21 Sikhs Against 10,000 Invaders – The True Story Behind Kesari
History remembers The Battle of Thermopylae as one of the greatest last stands. Sometime in the middle of 480 BC, 300 brave Spartan warriors faced off against (by some ancient accounts) a million or more Persians led by Xerxes 1. For three days, the Spartans led by King Leonidas battled the Persians and died defending their native land. This famous battle has become a symbol of courage against insurmountable odds.
This year, the Akshay Kumar starrer Kesari is set to release on the 21st of March. Produced by Karan Johar, Kesari is a retelling of the Battle of Saragarhi. Military historians consider this battle, which occurred in the year 1897, as one of the bravest military battles to have ever been fought. What makes it one of the most courageous is the fact that for over six hours, 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs (the current 4th battalion of the Sikh regiment) stood their ground against 10,000 Afghans.
Saragarhi was a heliographic communication post between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan. According to historical reports, on the 12th of September 1897, around 10,000 Afghan Pashtun tribesmen reached Saragarhi. This was when Sepoy Gurmukh Singh signalled Fort Lockhart that they were under attack – the response was that Colonel Haughton from Fort Lockhart was unable to send immediate assistance.
Instead of running away, the 21 soldiers decided to fight the tribesmen, battling not only the Pashtun weapons but offers and enticements made to surrender. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh was the last surviving Sikh defender and is said to have killed 20 Afghans – the tribesmen had to set fire to the post to kill him but as he lay dying, kept repeating the Sikh battle cry – “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.”