It is the 68th Republic Day for the world’s largest democracy. It is the day when the armed forces of India showcase their power at Rajpath.
While the parade was full of sophisticated weapons and missiles, one silent hero – mule – was yet again missing from the contingent.
Transport through animals still serve as the backbone of Indian Army and is largely neglected.
The mules of Indian Army have a track record of serving where the man and the machine fail. It is at these areas that these humble and dedicated animals succeed to ensure that our soldiers receive their rations, ammunition, among other things.
Mules play a vital role in the lives of Army personnel stationed at high altitude areas in Kashmir and the North East. These mules along with their drivers carry loads of ration, ammunition, disassembled guns and other supplies to altitude ranging from 10,000 feet to 19,000 feet.
Armies using animals in warfare is as old as the history itself. Time and again these brave hearts have proven their mettle in war and have single-handedly led the army to victory.
The mules of Indian Army work alongside soldiers to ferry essential items to forward units while transporting casualties to military hospitals in a terrain where no vehicle or man can go.
During non-operational months, these animals are regularly taken out for long walks and are trained further for the operational months. An Army officer who spoke to TopYaps said:
These mules work just as hard as the soldiers. If not for the mules, soldiers cannot stay at outposts as they are totally cut off by snow.
Revealing that the mules are intelligent animals, he added:
Show it a route just once and the next time the mule will show it to you.
Inducted at an age of two to three years, the mules undergo rigorous training and according to their capability, each mule is given a certain fixed mileage and load to carry. Mules are of three types- a general load-carrying mule, a sturdier one which can carry disassembled guns called Mountain Arty mule and the third one which is used for riding.
Explaining what mules do during the non-operational months, the officer said:
The AT companies’ mules are deployed from June to October in their operational areas before they are brought back to their bases for much-deserved rest and recuperation. During the remaining months, they remain at base and are not given tasks. Each AT driver is given charge of two mules. He takes care of the animals from feeding and watering to clipping. The animals are massaged twice a day and groomed. Drivers frequently inspect the body of the animals for signs of infections or illness. At sundown, they are chained and they settle down for the night on a soft bed of hay with a blanket on top.
Pendogi- The most famous mule of Army
The mules are not given any names. These animals are identified by their hoof numbers. Hoof no. 15328 was called Pedongi who was a bay Spanish mare. In 1987, Pendongi was the oldest MA (Mountain Artillery) mule stationed at 853 AT Company.
The Commanding Officer of that unit was surprised to see a 29-year-old mule ready for service to carry the load to 17,000 feet. Seeing the animal’s loyalty and dedication, the unflinching mule became the unit’s mascot. She was awarded a commendation from the chief and was shifted to Bareilly, where she spent her last years grazing in the grounds and earning respect from everyone.
In 1992, she was presented with a Rich Ceremonial Blue velvet Rug and was named Pendongi after an area in Sikkim. Only horses in the army are given names, but Pendongi earned her name due to her courage and unflinching dedication towards the corps.
She crossed the Elysian Fields on 25th March 1998 in Bareilly after carving a niche for the mules in the army. Braving bullets and air strikes, she entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Serving Military Mule in the world.