Marching to the beat of time
The exploits of Mysore State troops form an interesting episode in the history of pre-independent Karnataka. The princely state of Mysore had its own army consisting of the infantry, cavalry and a transport corps.
The Mysore army assisted the British in their wars, both inside and outside India, supplemented the State police during emergencies, guarded taluk and district treasuries, accompanied dignitaries during their itineraries and performed ceremonial duties.
A majority of men in the army belonged to the Maratha and Muslim communities. The Marathas were in a majority in the cavalry while the Muslims formed a majority in the infantry and transport wing. These two communities apart, there were also Brahmins, Rajputs and Christians in the crew.
During 1872-73, the pay of a cavalryman was Rs 26 a month and that of a first class sepoy in the infantry was Rs 7.
There was also a military band where trumpeters, drummers, fifers and buglers were given regular instructions by European musicians. In April 1892, the cavalry of Mysore State Troops was re-organised into two corps. Mysore lancers was for the Imperial service and was stationed in Bangalore. Another was the Mysore Horse which was stationed at Mysore with outposts in the frontier taluks of Jagalur and Pavagada. With regard to pay, discipline and equipment, Mysore Lancers was similar to Her Majesty’s native cavalry.
There was one riding school at Mysore while the other was at Bangalore. The government stud farm at Kunigal provided the horses for the State cavalry. In August 1894, a school was started to teach English to those in the Mysore Lancers troop. The Mysore State Force had three infantry units. Its first battalion was stationed in Bangalore and Kolar, the second in Shimoga, Hassan, Kadur and Chitradurga and the third battalion in Mysore and Tumkur.
The Animal Transport Corps was formed to assist the Mysore Lancers. Apart from ferrying troops and supplies, the Transport Corps services helped in harvesting, collecting and carting of grass at the Hesaraghatta grass farm. However, in 1930 it was disbanded and in its place the Mechanical Transport Corps was formed. It had six lorries and 14 men.
Achievements & laurels
During the First World War, the Mysore Lancers under the command of B Chamaraja Urs, chief of regiment, left for service overseas. They were employed in guarding important lines of communication, constructing strong field works for the defence of Suez Canal and also in actual combat. Their performance satisfied their British superiors.
Similarly, the Mysore Transport Corps did much useful work in Mesopotamia as well. But unfortunately, their commandant, Furzulla Khan, died in July 1917. They were honoured with awards like Military Cross, Indian Order of Merit and the Gandabherunda Order for their distinguished services and gallantry.
They also took part in polo, horse racing and rifle shooting competitions held across the country and bagged cups and prize money. Since they won the Ootacamund Gymkhana Polo tournament for consecutive times, the cup remained with them as a prized possession.
Similarly, in the Raja of Bobbili Open Handicap Polo Cup, they emerged winners three consecutive times and the cup became a property of the regiment. They also participated in the Mysore Dasara military sports, Bangalore and Ootacamund horse shows and won cups, medals and cash prizes.
In 1925, they won high scores in the North Indian Rifle Association matches. In the South Indian Rifle Association meet held at Bangalore, they won the Kitchner Cup, the Indian Officers Pistol Cup and prize money of Rs 625.
In Febuary 1926, five officers, 72 men and 64 horses of the Mysore Lancers took part in the Madras Naval Military and Air Force tournament.
The officers won five cups and three lances. Men from other ranks also won two cups, one lance and three medals besides the first, second prize cups and four medals in tent pegging competitions.
Since the Mysore lancers was formed to serve British interests, senior officers from the British Indian Army used to inspect the State troops for their combat efficiency and discipline at regular intervals.
In November 1940, the first infantry battalion received training in British India and left on service overseas in March 1941. In the ensuing campaign, they were taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese.
In 1945, nearly 517 of these prisoners returned to the State and efforts were made to trace the remaining personnel. The State government also sanctioned the re-instatement of the Indian National Army personnel (formed by Subash Chandra Bose from the Indian prisoners of war under Japanese control) in the ranks which they would have got had they continued in state service.
This suggests that some personnel of the Mysore Army had probably joined the INA. In September 1948, personnel of the first battalion, Mysore Infantry and the Mysore Lancers participated in the police action against Hyderabad. On first April 1950, the entire administrative control of the Mysore State Troops except the Maharaja’s personal infantry and body guards, a portion of the General Transport Company and the Mysore Infantry Band was merged with the Indian Army.
On January 26, 1950, units of the Mysore state troops had taken part in the Republic Day celebration held at Mysore and Bangalore and taken an oath of allegiance to the new Indian union.
The Maharaja’s personal infantry and body guards were integrated with Mysore Armed Reserve Police and brought under the Police Act. Their administration was controlled by the IGP.
In addition to normal duties, the unit members worked as sentries in the palace, Palace treasury, Chamundi temple and Parakal Mutt.
They also participated in various ceremonial functions.
As an institution, the military provided employment for adventure seeking young men of Mysore, helped them cultivate discipline, develop sportsmanship and obtain combat training.
It also offered them opportunities for interaction with men in the British Indian Army and an experience in fighting overseas by putting them on the battleground during the two World Wars.