A goat and Garhwal Rifles

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Dehradun : Ther 125th raising day celebrations of Garhwal Rifles, founded by Lord Lansdowne, began yesterday in the quaint hill station, which bears his name even today. All eyes were on the statue of a goat that has the pride of place in the Regiment.

A unit of the Regiment, which was the first Indian Regiment to get the prefix of Royal, because of their acts of gallantry and bravery, was posted at Chitral (now along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border) during the Anglo-Afghan War.

The Officers Mess Garhwal Rifles – Lansdowne 1894; Photo Courtesy – James Champion

It is said that it was war in which as many as 1700 soldiers of the British Army were killed and the men of the Garhwal Rifles unit posted there somehow lost their way. With nothing to eat or drink, the men tried desperately to locate their colleagues, but in vain.

Having lost all hope of getting something to eat, they saw a goat come out from some bushes ahead of them. They felt that they could feast on the goat, but before they could reach the animal, it started digging the ground, and out came potatoes, which it started feeding on.

The soldiers started digging the ground and were more than elated to find that there were potatoes in the filed. It transpired upon them that where they were standing was actually a potato filed and the retreating army had burned the top portion of the crop, so that the advancing army does not get anything to feed upon.

According to the Garhwal Rifles, the men were indebted to the goat for saving their lives and decided to keep it as a mascot, which they brought back with them to Lansdowne, when the war was over.

When it died a statue was made of the goat that stands till today.

According to local folklore at Lansdowne, the goat was given a room next to the barracks and it had the freedom to go anywhere including the small bazaar that existed during time.

The goat could eat anything that the local hawkers or shopkeepers were selling and it would not be shooed off, rather the Garhwal Rifles would pay for the damage it had caused.

Though no on in Lansdowne today claims to have seen the goat, but a number of them swear that their ancestors had told them about it. Historian Dr Ranvir Singh eve n mentions about it in his famous book ‘Lansdowne : Sabhyata aur Sanskriti’.

The Garhwal Rifles was founded in 1887. Prior to this, there was no separate battalion of Garhwal soldiers and they were recruited in Gorkha Battalion, Bengal Infantry and Punjab Frontier.

Impressed by their honesty, courage and dedication, The British government decided to form a separate battalion for Garhwal soldiers.

The Regiment was conferred the title of Royal in 1921 after the gallantry of Garhwali soldiers in the First World War.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

6 Comments

  • Lt Gen Dr Mohan Bhandari says:

    FIRST GARHWAL Rifles,under Lt Col EP Mainwaring was raised at Almora on 5 May 1887.After initial raising, the Battalion marched through jungles & difficult terrain & reached Kalundanda( Black Hill because of Oak trees) on 4 NOvember 1887.In 1890, the name of Kalundanda was changed to Lansdowne .Lord Lansdowne was the then Viceroy of India.The GARHWAL Rifles is one of the most illustrious & decorated Infantry Regiments of the Indian Army.The Regiment has been rendering loyal & devoted service to the country ever since it’s existence in 1887.It was Fd Marshall FS Roberts of Kandhahar -the then C in C who had put in a a proposal for a separate Regiment of Garhwalis .Lat Sub Balbhadra Singh- a dye hard Garhwali was the Fd Marshal’s ADC.
    Garhwalis ,besides being brave,loyal,steadfast & honest are close to nature & are full of empathy, compassion & care.Their love for their families,animals & pets is beyond compare.As a Subaltern, I too had heard of this story & we in the Regiment had a number of such mascots.In some battalions, These mascots paraded with troops along with the Regimental Band wearing full Regimental Insignias.They also were promoted! Garhwal Rifles has emerged today as one of the single most prolific custodians of GARHWALI history,culture & traditions. Lansdowne the home of the Regiment is a place worth visiting.The Regimental Institutions especially the Mess & the Museum are a repository of the war trophies, game trophies,relics & artefacts- a treat to visit.To the Indian Youth who wish to join the great Indian Army, I would only say -JOIN THE GARHWALIS.

  • I am also proud of being a garhwali. My father and my two uncles were also in The Royal Garhwal Rifles. They all took part in the 2nd world war. I have 5 nos of war medal of my father which I keep with great regard. I also was to keen to join the regiment and I tried a lot but couldn’t succeed. Any way the luck was not with me. But I kept alive my passion for the Indian Army and my own regiment ‘The Garhwal Rifles. I have procured and read many books on the Indian Army and The Garhwal Rifles such as ‘The Indian Army, Indian Army after Independence, War Dispatch, Hours of Glory, When Generals failed, Himalayan Blunder, The Royal Garhwal Rifles in the Great War from Aug’1914 to Nov’1917, INA The forgotten Army etc. Now days (at least from 2 years) I trying hard to procure 2 more books 1) The Garhwalis’ written by Brig. AIs Dhillon and published by Green Fields, Dehradun 2) The Untold Story written by Lt Gen B.M. Kaul’ . I shall be greatful if somebody help me to procure these books ?. Thanks Birendra Singh ;Bisht

    • Mukesh Ringola says:

      Dear Bishtji
      It was nice to read of your father and uncles participated in the II world war. Where exactly were they posted on the battle zone?

  • KANAK NEGI says:

    I m also proud of being a garhwali. I visited garhwal many a times but when this time i went to lansdowne first time in my life that experience was memorable. We stayed in the garhwal rifles officers guest house and from there my love for my community raised to heights. The museum and especially the regimental mess was incredible.
    I wish great success and achievements for The Royal Garhwal Rifles for their future.

  • Nitin Negi says:

    Great Army ! Brave Peoples.. Long live Royal Garhwalis …

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