History is always fascinating that makes us wonder how people lived before technology took over. Here is one forgotten battle that took place in 1897 in a small outpost Saragarhi in Kohat border.
The battle of Saragarhi was fought in 1897 between Sikh soldiers and Pashtun tribesmen. The Pashtuns are the ethnic group of Afghans and Pathans who lived mainly in Afghanistan. It is the battle of 21 Sikh Soldiers who fought till death for six hours against 10,000 afghan tribesmen.
About the Sikh Soldiers: The team of 21 Sikh Soldier was the 36th regiment raised in 1887 specifically for service along the unruly north west frontier with the intent of checking tribal agitation. This regiment was led by Lt Col John Haughton who was himself the son of a Afghan.
It was the time when British and Russia were fighting over regions in Central Asia. The Pathans geared up to declare war against British and breaking the border was their major move.
While Sikhs were guarding boundaries on the frontier in Saragarhi post, 6000 – 10000 afghans tribesmen marched towards the signalling post Saragarhi. When Sikhs noticed the tribes they signaled Col John Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart for support. But due to sudden attack he could not send troops immediately.
It is said that the battle started at 9 am and with available ammunition Sikhs they managed to kill 70 tribesmen under fire at will. Havildar Ishar Singh, who rallied his men to defend their positions. After some time few tribesmen reached close to the wall unseen by the Sikhs and start digging beneath the walls. They manage to break a portion of the wall of the picket. The battle culminated at around 3pm when a section of wall under attack from the diggers began to cave in. It is said the Havildar Ishar Singh was so stubborn that he alone covered the retreat and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Then it was all hand to hand fighting till death. At the end the Parshuns had set fire to the post loosing more than 180 soldiers killed by just 21 Sikh soldiers. Having destroyed Saragarhi before moving forward to Fort Gulistan, British reinforcement arrived and recaptured the post. It was because of these brave 21 Soldiers Parshuns were delayed from reaching Fort Gulistan and British can recapture the post on time. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle to Haughton, was the last surviving Sikh defender.
The bravery of Sikhs was recognized with Memorials at Amritsar, Ferozepur and on the samana. In their bravery 12th September is celebrated as Saragarhi Day .
If you want to know what bravery is, then remember, just 21 Sikhs had made a valiant last stand, and the enemy had paid a high price, with around 180 dead.
Inspired by the battle, A film named “Kesari” is made and will be releasing on March 21 this year. To get the visual experience do watch the movie.