How many of us have given a thought over how the world regards our country? What the other nations think about our India? What position our Indian Army and our Soldiers have gained in the eyes of the world? While some spit hatred towards our Army men, there are others who equally respect and salute the Indian Army selfless efforts.
Have you ever seen the American movie 300?
The movie 300 is based on the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), as chronicled by the Greek historian, Herodotus. The plot revolves around the Greek King Leonidas, who leads 300 Spartans into battle against the Persian “god-King” Xerxes and the Persian invading army of more than 300,000 soldiers.
When people think of the Spartan forces, they often think the epic battle of 300. When other Countries think of the Indian Armed Forces, they may remember the epic battle of Saragarhi. The Battle of Saragarhi is the amazing battle of 21 Indian men of the 36th Sikh Regiment who held back 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai invaders. These Indian fighters were almost superhuman with a tremendous warrior ethic.
The battle took place in September 1897 in the Tirah region of North-West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan, which then formed part of British India). The outpost at Saragarhi was a critical communications relay position that played a crucial role in the first line of defense of India against the tribal warriors of Central Asia.
On the morning of 12 September 1897, signalman Gurmukh Singh looked out into the horizon and saw a massive sea of 10,000 regimental battle flags approaching. With a lot of heavy artillery.
From 21 Sikhs at the Battle of Saragahri:
“The Commander, Seargant Ishar Singh called his garrison together for an emergency meeting. Standing before him in the tiny courtyard of this small, mud-and-stone garrison was the entire detachment of the 36th Sikhs assigned to the defense of this critical strategic outpost – all 20 men of it. Calmly, honestly, with no fear in his voice, the non-commissioned officer told his troops that they were most likely the last and only bastion of defense between that teeming throng of blood-thirsty warriors and the heart of India – these 21 soldiers were the only thing even remotely in a position to slowing down a coordinated tactical strike that was guaranteed to take the British and Indian defenders by surprise and wreak havoc across the land.
He also told them that even though he knew how much lay at stake here, he wasn’t about to order his men to their deaths in a hopeless battle they had no chance of surviving. The men had a choice to make – stand here and defend India against this invasion, hold back the assault as long as possible, and die valiantly in battle, or abandon their position and retreat to the nearby Fort Lockhart where a more sizeable British force was stationed. He put it to a vote among the men. Since they were all going to fight, serve, die, or flee together, they needed to stand as one.”
All twenty men voted to stay…
The Orakazai charged Emperor Xerxes-style, looking to overrun the defenders by hurling wave after wave of their own men at the walls. The 21 defenders kicked down the ladders and drove the attackers back.
When additional troops reached the burnt-out interior of Saragarhi position later, they found 21 dead Sikhs and somewhere between 180 and 800 dead tribesmen. Nearly every single Sikh rifleman was completely out of ammunition. They had started with 400 rounds each.
The 21 defenders of Saragarhi were slain to the man, but they had held their position all day and well into the evening, delaying the massive onslaught just long enough for the army to reinforce the position. After Saragarhi, the Orakazai moved on to the nearby Fort Gulistan, but the delay at Saragarhi had cost them the element of surprise.
When the story of the Sikhs at Sargahiri was recounted to Parliament, it received a standing ovation from every member of the British government. All 21 Sikhs received the Indian Order of Merit, the highest military award available. Saragarhi was also commemorated by the British Armed Forces in the UK for the first time at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in November 2013. Saragarhi Day was marked on the battle honour day on 12th September 2014 at Sandhurst.
When other Countries think of the Indian Armed Forces, they may reflect on another important theme of epic battle of Saragarhi. The Indian Armed Forces have and will ferociously defend their lands. Although they are rarely if ever the aggressor, other Nations would be naive to think the Indian army will not fiercely fight to the death. The Battle of Longewala and the Battle of Chamkaur are just two other examples.