202nd Anniversary of Battle of Koregaon

Misleading to potray the battle as Mahars’ against the Peshwas’ Brahmanic rule.

The Battle of Koregaon
The Battle of Koregaon (Representative picture – painting)

The Battle of Koregaon (also called the Battle of Koregaon Bhima, after the river Bhima that flows close to it). The battle held on 1 January 1818.

The British East India Company was on one side and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy on the other side.

The battle held at Koregaon Bhima.

Battle of Koregaon

Also, Peshwa Baji Rao – II were on their way to attack the British forces with 28,000-strong force

But, they unexpectedly found 800 men on the other side

Battle of Koregaon

So, the Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the force which sought entrenchment in Bhima Koregaon.

But, led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours. After which, the Peshwa’s troops ultimately withdrew, fearing the imminent arrival of a larger British force.

Battle of Koregaon

The battle was part of the Third Anglo Maratha war.

A series of battles, that culminated in the defeat of the Maratha empire (under the Peshwas).

Subsequent rule of the British East India Company in nearly all of Western, Central and Southern India.

There is a “victory pillar” (obelisk) in Bhima Koregaon commemorating the battle.

Battle of Koregaon

Significance to Mahars

B. R. Ambedkar and his followers at the Koregaon victory pillar
B. R. Ambedkar and his followers at the Koregaon victory pillar on December 28th 1927

The Koregaon pillar (Bhima Koregaon) inscription features the names of the 49 Company soldiers killed in the battle.

22 of these names end with the suffix -nac (or -nak),

People of Mahar Caste used it exclusively until Indian Independence, Mahar Regiment crest featured the obelisk.

British built the it as a symbol of their own power. Today it serves as a memorial of the Mahars.

In the contemporary caste-based society, the Mahars were untouchbles (Treated as untouchables).

The Peshwas, who were the so-called ‘high-caste’ Brahmins, were notorious for their mistreatment and persecution of the untouchables.

Because of this, the Dalits (former untouchables), after independence, saw the Koregaon obelisk as a symbol of their victory over the high-caste oppression.

Dalit Leader B. R. Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927.

To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year’s Day.

Mahar gatherings were also being held at the place.

On 1 January 2018, clashes erupted between right-wing Hindu groups and Dalit Buddhist groups during the commemoration of this battle.

This led to further violent protests and rioting in Mumbai and Maharashtra for two days.

However, Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde presents a different perspective.

He has argued that portraying the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as the battle of Mahars against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule, is a pure myth.

For instance, the Peshwa army actually retreated fearing the arrival of a larger British force and most of the people who died were not Mahars.

Thus he says that it is wrong and misleading to potray the battle of Bhima Koregaon of Maharashtra as Mahars’ against the Peshwas’ Brahmanic rule.


Note : At the time of this Battle of Koregaon, Maharashtra was not formed

Maharashtra was formed by merging the western and south-western parts of the Bombay State, Berar and Vidarbha, and the north-western parts of the Hyderabad State and splitting Saurashtra (in present-day Gujarat) by the States Reorganisation Act.

Also, It has over 112 million inhabitants and its capital, Mumbai, has a population around 18 million making it the most populous urban area in India

Maharashtra Day, commonly known as Maharashtra Din is a state holiday in the Indian state of Maharashtra, commemorating the formation of the state of Maharashtra from the division of the Bombay State on 1 May 1960.

Also, Maharashtra Day is commonly associated with parades and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history and traditions of Maharashtra.

Therefore, It is celebrated to commemorate the creation of a Marathi speaking state of Maharashtra

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