The roots of the modern Indian army are traced to the forces employed by the English (later British) East India Company, chartered in 1600, and the French East India Company (Compagnie des Indes Orientales), established in 1664. The French, headquartered at Pondicherry (Puduchcheri) by the 1670s, were the first to raise Indian companies and use them in conjunction with European soldiers. Subsequently, in the 1740s, the British started to organize and train Indian units. British units were divided into three armies corresponding to the company's centers of Bengal (headquartered at Fort William in Calcutta), Bombay (or Mumbai in the Marathi language), and Madras (headquartered at Fort Saint George). In 1748 the East India Company armies were brought under the command of Stringer Lawrence, who is regarded by historians as the progenitor of the modern Indian army. Under his guidance, British officers recruited, trained, and deployed these forces. Although formally under a unified command, the three armies in practice exercised considerable autonomy because of the great distances that separated them.
Toward the end of the eighteenth century, the vast majority of the soldiers of each army was composed of Indian troops known as sepoys (from the Hindi sipahi
, meaning police officer, or, later, soldier). Sepoy units had Indian junior commissioned officers who could exercise only low-level command. British officers held all senior positions. No Indian had any authority over non-Indians. In addition to these all-Indian units, the British deployed some units of the British Army.
Data as of September 1995