Saga of indomitable Valour
The First War of Indian Independence
Valour In The Air : 1857
Celebrating 150 Years : 2007
The year 1857 is a synonym of the first freedom struggle of India and marks
the end of the rule of East India Company and the dawn of the British Crown
in India post 1857.
Uttar Pradesh in North India was a valiant host. 24th
April 1857 was the fateful day when Meerut city, in western
U.P., sparked the momentous fire which then spread to Jhansi, Lucknow,
Raebareli, Unnao, Kanpur, Bithoor, Sitapur, Badaun, Bareilly, Hathras,
Shahjahanpur, Mainpuri, Faizabad, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Azamgarh, Ballia,
Begum Hazrat Mahal, Nana Saheb, Rani of Jhansi, Tantya
Tope, Rana Beni Madho Singh, Rao Ram Bakhsh Singh, Liaqat Ali and many other
equally fiery leaders led the struggle against the British yoke. 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, official buildings, residences, churches and cemeteries,
monuments, streets railways.
Visitors find relics from the 1857 mega-event all around
Meerut near Delhi, 65 km., housed the largest British garrison in
North India. Mangal Pandey a soldier in the British army from Balia, in
eastern U.P., 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 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,
survived 1857's outrage and is one of India's oldest churches. General
Ochterlony whose monument is at Calcutta lies in the cemetery here. Another
magnificent Roman Catholic Church at Sardhana, 22 km. from Meerut, is now a
Minor Basilica. The famous Nauchandi fair, being organised from 1672 at
Meerut after Holi festival, was also used by Nana Saheb to stir the masses.
On 10th May 1857 soldiers pledged to free India at the local Kali
Paltan temple - Augarhnath temple. The Martyrs' Memorial here is established
in the memory of the soldiers of 1857.
Jhansi, 414 km. from Delhi-in southern U.P., is
best known for its warrior queen Rani Laxmi Bai as also its forts, palaces,
museum and natural beauty, especially during the monsoons. Rani Laxmi Bai
led her troops into battle, striking a blow for Indian independence and
lying her life down for the cause. Fort, Rani Mahal and museum are the
500 km. from Delhi- the capital city of U.P., in 1857 the Residency complex,
built by the Nawabs for the British Resident during 1780-1800 came under
siege which ended the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Sir Henry Lawrence, Sir
Henry Havelock, Sir James Outram, Sir Colin Campbell were torchbearers
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. Students
of LaMartiniere College in Lucknow got the Battle Honour from the British
for their contribution in the Residency. Christ Church, built in 1860 in
Lucknow after the British regained Awadh still has regular chapel service,
and remains important.
Kanpur's (8 km from Lucknow) Nana Rao Park and
Sati Chaura Ghat-Massacre Ghat tell grim tales of struggle. Kanpur memorial
church and Christ Church bear memorials of 1857.
Bithoor, 22 km. from Kanpur, was a power center
for local forces. Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi and Nana Saheb learnt warfare
here in their childhood. It is also an important religious centre. Nana Rao
Memorial, series of Ghats on the bank of river Ganga and temples are the
Nearby places, such as Raebareli (85 km. from Lucknow) and Unnao (60 km.
from Lucknow) also played a vital role in the independence struggle. Rana
Beni Madho Singh and Rao Ram Baksh Singh and others were the pioneering
personalities in this regard.
Allahabad, 643 km. from Delhi, is famous for of
the Mahakumbh fair, the largest religious gathering anywhere in the world.
The 1857 uprising took the city by storm. Liaqat Ali, A schoolmaster, set
himself up as governor of Allahabad and made Khusro Bagh his headquarter.
Holy Trinity Church (1839), Jamuna church (1847), All saints' Cathedral
(1870), described as the finest Anglican Cathedral in Asia, St. Joseph's
Cathedral (1879), and cemeteries are prominent British
The Agra fort's foreground also faced the Indians up in arms. St.
George's church in Agra cantt, built in 1826 by Colonel J.T. Boileau, is
still in use.
UP Tourism has made a
destinations circuit keeping the events of 1857 in mind and extends warm
assistance to explorers and those looking for their forefathers' footprints
in the tracks left by the momentous 1857 struggle. Celebrating 150 years in
2007, we salute 1857's spirit of struggle and national aspiration.