Panaji: Amongst the various martial races in India, two of the prominent ones are Marathas and Sikhs, who have served the nation from times immemorial. Former Deputy Director Integrated Defence Staff (Operations) Lt Gen P J S Pannu (Retd) being a Sikh found it very easy to serve and command the Maratha Regiment because of similar backgrounds.
Lt Gen Pannu comes from a peasant family so are the Marathas, both are martial classes. According to him, in modern era, Marathas and Sikhs together have played vital role in protecting the country against its enemies and are two vital pillars of India’s security since Independence.
“The British recognised the traits and built the British Indian Army based on these Martial races. Guru Gobind Singh was a 'Saint and a soldier' who created and lead the Khalsa Army to fight the Mughals and while carrying out manoeuvres came down to Nanded which is located in current day Maharashtra where he died fighting the Mughals,” Lt Gen Pannu informed.
Banda Bahadur who was residing in Nanded was entrusted with the command of the Sikh Army who rose to become a great military leader and reclaimed many territories by defeating the Mughals in Northern India. It is the historical friendship between the Sikhs and the Marathas who were allies against the Mughals and fought battles at the same time.
“Gurdwara Hazur Sahib is the most revered place in Nanded that stands as a testimony of these bonds that existed between the two martial races. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj practiced guerrilla warfare and built a strong military culture in the Marathas. He raised the slogan of swaraj and such culture was quite similar to the Sikhs in the North,” he says.
Guru Teg Bahadur, father of Guru Gobind Singh was called 'Hind di Chaddar' as he laid down his life to defend the faith of Hindustan, he was beheaded by Aurangzeb when he raised voice against forced conversion of Hindus (Kashmiri pandits) to Islam.
Guru Gobind Singh took up this cause by raising a military force called Khalsa Panth ( Army of the Pure) Lt Gen Pannu compares this with the first stanza of the Maratha Regimental Song called Sfrurti Geet ie 'Mard Ahmi Marathe Khare' which means Marathas are Pure. Both Armies have given purety as the number one tenant of character. This expression means - Simple, honest, fearless, incorruptible and loyal. Guru Gobind Singh said 'Khalsa mero roop hai khas' (pure race is my embodiment).
The martial race traditions of both communities were born out of similar circumstances. The Marathas and the Sikhs took turns over years in continued fight against the Mughals and put their flags on the Delhi considered as the seat of Mughal power. The traditions of Military struggle brought the Marathas to fight the Battle of Panipat extending their territories upto the Afghan areas.
The Sikhs under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh also extended his empire up to Kyber Pass - sealing the entry of invaders who used Kyber Pass for making earlier an entry to capture Hindustan.
“Maharashtra being a patriotic state has a community of warriors who are on the frontline to accept challenges. Be it Siachen, or the Line of Control or even the Maharashtra floods, this regiment has set an example of how citizens and soldiers come together as one,” the former Colonel of Maratha Regiment says.
The Maratha Light Infantry is among the oldest of the Indian Army and classified as "light infantry", where soldiers operate with minimal equipment and orders so as to engage the enemy faster and more quietly.
“Our soldiers are very simple; they need to be motivated, given timelines and have to have clear cut aims what we expect from them. Undoubtedly, for efficient performance of the unit and the regiment there has to be effective leadership to lead the soldiers,” he added.
“Marathas and Sikhs fought the Mughals and British to preserve the freedom of India.” – Lt Gen PJS Pannu, former Colonel of Maratha Regiment goa