Growing up in India’s Cantonement areas, I have always been fascinated by British Indian History. Cycling past the rambling bungalows, I often wondered what happened to the various inhabitants who had lived there in the past. Would they be shocked at seeing how things have changed ? Or would they have accepted it as the march of time?
While the whole of Pune has changed beyond recognition, I feel sad that the Cantonement too is being pulled out of its two hundred year old slumber.
This weekend ,while on our way to see the Ganpati at Ranjangaon, we spotted a solitary obelisk rising along the bank of the River Bhima, just before the Toll station on the Pune-Ahmednagar Expressway. Looking strangely out of place in I wondered what it was .
I vaguely remembered my father telling me the story of the Third Battle of the Marathas otherwise known as the Battle of Koregaon and the monument built to commemorate this British victory. Did you know, he used to tell me that the so called posh Koregaon Park is named after this historic battle? So, we decided to check it out.
I was not wrong. I got out of the car and walked up to a neatly fenced compound enclosing the monument. Decidedly European, it looked strangely out of place in dusty Maharashtra especially with the brightly coloured laundry left to dry on the fence. A closer look at the signboard outside announced it to be a War Monument commemorating the Battle of Coregaon – The First Battle Honour of the Poona Horse or the 17th Horse as it was then known. A walk up the stone path led to the marble plaque – a quaint sign with its well worn lettering painted over, heroically acknowledging the fierce resistance offered by Capt.Staunton who with a mere 500 native troops managed to withstand and defeat the 20,000 strong army of Baji Rao 2nd ( the Peshwa renowned for his cowardly ways) and his Artillery. “On the 1st day of January 1818 goes the plaque”, Capt.Staunton’s best troops were “surrounded by and forced to bear the most obstinate and sanguinary attacks of the Paishwa”