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  • Malkiat Singh Duhra

Battle of Saragarhi: A Story of Indian Army Bravery

The Battle of Saragarhi is the incredible story of 21 Sikh soldiers (belonging to Amritsar and Ferozpur area) of 36 Th Sikh Regiment (currently 4 Th. Sikh Regiment) who gave up their lives in devotion to their duty. In keeping with the tradition of the Indian Army, they fought to the death rather than surrendering. Saragarhi is one of the 8 stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). It has been mentioned as one of the five most significant events of its kind in the world which includes the Saga of Thermopylae associated with the heroic stand of a small Greek force against the mighty Persian Army of Xerxes in 480 BC. The battle of Saragarhi took place on September 12, 1897 between the British Indian Army’s Sikh Regiment and Pashtun tribes men. The Battle of Saragarhi is commemorated every year on September 12. The 36 Th Regiment’s valour and daringness have inspired armies, creative work, and films both in India and around the world.

In 2017, the Punjab Government declared September 12 as Saragarhi Day, to honour the Sikh soldier’s 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 Sikh Soldiers who were martyred in the Saragarhi battle, breaking with conventions. The British built a monument for the martyrs out of the battle of Saragarhi’s burning bricks. The British built Gurdwaras at Amritsar and Ferozpur (Sikh soldiers belonged to these places) to commemorate the courageous martyrs.

The battle of Saragarhi took place on September 12, 1897 in North-West Frontier province (Khyber), and the battle was centered on the Saragarhi garrison. Saragarhi served as a midway, heliograph communication post for the two forts (Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan) due to difficult geographical attributes, keeping them away from visual line of sight. The position was fought by 21 Sikh soldiers from the British Indian Army’s 36 Th Sikh Regiment (now 4 Th Battalion) against ten thousands Pashtun and Orakzai tribes. The massive discrepancy in soldiers numbers and ratios defending the position from the invaders renders it one of the most unusual in history and one of its kind. There was no commissioned officer so Hawaldar Ishar Singh, who was leading the station at the time of attack, commanded the squad. During the battle of Saragarhi, the soldiers battled heroically until their last breath, repelling much rounds of attack and inflicting casualties on the tribes despite being highly outnumbered and having minimum ammunition. The battle was fought for seven hours, 21 Sikh soldiers killed 600 tribesmen and many were injured (600 dead bodies of tribesmen were recovered around Saragarhi) with limited ammunition before succumbing to enemy bullets. Th Sikhs fought to the last man, protecting the Indian soil of the British Empire with unflinching courage and determination. The army commander could not send required military forces and ammunition timely due to some reason. On September 14, military forces reached and again the post was occupied.

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 Indian and the world’s military history. According to British historians, no one can deny that the last Indian soldier took the shot to defend his post. The Saragarhi Battle created respect and honour in the minds of British for Indian soldiers.

Names of the 21 Sikh soldiers:

  1. Havildar Ishwar Singh

  2. Naik Lal Singh

  3. Lance Naik Chanda Singh and others Sepoys

  4. Sunder Singh

  5. Ram Singh

  6. Uttar Singh

  7. Sahib Singh

  8. Hira Singh

  9. Daya Singh

  10. Jivan Singh

  11. Bhola Singh

  12. Narayan Singh

  13. Gurmukh Singh

  14. Jivan Singh second

  15. Gurmukh Singh second

  16. Ram Singh second

  17. Bhagwan Singh

  18. Bhagwan Singh second

  19. Buta Singh

  20. Jivan Singh third

  21. Nand Singh

All belonged to Amritsar and Ferozpur areas.

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