Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan’s Iconic Battle Site

Introduction to the Battle of Longewala: An Overview

The Battle of Longewala stands as a significant event in the annals of Indian military history, etched into the nation’s collective memory for its strategic brilliance and the raw valor displayed by Indian soldiers. Fought from December 4 to 5, 1971, during the Indo-Pakistan War, the battle occurred near the town of Longewala in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India. The gallant stand at Longewala showcased the effective use of terrain, indomitable spirit, and tactical acumen, ultimately culminating in a decisive victory for India and a day of pride and reflection for the nation.Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

Longewala Chronicles: Memories of Border, Breakfast in Ramgarh, and the Deserted Battlefield

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

On hearing the name ‘Longewala’, the memory of the Battle of Longewala shown in the movie ‘Border‘ became fresh. In 1971, the fierce war between India and Pakistan on the Longewala front comes to mind. To go to Longewala, one has to reach Ramgarh, which is 68 km from Jaisalmer. The road from here is divided into two parts. One towards Tanot and another towards Longewala. During the 1971 war, Major-General Mustafa, the commander of the Pakistan Army, said in front of his soldiers, ‘We will all have breakfast in Ramgarh, lunch in Jaisalmer, and dinner in Jodhpur.Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site Their choice of place (Ramgarh) for breakfast was really good. One can enjoy eating various parathas, curds, and pickles at a dhaba in Ramgarh. After covering a little distance from Tanot, on both sides of the road, the deserted land far and wide can be seen, and hidden bunkers of our army could be seen somewhere between the small and big sand dunes. The location of our bunkers in the water-less region gives us a rough idea of the hardships we are going through in the barren desert region, guarding the border day and night in unbearable heat and cold.

The Miraculous Shield: Tanot Mata Temple’s Divine Protection on the Jaisalmer Border

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

Tanot village in Jaisalmer district is located just 20 km from the Pakistani border. Raja Bhati Tanuravji built the temple of  ‘Tanot Mata’ after establishing Tanot Garh in Vikram Samvat 847. (Tanot Mata is said to be an incarnation of Goddess Hinglaj based in Baluchistan.). So many stories, legends, and miraculous cases are connected with the temple. The Border Security Force troops on duty along the Jaisalmer border are also deeply in love with Tanot Mata. A major reason for establishing faith is the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, when Pakistani artillery fired several rounds towards India along the Jaisalmer border.Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site Some of these bombshells landed on the temple premises of Tanot Mata, and some consider it a miracle or a coincidence, but not a single shell exploded. The number of artillery shells that failed after falling on the premises was about four and a half hundred. (Some shells are displayed in the temple as souvenirs, as seen in the picture.). When a senior Pakistani military officer came to know about this believe it or not incident (after the ceasefire), he expressed his desire to visit the Tanot temple. India accepted the officer’s wish. A Pakistani officer was deeply impressed by the ‘divine miracle’ of the temple after witnessing that not a single one of the numerous shells fired by the Pakistani cannons managed to damage the temple.

Divine Guardians: Tanot Mata Temple’s Triumph Amidst War and Faith on the Jaisalmer BorderExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

After a failed plan to demolish the Tanot temple in 1965, Pakistani tanks attempted to target the Tanot temple during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. But while doing this gesture, the Pakistani tanks got stuck in the desert soil and became victims of the Indian Air Force’s aerial attack. Nobody knows the reason why two massive attacks by the Pakistan Army failed. Whatever the reason, it is true that the temple of Tanot Mata is a great place of faith for the personnel of the Border Force. Securing the border in the

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site desert remains a challenge for Border Security Forces troopers who smear the soil of the Tanot temple premises on their foreheads, as well as on vehicles like tanks and Jeeps. Many soldiers who have believed in the goddess tie handkerchiefs on nets in the small temple next to the main temple. There are many temples or other religious places along the long border of our country, and almost every one has a folklore, incident, story, or tradition associated with it. Like the temple of O.P. Baba in Siachen, the highest battlefront in the world. Officers and goers on duty in the mountains do notExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site proceed without bowing their heads to that temple. Baba Harbhajan’s temple at the Nathu La border in Sikkim is also a holy place for the soldiers and officers there. Such religious places and related stories play the role of catalysts to sustain faith, patriotism, passion, duty, etc. among the soldiers serving on the border in adverse conditions. The shrine of Goddess Tanot on the Jaisalmer border is abuzz with Border Security Force soldiers.

 

The Strategic Importance of Longewala in the Indo-Pak War of 1971

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

Longewala, situated in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India, gained prominence during the 1971 Indo-Pak War as a critical battleground. The Battle of Longewala unfolded when the Pakistani Army sought to breach Indian territory through this perceived weak point. Despite being heavily outnumbered, Indian troops stationed at Longewala valiantly defended their position, preventingExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site the enemy from advancing toward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jaisalmer and potentially cutting off Indian forces further west. The strategic location of Longewala as a gateway to deeper territories played a pivotal role in shaping the outcome of war operations in the Western sector. The distance from Tanot to Longewala is 62 km, and during the conflict from December 4 to 7, 1971, the Pakistan Army launched a midnight attack on Indian post 52 at Longewala. Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri and his 120 soldiers from

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site the 23rd Battalion of the Punjab Regiment faced the onslaught, lacking sufficient weapons to counter the forty Pakistani tanks. In a remarkable display of courage, they engaged in hand-to-hand combat. As dawn broke, Indian Air Force fighter jets soared over Longewala, decisively turning the tide of the battle by destroying 36 Pakistani tanks and hundreds of military vehicles, securing a crucial victory for India.

 

 

Major Chandpuri’s Leadership: The Man Behind the Defense

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri

Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri exemplified extraordinary valor during the Battle of Longewala. As the commanding officer of a small outpost, he was tasked with defending against a massive Pakistani assault. Despite being significantly outnumbered, Major Chandpuri made the strategic decision to hold his position and face the enemy forces, exhibiting exceptional tactical acumen. Under his leadership, his battalion of brave hearts not only resisted the onslaught but also managed to inflict heavy casualties on the adversary. Major Chandpuri’s inspiring leadership and presence of mind played a pivotal role in turning the tide of the battle, crafting an exemplary tale of courage and strategy in India’s military history.

 

Overwhelming Odds: Comparing Indian and Pakistani Forces

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Recoilless Guns

During the 1971 Battle of Longewala, the forces of India and Pakistan demonstrated a stark contrast in their strengths.

The Indian side was represented by a small contingent of the 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, and the Border Security Force (BSF), totaling around 120 soldiers.

They were supported by a limited number of recoilless guns and MMG emplacements, while air support was initially absent.

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Medium Machine Gun

Conversely, the Pakistani troops numbered around 2,000–3,000 and wielded a formidable assembly of 45 tanks of the 22nd Armored Regiment, along with 138 vehicles for infantry support.

These numbers reflect a clear numerical and equipment advantage on the Pakistani side, yet the Indian defenders leveraged strategic defensive positions and motivation to balance the scales.

Longewala War Memorial: Echoes of Victory in the Barren Sands

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
War Memorial

A war memorial has been erected in Longewala to commemorate India’s fiery victory. If you look at the surrounding surface, you will not see anything except sand dunes and here and there sprouted acacias. If there is an eye-catching sight in such barren land, it is the Longewala War Memorial, where Pakistani tanks, weapons, and military vehicles are displayed as victory trophies of the 1971 war. As we stood on top of the Pakistani tanks, we felt as if we had won the war ourselves.

 

We can also see inside the tankExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site and its structure. However, the flow of time has worn down the internal components. The weapons used by Major Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri and his troop in the battle of Longewala are also displayed here. A list of Indian soldiers who fought in the war, details of medals awarded to them, photos of the Indo-Pak war, information about the battle of Longewala, maps, replicas of sand barricades, and bunkers in the Indian post are also displayed here. Seeing all this, a unique chapter of Indian war history comes into view.

The Role of the IAF Hunter Jets: Turning the Tide from the Skies

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Hunter , IAF, fighter jets

The Indo-Pak War of 1971 etched the pivotal role of Indian Air Force (IAF) Hunter jets into military annals. Operating from Jaisalmer, Hunters were instrumental at the Battle of Longewala. They provided crucial air support to the outnumbered Indian Army, targeting enemy tanks and armored vehicles. Swift precision strikes by these jets both halted the advance of Pakistani forces and inflicted severe losses. Their sorties turned the tide in India’s favor, exemplifying air power’s role in modern warfare. The Hunters’ contributions significantly diminished enemy morale, ultimately leading to a decisive victory at Longewala.

Tactical Decisions: The Indian Army’s Defense Strategy

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
A Tank of Pakistan Army captured in the War

In the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, particularly at the Battle of Longewala, the Indian Army deployed exceptional defensive tactics. Crucial to their strategy were:

  • Holding the fort at the Longewala border post despite being vastly outnumbered.
  • Maximizing the use of high ground for observation and directing fire.
  • Effectively integrating small arms and artillery to repel advances.
  • Utilizing the cover of darkness and the vast desert terrain to mitigate enemy armor advantages.

Capitalizing on air support to strike enemy supply lines at dawn.

These tactical decisions were instrumental in thwarting Pakistan’s 51st Infantry Brigade, showcasing the Indian Army’s adeptness in defense within desert warfare.

Engineering Bravery: The Deployment of Mines Under Fire

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

During the Battle of Longewala, the engineering units displayed exemplary courage under dire circumstances. Amidst relentless enemy fire, they undertook the perilous task of laying anti-tank mines to stymie the advance of Pakistani armor. Their efforts required not only technical prowess but also immense bravery as they meticulously placed each mine, fully aware that the success of their mission was critical to the defense strategy. Despite the high risk of enemy shelling and the pressure of an impending assault, these unsung heroes worked with unwavering focus, contributing significantly to the eventual victory at Longewala.

No Retreat, No Surrender: Stories of Heroism and Sacrifice

At the crux of the Battle of Longewala stood a handful of Indian soldiers, who, outnumbered and outgunned by the Pakistani forces, held their ground. Despite the odds, their unwavering courage fortified the post through the night.

 

 

One such tale is of Major Kuldeep SinghExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site Chandpuri, who, commanding a meager force of 120 soldiers, staved off the onslaught of a full-fledged armored regiment. Not a single man abandoned their post; their resoluteness became a testament to valor. The heroes of Longewala epitomized the ethos: no retreat, no surrender. Their sacrifice and heroism are enshrined in every grain of the Thar Desert, immortalizing the battleground as a symbol of indomitable spirit.

The Aftermath and Impact of the Battle on the War’s Outcome

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Prime Minister of India, Shree Narendra Modi in Longewala

The Battle of Longewala had a significant impact on the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. The valiant stand of the Indian defenders at Longewala thwarted the Pakistani advance, thereby preventing potential incursions into strategically important territories. As a result:

  • The morale of Indian forces surged, inspiring similar tenacity and determination in subsequent battles across the theater of war.Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
  • Pakistan’s loss highlighted the importance of air support in modern combat, reinforcing the role of air power in the outcome of the conflict.
  • The battlefield success at Longewala became a symbol of national pride and contributed to a greater sense of unity and purpose within the Indian populace.
  • The delayed Pakistani campaign allowed India to better mobilize its resources, contributing to its eventual victory in the war.
  • The outcome of the engagement prompted a reassessment of military strategies on both sides, influencing the tactical doctrines employed in the region henceforth.

Recognizing the Heroes: Honors and Medals Awarded Post-Battle

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle SiteIn the aftermath of the Longewala battle, the gallantry of the soldiers was acknowledged with high military honors. Noteworthy among them:

  • Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri was conferred with the Maha Vir Chakra for his leadership.
  • Major Dharamvir was awarded ‘Mention-in-Dispatches‘; Subedar Ratan Singh and Sepoy Jagjit Singh were awarded ‘Vir Chakra‘; and some other soldiers were honored with the ‘Sena Medal‘.
  • The heroic efforts of the G Company of the 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, were commemorated.Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
  • Our Air Force, which knocked out Pakistani tanks with the fighter planes ‘Hunter’, received 6 Vir Chakras and 1 Super Distinguished Service Medal.
  • These accolades not only recognize individual heroism but also serve as a testament to the collective spirit and sacrifice of the Indian Armed Forces.

Cultural Influence: The Battle of Longewala in Film and Literature

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site
Poster of the movie based on the Longewala war, ‘Border’.

The Battle of Longewala has been immortalized in various cultural mediums, underscoring its historical significance. In film, the 1997 Bollywood war movie Border vividly brings the battle to life, portraying the valiant stand of Indian soldiers against overwhelming odds. The movie, directed by J.P. Dutta, became immensely popular and is credited with reigniting interest in this chapter of history. In literature, numerous books and military analyses have explored the tactical aspects and the exemplary courage displayed during the fight. The battle’s portrayal through these mediums has etched Longewala into the national consciousness, making it a symbol of bravery and resilience.

 

 

 

 

Guardians of the Desert: Soldiers Braving Heat and Water Scarcity on the BorderExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

The hardships our soldiers face in this region are tremendous, as they have to face the unbearable heat of the desert while guarding the borders. As such, water is always scarce here. Hence, every few days, water supply comes through tankers. The scorching heat of the desert on one side and the limited amount of water on the other. What kind of challenge is this? But our soldiers face that challenge every day.

Reflections: Lessons Learned from the Battle of LongewalExploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

The Battle of Longewala stands as an emblem of strategic acumen and valor. One crucial lesson it imparts is the significance of preparedness and the role of terrain knowledge in warfare. The defenders’ deep understanding of the desert environment proved pivotal to their strategy. Their ability to leverage limited resources underlines the importance of innovation and adaptability in adverse situations. Furthermore, the battle highlights the effect of air power and its role in modern combat, as the timely intervention of the Indian Air Force was decisive. This confrontation underscores the value of coordination between different forces and the profound impact of leadership on the morale and resilience of troops in critical scenarios.

For your information…..

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

  • In Tanot and Longewala, the temperature reaches more than 49 degrees during the summer. Hence, November and January are the best times to visit those places.
  • As the area is close to the border, every visitor should carry identification (like an Aadhaar card or driving license).
  • Visiting Tanot and Longewala does not require any permission from the Army or Border Security Force. Entry to both places is free.
  • There is no mobile network except BSNL after Ramgarh.
  • A day trip to Tanot-Longewala can be done by taxi from Jaisalmer. A Rajasthan transport bus is available from Jaisalmer to Tanot.

Conclusion

Exploring Longewala and Tanot Temple: Rajasthan's Iconic Battle Site

In conclusion, the journey through Longewala and Tanot Temple unveils not just the historical significance of Rajasthan’s iconic battle sites but also the indomitable spirit of the soldiers who faced adversities in the desolate desert landscape. From the echoes of wartime victories at the Longewala War Memorial to the divine protection witnessed at Tanot Mata Temple, these places weave a compelling narrative of courage, faith, and resilience. As we explore the remnants of battles fought and the sacred grounds that withstood the test of time, we gain a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by those who guarded our borders, turning these sites into enduring symbols of valor and devotion.


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