There is this old speech by a certain Mr Osho Rajneesh in which he describes how the word “f*ck” has the most number of meanings or uses in the English language.
The closest word to Ragda (as used in military academies in India) in the English language is Fuck. If your drill instructor or weapon instructor or your PT instructor is instructed by an officer to give you “Ragda”, it means you are going to get fucked, or rogered, or punished(that’s a mellow word for what’s going to happen to you), or taken to task. When an officer instructor or senior cadet is doing it, he or she is fuc*ing you.
In the physical or practical sense this means you are going to spend the next hour(or hours, depending on the severity of your misdemeanor or the outrage felt by the executor of the Ragda) doing a lot of funny but painful or tiring actions including, but not restricted to rolling (with or without a shirt on your back, on surfaces ranging from a cement floor to gravel to hot tarmac), a lot of push ups, carrying around your heaviest course mate on your shoulders, running(a lot, probably under a hot sun), drinking a lot of water till you puke(if you don’t puke easily, a few front and back rolls will help speed that up).
Not just that it also includes crawling(on gravel, roads and any other surfaces that hurt), standing for a long time carrying a lot of weight (this particular form of Ragda can be made much worse by making you get wet and standing, without the weight, on cold winter nights, the wetness being maintained by hourly buckets of water poured over your head), and a few other wierdly named (but equally painful) procedures like pumping, knee to chests(self explanatory), Patti parades, astronaut(I’m not going to explain this here), Hanuman jumps, haunching etc.
The aforementioned methods are only the tip of the iceberg. The procedures involved in Ragda are limited only by the imagination of the person carrying it out (I’ve seen instructors carrying green chillies in their pockets to feed cadets who sleep during lectures) and the time available to execute it. Mixing and matching of methods is generally recommended, though there is a school of thought which believes that repeating one single action a large no of times gives better results (for eg continuous front rolls and back rolls for seven hours on the parade ground will ensure you do not sleep on your back for a week afterwards).
Some innovative, enterprising and sincere seniors, instructors and officers have honed Ragda into an exquisite art form and take great pride in ensuring that their wards graduate from the Academy as well trained and physically fit young officers.
Ragda or fuc*k is often accompanied by flowery and exquisite language laced with the choicest expletives that leave you wondering whether the guy was sitting awake a whole night composing the damn thing. The most popular instructors are the ones who have the rare skill of making you laugh with his choice of words while simultaneously imparting Ragda to you.
Ragda in the academies should not be confused with ragging(exceptions exist everywhere), which is a form of bullying found in non military academies(colleges) to satisfy bloated egos and sadistic tendencies on finding yourself senior to someone (over whom you have no actual authority).
In military academies, punishment is necessary to inculcate a sense of discipline and to harden cadets, physically and mentally, to ensure they will not be found wanting when leading men into battle at 20000 feet, not knowing whether they’ll come back alive. The intention is never to have fun or insult your juniors, it’s always to correct their mistakes and to toughen them up.
This answer was written by Kiran Rahul on Quora.