railway and every one of us has a ticket,” she said, taking out papers from her blouse as evidence. “We will not travel free on government services. Nobody can ever say this of us.”

    Kokre was perhaps conscious of aspersions cast on Dalits whenever they congregate in large numbers, whether in Mumbai, Nagpur, Mahad or Bhima Koregaon.

    Shraddha Kumbhojkar, the Pune university historian, in a paper on how people of different identities view the Bhima Koregaon memorial, noted that caste Hindus from Pune, which is only 50 km from the village, only make it a point not to travel by that road on New Year’s Day.

    “Every New Year day, the urban middle classes who use the highway remind each other to avoid the stretch that passes by the memorial with the warning that ‘those people will be swarming their site at Koregaon’,” she wrote.

    That does not diminish its importance to those involved in the struggle against caste.

    Said Bhikkuni Purnima, a Buddhist nun who had travelled all the way from Delhi to attend ceremonies, “I am a Buddhist who believes in peace, but we come here to give respect to those who sacrificed their lives for their society and for self-respect.”

    Bhikkuni Purnima, a Buddhist nun from Delhi. Photo Credit: Mridula Chari
    https://scroll.in/article/801298/wh...ctory-over-the-maratha-peshwas-every-new-year
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
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  2. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    When Mahars fought on home turf, and helped Britain win
    [​IMG] Shoumojit Banerjee
    Pune:, January 05, 2017 00:46 IST
    Updated: January 05, 2017 01:36 IST
    [​IMG]
    STANDING TALL: The memorial that draws many who celebrate victory over oppression.


    On New Year’s day, the community celebrates the battle of Koregaon that led to the end of Maratha empire
    On January 1, 1818, some 500 soldiers of the ‘untouchable’ Mahar community fought a great battle at Bhima-Koregaon village alongside the British against the superior forces of Peshwa Bajirao II. This battle in the third Anglo-Maratha War effectively ended Brahmin ‘Peshwai’ domination and signalled the end of the Maratha empire. Many Dalit activists see the battle, in which their community members fought under the Union Jack, as the turning point in their struggle against oppression.

    On January 1, while many in Pune danced to usher in the New Year, thousands of others from a different social class converged at a memorial at Bhima-Koregaon, 30 km away.

    The celebrations around the Koregaon ‘Ranstambh’ (victory pillar), organized by the Bhima-Koregaon Ranstambh Seva Sangh (BKRSS), keep the memory of the relatively obscure war alive.

    In the beginning, there were a few thousand visitors. This year, we had more than eight lakh,” notes Sarjerao Waghmare, BKRSS president.

    There was massive participation of backward community members from Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat too.

    Several retired officers of the Mahar Regiment come to pay homage, says Mr. Waghmare. In the battle, the British were outnumbered: they had 12 officers and 834 troops, of whom the 500 infantrymen were predominantly Mahars.

    Satchitananda Kadlak, vice-president, BKRSS, proudly traces the regiment’s night march from Shirur.

    Relations between the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, and the Mahars were strained after Bajirao I died in 1740, and touched the nadir during the reign of Bajirao II, who insulted the Mahar community and rejected their offer to serve in his army,” he says.

    Crucial moment

    This pushed them to the British side and they fought with extreme courage. When the regiment crossed the shallow Bhima river and pursued the Peshwa’s army, those troops fled.

    The English showered praise on the fortitude of the Mahar infantrymen.

    The Mahars were in the mainstream Maratha army since the time of Shivaji’s legendary conquests. People forget that it was a Mahar who collected the mortal remains of King Sambhaji after he was tortured to death on Aurangazeb’s orders. They fought alongside the Peshwa’s forces in crucial battles, including the third battle of Panipat and at Kharda. But history is often recorded from a Brahmin- ical perspective, which tends to obfuscate facts,” contends Mr. Kadlak.

    Mahars served the Peshwas prior to Koregaon. However, Bajirao II’s insults alienated them.

    Of the 49 soldiers immortalised on the Koregaon pillar, 22 are believed to be Mahars.
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/nation...rf-and-helped-Britain-win/article16989587.ece
     
  3. Rajaraja Chola

    Rajaraja Chola 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    If true the Marathas truely deserved it the beatings from the mahars.........
     
  4. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    After researching I doubt if this is true.
    https://books.google.co.in/books?id=dboMAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA244&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
    Here is detail of this battle by Gazette of Bombay Presidency

    British never mentioned any Mahars, they just used the word natives recruits, Marathas, Arabs(all muslim) etc. Marathas sacrificed 1800 Arab mercenaries in trying to dislodge a well dug in army of 854. Most Arabs died fighting, Marathas didn't have to pay them for their services.

    Even the names on that obelisk are all British names. This could be a political stunt of BSP party.
     
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  5. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Mahar regiment was decommissioned by British in 1892. Mahar regiment was revived by

    In the July 1941, B. R. Ambedkar was appointed to the Defence Advisory Committee of the Viceroy's Executive Council. He used this appointment to exert pressure within the military establishment for a Mahar regiment. He also appealed to the Mahars to join the Army in large numbers. In October, the Army gave in, and the 1st Battalion of the Mahar Regiment was raised in Belgaum under Lt. Col. HJR Jackson of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles and Sub. Maj. Sheikh Hassnuddin.
     
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  6. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Captain FULL MEMBER

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    Scroll.In wire.In has a penchant to peddle Marxist history as real history. Still i doubt 500 people can rout well equipped 25,000 mounted troops. British do exaggerate a lot of their victories,but downplay their atrocities and defeats.
    Real truth should come out, if Shivaji founder of Maratha Empire recruited SC/ST people as his troops in army etc. then why would Peshwas decline the tradition set by founder of Maratha Empire?
     
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  7. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    It started with Bajirao II, he was influenced by Brahmin ideology with a particular bent towards Manusmriti. Already Bajirao-I was under high pressure of these orthodox priests.
     
  8. NKVD

    NKVD Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Manusmiriti was long forgotten until it was uncovered by sir William jones for hindu code during colonial times

    Modern scholarship states this presumed authenticity is false, and the various manuscripts of Manusmriti discovered in India are inconsistent with each other, and within themselves, raising concerns of its authenticity, insertions and interpolations made into the text in later times.
     
  9. Rajaraja Chola

    Rajaraja Chola 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    Shivaji was nor an brahmin or an orthodoxy man. Peshwas were.......
     
  10. InfoWarrior

    InfoWarrior Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Golwalkar praises Lord Manu as the greatest law giver mankind ever had. Golwalkars' successor also demanded a throwing away of Indian constitution, to be replaced by the one which is based on Hindu holy books, implying Manusmriti.


    Blaming everything on Islamic invaders or British is not the solution.
     
  11. NKVD

    NKVD Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Were did I say lord Manu was Not great He was great King of His times So were other many Manus(kings) after him He crafted Laws Which were Made specifically in ancient times context
    Same Like Egyptians Babylonians And Later greeks

    There Nothing Wrong In asking Laws Which based on our core values To understand It one has To learn actual context of vedas and Upanishads
    Which mostly destroyed Today

    Manushriti Like other Dharmashatras based views of Kings And sages Which has created many Dharmashastras, variously estimated to be 18 to about 100,
    Each has its Own social theories And visions of societies in those times

    Stating It in 1947 Is like Stating Roman charter in modern European union
     
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  12. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Captain FULL MEMBER

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    Any contemporary historical records, other than Marxist written ones? Many Hindu empires and kings were vilified by British and later Marxists, like the Thuggee Tribe,Naga sadhus etc. British considered Tribes and people who rebelled against them as born Criminals.

    The British started the first caste census and split Hindus into many castes,Some were mixed up, while others were labeled 'Martial Races' (Who were friendly or supported British in conquest)based on Race theory,which was taking birth in Europe that time. Some Tribes were labelled Born Criminal tribes/ people and were banned and people who killed such Criminal tribes/people were not punised instead were paid bounty by British for heads collected.

    This practice was used against American native tribes, where European settlers considered Natives as Criminals, animals and each scalp of a Native American would be paid in coin.

    So, i would not trust British or Marxist translation of Manusmriti. When Bhagawad Gita and Vedas say no man is born high or low, one is recognized by their Guna and Acts.

    Even the Manusmriti you now know was translated into English by British,Only the english version is known and peddled by all Liberals nowadays.Nobody bothered to learn or read the original Manusmriti which varied in rules according to Yugas and ages. One rule from Treta Yuga cannot be followed in Dwapara Yuga, Likewise rules from Dwapara Yuga about 'Dharma Yuddh' are now obsolete in todays Kali Yuga,where there are no set of rules to be followed by both parties in war.
    This is a strange case where the founders principles are disobeyed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
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  13. BMD

    BMD Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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