The Oldest regiment of the Indian Army

For those who’ve read S. Muthiah’s books on Madras, the line “Everything in modern India had its root in Madras” would be very familiar. It’s the line Muthiah uses the most often, and not without justification. It was through Muthiah’s books that I learnt of the city’s history, of the people and the institutions and the politics that have had a bearing on the rest of the country.
All that is the preamble to the following link: Nilu writes about the oldest regiment in the Indian Army. And no surprise: it is the Madras Regiment.

In spite of being the vehicle with which the British conquered India, the Madras Regiment was mostly abandoned through the 1800s and later disbanded in 1928 — until World War II necessitated a revival. After the Vellore Mutiny in 1806, the British decided not to recruit Tamils as soldiers. They were considered disobedient and the Thevars, who were(are) the warrior caste, were disarmed. Further, the newly conquered regions and the ‘divide and rule’ policy contributed to the relegation of the Madras Regiment to history books. The British needed and changed their recruiting process. Most Punjabi and Pakistani regiments owe their origin to the Madras Regiment.

As a result, the unit/battalion that Robert Clive commanded is no longer part of the Indian Army. But the Madras Regiment continues to exist today, and therefore, is the oldest unit of the Indian Army.

6 Comments so far

  1. nandhu (unregistered) on March 2nd, 2007 @ 11:58 am

    interesting titbit. a bibliography of Mr Muthiah’s books would not be out of place.

  2. Mytri (unregistered) on March 2nd, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

    How interesting! I have met a few North Indians who said they were from Madras Regiment and how they used to eat idlis for breakfast regularly. I did not know that it was a deliberate attempt to get Punjabis in this regiment. Maybe that is why a few Mysoreans were in the Maratha Regiment?

  3. Fidel Khan (unregistered) on March 6th, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

    I have a question… were there any Pathans serving in the Mardas Regiment in the colonial era? I know there were Muslim, but what are the chances of them being of the Pathan/Pashtun orign?

  4. aym grand (unregistered) on March 7th, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

    Nilu has copied it for somewhere without giving credits.

  5. Nilu (unregistered) on March 7th, 2007 @ 8:42 pm


  6. Chandar S. Sundaram (unregistered) on March 14th, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

    A good book on the Madras Regiment is Pythian- Adams’ “The Madras Regiment, 1757-1959” Wellington, 1959. Contributors to this blog might be interested in my Co-edited book “A Military History of India and South Asia” ( London and Westport Conn.: Praeger, 2007.

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