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September 12 marks the 124th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi that has inspired a host of armies, books and films, both at home and abroad.
About Battle of Saragarhi
The Battle of Saragarhi is considered as one of the finest last stands in the military history of the world.
The battle happened in 1897 between the British Indian contingent comprising 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs (now known as Indian Army’s 4th Battalion) who were stationed at Saragarhi and 10,000 to 12,000 Afghans Tribesmen.
Importance of Saragarhi
Saragarhi was the communication tower between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan. The two forts were in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), now in Pakistan. The forts were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh but renamed by the British.
Saragarhi helped to link up the two important forts which housed a large number of British troops in the NWFP.
Why is the Battle of Saragarhi achievement celebrated?
Though heavily outnumbered, the 21 Sikh soldiers led by Havildar Ishar Singh managed to hold the Saragarhi tower for seven hours till their last breath, killing 200 tribals and injuring 600.
This bought time for the two other forts to be reinforced and were able to defend themselves upon coming under attack.
Battle of Saragarhi is the only instance in the history of warfare where 21 soldiers were posthumously awarded with Indian Order Merit, the highest award given to Indian soldiers at the time (equivalent to today’s Param Vir Chakra).
Source: This post is based on the article “Battle of Saragarhi explained: When 21 men fought thousands” published in Indian Express on 12th September 2021.