Battle of Saragarhi: How 21 Sikhs Held Off Over 10,000 Pashtuns

Every year since, 12 September has been celebrated as Saragarhi Day by the Sikh regiment of the Indian Army.

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(One hundred and twenty-two years ago, the Battle of Saragarhi cemented the Sikh regiment as a force to be reckoned with. The Quint is reposting this article from its archives to honour their memory. Originally published on 11 September 2017.)

The Battle of Saragarhi has gone down in history as one of the fiercest last-stands executed in battle. It refers to the clash of 21 Sikhs of the 36th regiment of the British army (now the 4th battalion of the Sikh regiment of the Indian Army) with an attack by over 10,000 Afghan tribesmen – the Sikhs held their ground.

In the September 1897, when over 10,000 Afghan tribesmen of the Orakzai and Afridi tribe attacked Saragarhi, North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) (modern day Pakistan), the defending Sikh regiment, under the leadership of Havildar Ishar Singh, knew their fate had already been decided. Yet they held their ground and fought the thousands of enemy troops for several hours.

The fierce bravery of the 21 Sikhs sent ripples across the world. The British Parliament halted their session mid-way to give a standing ovation to the 21 martyred in September 1897.

The entire regiment was posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest bravery award given to Indians at the time. It was also the only time when an entire unit received the highest gallantry award for the same battle.

Every year, 12 September is celebrated as the Saragarhi Day by the Sikh regiment, which is also the most decorated regiment of the Indian army. To know more about the Battle of Saragarhi, head over to The Quint.

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