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Maratha Light Infantry

The Maratha Light Infantry [MLI] is affectionately known as Ganpats. The Maratha Light Infantry is one of the oldest regiments of the Indian Army, formed as the 103rd Maharattas in 1768. The Vice Chief of Army Staff is the Colonel of the Regiment of the gallant and elite Maratha Light Infantry, Rashtriya Rifles (Maratha LI) and Army Aviation Corps units of the Indian Army.

The Regimental Centre of the Regiment is located at Belgaum, in Karnataka State. Belgaum is also home to several divisions of the Indian Armed Forces. The Commando School of the Indian Army is also situated in Belgaum. The Indian Air Force has a big airbase near Belgaum. Belgaum is one of the fastest growing cities in the northwest part of Karnataka. The district of Belgaum borders two states, Maharashta and Goa. Belgaum is accessible via air from Bombay and Bangalore.

Belgaum, ancient 'Venugrama' ('Bamboo village') is the district and divisional headquarters. It was the capital of the Rattas who shifted to this place from Saundatti during the close of 12th century. Belgaum later came under the Mughuls (who called it Azamnagar) and the Maratha till its conquest by the British in 1818. The British founded their Cantonment here and they made it the head-quaters of Maratha Light Infantry. Belgaum was one of the five military stations that were established in old Bombay presidency.

The recruitment training of the soldiers is done at the Maratha Light Infantry's regimental headquarters in Belgaum. The huge campus boasts a good amount of buildings, which of interest to the common man. The Motivation hall contains inspiring pieces of accounts of the deeds of bravery of the battalions in various actions and feats of glory in other activities. The visitor to the hall is further inspired by the Shlokas displayed at various places.

In west India the Maratha were the warriors and the aristocracy. Originally the Marathas belonged to the different castes in west India. Most of these castess were in Sudra level. But the Marathas who became the aristocracy of west India claimed and acquired the Kshatria status. In the 17th and the 18th century the Marathas even established an empire which ruled large parts of India.

In the early days each battalion of infantry had a "Light" Company composed of small picked wiry men, able to move swiftly to reinforce or surprise as opportunity offered; these became "crack" companies and, later, the title Light Infantry came to be bestowed as a mark of honor. In recognition of the gallant conduct of detachments at the siege of Kahun and the defence of Dadar, in Baluch territory, during the First Afghan War of 1841 the Maratha 2nd Battalion was created Light Infantry. At the grouping of all six Mahratta Battalions, which took place in 1922, the resulting Regiment assumed the title of the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry. Being the only Light Infantry Regiment of the pre-war Indian Army, the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry was alone among all Infantry Regiments in that the regimental numeral is not incorporated in the shoulder-title design.

There were 30 battalions of the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in World War II. In 1947 five battalions were allotted to India. The Maratha Light Infantry of the present Indian Army has at various times had 22 battalions, of which the 3rd was redesignated 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment (Mahratta) and now lives in Agra. However, the number 3rd has also been reused.

The 4th Battalion was originally raised in 1800 as a battalion of the 8th Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry. It fought through the Great War, rendering gallant service in Iraq as the 116th Mahrattas, and was re-designated the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry in the great post-war reorganization of 1922. It was composed entirely of Mahrattas, sturdy fighters from the uplands of the Bombay Presidency round Poona and Satara. In the days of the East India Company, the Mahrattas put up a stout resistance to the Company's forces in the two Mahratta Wars of 1775 and 1802.

In mid-2000 a battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry celebrated its 40th raising day somewhere in the Western Sector. The battalion was initially raised during World War - II and fought with distinction during Burma campaign. It was awarded Battle Honour Ruywa. The unit was re-raised in 1962 by Lt Col (Later Maj Gen) E D' Souza (Retd) and saw actions in Natu La, Nagaland, Sri Lanka, Arunachal Pradesh and J & K. The main attraction of the celebrations was the sainik sammelan where three generations of soldiers assembled to share their views and thoughts. Nk Krushna Yerudkar, a World War - II veteran, came all the way from Mumbai to present his medals to the battalion. He was followed by Nk Vishwanath Bhosale who withstood Chinese intrusion at Natu La in 1963, presented his coveted medals to the battalion. After re-raising in 1962, Nk Vishwanath Bhosale was the first gallantry award winner of the battalion. The most touching moment was when Mrs Sharda Telbhare, young widow of Sep Manjhabhau Telbhare, walked up the podium to present the medals of her valiant late husband who laid down his life fighting foreign mercenaries in Surankot (J&K) in 1999.

The 42nd Rashtriya Rifles (Assam) formed specially to combat insurgency and terrorism, came into existence at a simple inaugural ceremony at the Assam Regimental Centre, Happy Valley in Shillong. While four RR battalions had already been raised in the recent past, the 41st RR battalion (Maratha Light Infantry) was simultaneously raised in Karnataka's Belgaum.

Six Army battalions raised especially for Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) counter insurgency operations underwent special training, and started deployment in the state by 01 September 2001. With the entire state barring Ladakh under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Army began deploying additional forces to tighten the security net, with 7,200 soldiers of six newly-raised battalions. The battalions are assigned to the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), but parent Regiments raised them at their respective regimental centres. One of the six battalions was raised in New Delhi (Rajputana Rifles). The Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) RR battalion was raised at Belgaum, the Madras Regiment at Tiruchi, the Assam Regiment RR battalion at Shillong, the Punjab RR at Ramgarh, Grenadiers at Jabalpur and the Dogra Regiment RR battalion at Faizabad. The newly-raised battalions underwent special training at the Army's counter insurgency warfare school near Jammu. The Army had six months to raise and train the soldiers for the highly specialised operations. After that there was a four-week-long capsule course in laying ambushes in hills and mountains, detecting and disarming IEDs, carrying out cordon and search operations and carrying out operations to neutralise terrorists in heavily populated neighbourhoods.

In January 2002, the 5th Battalion of the Maratha Regiment celebrated the completion of two hundred years of its raising in Rajasthan. The bi-centenary celebrations began with an impressive guard of honour given to the chief guest of the function, Lt Gen J.J. Singh, GOC, 1 Corps and Colonel of the regiment. A wreath-laying ceremony was held at the unit war memorial where wreaths were laid by the Colonel of the Regiment and other senior officers of the regiment.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:37:37 ZULU