MYSURU: This little-known village in Karnataka has a remarkable record. It has contributed 144 soldiers to the Indian Army over the last 72 years. No wonder Maartalli is called ‘Yodhara Graama’ or the Soldiers Village.
While over 60 per cent of these soldiers are Christian, 39 per cent are Hindu and 1 percent Muslim. Irrespective of their community, they all consider the Army as their religion. “We believe that serving the nation is like serving god. If we serve the nation, god will take care of our families,” says Louis Periyanagam, who is still in the Army and has won the Shaurya Chakra.
This Republic Day, 18 of these serving soldiers who are back for a holiday were guests of honour at functions at various schools in nearby villages. Louis Periyanayagam himself was one of them.
A man named Gabriel was the first from this village, in Hanur taluk in Chamarajanagar district, to join the Army way back in 1948. Since then, 144 soldiers from Maartalli have served in different capacities. They fought in major wars including the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, the Bangladesh war of 1972, Operation Blue Star in 1984 and the Kargil War in 1999. Of them, 17 have died after service, while Mariya Prakasham was martyred during a conflict at Karabu near Kargil on March 2, 2009. Over 80 of them are now in service.
Two soldiers, Maria Joseph and Manohar, have won commendation cards, and Louis Periyanayagam won the Shaurya Chakra for his role in action in Jammu & Kashmir in 2008.
Periyanayagam says they have formed an Army Association Trust in the village through which they plan to train at least 50 youngsters a year and guide them towards joining the Army.
Asked why Martalli has produced so many soldiers, the 43-year-old Periyanayagam, who has put in 25 years of service and is now a Junior Commissioned Officer, said, “We are motivated by those who had served in the Army earlier. The village falls in the belt where forest brigand Veerappan was active. We were inspired by officers who were part of the operation to catch him. Their uniforms and fitness sparked the passion to serve just like them," he said.
“While there are a lot of missionaries in the region, most of the people in village are well educated and there is a teacher or a lecturer in every other house. Also, Chamarajnagar is a backward district where getting a job is not easy. That was also one of the motivating factors for us to join the Army. But above all, it is the passion to serve the nation," said John Britto, a teacher from Maartalli....