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General Battle of Saragarhi

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Nov 12, 2008.

  1. Admin Singh

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    The Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). It has been mentioned as one of the five most significant events of its kind in the world which includes the Saga of Thermoplyae associated with the heroic stand of a small Greek force against the mighty Persian Army of Xerxes in 480 B.C.



    Situation

    Saragarhi is a small village in the border district of Kohat, situated on the Samana Range, in present day Pakistan. On the 20th April 1894, the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Army was created, under the command of Colonel J. Cook. In August 1897, five companies of the 36th Sikhs under Lt. Col. John Haughton, were sent to the North West Frontier Providence, stationed at Samana Hills, Kurag, Sangar, Sahtop Dhar and Saraghari.

    The British had partially succeeded in getting control of this volatile area, however tribal Pashtuns attacked British personnel from time to time. Thus a series of forts, originally constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Ruler of the Sikh Empire, were consolidated. Two of the forts were Fort Lockhart, (on the Samana Range of the Hindu Kush mountains), and Fort Gulistan (Sulaiman Range), situated a few miles apart. Due to the forts not being visible to each other, Saragarhi was created midway, as a heliographic communication post. The Saragarhi post, situated on a rocky ridge, consisted of a small block house with loop-holed ramparts and a signalling tower.

    A general uprising by the Afghans began there in 1897, and between 27th August - 11th September, many vigorous efforts by Pashtuns to capture the Forts were thwarted by 36th Sikh regiment. In 1897, insurgent and inimical activities had increased, and on 3rd and 9 September Afridi tribes, with allegiance to Afghans, attacked Fort Gulistan. Both the attacks were repulsed, and a relief column from Fort Lockhart, on its return trip, reinforced the signalling detachment positioned at Saragarhi, increasing its strength to one Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) and twenty troops of Other Ranks (ORs).

    On September 12, 1897, 10,000 Pashtuns attacked the signalling post at Saragarhi, so that communication would be lost between the two forts.

    The Battle

    Sikh soldier in ceremonial turban, Indian Army

    Details of the Battle of Saraghari are considered fairly accurate, due to Gurmukh Singh signalling events to Fort Lockhart as they occurred.

    * Around 9.00am, around 10,000 Afghans reach the signaling post at Saragarhi.
    * Sardar Gurmukh Singh signals to Col. Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack.
    * Colonel Haughton states he cannot send immediate help to Saragarhi.
    * The soldiers decide to fight to the last to prevent the enemy reaching the forts.
    * Bhagwan Singh becomes the first injured and Lal Singh was seriously wounded.
    * Soldiers Lal Singh and Jiwa Singh reportedly carry the dead body of Bhagwan Singh back to the inner layer of the post.
    * The enemy break a portion of the wall of the picket.
    * Colonel Haughton signals that he has estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 Pashtuns attacking Saraghari.
    * The leaders of the Afghan forces reportedly make promises to the soldiers to entice them to surrender.
    * Reportedly two determined attempts are made to rush the open gate, but are unsuccessful.
    * Later, Fort Lockhart is breached.
    * Thereafter, some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting occurs.
    * In an act of outstanding bravery, Ishar Singh orders his men to fall back into the inner layer, whilst he remains to fight. However, this is breached and all but one of the defending soldiers are killed, along with many of the Pashtuns.
    * Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle with Col. Haughton, was the last Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans, the Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying he was said to have yelled repeatedly the regimental battle-cry "Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal (He who cries God is Truth, is ever victorious).

    Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned their attention to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed too long, and reinforcements arrived there in the night of 13-14 September, before the fort could be conquered. The Afghans later stated that they had lost about 180 killed and many more wounded during the engagement against the 21 Sikh soldiers, but some 600 bodies are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived (however, the fort had been retaken, on 14 September, by the use of intensive artillery fire, which may have caused many casualties). The total casualties in the entire campaign, including the Battle of Saragarhi, numbered at around 4,800.

    Order of Merit

    All the 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time, which an Indian soldier could receive by the hands of the British crown, the corresponding gallantry award being Victoria Cross. This award is equivalent to today's Param Vir Chakra awarded by the President of India.

    The names of the 21 recipients of the gallantry award are:

    1. Havildar Ishar Singh (regimental number 165)
    2. Naik Lal Singh (332)
    3. Lance Naik Chanda Singh (546)
    4. Sepoy Sundar Singh (1321)
    5. Sepoy Ram Singh (287)
    6. Sepoy Uttar Singh (492)
    7. Sepoy Sahib Singh (182)
    8. Sepoy Hira Singh (359)
    9. Sepoy Daya Singh (687)
    10. Sepoy Jivan Singh (760)
    11. Sepoy Bhola Singh (791)
    12. Sepoy Narayan Singh (834)
    13. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (814)
    14. Sepoy Jivan Singh (871)
    15. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1733)
    16. Sepoy Ram Singh (163)
    17. Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1257)
    18. Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1265)
    19. Sepoy Buta Singh (1556)
    20. Sepoy Jivan Singh (1651)
    21. Sepoy Nand Singh (1221)

    Remembrance and legacy

    Numerous sources state that the battle of Saraghari is included in one of the "eight collective stories of bravery", as published by UNESCO, which includes the heroic Battle of Thermopylae.[11][12][13][14]. The battle has become iconic of eastern military civilization, British empire military history and Sikh history.[15] The modern Sikh Regiment continues to celebrate the day of the Battle of Saragarhi each 12 September as the Regimental Battle Honours Day. To commemorate the men the British built two Saragarhi Gurudwaras: one in Amritsar very close to the main entrance of the Golden Temple, and another in Ferozepur Cantonment, which was the district that most of the men hailed from.

    In Indian Schools

    The Indian military, in particular the Indian Army have been pushing for the battle to be taught in India's schools. They want it taught due to the heroism shown by the Indian soldiers to acts as inspiration for young children – in the field of bravery. There were articles like these, printed in the Punjab's longest-established newspaper, The Tribune in 1999: "the military action at Saragarhi is taught to students the world over and particularly to students in France."[16] Although there seems to be no evidence for this claim (it is not, for example, on France's national school curriculum[17]) the news was enough to provoke political debate, and the battle has been taught in schools in the Punjab since 2000:

    “ The decision to include the battle story in the school curriculum was taken last year during a public rally presided over by the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Following this, the State Government had issued a notification that the battle story should be included in the school curriculum from this session. There had been a constant demand from the Sikh Regiment and various ex-servicemen’s associations that the battle be included in the school curriculum. A similar request had also been put forward to Mr Badal during the battle’s state-level centenary celebrations at Ferozepore in 1997. A subsequent letter sent to the Punjab Government by the Saraghari Memorial and Ethos Promotion Forum had also urged the State Government that the battle has many inspiring lessons for children. On hearing the acts of valour, the British Parliament had then risen in unison to pay homage to the fallen soldiers. The unique battle is also taught in schools of France and figures as one of the eight collective stories on bravery published by the UNESCO. ”

    Saragarhi Day


    Saragarhi Day, is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on the 12th of September every year to commemorate The Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh military personnel and Sikh non-military people commemorate the battle around the World every year on September 12th. All units of the Sikh Regiment celebrate Saragarhi Day every year as the Regimental Battle Honours Day.

    Saragarhi Memorial Gurudwara (temple) was built in memory of the 21 Sikh soldiers that fought at The Battle of Saragarhi. [19 below]

    Saragarhi and Thermopylae

    The battle has frequently been compared to the Battle of Thermopylae, where a small Greek force faced a large Persian army of Xerxes (480 BC).

    It is important to note that during the Battle of Saraghari, the British did not manage to get a relief unit there until after the 21 had fought to their deaths. At Thermopylae, the 300 Spartans also stayed after their lines had been breached, to fight to their deaths.

    Further reading

    * Saragarhi Battalion: Ashes to Glory by Kanwaljit Singh and H.S. Ahluwalia, New Delhi : Lancer International, 1987 (ISBN 8170620228)


    References

    1. London Gazette: no. 26937, page 863, 11 February 1898. Retrieved on 10 November 2008.
    2. The Tribune Online Edition (2007-04-15). "Of blood red in olive green", The Tribune. Retrieved on 1 November 2007.
    3. Tribune News Service (2005-09-14). "Battle of Saragarhi remembered", The Tribune. Retrieved on 5 November 2007.
    4. Subramanian, L.M. Defending Saragarhi, 12 September 1897, bharat-rakshak.com- accessed 2008-01-25
    5. Pall, S.J.S. "The story of Valiant Sikhs", Amritsar, B. Chattar Singh (2004) page 98
    6. Maj. Gen. Jaswant Singh Letter to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II Institute of Sikh Studies (1999)- accessed 2008-03-30
    7. Sharma, Gautam Valour and Sacrifice: Famous Regiments of the Indian Army, India, Allied Publishers (1990) ISBN 817023140X, via Google Books- accessed 2008-01-25
    8. "The Frontier War," Daily News, London (16 Sep 1897)
    9. The Sikh Spirit (2001-11-01). "The Epic Battle of Saragarhi", Sikh Spirit. Retrieved on 25 October 2007.
    10. Regimental numbers from photo of Saragarhi memorial plaque
    11. Sikh Regiment
    12. The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Mailbag
    13. Chap
    14. A century later, Punjab resurrects some of its bravest men
    15. Singh, Kanwaljit & Ahluwalia, H.S. Saragarhi Battalion: Ashes to Glory, India, Lancer International (1987) ISBN 8170620228
    16. Robin Gupta An epic performance: A slice of history Chandigarh, The Tribune (20 March 1999)- accessed 2008-04-19
    17. French Education Ministry website- accessed 2008-04-19
    18. Vijay Mohan (2000-04-05). "Recounting battle of Saragarhi", The Tribune. Retrieved on 1 November 2007.
    19. Sharma, Dinesh K.The legend of Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara, Times of India (11 Sep 2003)- accessed 2008-01-25
     
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  3. Admin Singh

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    SARAGARHI WILL LIVE FOREVER IN THE GOLDEN PAGES OF SIKH HISTORY HARCHAND SINGH BEDI MALAYSIA

    Beneath Saragarhi's ruined walls,
    They found a fitting grave;
    For Saragarhi bears the fame,
    They gave their lives to save.

    The Tirah campaign of 1897 teemed throughout with thrilling incidents of gallantry and heroism. After a space of years, perhaps none is remembered with more enthusiasm or marks a conspicuous entry in the annals of the Indian Army than the heroic defence of Saragarhi Post by a mere handful of Sikhs against an attacking combined force of 10,000 Afghans and Orakzai tribesmen. The magnificent defence of the native soldiers for nearly nine hours, until totally annihilated, was unparalleled in the events of the frontier war of hundred and thirteen years ago, and is now has great historical significance. September 12th. , therefore, is a memorable day in the history of the Indian frontier regiments.

    Saragarhi Post, the scene of this thrilling fight, was nothing more than a small signaling station situated on a barren, wind-blown hill-slope between Fort Lockhart and Fort Cavagnari, on the Samana range of hills. Two of the forts were Fort Lockhart, (on the Samana Range of the Hindu Kush mountains), and Fort Gulistan (Sulaiman Range), situated a few miles apart. Due to the forts not being visible to each other, Saragarhi was created midway, as a heliographic communication post. Within its walls on the night of September. 12th. 1897, were gathered twenty one Sikh men detached from the gallant 36th Regiment of Sikhs covered themselves with undying glory. The Saragarhi Fort, manned by 20 Sikh soldiers under the command of Havildar Ishar Singh. Saragarhi symbolizes the Sikh commitment. Sara in the local Pushtu language means “Red” and garhi means a Small Fortress. The bloodshed of September 1897, indeed, literally turned into a red-fort!

    Saragarhi, now in North West Frontier Province, had seen a group of 21 Sikh soldiers defend their post to the last man against overwhelming odds, leaving the entire aghast with awe. The exact geographical location of Saragarhi is important to envisage for the reader. Saragarhi is a small village in the border district of Kohat, situated on the Samana Range, in present day Pakistan. On the 20th April 1894, the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Army was created, under the command of Colonel J. Cook. In August 1897, five companies of the 36th Sikhs under Lt. Col. John Haughton, were sent to the North West Frontier Providence, stationed at Samana Hills, Kurag, Sangar, Sahtop Dhar and Saraghari.
     

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  4. spnadmin

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    I cannot hear this story often enough!
     
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  5. dssidhu

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  6. Inderjeet Kaur

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    We are awesome!
     
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  7. dssidhu

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    But very poor at telling the world about all this...

     
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  8. Inderjeet Kaur

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    You are doing a wonderful job ji. I see this comic all over the Sikh websites. It's a good start.
     
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  9. dssidhu

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    Thank you for your kind words. It is Waheguru's kirpaa that he inspired us...

     
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  10. Inderjeet Kaur

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    It always is!

    You are doing a wonderful sewa for the Sikh Kaum and really for the world community. They, too, are enriched by knowing of us, who we are and the great things we have done. Too often these days, all that non-Sikhs know of us comes from disgraceful events involving sword fights in gurudwaras and the like. While very few of us engage in such nonsense, this is the impression they have of us. I know that neither I nor any of my friends have ever drawn a kirpan on our brothers and sisters for fighting inside a gurudwara.

    Have you thought about putting something together about The Bluestar Massacre or The Delhi Pogrom (1984)? Done properly, and I know you would, that could bring this recent history to life for many young Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike.
     
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  11. dssidhu

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    Yes. A script on both these events (Bluestar and the Delhi genocide of 1984) is in the making. We hope to release the comics in mid-2012

     
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  12. Inderjeet Kaur

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    Super most excellent!
     
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  13. dssidhu

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  14. dssidhu

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  15. spnadmin

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    Looks as if you will be sharing your entire channel, or a big part of it, with us. Let us know if you want a special thread just for your media, similar to that we have for Gurmat Gian Group. Here is what the thread looks like http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/gurmat-sangeet/23629-gurmat-gian-group.html

    These uploads are thrilling because they are modern and have a totally not-corny approach. Thanks.
     
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    #14 spnadmin, Jan 3, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2013

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