Book review | 21 Kesaris by Kiran Nirvan

Author: Kiran Nirvan 

Genre: Non-fiction 

No. of pages: 174

Published by: Bloomsbury India 

Published on: 25th April 2019

Format: Paperback 

My rating: ★★★★☆

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.

21 Kesaris by Kiran Nirvan lays out the events that led to the epic Battle of Saragarhi on 12th September 1897, the battle itself, and its aftermath. 

The authors give a thorough description of the geographical features of the battleground of Saragarhi for the readers benefits. And not only that, he does enumerate the geo-political situations between the British, the Afghan and the Russians, that in later years caused the unrest between the Afghans and British India that led to their onslaught on the post of Saragarhi.

A brief history of the Sikhs throughout the dark ages of Mughal tyranny, and the Afghans, shows what circumstances led the Sikhs or the 'Khalsas' to be so valiant and brave. The Sikh regiment that fought the Battle of Saragarhi - the 36th regiment, had their motives laid straight for the battle - one of them was to avenge the slaughter of their Gurus by the Afghans and the second was their loyalty to their Lieutenant Commander John Haughton. The book does not only give the details of the Afghan-Sikh conflict; but also answers why the 36th regiment was so faithful to Lieutenant Commander John Haughton. 

The book is written in a very progressive and detailed way. The authors first start off with the background of the conflict between Afghan tribes, Russia and British India. Then they talk about the battlefield, the strategic position of Fort Saragarhi that connected Fort Cavagnari and Fort Lockhart; each of the 21 brave Kesaris' name and background, including the non-combatant Muslim camper who helped his comrades. The authors laid out the fearful fight on the fateful day in a detailed way and the aftermath. How finally, with the help of the brave martyrs, the British India forces were finally able to regain cooperation from the Pathans and Afridis. 

The book is educative in its own way. The thorough research and writing; with official pictures, maps and diagrams of and about Saragarhi makes the book a worth read. Even if you are not into history, pick up this book to know about the lesser known legend. 

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. 

I received a copy of the book  from the publisher in exchange of an honest and unbiased review. 


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