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1 Armoured Division / Airawat Division

The Indian 1 Armoured Division, under II Corps, is headquartered at Patiala. The 1 Armoured Division, nicknamed the "Black Elephant" or "Airawat" Division, is considered to be the pride of the Indian Army. Elephants are regarded precious and majestic since "puranic" era. The supremacy of Elephant is also well illustrated in the Hindu Mythology. According to legends, at the time of 'Samudra Manthan' when demon and Gods were busy in "churning the ocean"(samudra manthan), Gods were fortunate to receive an elephant called "Airavata" which latter became the divine vehicle (vahana) of Indra. Since then Elephant has become a symbol of royalty in Indian culture and many festivals are also associated with it.

As per Garuda Puran (I 240.26-28, Ramayana -III.35.27.34 and Mahabharata I-25.ff..) once upon a time sage Durvasa (spiritually enlightened sage) visited the capital of Swarga (heaven). The sage in pleasant mood intended to see Lord Indra and on meeting him affectionately offered garland of 'never wilting flowers'. Lord Indra took them in a casual way and passed the garland to Airawat (divine elephant) who in turn crushed the garland under his feet. Angered at Lord Indra's arrogance, sage Durvasa pronounced a curse on him, devoiding him of all the riches, virtues and power. Lord Vishnu (the preserver of the Universe) advised Lord Indra that to regain his lost powers and splendour he needed ambrosia or Amrita (divine nectar). To extract this from the depths of the ocean, the demons were motivated to churn the ocean along with the Gods. With the churning, fourteen Ratnas (virtuous jewels) emerged from the ocean. These were Poison, Flying Horse, Magic Moon, Sky chariot, Vibrant Lyre, Rambha (the siren), Lakshmi (the paragaon of beauty and the provider of all riches), Vishwakarma (the divine architect), Dhanvantari (the divine healer), Gajaraj/Airawat (the divine elephant), Kaustubh Mani , the divine conch shell, Varuni (the enchantress) and the coveted kumbh (pitcher) of Amrit (divine nectar).

This story is taken from the Dasam Skandh of Srimad Devi Bhagavat. Once Durwasha muni (saint) was going from Vaikunth (the abode of Lord Vishnu) to Kailash (the abode of Lord Shiva). On his way he met the king of Gods - Indra. Indra bowed to him and offered his prayers. Durwasha muni was satisfied with Indra and he blessed him and gave him a flower of Parijat tree which was given to him by Lord Vishnu. Indra was very proud of his kingdom and lordship and he placed the blessed flower on the head of his elephant Airawat. As soon as the flower touched Airawat, the elephant converted in a form same as Lord Vishnu and went away from Indra. Now, Indra could not ride Airawat. Hyderabad dallied for one year attempting to declare independence outside the Indian Union. In September 1948, a short 100-hour engagement was forced on the Army (at that time heavily engaged in Kashmir). 1 Armoured Division, commanded by Major General IN Chaudhuri one of the few formations available, along with some infantry units attached to it, entered the state and settled matters with minimal force.

The 1 Armoured Division played a major role in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. At that time the Division consisted of 2 Royal Lancers, 4 Hodson's Horse, 7 Light Cavalry, 16 'Black Elephant' Cavalry, 17 Cavalry [Poona Horse], 18 Cavalry and 62 Cavalry.

In the 1971 War, for the first time, the Western front was given secondary priority. India's strategy in the West was to conduct a holding operation, with limited offensives on this front. The northernmost attack in division strength came on Punch in Kashmir. Another divisional thrust came in once again at Chhamb, a repeat of its operational plan of 1965. The main offensive to be launched by its 1 Armoured Division supported by 7 Infantry Division was held poised in the middle sector opposite Fazilka-Ganganagar. During the 1971 war the 16th's two squadrons stayed in defense, while A Squadron took part in operations supporting an infantry brigade in Shakargarh sector and was highly decorated in consequence. Three of the four officers of Alfa Squadron went on to become Lieutenant Generals in the Indian Army, while the fourth left the army and settled abroad.

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