The Battle of Saragarhi

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[The fifth poem on a war poetry series]

Indian history has a battle of eighteen ninety seven,
The heroes numbered no more than three times number seven.
The British Indian army had the North West in its hold,
The greatest last stand occurred that history would soon unfold.

Three forts built in a row in the Hindu Kush Mountain range,
Saragarhi was set in the centre to communicate within its range.
The Thirty-Sixth Sikhs manned this fort between Lockhart and Gulistan,
Their names would earn eternal glory for all of Hindustan.

The Afghan enemy numbering thousands advance on the fort,
Twenty-one braves under Ishar Singh resolve to defend the fort.
The British could not re-enforce for the Afghans had blockaded it,
The brave Sikhs are ready to fight till their last breath.

The Afridi and Orakzai are fearless Afghan tribesmen,
The defenders are trained soldiers and not mere henchmen.
The men at Saragarhi armed with the latest Martini-Henry rifles,
The attackers wait for the hour carrying older generation rifles.

The roar of the attackers rushing is heard by all
Ishar then lets out a war cry Bole So Nihal,
Rest of his men join in and say Sat Sri Akal,
It Is now an epic battle to tell one and all.

The ploy was to take Saragarhi and split the other two,
By end of day was to take at least one if not the other two.
Bullets flying, men shouting and not a moment to rest,
Gurumukh Singh signals out trying his very best.

The picket wall portion broken yet all firing at will,
The Guru’s blessings are upon them and this is a test of their will.
Two attempts are made by the enemy to breach the entrance gate,
The Sikhs of course drive them back before it is too late.

The wall is breached but the defenders within fighting hand and sword,
Ishar leads his men for the kill for loyalty, oath and word.
Fiercest fighting takes place now, swords glitter in the sun,
Many a life will be lost husband, brother or son.

Haughton knows and sees it all but is helpless,
Admiring the valiant Indians fight who are so selfless.
One by one the fighting Sikhs lay their lives down,
Gurumukh Singh, the last to fall, takes twenty assailants down.

The signal post is set afire and he is still firing,
He fights like one possessed stopping the tribal uprising.
Alas he is killed, all seems lost and the enemy takes the fort,
The British later send more troops and take back the fort.

The Queen of England awards the twenty-one killed the Indian Order of Merit,
The Sikh soldiers very proud of the generations they inherit from.
The Spartan battle of ancient Greece will always get its credit,
Saragarhi in modern history stands in unequalled merit.

Lessons are learnt in military schools of this historic day,
Tactics in battle never fade, only weapons have changed today.
Sikh military on twelfth September always remembers this day,
The Indian military has its legacy that one understands today.

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