The year 1857, though a synonym of the first freedom struggle of India marks the British crown’s dawn here. It was after the brave confrontation by freedom fighters that the British crown took the reigns in its own hands, replacing the East India Company, which had enjoyed a huge chunk of the power so far in India.
Uttar Pradesh in North India was a valiant host to an important event in Indian history. 24th April 1857 was the fateful day when Meerut city near Delhi, sparked the momentous fire which then spread to Lucknow, Raebareilly, Unnao, Kanpur, Bithoor, Sitapur, Badaun, Bareilly, Hathras, Shahjahanpur, Mainpuri, Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Azamgarh, Balia, Varanasi and Allahabad.
Students of LaMartiniere College, Lucknow received Battle Honours for their valourous contribution at the Residency
Begum Hazrat Mahal, Nana Saheb, Rani of Jhansi, Tatya Tope, Beni Madhav, Liaqat Ali and other equally fiery leaders led the struggle against the British yoke.
History in the making
The British answered with canny resurgence and ruled India for another 90 years. Signs of the meticulous British remain in Uttar Pradesh by way of cities and villages, churches, official buildings, residences, churches and cemeteries, monuments, streets and railways.
Visitors find relics from the 1857 mega-event all around in UP. Meerut housed the largest British garrison in North India. Mangal Pandey a soldier in the British army from Balia in eastern UP belonged to the Meerut garrison. When at Barrackpore in Bengal, Mangal Pandey sparked the revolution when forced to bite into the new Enfield rifle’s cartridge supposedly greased with tallow and lard. He shot the presiding officer and was hanged to death immediately. The soldiers at Meerut inspired by him followed suit.
St. John’s Church built in 1819-22 at Meerut, survived 1857’s outrage and is one of India’s oldest churches. General Ochterlony whose monument is at Kolkata lies in the cemetery here. Another magnificent Roman Catholic Church at Sardhana near Meerut is now a Minor Basilica.
The Nauchandi fair at Meerut was used by Nana Saheb to stir the masses. On 10th May 1857 soldiers pledged to free India at the Kali Paltan temple.
Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, famous for its warrior queen Rani Laxmi Bai also retains the era through its forts, palaces, and museum. Apart from historical significance, Jhansi makes a beautiful monsoon destination.
In Lucknow the Residency complex built by the Nawabs for the British Resident during 1780-1800 came under siege. Sir Henry Lawrence, Sir Henry Havelock, Sir James Outram, Sir Colin Campbell were torch-bearers against local opposition. The Residency still bears scars of the siege on its walls, buildings, graves, cenotaphs, lawns and orchards.
After regaining the city in 1858, grand marble statues of British royalty and dignitaries were placed on crossroads and parks to give a British ambience to the city. These are now at the State Museum at Lucknow.
Battle honours for school children!
Students of LaMartiniere College, Lucknow are the proud holders of Battle Honours for valourous contribution in the Residency siege.
More about schools
The Christ Church built in 1860 in Lucknow after the British regained Awadh still has regular chapel service, and remains important. This church also has an eminent school in its premises.
84 km from Lucknow, Kanpur’s Nana Rao Park and Sati Chaura ghat tell grim tales of struggle and death. Kanpur Memorial Church and Christ Church bear memorials of 1857.
Bithoor, 20 km from Kanpur was a power center for local forces. Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi and Nana Saheb Peshwa learnt warfare here in their childhood.
Allahabad is famous for of the Mahakumbh mela, the largest religious gathering anywhere in the world. The 1857 uprising took the city by storm. Holy Trinity Church (1839), Jamuna Church (1847), St Peter’s Church and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral are imprints from that time.
At Agra, the Agra fort’s foreground also faced Indians up in arms. St George’s Church in Agra Cantonment, another monument that survived the ‘gadar’, was built in 1826 by Colonel J. T. Boileau. It is still in use.
At Fatepur near Agra, Havelis lining old streets have murals of British soldiers, emperors, trains and parties of Britishers in vintage cars.
Celebrating the thirst for freedom, we salute the year 1857, by recounting its relics still with us by way of monuments.