Battle of Saragarhi brings British Army to Birmingham Gurudwara

Delegation gracefully listens to Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s message in the Gurudwara

Delegation gracefully listens to Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s message in the Gurudwara

Brigadier Abraham accompanied by colleagues from the British Army visited the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) Gurudwara and Nishkam complex as part of the high profile commemorations of the Battle of Saragarhi.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh, Chairman of GNNSJ, who manages the selfless services of the Gurudwara on Soho Road and Chairman of the Nishkam Civic Association welcomed and hosted the Army Delegation.

The Battle of Saragarhi is considered by some military historians as one of history’s great last-stands. Sikh military personnel and Sikh civilians commemorate the battle every year on 12th  September as Saragarhi Day; the battle was given the honour of a regimental holiday.  The Battle of Saragarhi was fought on 12th September 1897 between 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikhs of British India, defending an army post, and 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen. The battle occurred in the North-West Frontier Province, which formed part of British India. It is now named the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and is part of Pakistan. The contingent of the 21 Sikhs from the 36th Sikhs led by Havildar Ishar Singh all chose to fight to the death to protect the army post.Brigadier Mark Abraham OBE, who recently received a Kirpan from the Akaal  Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh at Sri Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar (often called the ‘Golden Temple’) visited Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh and the Nishkam complex as part of the Saragarhi commemorations.

Nishkam Centre Director and guests pay respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the                      Gumbad (Dome) Darbar

Nishkam Centre Director and guests pay respects to Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gumbad (Dome) Darbar

All the 21 Sikhs who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time, which an Indian soldier could receive by the hands of the British crown, the corresponding gallantry award being the Victoria Cross. This last stand has inspired generations of Sikhs with an epic recollection of valour seldom matched.

Brigadier Abraham, part of a seven strong contingent of British Army Officers and Soldiers, visited the five centre of excellence; the Gurudwara, Nishkam Centre, Nishkam Schools, Nishkam Health Centre and Nishkam Community Cooperative and better understood the Sikh way of life and how “making work worship” brings spirituality and secularity together seamlessly in reality.

Recalling the receiving of the Kirpan, Brig Abraham said: “It was a great honour for the British Army to receive this [proudly holding up the 3 foot Kirpan] from the Akaal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh”.

Brigadier Abraham thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for hosting the British Army

Brigadier Abraham thanks Bhai Sahib Ji for hosting the British Army

During the visit to GNNSJ there were ongoing discussions about the importance of values, education and standards. This was done in the spirit of strengthening understanding and links between Sikhs and the British Army.

Brigadier Abraham went on to say, “ Our Sikh officers and soldiers are a crucial part of our organisation and seeing the 5 Centres of Excellence here today reinforces the community role and spirit that the Sikhs have”.

The delegation were in awe of what they saw at the Nishkam complex and were overwhelmed by the community spirit to serve humanity and society selflessly. The conversations with the 6th form students at Nishkam High School further reiterated the values that were clearly being developed to prepare good natured, values inspired and morally attuned humble individuals.In conversation with the delegation Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh shared his work on an International Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation. “The practice of forgiving can transform legacies and memories of injustice, conflicts and wars. It can liberate people from being imprisoned in their past and themselves, and allow the grace of the Divine to restore peace and harmony amongst individuals and communities” he iterated.  Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh aslo shared many sacred recollections from Sikh history to illustrate the importance of unity, partnerships, collaboration, peace, good human values, sacrifice and education. The significance of the Panj Kakar (or 5 K’s) and importance of the Dastaar (Turban) were discussed and their prominence to an Amritari (baptised Sikh / Khalsa) outlined.

Army learns about the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the Nishkam Anglo-Sikh             Heritage Centre

Army learns about the Sikh Dharam (faith) in the Nishkam Anglo-Sikh Heritage Centre

After the visit Amrick Singh, Nishkam Centre Director, recalled, “Today was an interesting visit from the British Army. The underlying message of The Battle of Saragarhi is one of great pride for the Sikhs and I’m glad to hear from the British Army that it is for them too. Today was about understanding, listening and exchanging viewpoints. Bhai Sahib Ji iterated the importance of Sikhs needing a justifyable cause, an opportunity to stand up for righteousness and those persecuted, whilst remaining compassionate, forgiving, peace-loving and humble. The concept of Sant-Sipihi (Saint-Solider) was discussed, where one must have Godly traits, be spiritually inspired and infused and then be prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice to protect and uphold the honour and dignity of others. Today was a learning for many during this visit”.

Guests listen intently to the ethos and values driving the Nishkam Health Centre

Guests listen intently to the ethos and values driving the Nishkam Health Centre

Nishkam Community Cooperative, MSS, welcomes Army guests

Nishkam Community Cooperative, MSS, welcomes Army guests

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