The Battle of Saragarhi is considered to be one of the greatest last stands in history. 21 soldiers of the 36 Sikh Regiment fought an army of over 10,000 Afghans and killed more than 600 of them before perishing to enemy bullets.
The battle took place 12th September 1897 in Tirah region of North-West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan. Saragarhi was a post that connected British India forts of Lockhart and Gulistan on the border areas of Afghanistan.
The timing of the battle is crucial: it occurred during the period of the 19th century known as the ‘Great Game’, the name given to the heightened tensions between Britain and Russia as they battled over Afghanistan and other territories in central Asia.
The post was prone to attacks as Afghans were always hostile on Indian borders. But when the Afghans attacked, they marched down with 10,000 soldiers.
The ratio of Sikh-Afghan soldiers was 1:476 and even Alexander the Great would have had second thoughts about this challenge. But the Sikhs thought only once and that was enough.
The signaler Gurmukh Singh was the last man standing. He took down 20 Afghans right before they set his post on fire. He repeatedly yelled the Sikh battle-cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” while dying.He was also the youngest one of them all. He was merely 19 years old.
The British saw the significance of this last stand in inspiring more Indians to serve and fight, and built two Memorial Gurdwaras: one near Sri Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple), Amritsar, and another in Ferozepur. The 36th Sikhs were duly rewarded a battle honour for the Samana and 12 September was set as a regimental holiday.
The 4th battalion of the Sikh Regiment of Indian Army commemorates the battle every year on 12 September, as Saragarhi Day.
In March 2019, film titled Kesari, based on the Battle of Saragarhi, directed by Anurag Singh, starring Akshay Kumar, was released.