Battle of Koregaon

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Battle of Koregaon
Part of Third Anglo-Maratha War
Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar.jpg

Bhima Koregaon Victory Pillar
Date1 January 1818
Koregaon Bhima (in present-day Maharashtra, India)
18°38′44″N 074°03′33″E / 18.64556°N 74.05917°E / 18.64556; 74.05917Coordinates: 18°38′44″N 074°03′33″E / 18.64556°N 74.05917°E / 18.64556; 74.05917
Result Victory of East India Company
British East India Company flag.svg British East India Company Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy
Commanders and leaders
Captain Francis F. Staunton Peshwa Baji Rao II
Bapu Gokhale
Appa Desai
Trimbakji Dengle
Units involved
2nd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry
Madras Artillery
Arabs, Gosains and Marathas
834, including around 500 infantry, around 300 cavalry and 24 artillery
2 6-pounder cannons
28,000 including 20,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry
(around 2,000 participated in the battle supported by 2 cannons)
Casualties and losses
275 killed, wounded or missing 500–600 killed or wounded (British estimates)
Koregaon Bhima is located in India
Koregaon Bhima
Koregaon Bhima
Location of Koregaon Bhima in India

The Battle of Koregaon (also called the Battle of Koregaon Bhima) was fought on 1 January 1818 between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon Bhima.

A 28,000-strong force led by Peshwa Baji Rao II whilst on their way to attack the company-held Pune, were unexpectedly met by an 800-strong Company force that was on its way to reinforce the British troops in Pune. The Peshwa dispatched around 2,000 soldiers to attack the force which sought entrenchment in Koregaon. Led by Captain Francis Staunton, the Company troops defended their position for nearly 12 hours, before the Peshwa's troops ultimately withdrew, fearing the imminent arrival of a larger British force.

The battle was part of the Third Anglo Maratha war, a series of battles that culminated in the defeat of the Peshwa rule and subsequent rule of the British East India Company in nearly all of Western, Central and Southern India.[2] There is a "victory pillar" (obelisk) in Koregaon commemorating the battle.[3]


By the 1800s, the Marathas were organized into a loose confederacy, with the major constituents being the Peshwa of Pune, the Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Gaekwad of Baroda, and the Bhosale of Nagpur.[4] The British had subjugated and signed peace treaties with these factions, establishing Residencies at their capitals. The British intervened in a revenue-sharing dispute between the Peshwa and Gaekwad, and on 13 June 1817, the Company forced Peshwa Baji Rao II to sign an agreement renouncing claims on Gaekwad's revenues and ceding large swaths of territory to the British. This treaty of Pune formally ended the Peshwa's titular overlordship over other Maratha chiefs, thus officially ending the Maratha confederacy.[5][6] Soon after this, the Peshwa burnt down the British Residency at Pune, but was defeated in the Battle of Khadki near Pune on 5 November 1817.[7]

The Peshwa then fled to Satara, and the Company forces took complete control of Pune. Pune was placed under Colonel Charles Barton Burr, while a British force led by General Smith pursued Peshwa. Smith feared that Peshwa could escape to Konkan and overpower the small British detachment there. Therefore, he instructed Colonel Burr to send reinforcements to Konkan, and in turn, call in for reinforcements from Shirur, if needed.[8] Meanwhile, the Peshwa managed to escape beyond Smith's pursuit, but his southward advance was constrained by the advance of a Company force led by General Theophilus Pritzler. He then changed his route, marching eastwards before turning north-west towards Nashik. Realizing that General Smith was in a position to intercept him, he suddenly turned southwards towards Pune.[9] Towards the end of December, Colonel Burr received news that the Peshwa intended to attack Pune, and asked the Company troops stationed at Shirur for help. The troops dispatched from Shirur came across the Peshwa's forces, resulting in the Battle of Koregaon.[1][8]

Peshwa's forces[edit]

The Peshwa's army comprised 20,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry. Out of these, around 2,000 men were deployed in the action, constantly reinforced during the battle.[10] The force that attacked the Company troops consisted of three infantry parties of 600 soldiers each.[1] These soldiers included Arabs, Gosains and Marathas (the caste).[10] The majority of the attackers were Arabs (mercenaries and their descendants), reputed to be the finest among the Peshwa's soldiers.[11][12] The attackers were supported by a cavalry and two pieces of artillery.[9]

The attack was directed by Bapu Gokhale, Appa Desai and Trimbakji Dengle.[1] Trimbakji was the only among these to enter the Koregaon village, once during the attack.[13] The Peshwa and other chiefs stayed at Phoolsheher (modern Phulgaon) near Koregaon.[14] The titular Maratha Chatrapati, Pratap Singh of Satara, also accompanied the Peshwa.[13]

Company forces[edit]

The Company troops dispatched from Shirur comprised 834 men, including:[1][13]

  • Around 500 soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry, led by Captain Francis Staunton. Other officers included:
    • Lieutenant and Adjuntant Pattison
    • Lieutenant Jones
    • Assistant-Surgeon Wingate
  • Around 300 auxiliary horsemen under Lieutenant Swanston
  • 24 European and 4 Native Madras artillerymen with two 6-pounder guns, led by Lieutenant Chisholm. Besides Chisholm, Assistant-Surgeon Wyllie (or Wyldie) was the only officer in the artillery.

The Company troops of Indian origin included Mahars, Marathas, Rajputs, Muslims, and Jews.[15] This was mostly the troops that Capt. Staunton had raised three months ago with the object of strengthening the defense of Poona that was already under British control.[16]

The battle[edit]

British defence plan during Battle of Koregaon

The Company troops left Shirur at 8 pm on 31 December 1817. After marching all night and covering a distance of 25 miles, they reached the high ground behind Talegaon Dhamdhere. From there, they spotted Peshwa's army across the Bhima River. Captain Staunton marched up to Koregaon Bhima village, which was located on the banks of the river. The village was surrounded by a low mud wall. Captain Staunton made a feint of crossing the shallow Bhima river. A 5,000-strong infantry, which was slightly ahead of the Peshwa's base, retreated to inform him about the presence of British forces. Meanwhile, Staunton stationed his forces in Koregaon instead of crossing the river. He secured a strong position for his guns, posting one of them to guard an approach from the Bhima river (which was running almost dry), and another to guard the road from Shirur.[1][8]

After the return of his 5,000-strong infantry, the Peshwa dispatched three infantry parties of Arab, Gosain and Maratha soldiers. Each party comprised 300–600 soldiers. The parties crossed the Bhima River at three different points, supported by two cannons and rocket fire. Peshwa's troops also made a feint attack from the Shirur road.[8][13]

By noon, the Arabs took control of a temple on the outskirts of the village. One of the temples was retaken by a party led by Lieutenant and Assistant Surgeon Wyllie. The Arabs also captured the sole gun guarding the river, and killed eleven gunners, including their officer Lieutenant Chisholm. Driven by thirst and hunger, some of the Company's gunners suggested negotiating a surrender. However, Captain Staunton refused to yield. A group led by Lieutenant Pattison retook the gun, and found Lieutenant Chisholm's body with the head cut off. Captain Staunton declared that this would be the fate of those who fall into the enemy hands. This encouraged the gunners to fight on. The Company troops successfully defended the village.[1][8]

Peshwa's forces ceased firing and left the village by 9 pm, driven by the fear of approaching British reinforcements under General Joseph Smith.[12][17] At night, the Company troops managed to procure a supply of water.[13] The Peshwa remained near Koregaon on the next day but did not launch another attack. Captain Staunton, who was not aware of General Smith's advance, believed that the Peshwa would attack the Company troops on the Koregaon-Pune route. On the night of 2 January, Staunton first pretended to go in the direction of Pune but then marched back to Shirur, carrying most of his wounded soldiers.[9][13]

According to the Interesting Intelligence from the London Gazette: "Accounts have been received from Lt Col Burr, dated the 3rd (January, 1818), intimating that Capt. Staunton, commanding the 2nd battalion 1st regiment of Bombay Native Infantry, had been fortunately able to commence his march back to Seroor, with 125 wounded, having buried 50 at Goregaum (sic), and left 12 or 15 there, badly wounded; that the Peshwa had proceeded Southward, General Smith in pursuit, which had probably saved the battalion."[18]


Out of the 834 Company troops, 275 were killed, wounded or missing. The dead included two officers — Assistant-Surgeon Wingate and Lieutenant Chisholm; Lieutenant Pattison later died of his wounds in Shirur.[1] Among the infantrymen, 50 were killed and 105 wounded. Among the artillery, 12 were killed and 8 were wounded.[11] The dead Company soldiers of Indian origin included 22 Mahars, 16 Marathas, 8 Rajputs, 2 Muslims, and 1-2 Jews.[15][19]

According to the British estimates, around 500 to 600 of Peshwa's soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle.[1]

Mountstuart Elphinstone, who visited Koregaon two days later on 3 January 1818, wrote that the houses had been burned and the streets were filled with dead bodies of horses and men. There were around 50 dead bodies lying in the village, most of them of the Peshwa's Arab soldiers. There were six dead bodies outside the village. In addition, there were shallow graves of 50 native sepoys, 11 European soldiers and the 2 deceased officers belonging to the Company forces.[14]


When Elphinstone visited the battle field shortly after its completion, he found that the Company soldiers had completely lost their morale and were reluctant to believe the praises that were showered on them .[20]

General Smith arrived in Koregaon on 3 January, but by this time, the Peshwa had already left the area.[11] A company force led by General Pritzler pursued Peshwa, who tried to escape to Mysore. Meanwhile, General Smith captured Satara, the capital of Pratap Singh. Smith intercepted Peshwa in a battle on 19 February 1818 at Ashtoon (or Ashta); Bapuji Gokhale was killed in this action. The Peshwa then fled to Khandesh, while his jagirdars accepted the Company's suzerainty. A dejected Peshwa then met with John Malcolm on 2 June 1818, and surrendered his royal claims in exchange for a pension and a residence in Bithoor. Trimbakji Dengle was captured near Nashik and imprisoned at the Chunar Fort.[9]

As a reward for their bravery in the Battle of Koregaon, the 2nd battalion of the 1st Regiment of the Bombay Native Infantry was made Grenadiers. Their regiment came to be known as 1st Grenadier Regiment of Bombay Native Infantry.[1] The official report to the British Residents at Poona recalls the "heroic valour and enduring fortitude" of the soldiers, the "disciplined intrepidity" and "devoted courage and admirable consistency" of their actions.[21]

Captain Staunton was appointed an honorary aide-de-camp to the Governor General of India. The Court of Directors presented him with a sword and a sum of 500 guineas (gold coins). Later in 1823, he became a Major, and was appointed a companion of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath.[1]

General Thomas Hislop called the battle "one of the most heroic and brilliant achievements ever recorded on the annals of the army".[1] According to M.S. Naravane, "this gallant defense by a small number of Company's troops against an overwhelming Maratha force is rightly considered as one of the most glorious example of valour and fortitude in the annals of the Company's forces."[22]

General Smith, in his official report of this battle, wrote, “The action at Koregaum was one of the most brilliant affairs achieved by any army in which European and Native soldiers displayed the most noble devotion and most romantic bravery under pressure of hunger and thirst almost beyond human endurance. [23]


Neither side achieved a decisive victory in the battle.[24] Shortly after the battle, Mountstuart Elphinstone described it as a "small victory" for the Peshwa.[25] Nevertheless, the East India Company government praised the bravery of its troops, who could not be overpowered despite being outnumbered.[24]

Notwithstanding this, the battle being one of the last ones to be fought in the Third Anglo-Maratha War, is since recognised as a Company victory after the war ended with Peshwa's defeat.[24]


The battle resulted in losses to the Maratha empire, then under Peshwa rule, and control over most of western, central and southern India by the British East India Company.

From 1927 Mahars community started visiting the place and started celebrating the victory as their victory against Peshwa. After centuries of generally desultory treatment, this battle was the first time that Mahars had been included in a battle in which they won.[26]


To commemorate its fallen soldiers, the East India Company commissioned a "victory pillar" (an obelisk) in Koregaon.[27] The inscription of the pillar declares that Captain Staunton's force "accomplished one of the proudest triumphs of the British Army in the East."[24]

Significance to Mahars[edit]

B. R. Ambedkar and his followers at the Koregaon victory pillar on December 28th 1927

The Koregaon pillar inscription features the names of the 49 Company soldiers killed in the battle.[28] 22 of these names end with the suffix -nac (or -nak), which was used exclusively by the people of Mahar caste.[24][29] The obelisk was featured on the Mahar Regiment's crest until Indian Independence. While it was built by the British as a symbol of their own power, today it serves as a memorial of the Mahars.[21][30]

The Mahars were considered as untouchable in the contemporary caste-based society. The Peshwas, who were the 'high-caste' Brahmins, were notorious for their mistreatment and persecution of the untouchables.[31] Because of this, the Dalits (former untouchables), after independence, saw the Koregaon obelisk as a symbol of their victory over the high-caste oppression.[32] Dalit Leader B. R. Ambedkar visited the site on 1 January 1927. To commemorate his visit to the site, now thousands of his followers visit the site every New Year's Day.[33] A number of Mahar gatherings have also been held at the place.[28] On 1 January 2018, clashes erupted between right-wing Hindu groups and Dalit Buddhist groups during the commemoration of this battle.[34] This led to further violent protests and rioting in Mumbai and Maharashtra for two days.[35]

However a different perspective is presented by the Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde. He has argued that portraying the Battle of Bhima Koregaon as the battle of Mahars against their caste oppression in Peshwa rule, is a "pure myth".[36] He mentions that most of those died in the battle (27 out of 49) were not Mahar, and the Peshwa army actually retreated fearing the arrival of a larger British force. Thus he considers painting of the battle as Mahars’ against the Peshwas’ Brahmanic rule as misleading.


The Battle of Bhima Koregaon: An Unending Journey is a 2017 documentary by Indian filmmaker Somnath Waghmare.[37][38] It explored the role of 500 Mahar soldiers in Battle of Koregaon on 1 January 1818 against the Peshwa dynasty.

The Battle of Bhima Koregaon is an upcoming Indian Hindi-language period war drama film directed and produced by Ramesh Thete under his banner Ramesh Thete Films.[39] The film stars Arjun Rampal[40] as a Mahar warrior, and Digangana Suryavanshi.[41][42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency. 18. Government Central Press. 1885. pp. 244–247.
  2. ^ Amin, Agha (23 September 2017). Atlas of Third Maratha War-Volume 1: First ever detailed cartographic description of the Maratha and Pindari War (Cartographic Depictions of Indo Pak British Military History) (Volume 35). Createspace. ISBN 978-1977547941.
  3. ^ Macmillan, Michael. The Last of the Peshwas, a Tale of the Third Maratha War. Forgotten Books.
  4. ^ Surjit Mansingh (2006). Historical Dictionary of India. Scarecrow Press. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-8108-6502-0.
  5. ^ Mohammad Tarique (2008). Modern Indian History. Tata McGraw-Hill. pp. 1.15–1.16. ISBN 978-0-07-066030-4.
  6. ^ Gurcharn Singh Sandhu (1987). The Indian Cavalry: History of the Indian Armoured Corps. Vision Books. p. 211. ISBN 978-81-7094-013-5.
  7. ^ John F. Riddick (2006). The History of British India: A Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-313-32280-8.
  8. ^ a b c d e Charles Augustus Kincaid; Dattātraya Baḷavanta Pārasanīsa (1918). A history of the Maratha people. Oxford University Press. pp. 212–216.
  9. ^ a b c d Peter Auber (1837). Rise and progress of the British power in India. 2. W. H. Allen & Co. pp. 542–550.
  10. ^ a b Reginald George Burton (2008). Wellington's Campaigns in India. Lancer. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-0-9796174-6-1.
  11. ^ a b c Henry Thoby Prinsep (1825). History of the Political and Military Transactions in India During the Administration of the Marquess of Hastings, 1813-1823. 2. Kingsbury, Parbury & Allen. pp. 158–167.
  12. ^ a b R. V. Russell (1916). The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India. I. London: Macmillan and Co. p. 363. ISBN 9781465582942. The Arabs attacked us at Koregaon and would have certainly destroyed us had not the Peshwa withdrawn his troops on General Smith's approach.
  13. ^ a b c d e f James Grant Duff (1826). A History of the Mahrattas. 3. Longmans, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. pp. 432–438.
  14. ^ a b Thomas Edward Colebrooke (2011) [1884]. Life of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 9781108294928.
  15. ^ a b Vasant Moon, ed. (2003). Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches. Government of Maharashtra. p. 5. 22 were Mahars or Parwaris (identified by their names ending with nak), 16 were Marathas, 8 were Raputs, two were Muslims, and one or two were probably Indian Jews
  16. ^ M Rajivlochan. "Bloody Scrum, Glorious Victory".
  17. ^ Tony Jaques (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: F-O. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 542. ISBN 978-0-313-33538-9.
  18. ^ "Interesting Intelligence from the London Gazette" (June 1818) page 550
  19. ^ V. Longer (1981). Forefront for Ever: The History of the Mahar Regiment. Mahar Regimental Centre. p. 14. One hundred and thirteen men and two British Officers were wounded. Of the men of the 2/1st Regiment Bombay Native Infantry who fell in action, 22 were Mahars or Parwaris (identified by their names ending with "nak"), 16 were Marathas, 8 were Rajputs, two were Muslims, and one or two were probably Indian Jews.
  20. ^ Penderel Moon (1999). The British Conquest and Dominion of India. India Research Press. p. 406. ISBN 0-7156-2169-6.
  21. ^ a b Kumbhojkar, Shraddha (2012). "Contesting Power, Contesting Memories – The History of the Koregaon Memorial". The Economic and Political Weekly. Retrieved 19 October 2012.(subscription required)
  22. ^ Naravane, M.S. (2014). Battles of the Honorourable East India Company. A.P.H. Publishing Corporation. pp. 83–84. ISBN 9788131300343.
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b c d e Shraddha Kumbhojkar 2015, p. 40.
  25. ^ S. G. Vaidya (1976). Peshwa Bajirao II and The Downfall of The Maratha Power. Pragati Prakashan. p. 308. In his Journal Elphinstone wrote that the Peshwa had gained a small victory at Koregaon
  26. ^ Chandra Gupta, Pratul. The last peshwa and the English commissioners, 1818-1851. S.C. Sarkar and Sons Ltd.
  27. ^ Nisith Ranjan Ray (1983). Western Colonial Policy. Institute of Historical Studies. p. 176.
  28. ^ a b Doranne Jacobson; Eleanor Zelliot; Susan Snow Wadley (1992). From untouchable to Dalit: essays on the Ambedkar Movement. Manohar. p. 89. ISBN 9788185425375.
  29. ^ Basham, Ardythe (Author); Das, Bhagwan (editor) (2008). Untouchable soldiers : the Maharas and the Mazhbis. Delhi: Gautam Book Centre. p. 27. ISBN 9788187733430.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  30. ^ Kumbhojkar, Shraddha (Author); Geppert, Dominik(Editor); Müller, Frank Lorenz(Editor) (2015). Sites of Imperial Memory: Commemorating Colonial Rule in the Nineteenth and, Chapter three : Politics, caste and the remembrance of the Raj: the Obelisk at Koregaon. Oxford University press. pp. 39–52. ISBN 9780719090813.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  31. ^ Shraddha Kumbhojkar 2015, p. 43:"The Peshwas, Brahmin rulers of western India, were infamous for their high caste orthodoxy and their persecution of the Untouchables."
  32. ^ Shraddha Kumbhojkar 2015, p. 49.
  33. ^ Shraddha Kumbhojkar 2015, p. 47.
  34. ^ Pune's Dalit protests reach Mumbai, suburbs affected
  35. ^ Protests spread in Maharashtra post clashes during bicentenary celebrations of Bhima-Koregaon battle
  36. ^ The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend, Anand Teltumbde, The Wire, 02/JAN/2018
  37. ^ "Docu-film on intriguing 1818 battle premieres in Bengaluru". Deccan Herald. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  38. ^ "Somnath Waghmare's documentary explains why the Battle of Bhima Koregaon is important to Dalits". The Indian Express. 4 January 2018. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  39. ^ "Am directing film on Koregaon Bhima battle: Ex-IAS officer". Outlook. 2 August 2020. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  40. ^ Sharma, Aditi (13 April 2020). "Arjun Rampal to essay the role of Mahar warrior in 'The Battle of Bhima Koregaon'?". Republic World. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  41. ^ "Digangana Suryavanshi To Star Opposite Arjun Rampal In The Battle of Bhima Koregaon?". Telly Chakkar.
  42. ^ Varma, Lipika (16 June 2020). "Arjun Rampal's upcoming movie delayed". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 13 January 2021.