The Mahar Regiment is an Infantry Regiment of the Indian Army. Although it was originally intended to be a regiment consisting of troops from the Mahars in Maharashtra, the Mahar Regiment is one of the only regiments in the Indian Army that is composed of troops from all communities and regions of India.
Under Shivaji and the Maratha Empire
The Mahars were recruited by the Maratha king Shivaji as scouts and fort guards in his army. They were also heavily recruited by the British East India Company , at one part forming one-sixth of the Company’s Bombay Army. The Bombay Army favoured Mahar troops for their bravery and loyalty to the Colours, and also because they could be relied upon during the Anglo-Maratha Wars. They achieved many successes, including in the Battle of Koregaon, where Mahar-dominated Company troops defeated a much larger led by Peshwa Baji Rao II. This battle was commemorated by an obelisk, known as the Koregaon pillar, which featured on the crest of the Mahar Regiment until Indian Independence. Mahar troops of the Bombay Army also saw action in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and two regiments (the 21st and 27th) joined the revolt under the British.War cry of this regiment is “Bolo Hindustan Ki Jay “.
The Martial Races theory and disbandment
After the Revolt, the British officers of the Indian Army, particularly those who had served in the First and Second Afghan Wars, began to give currency to the Martial Races Theory. This theory was that some races and communities among Indians were naturally warlike, and more suited to warfare than others. A major proponent of this theory was
Lord Roberts , who became Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army in the November 1885. There was a gradual “Punjabisation” of the Indian Army to the detriment of the other communities. The final blow for the Mahar troops came in 1892, when it was decided to institute “class regiments” in the Indian Army. The Mahars were not included in these class regiments, and it was notified that the Mahars, among with some other classes, were no longer to be recruited in the Indian army. The Mahar troops, who included 104 Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers and a host of Non-commissioned officers and Sepoys were demobilised. This event was regarded by the Mahars as a betrayal of their loyalty by a government they had served for over a hundred years.