As Akshay Kumar and Parineeti Chopra gear up for the release of their upcoming film Kesari based on the Battle of Saragarhi, we take a look at why this highly anticipated celluloid is termed as an ‘unbelievable true story’ in history.
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on September 12, 1897, during the Tirah Campaign, that was fought between Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen of Afghanistan. It occurred in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan which was then a part of India.
The British Indian contingent comprised 21 Sikh soldiers who were stationed at an army post and were attacked by around 10,000 Afghans. Led by Havildar Ishar Singh, the Sikhs chose to fight to the death. This move is considered by historians as one of history’s greatest last-stands.
The Battle of Saragarhi
The entire battle was narrated by Sepoy Gurmukh Singh who was the only survivor during the battle. He was the one who sent signals to Colonel Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack as 10,000 Afghans reached the signalling post at Saragarhi. In response, the Sepoy received a disheartening message that immediate help cannot be sent.
With no help in motion, the soldiers decided to fight till their last breath to prevent the enemy from reaching the forts. The Pashtuns broke a portion of the wall of the picket, with the leaders allegedly making promises to the soldiers to entice them to surrender. After much rigorous attempts the wall was breached killing all the Sikh soldiers except for Sepoy Gurmukh Singh.
According to reports he is stated to have killed 20 Afghans. As he was dying, he was said to have yelled repeatedly the Sikh battle cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!” (“One will be blessed eternally, who says that God is the ultimate truth!”).
The total casualties in the entire campaign, including the Battle of Saragarhi, numbered around 4,800. Queen Victoria in British Parliament 1897 was heard saying, “It is no exaggeration to record that the armies which possess the valiant Sikhs cannot face defeat in war. 21 vs 10,000. “
The Sikh soldiers
Havildar Ishar Singh, Naik Lal Singh, Naik Chanda Singh, Lance Naik Sundar Singh, Lance Naik Ram Singh, Lance Naik Uttar Singh, Lance Naik Sahib Singh, Sepoy Hira Singh, Sepoy Daya Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Bhola Singh, Sepoy Narayan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Ram Singh, Sepoy Bhagwan SingH, Sepoy Bhagwan Singh, Sepoy Buta Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Nand Singh.
It is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on September 12 every year to commemorate the battle.