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21 Kesaris: The Untold Story of the Battle of Saragarhi — by Kiran Nirvan

Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Pages: 195

Price: Rs. 399 INR(Paperback), Rs. 225 INR(Kindle Edition)

ISBN: 978– 9389000399

Buy here: https://amzn.to/2yWm7PJ

10,000 Afghans. 21 Sikh soldiers. One epic battle. On 12 September 1897, 21 soldiers of 36th Sikh regiment stood undeterred as they guarded the post of Saragarhi against the onslaught of almost 10,000 Afghan tribesmen a battle for the ages that ended in them laying down their lives in a final hand­to­hand combat. The unparalleled heroics of these 21 men have, however, been long forgotten by history. What led to the Battle of Saragarhi? What was the socio-political scenario at the time? Who were these tribesmen and why did they attack an outpost in such great numbers? Who were the 21 soldiers and how were they able to keep the enemy at bay against all odds? Based on colonial era records and information provided by the 4th Sikh battalion, the legatee unit of 36th Sikhs, 21 Kesaris attempts to answer these questions while paying homage to the brave soldiers who defended the kesari flag depicting their Khalsa heritage with their last breaths.

About the author:

Kiran Nirvan is the pseudonym used by authors Kirandeep Singh and Nirvan Singh. Kirandeep Singh is the co-author of the bestselling book Nasteya: The Aryan Saga. He is the former head of the Department of Management Studies, Global Institutes, Amritsar, and is currently pursuing his doctorate in the discipline. Kirandeep began exploring his passion for writing in his teenage years and has authored more than a hundred poems in Punjabi. Nirvan Singh is a serving officer in the Indian army, while also being an artist, writer and adventurer. The Battle of Saragarhi is one of the stories that inspired him to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and join the armed forces.

My take on the book:

21 Kesaris, as the title rightfully suggests is about the forgotten battle of Saragarhi and more importantly about the unsung heroes. As the authors rightfully point at the start of the book, this is one such epic moment in Indian history which has been forgotten over the years and has very less recall in public memory. While the title might suggest it is about the battle, the authors have meticulously covered every aspect around it starting from the geographical significance of the terrain, the historical origin of the soldiers and tribes involved on both the sides, their religious and moral ethics, the political landscape and tensions, among umpteen other details.

The book starts with the back story of why a huge group of ten thousand Afghani men attacked the fort of Saragarhi, and the political scenario prior to this event. The story then delves into Sikhism, its origin and how its followers turned into sword yielding soldiers from a peaceful sect. The details of the 36 Sikhs regiment who were the 21 Kesaris, including the pictures and personal info of each soldier(Sepoy) and the head of the regiment, are explained in detail. 

For an average person, the first thought that crosses their mind is the reason for the native Indian soldiers to fight against the Afghan men when they should ideally be unhappy with the British who were ruling them at that time and whose side that were taking in this fight. This seemingly simple question has all the answers in the book and the long string of events which seem to cause this conflicting situation. 

I personally liked that the book is not just about the battle alone and cliched adrenaline rush sequences, but looks at a historic event in a wholesome manner. The research done, the maps and pictures added across the pages and the details shared without making it boring or textbook like are some of the highlights of this book. The mere mention of 21 young soldiers fighting a huge opposition army of 10000 induces goosebumps. 

The valor, dedication, commitment of these real heroes needs to be read, remembered, and is inspiring to the core. Highly recommended for all history buffs and those looking to pick some real stories. 

My rating: