Battle of Koregaon and Pillar of Victory

The Koregaon battle was fought between the British and Peshwa Bajirao II on January 1 in 1818. To commemorate the victory every year, British built an Obelisk, with 50 names mentioned on it, of which 22 are of Mahars (Dalits of Maharashtra).

The huge 28,000-strong army led by Baji Rao II got defeated by 800 men including 500 Dalits in the British army. The Obelisk was raised as a “victory pillar” by British.

For the Dalits, who were discriminated and considered untouchables, the Obelisk became a pilgrimage site since Dr B.R. Ambedkar visited it in 1927.

With the Koregaon Bhima Ranstambh Seva Sangh’s formation in 2005, the site became a place of Dalit pride as they fought against the Peshwas.

The Indian Army realised that the battle was fought by British against Indians. A review of all such victories was done when a Captain Chavan of the Dogra Regiment denied a toast raised to Koregaon Day as his forefathers being part of Peshwa army had died in Koregaon battle.

Senior officers and consultants post reviewing such battles recommended dropping the celebration of those battles that were fought by Indians against Indians. Koregaon being on the list was dropped.

Unperturbed by the colonial aspect of this battle, Dalits see the “Pillar of Victory” from another angle.