SĀRĀGAṚHĪ, BATTLE OF, a heroic action fought by a small detachment of Sikh soldiers against heavy odds, took place on 12 September 1897 in the Tīrāh region of North-West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan). The heroes of Sārāgaṛhī, barely 22 in number, belonged to the 36th Sikhs, since redesignated as 4th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. During a general uprising of the turbulent Paṭhān tribals of Tīrāh in 1897, the battalion was deployed to defend Samānā Ridge, a hill feature 8 km in length separating the Kurram and the Khānkī valleys. The headquarters and four companies were located in Fort Lockhart at the eastern end of the ridge and the other four companies in Fort Cavagnari, commonly known as Gulistān, at its western end, with several smaller outposts at different strategic points. Sārāgaṛhī was a small picket perched on a rocky-rib cropping up transversely across Samānā Ridge half-way between Fort Lockhart and Gulistān preventing direct communication between the two bases. Overlooking both the wings, Sārāgaṛhī, manned by only 20 sepoys (riflemen) and one non-combatant sweeper under the command of Havildār (sergeant) Īshar Siṅgh, was tactically a vital post for communication which in those days was possible only through visual signalling.

        The Orakzaī and Afrīdī tribesmen, several thousand strong, attacked Gulistān twice on 3 and 9 September but were repulsed with heavy losses on both occasions. Chagrined at the reverses, they looked for a smaller target to ensure easy success. On the morning of 12 September 1897, they fell upon Sārāgaṛhī, a small square, stone block house, and surrounded it making any reinforcement to the besieged impossible. Havildār Īshar Siṅgh and his men, undaunted by the hopeless situation they were in, fought back with grim determination. The incessant fire from the besiegers took its toll, and after a 6-hour-long battle, the only soldier left alive was the signaller, Sepoy Gurmukh Siṅgh, who had meanwhile kept the battalion headquarters informed about the situation through messages flashed by flag. At last asking for permission to stop signalling he took up his rifle to join combat. He fell fighting single-handed.

        The valour and tenaciousness of the Sārāgaṛhī soldiers won wide acclaim. Each of them was posthumously awarded Indian Order of Merit (I.O.M.). Their next-of-kin were each granted Rs 500 in cash and two squares (50 acres) of land. Their battalion, 36th Sikhs, also received Battle Honours. A memorial in the form of an obelisk standing on a base built with stones from the Sārāgaṛhī post was raised at the site by the government while memorial gurdwārās were built with public contributions at Amritsar and Fīrozpur. The Sikh Regiment celebrates 12 September every year as Sārāgaṛhī day.


  1. St. Nihāl Siṅgh, India's Fighters. London, 1914
  2. The Spokesman Weekly. Delhi, 20 September 1971
  3. Portrait in Courage. D.G.P.C., Delhi

Narinderpal Siṅgh