We’re proud to announce that Capt. J. Singh-Sohal will be delivering a guest lecture at the prestigious United Services Institute (USI) of India in a month’s time about the Battle of Saragarhi.
The talk will take in the untold but true story of the battle, as well as showcase for the first time moving footage of the modern site – which will be revealed in full in the forthcoming documentary “Saragarhi: The True Story”.
If you’re interested in attending the talk in New Delhi on Weds 23 August get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ll share more details of the talk and hopefully a video also on this website. Here’s a taster image of the ruins of Saragarhi from the film footage:
On Sunday 4th June, we were invited to the fantastic Anglo-Sikhs Wars exhibiton in Leicester to make a presentation about what happened after the fall of the second Sikh Empire.
“After Annexation: Frontier Defence to the last stand at Saragarhi” was presented by writer and filmmaker J. Singh-Sohal (pictured) and delved into how the Sikhs went from being the fiercest of British foes to the staunchest of allies.
It took in not only the development of the Sikhs in the various units that were raised to serve on the North West Frontier, but the current context of Islamist terrorism which we see – which has some similarity to what led to the tribal uprisings of 1897.
The talk covered the battle of Saragarhi in depth, through photographs and eye witness accounts of the heroism on the Samana.
The audience also had a chance to handle the rifle used by the Sikhs – the Martini Henry Mk IV.
Thanks to the organisers Sikh Museum for putting together such a fantastic exhibition and series of talks.
As part of our efforts to remember the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi, we commissioned a renowned artist to create a unique artwork depicting the bravery of the men at Saragarhi (more here).
Watch the creation of the “Battle of Saragarhi” below:
The very first limited edition framed art was presented by the British Sikh Association at their annual dinner to Major General Nanson, Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (see image below, press release here).
We have produced ten limited edition prints, and due to popular demand are now exclusively offering them direct to buyers.
You will not find the work on sale or online anywhere else. If you’d like to purchase one for yourself, your organisation or venue etc contact us directly for a quote via “dothyphen1 AT gmail DOT com” or call/text 07908226667.
Funds raised will help develop the ‘Saragarhi Society’ project which will continue to raise awareness of the battle to international audiences.
Organisations or charities looking to auction a piece to raise money for good causes are also encourage to contact us directly too.
We’ll also be pleased to facilitate a display of the original artwork if requested.
Artist – Rajinder Singh Tattal “Pentacular”
Size – A1 high quality print
Colour – Black and white
Frame – Black
Order time – 2-3 working days
Postage – international
Contact us directly
Email – dothyphen1 AT gmail DOT com
Call/text – 07908226667
*** Watch “Saragarhi Live: Amritsar Memorial – click here ***
We continued our trip in India with a visit to Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs. It is well known that the city is home to Sri Harimandir Sahib (the “Golden Temple” herein GT) and Sikhs make regular pilgrimage to it to take a dip in the holy water. It is also known that opposite the most sacred of sites for Sikhs is the Sri Akal Takht, the Sikh parliament if you like, where political edicts governing the faith and community are discussed and issued.
But Amritsar is a special place for many many more reasons, for the city also hosts a wide variety of shrines and sites associated with Sikh history, from the recently restored Loh Garh fort built by the 6th Guru Hargobind Sahib ji in the mid 17th century to defend Amritsar, through to the locations within the GT complex in which Sikh warrior saints Baba Duleep Singh ji and Baba Gurbakhs Singh ji laid down their severed heads AFTER battling on whilst decapitated against Mughal forces!
Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara Amritsar
Many visitors to the holy city will not know of the significance of another memorial shrine built in the heart of Sikhdom. This is the Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara (seen to the left). It is now dwarfed by a hostel for foreign visitors built around it, a travesty as the memorial was originally placed in a nice garden (as was the one at Ferozepur which is still maintained). But there should be no excuse to not know about or visit this place – it is right opposite the main Saragarhi car park which most visitors use!
It’s sad to see this memorial shrine in its current state and the proximity of other buildings on the new Heritage walkway which leads to the GT. My only hope is that the authorities, who are still undertaking some building around the new walkway, might use the empty land to the left of the Gurdwara to create some greenery where visitors can sit, discover and contemplate the bravery of the Sikhs on the Samana in 1897.
The Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara has a fascinating history which deserves wider recognition. It was unveiled in April 1902, during the special time of Vaisakhi when the Khalsa brotherhood was created by Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji. Vaisakhi is a time of gathering for Sikhs, to become like the Guru and take initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood and to abide by a code of ethics and conduct (for more info I recommend reading Sikh Code of Conduct).
It is not surprising that the unveiling took place at this time, it’s a simple and effective information campaign (more in a future blog post). The British were seeking to use the battle to inspire greater contribution of Sikhs in the British Indian Army, particularly on the frontier. Making the connection to the founding principles in the creation of the Khalsa by opening the memorial Gurdwara at this time created a strong sense of Sikh belief and empowerment – for the use of the British. But how useful it indeed proved, when the Great War erupted 12 years later.
The memorial unveiling in April 1902
With this in mind then back to the unveiling (seen left), the Commander in Chief of Punjab General Sir Arthur Power Palmer, unveiled the monument saying that it was created to show the “spontaneous appreciation of the gallantry of a representative detachment of the Sikh nation, proving that they possess one of the finest of soldierly characteristics – namely that they prefer death to surrender.” The unveiling was attended by dignitaries and a guard of honour of the 36th Sikhs was formed.
The General finished by saying that this memorial was: “erected at the headquarters of the Sikh religion, in order that as long as the British rule lasted the brave Sikh soldiers of the King might realise that their deeds would never be forgotten.”
I’m pleased to say that in Britain today, through the work we’re doing with the British Army, we have put remembrance of Saragarhi and how it can inspire acts of public service back onto the agenda – read more about Saragarhi Day 2016 here.
The memorial contains tablets on each of the four walls, and much like the Saragarhi monument at Ferozepur, they are each written in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. On the Amritsar tablet, the inscription reads: “The Government of India have caused this memorial to be erected to the memory of the twenty-one non-commissioned officers and men of the 36th Sikhs whose names are engraved below as a perpetual record of the heroism shewn by these gallant soldiers who died at their posts in the defence of the frontier fort of Saragarhi on the 12th September 1897 fighting against overwhelming numbers thus proving their loyalty and devotion to their sovereign the Queen Empress of India and gloriously maintaining the reputation of the Sikhs for unflinching courage on the field of battle.”
Jay Singh-Sohal at the Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara Amritsar: click to watch “Saragarhi Live”
Then, much like the tablets at Ferozepur, follow the regt number, rank and names of the 21.
Some observations on the wording on the tablets:
1 – explicit credit given at the onset that the memorial was funded and built by the Government of India – British India
2 – stating of ‘loyalty and devotion’ to Queen Victoria, certainly not the motivating factor behind their heroics so we can accept this statement as part of the information campaign at the time to show how brave and loyal men should behave towards the Crown. It worked, and this is seen in the ways the native Raja’s and leading Sardars worked to prove their loyalty to the government – we’ll detail more on this in a future post. BUT this sentiment towards colonial India is now a contentious one which many Indians would not warm to
3 – the belief that in death the 21 maintain the reputation of the Sikhs ‘for unflinching courage’ is a strong sentiment which cuts to the core of the Khalsa spirit, the belief in standing for a just cause and fighting (much like Baba Deep Singh and Baba Gurbakhs Singh, mentioned earlier) against the greatest of odds. This can and does inspire Sikhs to serve the greater good.
I end by sharing my experience of visiting the memorial and speaking to the granthi (priest) on duty at the time. He was very warm and even made us a nice cup of tea while we worked!
We also managed to get enough of a wifi signal to conduct our first foreign Saragarhi Live! You can view the clip of me explaining the memorial via this link here or clip on the photo to the left.