Battle of Saragarhi Anniversary

Date: 25 Sep 2008


The Battle of Saragarhi Anniversary 12th September 
A proud moment for every Sikh and every Indian
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought during the Tirah Campaign on 12 September 1897 between twenty one Sikh soldiers of the 4th Battalion (then 36th Sikhs) of the Sikh Regiment of British India, defending an army post, and 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen in a last stand. The battle occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, now a part of Pakistan, which then formed part of British India.

Burnt-out interior of Saragarhi as it looked on 14th September, 1897

The contingent of the twenty-one Sikhs from the 36th Sikhs was led by Havildar Ishar Singh. They all chose to fight to the death. Sikh military personnel and Sikh civilians commemorate the battle every year on 12 September, as Saragarhi Day. This battle has frequently been compared to the heroic stand of a small Greek force against the mighty Persian Army of Xerxes at Thermopylae in 480 B.C..

The Afghans later stated that they had lost about 180 men 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.

The map of the battle site

When the gallantry of Saragarhi was recounted to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the recitation drew a standing ovation from the members. The saga of Saragarhi was also brought to the notice of Queen Victoria.

Reception at British Parliament

'The British, as well as the Indians, are proud of the 36th Sikh Regiments. It is no exaggeration to record that the armies which possess the valiant Sikhs cannot face defeat in war' - Parliament of the United Kingdom.

'You are never disappointed when you are with the Sikhs. Those 21 soldiers all fought to the death. That bravery should be within all of us. Those soldiers were lauded in Britain and their pride went throughout the Indian Army. Inside every Sikh should be this pride and courage. The important thing is that you must not get too big-headed it is important to be humble in victory and to pay respect to the other side.' - Field Marshal William Joseph Slim, 1st Viscount Slim

The Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Tablet commemorating Saraghari, raised by the British Empire

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: 

Havildar Ishar Singh (regimental number 165) 
Naik Lal Singh (332) 
Lance Naik Chanda Singh (546) 
Sepoy Sundar Singh (1321) 
Sepoy Ram Singh (287) 
Sepoy Uttar Singh (492) 
Sepoy Sahib Singh (182) 
Sepoy Hira Singh (359) 
Sepoy Daya Singh (687) 
Sepoy Jivan Singh (760) 
Sepoy Bhola Singh (791) 
Sepoy Narayan Singh (834) 
Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (814) 
Sepoy Jivan Singh (871) 
Sepoy Gurmukh Singh (1733) 
Sepoy Ram Singh (163) 
Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1257) 
Sepoy Bhagwan Singh (1265) 
Sepoy Buta Singh (1556) 
Sepoy Jivan Singh (1651) 
Sepoy Nand Singh (1221) 


1) Official Reports in London Gazette, 8th Feb 1898

2) French Education Ministry Website


4) Subramanian, L.M. Defending Saragarhi, 12 September 1897

5) Robin Gupta: An Epic Performance, A slice of histor