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Battle of Bhima Koregaon: History and its significance

The people of Dalit communities gather in Bhima Koregaon in large numbers on 1 January every year to pay tribute to the Dalit heroes who died in the war between the British and the Peshwas on 1 January 1818. The Peshwas were defeated in this battle of Bhima Koregaon.
Jan 2, 2020 12:08 IST
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Victory Pillar in Koregaon
Victory Pillar in Koregaon

 India is characterized by more ethnic and religious groups than other countries in the world.  The socio-cultural and demographic dimension of diversity in the Indian context has sometimes spilled over into violence numerous times in the years since independence.

The racism, extremism and superiority complex is the only reason for the clashes between the Indian communities.

The clashes took place between Dalits and Maratha communities in Bhima Koregaon of Maharashtra on 1 January 2018.  Let's find out the reason behind the clashes between the Dalits and the Maratha community on the Koregaon Bhīma Battle which was fought 200 years ago.

Brief History of Koregaon Bhima Battle

Mahar and other backward classes from Maharashtra and other parts of the country organised at Bhima Koregaon every year on January 1 to commemorate 200 years of courage, valour and sacrifice of their ancestors with courage and sacrifice.

It is a place which has been mediated by competing narratives of Dalit assertion against Brahminical oppression, and Indian ‘nationalism’ standing up to the colonial army of the East India Company during the battle of Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 1818. The battle has come to be seen as a "symbol of Dalit pride". Hence, it has been celebrated by the Dalit over the years.

Anglo-Maratha War

The Battle took place when the forces of Maratha ruler Peshwa Baji Rao II fought with those of the British East India Company in which the majority of soldiers belong to Mahar at Bhima Koregaon, named so for being situated on the bank of River Bhima.

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Significance of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon

Mahar relates this battle to their self-respect because they were insulted by the Peshwa Baji Rao II on their identity and caste when they offered their services to the Peshwa. The Mahars then took the job with the British and fought the war on their behalf. The soldiers of the Peshwa defeated and it was the first historic step towards making India free of caste and democracy "which happened almost two hundred years ago.

Historians Narration on the Battle of Bhima Koregaon

Some historian believes that the battle took place against the tyranny of foreign invasion which is factually not incorrect whereas some historian believes that it was the battle for the self-respect of the Mahar because when they offer their services to Peshwa were denied by calling them untouchables.  This was similar behaviour Peshwa that of Ancient India did through Varna System.

Mahar

Some historians provided the details in many places that while entering the city, the Mahar’s had to bind a broom in their waist so that their 'polluted and profane' footprints could be removed from the broom by wandering behind them.

They had to hang a vessel in their neck so that they could spit in it and their spit should not be polluted. They could not even think of extracting water from wells or puddles.

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Shaurya Pillar

                                                     Shaurya Pillar

In the memory of Battle, the British built squared-pillar to pay homage to the martyr soldiers, which is popularly known as ‘Koregaon Pillar’ that symbolises the courage of Mahar Regiment. The names martyrs soldiers of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon were engraved on the pillars and soldiers were honoured with a medal by the British in 1851. This battle ended the Peshwa System and the British got the power of this country of India.

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