Saraghari: a celebration of inspirational gallantry
The courage of a tiny band of Sikh soldiers in the face of insurmountable odds has been commemorated once more in a celebration in the former North West Frontier Province.
Sikhs in Ferozepur city in the south-west Punjab gather each year to remember the soldiers’ bravery in the battle of Saragarhi, which took place on September 12, 1897.
Twenty-one sepoys (riflemen) of the 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment of British India (then the 36th Sikhs) defended a small stone blockhouse on a rocky ridge for six hours against 10,000 Pathan tribesmen, refusing to surrender.
All died in the action and they were given the posthumous award of the Indian Order of Merit, Class 1 – the equivalent of the British Victoria Cross for extreme gallantry.
In 1904 a memorial gurudwara was opened in Ferozepur, surrounded by half a dozen cannons and with the names of the 21 soldiers inscribed on the walls. It was built with stones from the Saraghari post.
This year’s commemoration featured a nine-mile cross-country run organised by the Sikh Regiment, in which soldiers ran alongside hundreds of civilians. It ended at the memorial Gurudwara.
The regiment also organised a cycle rally, both events aimed at inspiring young people.
Ferozepur, which is located on the volatile border with Pakistan, has a shortage of medical facilities. Army medics manned a medical camp set up for the day.
For a detailed account of the Battle of Saraghari click on Main Events in Sikh History at http://www.sikhpoint.com/religion/sikhhistory/
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