Every country Army has their own heroic stories, but India defers them to a higher degree sometimes. Through centuries, the Indian Army saved our country from coming under the feet of foreign invaders and making this country another Kuwait or Iraq. Through centuries, thousands of army men gave their lives away just to heroism. And as a citizen of India, we can do very little for them; even the Government cannot do much except giving them the respect they deserve. And one such respected award in India is the ‘Param Vir Chakra’. And the legacy of this award first started with Major Somnath Sharma, one of the bravest army generals of India. Let us hear out his story.
Early Years of Major Somnath Sharma
Born on 31st January of 1923, Major Sharma was a resident of the Punjab Province of then British India. He got his army blood from his father, Amar Nath Sharma. Most of his childhood days were spent at his maternal grandfather’s home in Srinagar. Som, as his family and friends liked to call him, did his schooling at Sherwood College, Nainital. After that, he enrolled for Prince of Wales Royal Military College in Dehradun and later joined the Royal Military Academy. It was told that his favourite pastime was listening to his grandfather’s recital of ‘Bhagvat Gita’.
Army Blood becomes an Army Man
Not only his father but his uncle also died while defending a bridge against Japanese invasion and this inspired Somnath to be an army man one day. After finishing his schooling, he was selected, and he joined the IMA, Dehradun in 1941 for the post of Second Lieutenant in 8/19 Hyderabad Regiment. When he was only 21 years old, he was present while actions in Burma and he was appointed as D.A. and Q.M.G at his Brigade headquarters. Being one of the efficient men, he was posted to the communal conflict area of Punjab top keep law and order. In 1942, he was commissioned in the Kumaon Region.
Battle of Badgam leads the way to India’s First Param Vir Chakra Receiver
Major Somnath Sharma led and fought in many battles; he even fought in World War II in Burma with British Army. The Battle of Badgam was the case that brought him the glory. Although he was technically unfit to be active in a war, he insisted on taking the lead on his assignment at Srinagar Airport on 1st November. However, on 3rd November, Sharma’s D company got heavily outnumbered by Pakistani raiders during patrol duties suddenly. Sharma knew the importance of holding on even though they were outnumbered or otherwise both the city of Srinagar and the airport would be lost. He was injured, yet he fought bravely and exposed himself to the enemy fire. Under such odd circumstance, they fought courageously under Sharma’s order till Indian reinforcements came. He even operated a light machine gun and held the enemy till his last blood. Along with Sharma, 21 other ranks of D company were killed in that battle.
The Life after the Death
Major Somnath Sharma’s body was found three days later. It was heavily disfigured, and no one could recognise his face. However, his body was identified by means of a page of Bhagavad Gita in his chest pocket. His last transmitted message was –
“The enemies are only 50 yards from us. We are heavily outnumbered. We are under devastating fire. I shall not withdraw an inch but will fight to our last man and our last round.”
Late on 21st June 1950, Major Somnath Sharma was awarded Param Vir Chakra because of his outstanding courage and bravery. He became the first Indian to receive a Param Vir Chakra.
Param Vir Chakra is the highest award of India for bravery and courage but what does an award mean when the brave man is not alive to see it? As I said earlier, maybe the respect and the tribute is the least we can do for such brave souls. India’s map would not be the same without the bravery of Major Somnath Sharma on Battle of Badgam. Salute to you, Sir!
Written By: Subharthi Bhattacharya