The Maratha Light Infantry is one of the oldest military regiments of the Indian Army. It can be traced back to the Bombay sepoys who were raised in 1768. Attesting to the valour of Marathas, the Maratha Regiment is also widely acclaimed and celebrated for its undeterred prowess in the military field. The regiment’s founding stone was laid, back in the seventeenth century by the great Maharaja Chhatrapati Shivaji and it has been 250 years of the infantry’s glorious representation in the war fields ever since.
The cherished chronicles of the Maratha Regiment can be endlessly listed, beginning rom the First World War where the 103rd,114th and 117th Maratha battalions came out on top during the stretched Mesopotamian campaign. Despite loosing more than 50% of their strength owing to casualties, the sheer courage and bravery furthered their victories and captured the respective objectives. As a result, the gallantry and heroism of the 117th Maratha transcended them into a Royal battalion for its distinctive service. The 114th battalion was equally regarded for its conspicuously famed service in the battle of “Sharquat” and was duly awarded with 28 gallantry awards and eight Mentioned-in-Despatches, the highest earned by any unit in a single action till date. Other battalions the 105th, 110th and 116th also achieved tremendous success in Palestine and Mesopotamia. The six battalions were eventually merged to form a single group and were known as the 5 Maratha Light Infantry in 1922.
Maratha Light Infantry in Second World War
The Maratha Light Infantry was thereafter seen in almost every forefront during the Second World War. Ranging from the jungles of South East Asia, to the deserts of North Africa and the mountains and rivers of Italy, the Maratha expansion was inevitable. Therefore, a new thirteen war-service battalions were raised. The Second World War was also the instance when the Maratha soldiers rose to their pinnacle as Nk Yeshwant Ghadge and Sep Namdeo Jadhav were decorated with the Victoria Cross in the Italian campaign.
Maratha Regiment Valour Post-Independence
The Battalions of the Regiment wrote a new chapter painted in the colors of their valour, bravery and gallantry post-independence. With the integration of princely states, the forces were also amalgamated. The Independent India saw the initial original five battalions but with 3 Maratha Light Infantry which is now a parachute battalion. The Maratha Light Infantry, since independence, have actively participated in almost every major armed conflict – J&K operations in 1947-48, entry into Junagarh, Liberation of Hyderabad, Goa, Daman and Diu, the Chinese aggression in 1962, conflicts against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 etc. Furthermore, the battalion also earned wide acclaim for successfully executing the UN Peace keeping missions in Korea, Ethiopia Eritrea, Congo Laos, South Sudan and the Gaza Strip.
Since independence, the Regiment has earned Seven Battle Honor’s and Seven Theatre Honor’s, numerous gallantry awards cherishing Five Ashok Chakra and Five Mahavir Chakra. These honors testified the frontline leadership and determination of the Maratha soldiers and Units.
On 4th Feb 2015, Lt Gen PJS Pannu, PVSM, AVSM, VSM proposed 4th Feb of each year to be observed as the Maratha Day, remembering the valor and chivalry displayed by a small party of Marathas during the capture of Sinhgarh Fort in 1670. The proposal was unanimously received and therefore, 4th Feb of each year is observed as Maratha Day.
Maratha Light Infantry in Kargil War
The Maratha Light Infantry Regiment was an essential component in the 1999 Kargil War.
The Tololing mountain summit, a crucial enemy stronghold in the region, had to be taken and held by the Maratha Regiment. After engaging the enemy in a bloody battle, the regiment heroically battled and succeeded in taking the peak. The Indian Army’s morale was greatly boosted by the capture of Tololing, which also opened the door for more advancements in the area.
During the Kargil War, the Maratha Regiment also contributed significantly to other operations, such as the conquest of the vital Points 5140 and 4700.