US Pays Tribute to the 126th Anniversary of the Legendary Battle of Saragarhi

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

In a solemn commemoration, the Consulate General of India in collaboration with the Saragarhi Foundation is set to honor the 126th anniversary of the valiant Battle of Saragarhi on September 12, 2023. This historic battle, which unfolded in the rugged terrain of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), a part of British India at the time, witnessed the remarkable courage of 21 Sikh soldiers as they made their heroic last stand against thousands of Pathan tribesmen.

The Battle of Saragarhi holds a special place in history, being recognized as one of UNESCO’s stories of collective bravery, among just eight such narratives globally. Dr. GS Josan, Chairman of the Saragarhi Foundation, has unveiled an array of events planned to mark this occasion. The program includes the screening of a short video chronicling the battle, enlightening remarks from five distinguished members of the ‘Saragarhi Regiment,’ notably including a Sikh member of the US Army, and addresses by the Consul General and military historians.

Historical records recount the extraordinary valor displayed by a detachment of 21 soldiers from the 36 Sikh Regiment, now known as the 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment. Positioned atop the Samana ridge, they confronted an overwhelming force of 10,000 Pathan tribesmen. Some historical accounts even suggest the presence of a 22nd individual, a non-combatant, who also laid down his life in the midst of this ferocious battle. Some researchers argue that the number of attackers might have been fewer than initially reported.

Despite facing insurmountable odds, these brave soldiers repelled numerous enemy assaults on their fortress. The tribesmen, driven to desperation, set fire to the surrounding vegetation, creating a smokescreen that allowed them to breach the fort’s walls. This led to an intense, close-quarters combat that marked the final moments of these courageous defenders.

The Battle of Saragarhi resonated far beyond the battlefield. When news of the confrontation reached the British Parliament, members united to pay tribute to the heroes of Saragarhi. The account of these extraordinary deeds also found its way to Queen Victoria, captivating hearts across the globe with awe and admiration.

All 21 soldiers received posthumous recognition in the form of the Indian Order of Merit, which was then the highest gallantry award applicable to Indian troops, considered on par with the Victoria Cross. In Punjab, the battle is enshrined in the school curriculum, with Haryana also contemplating its inclusion. The Sikh Regiment proudly carries the Battle Honour Saragarhi 1897, and India observes Saragarhi Day annually. Notably, there have been recent instances of commemorating this historic battle in the United Kingdom, and it has been featured in historical documentaries and a Bollywood film.

The Battle of Saragarhi stands as a testament to unparalleled zeal and courage, an inspiring chapter in the annals of history that continues to evoke admiration and respect worldwide. As New York prepares to pay homage to these gallant soldiers, the legacy of Saragarhi lives on, inspiring generations to come.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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