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Bakloh :The Soul of 4 GR & a cantonment town in Himachal

Bakloh is a cantonment town. It is a hill station, 4584 feet above sea level, in Chamba district in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India.Bakloh and Balun, Dalhousie Cantonment, along with a sliver of territory to connect the two cantonments, was acquired in 1866 from the Raja of Chamba for a sum of rupees 5000. Bakloh was meant for a 'Goorkha Cantonment' for the 4th Goorkha Regiment, raised at Pithoragarh, (UP), in 1857. Balun, the cantonment in Dalhousie was for British troops. Bakloh remained the home and the Regimental Center and Depot, of the 4th Gorkha Rifles(GR), formerly known as the 4th Prince of Wales Own Gurkha Rifles, for 82 years, from 1866 to 1948.2/4 Gorkha Rifles was raised in Bakloh on 22 April 1886; 3/4 Gorkha Rifles on 15 November 1940; and 4/4 Gorkha Rifles on 15 March 1941. In 1934, the 5 km long cart track from Bakloh to Tannu Hatti, on the Dalhousie road, was converted into a motor-able road. The first car belonging to Captain TDC Owens arrived in Bakloh in the same year . 

                              Battalions in Bakloh

3/4 GR 
In 1948, 3/4 Gorkha Rifles(3/4 GR), which was in Jammu, was moved to Bakloh to occupy the spare accommodation in Bakloh, as the centre started to move out. While the Third Battalion(3/4GR) was in Bakloh, Maj General Walter David Alexander Lentaigne, CB, CBE, DSO, better known as "Joe" Lentaigne, who was then the Commandant of the Indian Defense Services Staff College, Wellington, Niligri hills, Tamil Nadu, and the Colonel of Regiment, 4 Gorkha Rifles, visited Bakloh on his farewell rounds and to be with the Third Battalion, which had served under him during the Burma campaign, as part of the Chindit Operations, in World War II . During the visit, he made a big impression on the young Indian Officers. While reviewing the Guard of Honor he spoke with the men in fluent Nepali, reminisced about the war in Burma, and recognized those who had served with him in the war by their names and, more impressively, by their regimental numbers.

5/4 GR
The Fifth Battalion (5/4 GR) was raised in the 1/4 GR lines, Bakloh, in 1963, by Lt Colonel Ranjit Singh Chandel. The battalion, after a three years in NEFA, returned to Bakloh for a second tenure in 1974. On 5 June 1976, Lt Colonel V Rajaram, formerly of 3/4 GR, succeeded Lt Colonel Jayant Pawar, as the commanding Officer. During its second tenure in Bakloh, the regimental reunion was held, in 1977. After the reunion the battalion moved to J and K in 1977. The reunion was attended by large number of officers, Junior Commissioned officers(JCOs)s and men, including many Indian and British officers who had served in Bakloh, before the 4 GR Centre was shifted to Sabathu.

                                   4 Gorkha Rifle properties

The 4 GR owns several historical regimental properties in Bakloh. These include the 4 GR Memorial on the edge of the old 1/4 GR parade ground, Kharati lines, 1/4 GR and 2/4 GR widow's lines, mandirs, and the 19th century Sealy Bungalow, which briefly housed the regimental kindergarten, but is now in state neglect and disrepair. Senior officers of the regiment have suggested that it be converted in to a holiday home. The resident battalion of the regiment is expected to take care of the regiment’s properties in Bakloh. In the absence of a battalion of the regiment, the Gorkha Sabha is expected to take care of these properties for which it receives a small supplement from the regiment.To ensure better care of these and other regimental 'remains' in Bakloh, it has been suggested that these be handed over to the Gorkha Sabha, Bakloh, for better upkeep.

Regimental Memorial, Bakloh 
A Regimental memorial “To commemorate the relationship with Bakloh and 4 GR , ie the Home of the 4 Gorkhas " was constructed at the entry of the parade ground, in 2003". The Cantonment Board, Bakloh, was given the responsibility for its up keep, and maintenance, by the then General Officer Commanding, Mountain Division. Since then doubts have arisen on the commitment of the Cantonment Board to maintain the memorial, and its has been suggested that the Gorkha Sabha should be co-opted to ensure its care and security.

Regimental Mandirs
Over the years 4 Gorkha Rifles has constructed several temples in Bakloh. The first temple, the 1/4 GR Mandir, was made by the 1/4 GR in in the 19th century. In it are three deities- Shiva, Kali-ka, and Gorakh Nath. This Mandir is maintained by 1/4 GR and 5/4 GR. It was renovated in 2012. The first Pujari of 1/4 GR temple was Pandit Neel Kanth. In 1890, 2/4 GR constructed the Kali-ka mandir or 2/4 GR mandir. This temple is currently being maintained by the Gorkha Sabha, Bakloh. In 1923, the Gorkh Nath mandir was constructed. This is located on the way to Chilama.

Lokeshwar Mandir
Lokeshwar Mandir was constructed by the 4 GR Regimental Centre(4GRRC), after World War 2, in memory of those who had laid their lives in that war. Till the construction of the new regimental mandir in 2008, this was considered the most sacred and the main Regimental Mandir, in Bakloh, and was used for Sansari Pooja. The regiment's centenary pooja in 1957 was conducted in this mandir. It was maintained by annual contributions by battalions of the regiment. However, over the years, its upkeep was neglected, and was not much patronized because of, amongst other reasons, its relative remoteness.

4GR Gorakh Nath Regimental Mandir
Despite the many Regimental mandirs in Bakloh, in May 2007, it was decided by the Colonel of the Regiment and the Centre Commandant, to construct yet another mandir. The new mandir, designated as 4GR Gorakh Nath Regimental Mandir, was constructed in four months from December 2007 to April 2008, under the supervision of Mr Swaminathan, from Tamil Nadu, and Naib Subedar Sher Bahadur Thapa, who was awarded a 'Commendation Card' by the Army Commander for his work in constructing the new mandir. The new mandir is located above and on the right of the Kalimata mandir. The new regimental mandir was formally inaugurated on 22 April 2008, with much fan-fare by Lt Gen TK Sapru, GOC in C Western Command, in the presence of all the Commanding Officers, Subedar-Majors, and religious teachers of the Regiment .

Annual Shobha Yatra
Every year in April a Shobha yatra, in which large number of ex-servicemen participate, starts from the Lokeshwar mandir. The yatra goes around Bakloh, covering a distance of approximately 10 kilometers. From 19 to 22 of April each year Puja, is conducted at the Guru Gorakh Nath Mandir, the Sansari Mandir, and the Kali Mata Mandir. On the last day of the puja program a combined Regimental puja is held in Guru Gorakh Nath Mandir. The format for the Pooja celebrations is issued by the Commandant 14 GTC as a Standing Operating Procedure(SOP). In addition to ex-servicemen, small puja contingents from each of the five battalions and the 14 GTC also participate in the event. These celebrations are followed by a barakhana for ex-servicemen and their families.

Cantonment Board
Bakloh Cantonment was established in 1866. It is category IV Cantonment. The board consists of four members, including two elected members.

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