RARE SPECIES

A snow leopard and a group of skiers in Gulmarg surprise each other

An Australian skier recording a video as he skis hits viral gold when he runs into a snow leopard.

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The snow leopard is one of India’s most elusive animals and tourists on holiday in Kashmir don’t usually encounter the felines. So when Australian skier Owen Lansbury and his friends almost ran into one while skiing down the slopes of Gulmarg, they were thrilled to bits.

Lansbury posted this photo to his Facebook account earlier in February, calling it “a regular getting chased by wild leopards kinda day”, followed by a video of the chance encounter. The skiers, on their way down, suddenly spotted the leopard crouching in snow that was at least a couple of feet high. After surveying the human intruder for about a minute the leopard realizes its cover is blown. The animal lunges out of its hidey-hole and disappears behind some foliage.

Giving a quick description of the adventure Lansbury wrote on his Facebook page: “We skied our first powder line and the guide in yellow almost ran over the leopard. I stopped just as it huddled in the snow, where it stayed for about a minute checking us out. It then let out a solid roar and bounded away down the slope towards Dave, but scooted off into the forest, where we think it probably had a kill stashed. Pretty amazing experience!”

Lansbury might have heard the snow leopard emit a sound but the cats can’t roar. Instead they make an aggressive puffing noise called “chuff”. The cats are a smoky grey colour with black markings that camouflage them on snowy mountain slopes.

Snow leopards are found in twelve countries, mostly in Central Asia at altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet. India has about 10% of the world’s snow leopard population across Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. But the leopard is an endangered species facing threats of habitat and prey loss. The leopard is also often killed by people in retaliation for stealing cattle and poached for its pelt.

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Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.

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The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.