Captain M.S. Kohli: Legend of India’s Everest Triumph

by Manjari Singh

In the annals of mountaineering history, one name shines brighter than most – Captain M.S. Kohli. Adorned with the nation’s highest honors including the Padma Bhushan, Ati Vishist Seva Medal, Arjuna Award, and the Order of the Khalsa, Captain Kohli stands as an icon of courage, leadership, and indomitable spirit. His journey culminated in a feat that echoed across the world – leading India’s first successful expedition to conquer the mighty Mount Everest in May 1965.

Amidst previous failed attempts in 1960 and 1962, Captain Kohli spearheaded a 19-member team to scale the formidable peak. This historic expedition not only etched India’s name in the annals of mountaineering but also set a world record with four successful assaults on Everest’s summit, placing nine climbers atop the world’s highest peak.

A notable aspect of this expedition was the presence of six turbaned Sikhs, symbolizing India’s diverse heritage and unity in pursuit of a common goal. Among them, Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia, Mr. C.S. Vohra, Major B.P. Singh, Col. Avtar Singh Cheema, and wireless officer G.S. Bhangu displayed exceptional valor and determination, etching their names in history.

Upon their triumphant return, Captain Kohli and his team were greeted with accolades, with the then Acting Prime Minister, Gulzari Lal Nanda, leading the felicitations at Palam Airport. Captain Kohli’s illustrious career wasn’t confined to Everest; he had numerous successful ascents under his belt, including leading India’s first expedition to the Saser Kangri in the Karakoram range.

Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi releasing the book “The Great Himalayan Climb” by Capt. M.S Kohli on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the 1965 Everest Expedition, in New Delhi on May 20, 2015.

Captain Kohli’s influence transcended beyond mountaineering. During his tenure with Air India, he pioneered trekking in the Himalayas and authored the first-ever book on the subject. His leadership extended to strategic endeavors as well, leading an Indo-American expedition to install nuclear sensors for monitoring missile launches in China.

The turban, symbolic of his Sikh heritage, became a beacon of recognition for Captain Kohli, drawing admiration and respect across the globe. In the words of the man himself, “The turban became my most cherished asset,” symbolizing his pride in his culture and identity.

As we reflect on Captain M.S. Kohli’s remarkable journey, we are reminded not only of his extraordinary achievements but also of the values he embodied – resilience, unity, and unwavering determination. His legacy continues to inspire generations, reaffirming that with courage and perseverance, even the highest peaks can be conquered.

Manjari Singh

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