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.
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.