Battle of Saragarhi [1897]

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 13, 2022, 10:13

The Battle of Saragarhi, which took place 124 years ago was fought between the British Indian Army's Sikh Regiment and Afghan tribesmen. The Battle of Saragarhi is commemorated every year on the 12th of September. The 36th Sikh regiment's valour and daring have inspired armies, creative work, and films both at home and around the world. In addition, recent affairs in Afghanistan have reignited curiosity in facts and events, as well as popular rulers from the region's history, like Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Battle of Saragarhi - Overview

The Battle of Saragarhi took place on 12th September 1897 in British India's then-North-West Frontier Province (now in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan). The battle was centred on the Saragarhi garrison. The position was fought by 21 Sikh soldiers from the British Indian Army's 36th Sikhs regiment (now the Indian Army's 4th Battalion) against soldiers from the Pashtun and Orakzai tribes, who numbered in the thousands.

The massive discrepancy in soldier numbers and ratios defending the position from the invaders renders it one of the most unusual in history and one of a kind. Havildar Ishar Singh, who was leading the station at the time of the attack, commanded the squad.

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Battle of Saragarhi Signifincace

According to reliable military documents, on the day of the Battle of Saragarhi, an army of tribes numbered in the tens of thousands marched towards the fort. Saragarhi was normally defended by a force of 40 soldiers, but really only 21 soldiers were available, along with a non-combatant named Daad who was stationed to assist the troops.

The tribes had worked to isolate the two forts by severing communication lines between them and had succeeded in disconnecting the line between Fort Lockhart and Saragarhi.

During the Battle of Saragarhi, the soldiers battled heroically until their last breath, repelling many rounds of attack and inflicting casualties on the tribes despite being highly outnumbered and having minimal ammo.

The post lacked the troops it required to run and maintain communication connections while other soldiers defended the post. Due to a severe lack of ammunition (400 rounds per man), the Colonel ordered that the firepower be used with caution.

At such a massive scale of the rampage, conserving weaponry in the face of foes rather than going all-out attack was a difficult decision. When pitted against thousands of Afridi and Orakzai tribes, twenty-one men held the fort for longer than seven hours.

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Commemoration of Indian Soldiers from the Battle of Saragarhi

In 2017, the Punjab government declared September 12th as Saragarhi Day, to honour the soldiers' valour and bravery. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has named a hall after the Battle of Saragarhi.

Queen Victoria posthumously bestowed bravery medals the Indian Order Merit to the brave men who were martyred in the battle, breaking with convention.

After recovering possession of the fort, the British built a monument for the martyrs out of the Battle of Saragarhi's burning bricks. The British built gurdwaras at Amritsar and Ferozepur to commemorate the courageous martyrs.

More than anything else, the Battle of Saragarhi demonstrates Indian soldiers' unrivalled bravery and chivalry. It will always be remembered with honour and pride in the context of modern India and the world's military history. Although the British Colonel's second charge is lauded in narratives told from the point of British historians, no one can deny that the last Indian soldier took the shot to defend his post.

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FAQs on Battle of Saragarhi [1897]

Q.1. How many casualties were recorded in the Battle of Saragarhi?

In the Battle of Saragarhi, 21 troops of the 36 Sikh Regiment faced an army of over 10,000 Afghans, killing nearly 600 of them before succumbing to enemy bullets.

Q.2. How long did the Battle of Saragarhi last?

The Battle of Saragarhi, which lasted seven hours, is regarded as one of the best last stands in military history.

Q.3. How is the Battle of Saragarhi ranked?

The Battle of Saragarhi is ranked among the top eight battles in global history.

Q.4. Who was victorious in the Battle of Saragarhi?

The Battle of Saragarhi was won by the Afghans.