Early in January 1857, at the Dumdum cantonment near Calcutta, a Brahmin sepoy was walking down to his post to prepare his food with a lotah or brass water-pot, when a low caste khalasi asked if he could get some water to drink from the pot. The soldier refused to share his pot, saying that the touch of low-caste khalasi would defile it. The khalasi retorted, “You think so much of your caste today, but you don’t mind biting cartridges soaked in cow and pork fat.” When the startled Brahmin inquired the meaning of the accusation, he was told that the cartridges given out for the new Enfield rifles were coated with animal fats. The story spread like wildfire, and within just three months of the khalasi’s rebuttal, the issue had become the central theme to ignite the struggle by a conquered race to cast off the foreign yoke of British rule.
(Six portrait-miniatures with watercolor on ivory in delicate bracelet design, showing Dost Muhammad Khan, ruler of Afghanistan 1826–1863; Bahadur Shah Zafar, ruler of Delhi from 1837–1857; and Gulab Singh, ruler of Jammu and Kashmir 1792–1857; the three female figures are typical Mughal portraits, rather than actual ones. Courtesy: The Walter Art Museum, Baltimore, USA (http://art.thewalters.org/detail/14966/bracelet-with-portrait-miniatures/) Creative Commons License/Public Domain.)
Still, the refusal of 85 troopers out of 90 of the Third Cavalry at Meerut to use the new cartridges on that fateful Saturday of 24th April, 1857 could perhaps have passed off as just another incident, but for the manner in which the punishment was meted out. Kaye, the great historian, writes of the 9th May incident when those 85 sepoys were paraded to an open ground with both native and European onlookers present.
“Under a guard of Rifles and Carabineers, the eighty-five were then brought forward, clad in their regimental uniforms –soldiers still; and then the sentence was read out…their uniforms were stripped from their backs, then the armourers and the smiths came forward with their shackles and their tools…in the presence of that great concourse of their old comrades…There was not a Sepoy present who did not feel the rising indignation in his throat. But in the presence of those loaded field guns and those grooved rifles, and the glittering sabres of the Dragoons, there could not be a thought of striking….”
Defending the decision, H.H. Greathed, Commissioner of Meerut writes in his letter, “The carbine men of the 3rd Cavalry being ordered to parade to learn the new movement, which substitutes tearing for biting the cartridges, refused, to the number of eighty-five, to handle them, although they were the same they have always used, and have, of course, nothing to do with Enfield. The only reason they could give was, they feared to get a bad name with other regiments. The whole body is to be tried by court-martial, and no doubt a severe example will be made of such flagrant disobedience….”
(Khanjar or dagger obtained by Major William Hodson at Delhi, 1857 : Hodson probably took this beautiful dagger from one of the Mughal princes, whom he stripped and shot dead on 21 Sept 1857 after their surrender. Alternatively, he may have obtained it later on at the sale of treasures organised by Delhi prize agents. ©National Army Museum, London. Reproduced with permission)
The first sign of revolt was in February in Berhampur, where soldiers refused to accept the Enfield cartridges, followed by Barrackpur in March, and finally in Meerut in May, where, 85 soldiers were court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for refusing to accept the new rifles. It was then that full-scale mutiny broke out. On the quiet Sunday afternoon of 10th May, 1857, when most of the Europeans were at the church, the rebel sepoys rose up in open defiance, shot dead John Finnis, Lieutenant of 11th Bengal NI and brother of the Lord Mayor of London, killed every European they could find, burnt down bungalows and residential quarters of the officers, and broke open jails where the mutinous troops were being held. The newspaper Englishman published the following account of the Meerut massacre from a correspondent, “On all sides shot up into the heavens great pinnacles of waving fire, of all hues and colours, according to the nature of the fuel that fed them, huge volumes of smoke rolling sullenly off in the sultry night air, and the crackling and roar of the conflagration mingling with the shouts and riot of the mutineers.” [Ref 33]
In the following days, about a third of the Bengal Army, in excess of 100,000 men, quietly but firmly separated themselves from the services of the East India Company, and enrolling as subjects of the Mughal Emperor of Delhi, thereby revolted against their commanders.
As many as 41 jails were attacked and 28,000 prisoners freed by the rebels. One by one, other garrisons –armed with all available artillery- rose against their British overlords: Ferozepur, Aligarh, Lucknow, Bareilly, Jullundhar, Sitapur, Cawnpur, Allahabad … the rebellion spread like a forest fire in a high wind.
(The brass carriage clock was posted from Calcutta in early 1857, and reached Delhi Post Office in May 1857. It lay there undisturbed throughout the siege, and was recovered later and forwarded to the addressee. ©National Army Museum, London. Reproduced with permission.)
The morning after the Meerut incident, between 7 and 8 a.m. on 11th May, the troopers from 3rd Light Cavalry of Meerut crossed over Yamuna by the Bridge of Boats, assembled under the waterfront Jharokha of the Emperor. Within hours it had started – the hunting and butchering of the British in Delhi. The personal doctor to Zafar and a “star native convert” to Christianity, Dr. Chaman Lal, was the first victim, killed in his Daryaganj clinic. This was soon followed by the murders of Delhi resident Simon Fraser and, Captain Douglas, commandant of the palace guards. The chaplain, Rev. Mr. Jennings, personally responsible for many religious conversions, was killed, along with his young daughter Annie, and her 18-year old friend Miss Clifford – both choirmasters at the St. James Church. While Dr. Chaman Lal was shot dead at point blank range, Reverend Jennings, Captain Douglas, Fraser and the two young ladies were cut down with swords. The editor of the “Delhi Gazette” and his family were similarly murdered.
For the British, it soon became “the degradation of fearing those who were taught to fear us’’.
The 54th regiment, under Colonel Ripley, was asked immediately to march down to the Kashmiri gate with two guns, but as soon as it reached there, the local sepoys deserted the officers and joined the rebels, killing all the British, including their commander. The 38th and 74th were then ordered to suppress the rebellion, but both refused to act.
(Felice Beato Flagstaff Tower Picket, Delhi 1858, albumen silver photograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2007. Reproduced with permission.)
By 5 p.m., a bullock cart arrived at the Flagstaff tower, where the Europeans had taken refuge, hoping that the troops would soon quench the uprising. However, it became amply clear that each one must now save himself or herself from the impending mass annihilation. Panic spread when they noticed a hand of a dead European protruding out of the heap of corpses covered by a cloth on the bullock cart, and Brigadier Graves signaled for immediate dispersal to Karnal and Meerut.
Officers, coming under fire from their own troops, escaped the cantonment that was engulfed in a blaze, crouching like frightful hares in the night, running and hiding as fugitives, while voices and shadowy figures stalked them. On their way, some of them were helped by random villagers and zamindars with food and shelter, only to be robbed and stripped by ruffians a little ahead. Braving the burning summer wind of May, hiding in grasses, and swimming across the river, some of them escaped, while many others perished – either from natural causes and hunger, or murdered in the most barbarous manner. Theo Metcalfe was one of the lucky people to escape safely to Hansi after meandering in the jungle for ten days.
In Delhi, Prince Mirza Mughal was appointed by Zafar as the commander of the rebel sepoy force.
What could have gone so wrong as to turn the same White Mughals – so enamoured with India and the Indian way of life – against the very Mughal Court which had granted them authority to do trading in India in the first place?
After 1803, Shahjahanabad came under British control, except for the palace-fortress, which still was ruled by the Mughal Emperor. By that time, the British officers in Delhi were commonly adopting native identities as “White Mughals.” No one would give a second look to the “Mughalized” Delhi Resident David Ochterloney, who used to take out all his thirteen Indian wives, each on her own elephant, in evening processions along the Yamuna. Neither would one see anything out of place in his successor William Fraser’s close friendship with Urdu poet Ghalib, his patronization of miniature paintings, or his scholarly commissioning of the Fraser Album. Intermarriages between the British and Indians became very common.
( Portrait of Zafar, from the first picture)
Successive British generations in India began to see its great Oriental heritage at close quarters and acted as cultural ambassadors to Europe.
In 1784, the British established the Asiatic Society of Bengal at the initiative of Sir William Jones and his assistant, Charles Wilkins. Regarded today as the Fathers of Indology, the duo translated numerous Sanskrit epics into English for the first time, namely Bhagvat Gita (1784), Hitopadesa (1787), Sakuntala (1789), Gita Govinda (1792), and the Lawbook of Manu (1794). After Frenchman Anquetil-Duperron translated Upanishads in 1786 into French, L’ecole des Langues Orientales Vivantes was set up by the French government in 1795. There, Alexander Hamilton, from the Asiatic Society of Bengal, became the first European to teach Sanskrit. Formal Sanskrit courses were started in England for first time in 1805, at the training college of the East India Company at Hertford. Instruction in Sanskrit was initiated at the universities in Oxford, London, Cambridge, and Edinburgh. The French Societe Asiatique was established in 1821 in Paris, followed by the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1823. In India, Alexander Cunningham, considered the Father of Indian Archaeology, singularly conducted a thorough study of ancient material remains. James Prinsep decoded the long-dead script of Brahmi, enabling deciphering of the Ashokan pillar inscriptions.
As Cunningham put it, “But now a new era dawned on Indian archaeology, and the thick crust of oblivion, which for so many centuries had covered and concealed the characters and language of the earliest Indian inscriptions, and which the most learned scholars had in vain tried to penetrate, was removed at once and for ever by the penetrating sagacity and intuitive perception of James Prinsep.”
Around the end of the 18th century, Sir William Jones wrote – rather romantically and in part incorrectly that “the Indian Zodiac was not borrowed mediately or directly from the Arabs or Greeks or Mughals or any other nation of Mlechchas as the proud Brahmins call those who are ignorant of the Vedas.” When the astronomical tables of India were introduced in Europe, a terrible excitement gripped the scholars. Jean Sylvain Bailly in 1787 concluded that the Hindus were the inventors of astronomy and published Traite de l’astronomie Indienne et orientale. In 1792, Playfair urged an exhaustive and thorough search by British and Hindu scholars for works on Hindu astronomy, and an actual examination of the heavens, as well as that of old drawings of astronomical instruments. S. Davis in 1789 analysed Surya Siddhanta to deduce that the tilted axis of the earth at 24 degrees was a Hindu observation dating back to 2050 B.C.
( Three Mughal portrait from the bracelet – Picture#1. On close examination, the three seem to have very similar facial features. )
So, among all these scholarly adulations and interests in India, what could have gone wrong? Let us see it from the very beginning. Were the events of 1857 the result of a greedy corporation’s territorial ambition and their aggressive drive for Christianity? Was there any secret conspiracy between Zafar, with the Sepoys, and even with Persians and Russians, – as he was subsequently charged with –, to overthrow the British that resulted in the out-burst?
A mere 82 years after Babur set up the 332-year long Mughal reign in India by overthrowing Ibrahim Lodhi, William Hawkins commanded British East India Company (EIC)’s first ship Hector to land at the port city of Surat in 1608, desirous of trading with the world’s richest country.
The Mughal Empire, after rising to the pinnacle of glamour and luxury, quickly faded after Aurangzeb’s death to become a total non-entity.
After the death of Quli Khan, – the last Viceroy of Bengal under Aurangzeb in 1727 – his successors ruled the united provinces of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa until one of their own governors, Alivardi Khan of Bihar, deposed his masters and ruled in their place. Seventeen years later, Sirajudullah, Alivardi’s grandson, ironically faced the same fate as his own general, Mir Jafar, plotted to seize power. But what Mir Jafar did in his quest to rule changed the country’s history forever — he invited the EIC as his (literal) partner in crime. Subsequently, after his success in the Battle of Plassy, he became a mere tool in British hands. Mughal Emperor Shah Alam tried to salvage the situation by leading three military expeditions into Bihar, but each time he was thoroughly defeated by the British. Finally, he had no option but to grant the EIC in 1765 the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa in – making the British the Mughal Court’s authorized revenue collector, in return for an annual fee of 26 lakh rupees that Warren Hastings stopped paying after 1772. Shah Alam was allowed to rule Allahabad under British protection, but he always dreamt of returning to the seat of his royalty in Delhi. Meanwhile, the Marathas had captured Delhi, and successfully bargained with Shah Alam to restore him to the throne, in return for money and cessation of territories. Thus, on 6th January, 1772, Shah Alam and his court rode their choicest elephants from Shahdara to his Red Fort palace in a short procession through the streets of Delhi, with thousands of onlookers on each side.
( The chance discovery of Zafar’s grave – from Zafar’s tomb, Yangon, Myanmar. Photo courtesy by friend Sushil K Rath)
Since Aurangzeb’s death, Shahjahanabad’s fluctuating fortunes had changed its course in 1739, only to rebound later, in 1803. Province after province was falling away from the Empire. By 1758, the Mughal emperor had to personally lead military campaigns to extract tributes from neighboring villages, which by then had shrugged off all allegiance to the crown.
From the northwest, Afghan forces under Ahmad Shah Abdali imitated their predecessor Nadir Shah’s 1739 plunder of Delhi with alarming regularity in 1748, 1756, and 1760. From the South, Deccani and Maratha forces were now claiming territories further northwards, and were the real rulers of Delhi from 1771 to 1803. The Eastern part of the empire saw Oudh and Bengal gone under the control of EIC.
Delhi – a city described as “a cage of tumultuous nightingales,” had totally collapsed by now. Ali Mardan Khan’s engineering marvel – the famed moonlit canal – where imperial children had once played with abandon, was clogged and dried up.
( Images from the Zafar’s tomb at Yangon, Myanmar. Photo courtesy – by friends Mudit Mathur/ Somendra Nath)
As if these long series of attacks on Delhi did not produce sufficient misery, there was a severe famine in 1782 that killed nearly half of Delhi’s population. That was the year when the great poet, Mir Taqi Mir, abandoned Delhi to settle down in prosperous Lucknow in the eastern province of Oudh, ruled under British alliance.
Hundreds of beautiful mosques built in every mohalla by the great Amirs and the Emperor’s family were unlit and deserted; its lovely mansions and fine buildings were tottering wrecks. The great poet Mir writes, “The scene of desolation filled my eyes with tears….The houses were in ruins. Walls had collapsed. Cloisters and wine-shops alike were deserted … whole bazaars had vanished. The children playing in the streets, the comely young men, the austere elders – all had gone.” In his verse, he wrote:
Here in this city where the dust drifts in deserted lanes,
A man might come and fill his lap with gold in days gone by.
These eyes saw only yesterday house after house
Where here and there a ruined wall or doorway stands.
(Mir Taqi Mir’s couplets on Delhi’s devastation, from ‘Three Mughal Poets’ by Khurshid Islam and Ralph Russel. Ref.19. Reproduced with permission of Oxford University Press India © Oxford University Press. Unauthorized copying is strictly prohibited)
(The City of Delhi Before the Siege – The Illustrated London News Jan 16, 1858, Public Domain / Wikipedia Commons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Delhi#/media/File:Delhi-lond-illust-1858.jpg)
In 1788, the Rohilla warlord Ghulam Qadir Khan Rohilla attacked and captured a poorly-defended Delhi. Demanding that the supposedly hidden treasures from the royal palace to be handed over to him, he threw Emperor Shah Alam II into prison. On 10th August 1788, the Rohilla invader –lounging on the royal throne in the Diwan-i-Khas– ordered the emperor to be brought in front of him. After torturing the royal ladies in front of the ill-fated ruler, he cut out Shah Alam’s eyes with a dagger.
Within a few months, the Maratha army reached Delhi and restored the blind emperor to his throne, after driving out the Afghan intruders. Ghulam Qadir Khan had been captured while attempting to flee, and was subjected to an act of macabre retribution. His eyes, nose, and ears were cut off and sent in a casket to the emperor, in an “eye for an eye” style of brutal justice.
(A rare map of Delhi by London cartographer Edward Weller. Public Domain / Wikipedia Commons – https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/1863_Dispatch_Atlas_Map_of_Delhi%2C_India_-_Geographicus_-_Delhi-dispatch-1867.jpg)
With the Mughal Empire fast disintegrating, the Marathas — with effective control over large parts of Southern and Northern India – were considered the likely successor to the Mughals. Napoleon had attacked Egypt, and it was being foretold that he would soon advance to India like a second Alexander and turn the tables in favour of the French East India Company to drive out the British.
However, the British, superior in both military might and strategic thinking, turned out to be the winners in this “great game.” Lord Wellesley’s diplomatic master-stroke of “Subsidiary Alliance,” which involved yielding total power on provinces without taking any responsibility by means of a “double government,” was successfully followed up by Lord Dalhousie’s “Doctrine of Lapse” in taking away the kings’ “divine right of succession” by annexing state after state. Native provinces began to seek British military help in localized fights against their neighbours.
(Unknown Photographer not titled [group of nine Indian men and British Officer seat having their photograph taken], c.1875, albumen silver photograph, water colour, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2013. Reproduced with permission)
By that time, Mughal Delhi, under Shah Alam, was practically in French-trained Maratha hands. In 1803, Lord Wellesley ordered the French forces to be driven out of Delhi, and General Lake appeared in Patparganj village with the 27th Dragoon and the 76th Foot, totaling 4900 men.
Exactly 54 years before the British crushed the 1857 uprising, on 14th September 1803, the British forces entered Delhi and drove away the Marathas. In the Diwan-i-Am, Lord Lake was received by the blind Emperor Shah Alam, who in gratitude conferred on him the title of “Samsam-ud-Daula, Ashgah-ul-Mulk, Khan-Dauran, General Gerard Lake Bahadur, Fateh Jung”.
Lt. General Ochterlony, whose troops won the battle of Plassey, was appointed as the Resident of Delhi after Lord Lake’s dramatic entry in Delhi in 1803. Afterwards, peace and prosperity slowly returned to Shahjahanabad. The British began re-building the bazaars; founded a printing press, hospitals, etc; Dara Shikoh’s mansion was turned into the Resident’s house; a cantonment was set up in the Ridge area expanding the city boundary; construction of St James’ church near Kashmiri gate was started; Ali Mardan Khan’s canal was cleared by Lieutenant Blane and water again flowed in the streets of Delhi; and most importantly, the British fostered an economy where private traders started playing a greater role.
(‘Tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar’ at Yangon, Myanmar where Zafar (died 7 Nov 1862) and Zinat Mahal (died 17 July 1886) are buried. Photo Courtesy – by friend Sushil K Rath)
By 1805, a monthly allowance of Rs 60,000 was fixed for Shah Alam by EIC, an additional Rs 10,000 as festival gifts, and an agreement was reached to take the King’s approval before meting out capital punishment to any of the city’s residents.
Or was 1857 just yet another localized rebellion like the 1806 Madras Mutiny over sepoys required to shave off their beards and wear leather cockades in place of their traditional turbans; or like the 1824 Barrackpore and 1825 Assam Mutinies after refusing to travel overseas for the first Burmese war; or like a dozen odd Mutinies over pay and allowances – but one that went out of control?
In 1837, Zafar became the Mughal Emperor, in the same year, when Queen Victoria rose to the British throne; amid Lord Wellesley’s pan-India territorial ambitions playing out in its full glory.
Very soon, the succession planning of the Mughal Empire in Delhi was discussed, and in 1852, a document was signed by Lord Dalhousie declaring Fakhr-ud-din as the next successor after the death of Zafar, with his agreement to vacate the Red Fort and relocate to the Qutub Area.
(‘Reinforcement proceeding to Delhi’, 1857: The lithograph by William Simpson, E Walker and others depicts the advance of Punjab reinforcements under the command of Brigadier-General John Nicholson to Delhi. ©National Army Museum, London. Reproduced with permission.)
These terms were not at all agreeable to the Mughal Empress Zeenat Mahal, who asked her husband to modify the contract with the British to declare her son Jawan Bakht as heir-apparent. While this uneasiness was prevailing between the British and the Mughal court, Thomas Metcalfe died on 3rd November 1853, due to suspected vegetable poisoning ordered by Zeenat Mahal. A couple of years later on 10th July, 1856, the heir-apparent Fakhr-ud-din also died from poisoning believed to have been ordered by Zeenat. The game was becoming murkier.
If the EIC’s first metamorphosis was from its trading role to a military and political avatar with ambition to rule India (which was beginning to materialize slowly but quite successfully), it appeared to have developed yet another mission to accomplish in this part of the East Indies.
Between 1830 and 1850, the British took upon themselves the “religious duty to uplift the locals to the light of Christianity.” The Bible began to be read out to sepoys during military formations, and numerous little white churches sprang up across the cities and the countryside. The Delhi College became a mere apparatus in this motivated aspiration, fueling the general public’s fear of forced conversion to Christianity and prompting suspicion of the institute’s intentions in this regard.
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
If the EIC’s territorial ambition was a kind of hard blow that created the first wave of murmuring against the British, the seemingly softer agenda of introducing Christianity took that anxiety to a new level.
“Happy will it be, if our conquests should open the way for a farther introduction of the Gospel, and for the extension and enlargement of Christ’s Kingdom…. What a luster would such an accession give to British conquests in the Eastern world! ‘– Dr Glasse. (Quoted in “The East India Company and Religion, 1698-1858,” by Penelope Carson)
Curiously, some of the arguably best British initiatives like the introduction of Westernized education, imposition of peace and order over anarchy, introduction of railways, telegraphs and post offices, abolition of suttee, and legalizing re-marriage of Hindu widows were viewed by many orthodox Indians as indirect attempts of religious interference and conversion. William Bentinck’s replacement of Persian by English as the official language, granting right of inheritance to religious converts, etc., could not become well accepted
Very high revenue demands pushed the zamindars into the clutches of moneylenders and changing trade patterns, with an increase in imported finished goods, made the weavers and artisans jobless. These created large-scale societal discontent against the Company. In fact, the land records were the first to be intentionally destroyed in the uprising, impacting British revenue to a large extent once order was restored.
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
The mistrust between the rulers and the ruled became so great that the British expected an outbreak anytime. James Thomason, the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West provinces famously said of a sentry who saluted him, “There stands our future enemy.”
In July 1857, renowned Islamic scholar Fazle Haq Khiarabadi prepared a Constitution to run an Independent and parallel Mughal administration, consisting of 10 members of the Council under Zafar. He also issued a fatwa against the British, signed by 35 Ulemas and the Chief Qazi, proclaiming “If the English will be victorious, they would not only destroy the Timuri Dynasty, but also the entire Muslims.” The British were perceived as a political force actively planning to dislodge the Mughal Emperor, by the same citizens who had earlier seen their kings and kingdoms untouched and unmolested even by barbarians like Nadir Shah of 1739.
In the midst of this metaphorical powder magazine, where any single spark might trigger rebellion, the EIC inadvertently began playing with matches, thus bringing about the most violent frontal encounter ever between the two empires and drawing the final curtain over 332 years long Mughal Empire, as well as the 258-year-old long East India Company.
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
In 1856, EIC introduced the shorter Enfield P53 rifle in the army to replace the old Brown Bess muzzle-loading musket. However, the new waxed cartridges were rumoured to be greased with pig or cow fats, perceived by the sepoys as a forced attempt to defile their religion and convert them. The Bengal Infantry had 74 regiments, manned entirely by high caste fine, handsome Hindus from Oudh and the east, who refused to touch the new cartridges on religious grounds.
As if this was not enough, rumours of bone powder being mixed with flour started making the rounds of the cantonments. It was also being foretold that the rule of old “John Company” will end on 23rd June 1857, on the centenary of Lord Clive defeating Siraj-ud-daulah in the battle of Plassey.
The epicentre of this clash of civilizations was Delhi, at the very doorsteps of the reluctant leader of the mutiny, the great Mughal Emperor Zafar. Although a British pensioner, he was still an epitome of refined culture – a sad nostalgia for a bygone age of glory, living in his Red Fort long reduced to a crammed and dusty palace, heavy with long-decayed fine Persian rugs spread around lusterless rooms, neglected for many generations now.
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
As poet Agha Shahid Ali writes:
“I step out into Chandni Chowk, a street once Strewn with jasmine flowers
For the Empress and the royal women Who bought perfumes from Isfahan,
Fabrics from Dacca, essence from Kabul, Glass bangles from Agra….
I think of Zafar, poet and Emperor, Being led through this street
By British soldiers, his feet in chains, To watch his sons hanged.”
(From the book, ‘Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems’ by Ali, Agha Shahid, ©Penguin India. Reproduced with permission. Ref.18)
Delhi fell after four months of epic struggle, and was deserted by its residents almost immediately. For the British, however, it was the time to start a methodical looting, after forcefully escorting out those half-starved old men, women and children hiding in tai-khanas who had been unable to join the mass exodus from Delhi through the Lahore Gate. Each street was heaped with debris of household items, while the houses themselves were in a state of wholesale destruction. Dead bodies lay rotting in the sun, giving out an unbearable stench, as cats, monkeys, and pet birds in cages looked on.
(An old photograph of the Kotwali or police station in Chandni Chowk, Picture © ASI, New Delhi, from their publication, ‘List of Muhammadan and Hindu Monuments of Shahjahanabad, Vol-I, illustrations, Calcutta, 1915.’ Reproduced with permission.)
On 21st Sept 1857, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor as a British prisoner, was sitting cross-legged on a cushioned charpoy on the verandah of the former residence of Begum Samru, with two attendants waving peacock-feather fans against the heat. He was guarded by a British officer with two sentries, who had an express order to personally kill the king if any attempt was made to rescue him. Zafar sat not a great distance from the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk, where the bullet- ridden naked bodies of two of his sons were laid in the open on stone slabs for three days. The next month, in October, two more sons of Zafar were also shot dead.
The Mughal Empire had thus been exterminated.
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
Despite General Wilson’s order to refrain from looting, unofficial plunder of the fallen city was blatantly carried out, in search of jewelry from dead bodies and concealed wealth from deserted houses. Jewelry and antique shops in London were soon flush with the unofficial loot brought back by the British officers and soldiers. Prize agents would set out every day on their plundering expeditions with hammers, spades, pickaxes and two coolies, sometimes with local guides, to pick through cemented floors of Muslim houses and plastered walls of Hindu dwellings, and even temples in Chandni Chowk, to look for hollow-sounding concealments that could contain valuables. Precious stones, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls as large as hen’s eggs, gold mohurs, tiaras, chains and bracelets, along with hundreds of fine miniature paintings, gold brocades and innumerable items of exquisite eastern workmanship dazzled the prize agents. A conservative estimate puts the collected amount that time to ‘half to three-quarters of a million sterling.’ [Ref. 12]
( From Skinner Family Burial Ground, St. James Church)
However, the troopers of the British Delhi Field Force were in for a rude shock if they were expecting a good percentage of the collected booty as prize money. “Delhi taken and India saved, for 36 rupees and ten annas” was the cruel joke among the soldiers, who received just that amount as compensation.
Telegraph Office Memorial
Today, a twenty-foot obelisk made of grey granite that was erected to commemorate the Delhi Telegraph Office stands at the apex of a long triangle formed by two merging roads. It is said that the actual wooden telegraph office stood near the old Flagstaff tower; however, the obelisk was erected near the Kashmiri gate. The memorial was erected in 1902. The whole structure is not so accessible for a close inspection as it is surrounded by a patch of land covered with untended shrubbery and as it is freely used by passers-by as an open urinal. However, if you can get up close, you will see that the four sides of its base are severely faded and are difficult to read, and in reality the inscription can only be read by cropping and magnifying a high definition photograph of the etched writing sentence-by-sentence. The most important engraving on one face of its base reads:
“Erected on 19th April 1902 By Members of the Telegraph Department to commemorate the loyal and devoted services of the Delhi Telegraph Office staff on the eventful 11th May 1857. On that day, two young signallers WILLIAM BRENDISH and J.W. PILKINGTON remained on duty till ordered to leave. And by telegraphing to Umballa information on what was happening at Delhi rendered invaluable service to the Punjab Government. In the words of Sir Robert Montgomery,
“THE ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH HAS SAVED INDIA.””
The inscription references an important event in the history of Delhi. The Telegraph Office was an important communication point, with a single telegraph line extending through Delhi to Ambala and Peshawar, with branches to Agra and Meerut. On 10 May 1857, Officer Charles Todd and his two young assistants, Brendish and Pilkington, were chatting in the telegraph office with their counterparts in Meerut about the uprising, and at 9 am they left for a break. When they came back at 4 pm, they found that the communication link to Meerut was not working. On the next morning on the 11th of May, Todd left Delhi to investigate the failure, but was captured and killed by the sepoys, who were beginning to mutineer. Brendish and Pilkington stayed at the station to the last possible minute despite the rising danger they were in from the advancing sepoys and continued to transmit a series of crucial telegraph messages to Ambala.
Ambala forwarded the messages to other stations almost instantaneously, and alerted the British. After their chief Telegraph Officer Charles Todd did not return, and when the burning of bungalows and the killings started, Brendish and Pilkington sent out two more SOS messages before fleeing the telegraph office, first to the Flagstaff tower, and then to Meerut.
At that time, the Suez Canal was not yet opened and it took 36 days for news of the mutiny to travel by the overland route to Alexandria, and by steamer to Trieste, from where it was telegraphed to reach England on 27th of June.
(Hon’ble E.I. Company’s Electric Telegraph. Message from Delhi -11th May. -Ref#7:
“Cantonment in a state of siege. Mutineers from Meerut 3rd Light Cavalry: number not known , said to be one hundred and fifty men : cut off communication with Meerut : taken possession of Bridge of Boats. 54th NI sent against them, but would not act. Several officers killed and wounded. City in a state of considerable excitement. Troops sent down, but nothing certain yet. Further information will be forwarded. Copy to be sent to Brigadier in Command.”)
However, the SOS telegram sent out by Brendish and Pilkington was hand-delivered more quickly to Gen. Anson in Shimla, who ordered the immediate mobilization of three European regiments to Delhi. On the 8th of June, Gen. Barnard – with 2500 infantry soldiers, consisting mainly of English, Sikh and Gurkha troops from the Kumaon battalion, 700 cavalry, and 22 guns – successfully captured the Delhi Ridge.
Meanwhile, five Companies of the 61st battalion from Firozepur were immediately ordered by Lahore HQ to proceed to Delhi and to join the ‘Delhi Field Force’ of 2,000 men under Sir Henry Barnard, constituting a force of 2000 men, who reached Delhi on 1st July after travelling 350 km in 17 days. However, the British camp was beset by problems and soon a post-monsoon spell of cholera descended on the camp, claiming many lives, including that of Sir Barnard himself. With cholera claiming the lives of both Gen. Anson and Gen. Barnard’s, ‘old and feeble’ General Reed took over the British force, but resigned in a mere two weeks owing to bad health, leaving General Wilson to took over command of the Delhi Field Force. However, with so many leadership changes and with only a 4000-strong British force in the Ridge pitted against a 20,000 strong rebel force, the results would have been very different indeed had the rebels had a good General in charge.
(“ We must leave office. All the bungalows are burnt down by the sepoys from Meerut. They came in the morning. We are off : don’t roll to-day. Mr. C. Todd is dead I think. He went out this morning and has not returned yet. We heard that nine Europeans were killed. Good-bye. (Sd.) H.W.Barnard, Major-General”)
The two opposing forces were engaged in constant fighting that raged almost every single day, with bullets like a swarm of hornets flying from every direction in and around the Ridge area, i.e. Metcalfe House, Hindu Rao House, Ludlow Castle, Sabzi Mandi, Qudsia Bagh and Flagstaff tower. The British force was being depleted very fast – both from the incessant gunshot firing from the sepoys, as well as from the cholera outbreak. However, for the soldiers there was no option but to pass time in whatever manner possible. Whenever a sepoy was killed, there was a wrangle among the soldiers to divide the booty recovered from the dead body. The whole force nursed the idea to grab as much prize money and untold jewels as possible, once Delhi – once the richest city in Hindustan – fell.
Whenever there was a ceasefire, the soldiers spent their time fishing, even holding lotteries as to who would catch the first fish, joking and merry-making, and the military band played tunes in the evenings, with good food available due to the large flock of fat sheep brought in to the camp by the 61st battalion.
During these initial days of siege, the British force attempted to blow up the bridge of boats used by the rebels as their supply lifeline, but failed miserably.
( From Nicholson’s Cemetery)
Nine acres of an eerie, alternate world are separated from the chaotic city traffic by an old cross-shaped gate. These lands, an enchanting place of serenity, are populated by dilapidated tombs and cenotaphs entwined in vines, some abandoned for almost one hundred fifty years. Low growing shrubs and a solitary old towering tree or two are the only undercurrent of life in the otherwise deathly silence of this place.
The cemetery was set up by the British just after 1857 to bury their dead, and was previously known as the “Old Delhi Military Cemetery.” It is still being used, and was renovated in 2006 by INTACH and the British High Commission. As one goes around the area, one is struck by the poor life expectancy those days – cenotaphs of young men and women in their thirties, along with those of little children, are in abundance, along with their haunting and evocative inscriptions, half covered in a carpet of weeds.
It is difficult to trace tombs specifically from 1857 in the thick vegetation; for instance, even the grave of Prof Yasudas Ramachandra, one of the first to convert to Christianity in Delhi, is hard to locate and lies in a pathetic condition among overgrown shrubs. However, a listing of a few of the graves can be found online at www.findagrave.com, (Ref.25) and it can be seen that many of these date back to the early 20th century.
One grave that can be identified is that of General Nicholson just to the right of the entrance gate. In fact, it is the only grave that is easy to locate in the entire cemetery. The epitaph, written on a large marble stone slab taken from the Red Fort, reads, “The grave of Brigadier General John Nicholson who led the assault of Delhi but fell in the hour of victory mortally wounded and died 23rd September 1857 aged 35.” When Nicholson died, the brave Pathan and Punjabi soldiers of his Multani Horse regiment wept like children and fell upon his grave, as they had considered him a demi-god of sorts.
( Tablet on Nicholson’s grave)
On the contrary, Nicholson was a man who detested the locals with a passion and executed them with the violence of a stone-hearted maniac. However, for the British, in those days he was considered such a hero that the brief sentence below by Lord Edwardes summarizes him perfectly:
“My Lord, you may rely upon this, that if ever there is a desperate deed to be done in India, John Nicholson is the man to do it.” -Sir Herbert Edwardes to Lord Canning, March 1857.
That “desperate deed” was presented soon enough in the form of the Siege of Delhi, and allowed Nicholson to prove his mettle, but before coming to that, let us reflect upon who this man was.
John Nicholson was born in 1822 in Lisburn, near Belfast, Ireland, as the eldest of seven children to a doctor-father, whom he lost at the tender age of nine. Described as “a precocious boy almost from his cradle: thoughtful, studious, and of inquiring nature,” he was helped with his recruitment into the East India Company by his influential uncle, Sir James Hogg, Member of Parliament, and a Director of EIC.
(Portrait of Brig. General John Nicholson 1867 by Dicksee, John Robert 1817-1905. © Armagh County Museum, Northern Ireland, U.K. ARMCM.21.1951. Reproduced with permission.)
Nicholson, armed with the blessings of his uncle and mother, reached Calcutta after sailing for five months in the Camden, and soon was directed to proceed to Ghazni in Afghanistan to subdue the revolt by Dost Mohammed in 1841. It was not an easy expedition, and along with a few fellow British citizens, he was held captive by the Afghans for five months. Somehow, he escaped the captivity but found his younger brother Alexander had been killed in action in a most barbarous manner. During the following year, another one of his younger brothers, William, was also killed in action.
( From Nicholson’s Cemetery)
In 1842, he was appointed as assistant to Colonel Henry Lawrence in Lahore. A man of abrupt speech and curt manners, Nicholson would never be popular, but he proved himself countless times through his bravery. In the following years, he successfully subdued rebellions in Rawalpindi, Jalandar, Kapurtala, Amritsar, Sialkot, Jhelum, and elsewhere, thus driving fear into the Punjabi heartland.
Curiously, despite his high-handed manner of stamping out lawlessness, the man known as “Nikalsyen” was elevated to the rank of a deity by sects of Sikhs. Believing him to be a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, his followers would prostrate at his feet in open adoration, an act despised by Nicholson himself.
(1. Enthusiastic worshippers calling themselves ‘Nikalseyns’ at the feet of Nicholson; 2. Portrait of John Nicholson Courtesy: Ref.6 via- The Gutenberg Project, Public Domain.)
Ten years later, as the Deputy Commissioner of Banu in North West Frontier Province, he once cut off the head of a noted warlord and kept it on his table, as if to highlight the maxim, “the punishment of mutiny is death.” Legend has it that he did not have ‘mercy’ in his vocabulary and he never took any prisoners.
It was when he was posted in Peshawar that the news of Delhi’s capture by the sepoys came and dazzled everyone.
Nicholson, drawing on his close relationship with the Sikhs, formed a movable column comprised of carefully chosen native fighters. He had a strong sense of instinct, and would purge any native whom he suspected of being untrustworthy.
( From Nicholson’s Cemetery)
He was ordered to proceed to the Mughal Capital of Delhi on the 25th of July with his movable column. Captain Trotter noted that when his men would be taking rest in the shade of some trees, Nicholson stood “in the middle of the hot, dusty road, sitting bolt upright on his horse in the full glare of that July sun, waiting, like a sentinel turned to stone, for the moment when his men should resume their march.” Nicholson’s 52nd Regiment had some Multani horses, 1200 Sikhs and Punjabis, along with Europeans. The total reinforcement was of nearly 3000 men, 1100 of whom were Europeans.
After the reinforcement, the size of the Delhi Field Force swelled to 8000 men, although only 2000 were on active duty in the Ridge because the rest were sent away to Ambala due to sickness or wounds.
( “Passing Stanger Call not this, A place of Dreary gloom; I love to linger near this spot, It is My Husband’s tomb.” – at Nicholson Cemetery)
Nicholson arrived at the Ridge on August 7th, 1857 as head of his forces. His Punjab movable column followed him into the camp on the 14th of August to the welcoming music of the 8th Foot. It would be exactly one month later, at 3 a.m. on the 14th of September, that his forces fanned out to assault the city of Delhi.
Nicholson’s first offensive was on August 25th with nearly 2500 men and eight guns in the Najafgarh village. He lost 25 men and killed about 500 sepoys. As congratulatory messages poured in, Sir John Lawrence telegraphed Nicholson from Lahore, saying, “I wish I had the power of knighting you on the spot!”
( Weep not for me my Parents dear, I am from trouble free; Remember that your time is short, Prepare to follow me.”- at Nicholson’s Cemetery)
Nearly three months had passed since the siege began in Delhi, and the augmented British forces felt it was time for the final assault on the city.
On September 4th, the siege-train arrived at the camp with 24 heavy guns and 400 European infantries along with the savage-looking Baluchi Battalion. Additionally, a party of Sikh horsemen was sent by the Rajah of Jhind. On September 7th, another regiment of Punjabis, led by Wilde, arrived. A Kashmir contingent of 2200 men also joined the Field Force.
( From Nicholson’s Cemetery)
After the re-enforcements arrived, British engineers immediately entrenched forty-five heavy guns and mortars in positions in a mere four days’ time.
While the British anticipated breaching the city wall to be the foremost challenge, the Sepoy strategy was to lure the British into the narrow lanes of the city where they could take them down easily. Surprised to see their strategy not working once inside the city, the British force fell in disarray. When Nicholson tried to salvage the situation, the Bareilly troops gained the upper hand,and he was shot in the chest. He was immediately pulled out of action and taken to the hospital tent in the Ridge.
( 1. Nicholson shot in the back by a sepoy’s musket. 2. Nicholson – assisted by Theo Metcalfe – unperturbedly leading the army column to Najafgarh even when water was flowing above the back of his horse,. Courtesy: Ref.6 via- The Gutenberg Project, Public Domain.)
Though full of pain and heavily sedated with morphine shots, he still had the strength to threaten to shoot his Commander Wilson when word reached him that Wilson was considering a retreat from Delhi.
For the British, it was a sad sight to see his fatally wounded younger brother, Charles, also brought into the same tent. Two brothers in the prime of their youth were exchanging sorrowful last words while holding each other’s hands. Nicholson was shot through his lungs, and as per Dr. Maclier it was a case of utter surprise as to how he survived for so long.
Brigadier John Nicholson died on the 23rd of September at the early age of 35, three days after the British captured the city. While the British forces were celebrating by lighting a victory fire next to the holy mihrab in Jama Masjid, and a dinner of ham and eggs was being served in the famed Diwan-i-Aam, his last words were, “It was my desire to see Delhi captured before I die.” It was told that he would have been conferred with the ‘Knight’s Commander of the Order of Bath’ (KCB) had he survived.
Master Ramchandra’s Grave
Almost hidden in the wild bushes of Nicholson cemetery lies the gravestone of Delhi’s famed intellectual, who took great initiatives to popularize western knowledge in everyday Urdu. His simple gravestone, inscribed in fading English and Persian, reads:
“Sacred to the memory of YASUDAS RAMCHANDRA. Professor of mathematics at the Delhi Govt College from 1844 to 1857, afterwards for some time the Tutor to H.R.H. the Maharaja of Patiala and Director of Public Instruction in the State.”
The grave of his wife, Seeta Ramchandra, lies nearby.
Yasudas Ramchandra was one of seven sons of a north Indian government official. Born in 1821, he was well versed in Persian, as it was a prerequisite for middle-class Kshatriya families to secure official jobs at both native princely states or even with EIC. When his father moved to Delhi, young Ramchandra was admitted to Delhi English School, which later became Delhi College. The college had two wings: one western section built to “uplift the uneducated and half-barbarous people of India” and an oriental section, or madrasa. From 1844 to 1857, Ramchandra was a professor of science and mathematics at its madrasa division. He was the editor of two journals, Fava’idu ‘n-Nazirin (‘For the benefit of Readers’) and Muhibb-e Hind (‘Indian Patriot’). He translated many books in medicine, mathematics, science, law, economics, literature, and history from English to Urdu. He championed Urdu to be the national language, instead of Persian or English, because of its widespread use.
In July 1852, his conversion to Christianity triggered an uproar. At that time, secret Bible classes started being introduced in the college, and respectable families began removing their children from the college for its perceived “Christian propaganda”. The circulation of his magazine also dwindled. The man who convinced him to convert was Padre John Jennings.
Despite being called “duplicitous” by Thomas Metcalfe and a “bigot” by Theo Metcalfe and despite being chased and driven out by Naga Sadhus at the Kumbh Mela for his dogged zeal to convert the “morally corrupt Indians” to Christianity, Padre John Jennings, then the chaplain of Delhi, had his share of successes. Jennings believed that “a strong attack must be made by the British to elevate the local people from ignorance, in return for the favour of ruling Hindustan and also the Koh-i-noor.” He and his beautiful daughter, Annie, together with her friend Miss Clifford, who were choirmasters at the St. James church, pulled off a major coup. This occurred when Zafar’s personal doctor, Dr. Chaman Lal, and talented mathematician Master Ramachandran, converted to Christianity.
It is ironic that the first casualty of the Uprising on May 11th, 1857 was not a British officer or soldier, but the unsuspecting Dr. Chaman Lal, who was killed by the sepoys while attending to patients at his Daryaganj clinic. On the same day, Master Ramchandra fled the city only to return after the British victory, expecting to be welcomed as a hero as a ‘star-convert’. However, if it was his religion before, now it was his skin colour that made him an outsider. Although appointed as an assistant to Prize Agents, he was continually harassed and humiliated by the British.
Today, it is one of the four surviving gates of the 14 original gates that surrounded Shahjahanabad. A moat, which can be seen in old photographs, no longer exists. The gate’s fortified facade is pock-marked from heavy artillery fire during 1857. Two huge arched entrances puncture the wide gateway, which lies in the direction of Shahjahanabad to Kashmir, leading to its name. Its looping designs, crenellations, and the inner wall have been significantly modified and added upon over the years. Recent renovations can be identified by pinkish portions of the wall, as a result of mixing lime and crushed bricks used as the binding material. A narrow staircase leads to its roof, which offers a view of the angular bastions jutting out at both ends. Hinges for the gate’s massive doors can still be seen on its arched entrances.
(Samuel Bourne Kashmir Gate, Delhi 1860s, albumen silver photograph, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 2007. Reproduced with permission.)
Kashmiri Gate was chosen by the British as the point of attack to enter Delhi. Ironically, the thick city walls, surrounded by a moat, were specifically strengthened by the British to guard against Holkar-like attacks in 1804. Previously, there were crumbling mud walls without any parapet or ditch and it was the hardest for the same British forces who rebuilt the walls to break now.
With the re-enforcements, the Delhi Field Force now consisted of 12,588 men, whereas the sepoy force was estimated to be over 40,000. Here’s a breakdown of the British Force:
- Europeans: Artillery – 580, Cavalry – 514, Infantry – 2672
- Natives: Artillery – 770, Cavalry – 1313, Infantry – 3417
- Engineers, sappers, miners, etc. – 722
- Kashmir Contingent – 2200
- Cavalry of Jhind Rajah – 400
‘Seize-guns’ arrived on the 4th of September, drawn by elephants, and the attack started from September 7th onwards. After continuous heavy artillery firing for four days from 18-pounders and 24-pounders, they achieved their first milestone on September 11th when the gate was successfully breached. The Kashmiri bastion was silenced, its ramparts and wall curtains shattered, and a large breach appeared on the wall. Rebel forces attacked back quite successfully, directing their field-guns, firing volley of rockets, and streams of musketry that caused a loss of almost 350 men in the British Force.
( Note the original thin Lakhauri bricks on the left of the tablet and thicker modern bricks on right introduced in later restorations)
The attack strategy was drawn up by General Wilson:
“No quarter should be given to the mutineers; at the same time, for the sake of humanity and the honour of the country they belong to, he (Major General Wilson) calls upon them (the British force) to spare all women and children that may come in their way…indiscriminate plunder will not be allowed; (and) prize agents have been appointed.”
General Nicholson was appointed the overall commander for the assault, with immediate command of Columns 1, 2, 3, and 5.
- Column 1: Brigadier General Nicholson with 1000 men to storm the breach at the Kashmir bastion
- Column 2: Brigadier W. Jones with 850 men to storm the breach near the water bastion
- Column 3: Colonel Campbell with 950 men to assault the Kashmiri Gate
- Column 4: Major Reid with 1000 men to attack Kishenganj and enter the city through the Lahore Gate, and meet Column 1 and 2 there
- Column 5 or the “Reserve:” Brigadier Longfield with 1300 men to cover Nicholson column’s advance as a reserve
Early on the morning of the 14th, the British Force assembled on the slope of the Flagstaff Tower, with Nicholson inspecting each of the column formations. The sudden silence from the ceaseless firing at this time might have convinced the rebel forces in the city that something ominous was being planned in the British camp. Once the attack started again, the ramparts and the roof of the walls became alive with sepoys directing hailstorms of bullets onto the British force (who were trying to cross the 25 feet broad and 20 feet deep ditch). As if on a suicide mission, some of the British forces carried powder-bags at the Kashmiri Gate and ignited the match, blowing up the Gate and giving free passage to the columns.
Columns 1 and 2 united as one, whereas 3 was guided by Theo Metcalfe to march towards Jama Masjid.
( From the top of the Gate – angular bastions projecting outwards from the city and a green patch now covers the area originally used as a ditch)
The British entered into the city hoping for an easy over-run of a demoralized rebel force after the fall of the Kashmiri Gate. However, Bakht Khan and Mirza Mughal had made their preparations quite well and, once the British force crossed over into the city and were within the narrow city lanes, they immediately came under unexpected spirited attacks from rooftops, buildings, and street corners, inflicting very heavy casualties. The musketry poured like rain, combat started between both sides, cutting, bayoneting, and hacking the soldiers in front of them in order to move even an inch forward. The streets were suddenly alive with citizens and rebel forces in the labyrinth of its passages, field guns and howitzers pouring grape and canisters onto the columns, and turning the whole attack into a street-fight that went on till late in the night.
By the evening, the British had paid a heavy price; they managed to occupy just a quarter of the city, but almost one third of the attack force was dead or wounded, including General Nicholson and Major Reid. Attack Columns 1 and 2 could not advance beyond the Kabul gate, 3 had been checked near Jama Masjid by the rebels, and 4 completely failed. Altogether, 1200 men of the British Force were killed and wounded on that single day. Dead bodies lay in the streets and open spaces. The rebel forces suffered similarly high casualties.
On the 15th and 16th, the British and the Mughal forces were equally demoralized and were broken down with anxiety. To add to the misfortune of the British, they stumbled upon a huge cache of liquor just inside the city gates, resulting in the whole British force drowned in a state of drunkenness until all the remaining liquor was destroyed by General Wilson’s order. At this point, had the Mughal forces mounted a coordinated counter-attack on the British during those two days, it would have been a decisive victory for Zafar. Even General Wilson began considering withdrawal to the Ridge and awaiting further re-enforcements, a decision that was denounced by Nicholson lying on his death bed.
(Notice the original marking of the crenellated arches of the wall, over which later day additions have been made)
On the morning of the 16th, sensing the inevitable, around 70,000 people – common citizens and the fighting soldiers – gathered in front of Red Fort and appealed to Zafar to lead them to the final offense against the British. Some of them were quoted as saying things such as, “Why die a coward’s death? Lead us in the fight and leave an imperishable name.” This was the moment of truth for the Last Mughal; however, it was unrealistic to expect a feeble 82-year old man to lead a military expedition against the British army. On the morning of the 17th, Zafar slipped out of the river gate, took a boat, glided down the Yamuna, and reached the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya to hand over the sacred relics of the Prophet. Joined by his wife, Zeenat Mahal, he moved into the Humayun’s tomb, playing into the hands of Hodson who was too eager to be the great Imperial hero in capturing the Royal party.
When the people saw what the King did, they could foresee that the end was near and started fleeing the city. On the 18th night, there was a heavy rain, with reports that the Bareilly and Neemuch rebel brigades had left the city. On the forenoon of the 18th there was a partial eclipse for nearly three hours, astonishing everyone with the unusual darkness. It was considered as the ultimate ill omen and divine displeasure. On the intervening night of the 19th and 20th, a mass exodus by the citizens and soldiers took place through the bridge of boats, nearly everyone deserting the city.
On the 20th, the British captured the Red Fort by blowing up its massive gate with powder-bags. Soon, Salimgarh and Jama Masjid too were captured with virtually no resistance to face.
The loss of the British Force from 30th May to 13th September was 2,490 men, the loss on 14th Sept was 1200 men and between 15th and 20th September, they lost about 200 men, bringing the total loss to 4,000 men. This was apart from the 1,200 who died from cholera and other diseases.
On the same traffic triangle where the Telegraph Memorial is located, two isolated gateways stand today – remains of probably the largest arsenal of arms and ammunition that existed in India. A marble tablet that is fixed at the top of the entrance gateway to the structure reads:
“On the 11th May 1857, Nine resolute Englishmen Lieut. Geo. Dobson Willoughby, Bengal Artillery, in command, Lieutenant William Raynor, Conductor Geo William Shaw, Conductor John Scully, Sergeant Benjamin Edwards, Lieutenant Geo Forrest, Conductor John Buckley, Sub Conductor William Crow, Sergeant Peter Stewart defended the magazine of Delhi for more than four hours against a large numbers of the rebels and mutineers until the walls being scaled and all hope of succor gone, these brave men fired the magazine – five of the gallant band perished in the explosion which at the same time destroyed many of the enemy.”
The date was 11th May 1857. Between 7am and 8am, Theo Metcalfe had asked guns to be placed overlooking the bridge of boats. However, it was too late; as the mutineers had already crossed into Delhi. Zafar was bestowing his hesitant blessings on the rebel army when Willoughby found himself surrounded by a sepoy army at the magazine.
Soon, the palace guards also arrived and demanded to have the magazine handed over to the rebels. Willoughby barricaded the gates, lay a trail of powder from the store, and asked Conductor Scully, who volunteered, to light the fuse once Willoughby signaled him. At this point, the whole of the local staff deserted the magazine and joined the sepoys who were trying to capture it. Willoughby made the decision to blow up the magazine in order to prevent the vast cache of arms falling into the rebels’ hands. The explosion was so great that as many as 500 rebels were blown up with it. The sound of the explosion could be heard as far as Meerut. Several ceilings made of plaster came down in the Red Fort, a half a mile away. Although Lieutenant Willoughby escaped the explosion, he was soon captured by the sepoys and put to death.
James Skinner and His Architectural Patronage
James Skinner (1778-1841) was the son of a Scottish mercenary named Hercules Skinner. Hercules began his military career in 1771 with the 19th Native Infantry, and married a Rajput woman from Benares. James was one of six children the couple had – three boys and three girls. He was only twelve when his mother committed suicide because she felt her Rajput honour was violated when her three girls were sent to school. James was trained with a printer and then with a lawyer, but he lost interest in both of his apprenticeships. In 1799, he joined Madhoji Scindia’s army under the celebrated French general de Boigne. When de Boigne’s successor, Perron, launched a military expedition against Irish general George Thomas, it was James who liquidated Hansi, the Irishman’s stronghold that became the country home of James, the conqueror, in later days.
(Watercolor Portrait of Colonel James Skinner, a.k.a Sikandar Sahib ‘re-incarnation of Alexander the Great’ in his cavalry uniform, by Indian painter Ghulam Murtaza Khan, 1830. © The British Library Board, ADD. 27254 f4r. Reproduced with permission. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_27254_f004r)
1800 was the year when James Skinner returned miraculously from the brink of death. It was in a battle where he was fighting that he and his forces were thoroughly defeated. They lay wounded in the field, and hunger and thirst brought darkness to their eyes and made them yearn for death rather than to linger on. He lay surrounded by his unconscious or dead comrades, jackals tearing away pieces of flesh from their bodies. It was in those hopeless hours that James Skinner made a vow (some say he made three vows) which he promised to fulfill if he was given a second chance at life. His battlefield vows have been presumed differently, but the most popular one is that he vowed to build a church, a mosque, and a temple. It was perhaps an appeal to all the Gods of the heavens, but it could also be due to his association and respect for all three religions – his father being Christian, his mother Hindu, and his wife a Muslim. It is said that a village woman suddenly appeared, offering water and a second life to a man who would soon rise to be one of the most powerful in the sub-continent.
(From the catalogue, ‘The 1836 Tazkirat al-umara of Colonel Skinner’ – London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 2014. ©Bernard Quaritch Ltd. Reproduced with permission.)
Begum Samru was senior to James by almost twenty-five years, but he was one of the very few men who commanded her rare respect. Following the inevitability of an Anglo-French war, Scindia had dismissed all Eurasians from his army, as he believed that half-English people could not fight wholeheartedly against the EIC. James was amongst those. At the same time, Begum Samru started influencing him to join the British forces. Skinner finally switched sides under the condition that he was never to be forced to fight against his ex-commander, Frenchman Perron; a condition that was accepted by Lord Lake, but with a comment that, ‘The Scindia is a lucky man.’
(‘The 1836 Tazkirat al-umara of Colonel Skinner’ – London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 2014. ©Bernard Quaritch Ltd. Reproduced with permission.)
He was eulogized as a re-incarnation of Alexander the Great and thus was called Sikandar Sahib. The Mughal emperors bestowed upon him, for his mercenary services, a rather elaborate title of ‘Nasir ud-Daulah Colonel James Skinner Bahadur Ghalib Jang’. Due to his mixed blood, he was barred by the British to join as a commissioned officer. However, when Lord Lake wanted to raise a cavalry corps and asked the soldiers to name their choice for the Commander, ‘Sikandar Sahib’ was the unanimous victor. Thus, on September 10th, 1803, he took up a regiment of irregular cavalry known as “Skinner’s Horse” or “Yellow Boys,” under the motto of “Himmat-i-Mardan, Madad-i-Khuda,” meaning “Bravery of Men, Help of God.” Only four days after, Skinner’s horse would prove its mettle in Lord Lake’s successful capturing of Delhi.
Often derided as a “half-caste” with 14 wives and a “heap of black sons,” James is best remembered as a dashing soldier, a kind of Anglo-Indian warrior prince.
(‘The 1836 Tazkirat al-umara of Colonel Skinner’ – London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 2014. ©Bernard Quaritch Ltd. Reproduced with permission.)
Between 1830 and 1836, he commissioned six luxuriously illustrated Persian manuscripts, totally unexpected of a daredevil cavalryman known for his halting English. ‘Tashrih-al-Akvam’ and ‘Tazkirat-al-Umara’ are the works, the latter being a pictorial description of princes of India.
James died on December 14th, 1841 at Hansi. He was buried there, but his wish was to be buried at the very entranceway of the majestic church that he had built at Delhi, so that “all entering might trample over the chief of sinners.” On January 17th, his coffin was brought to Delhi with great fanfare – a sixty-three gun salute, one for each year of his life – and was lowered under the high altar of the church.
St. James Church
Unfortunately, early records of the first church of Delhi were all lost during the events of 1857. We do not know when the construction of this magnificent church began, who the planners and builders were, nor who its first priest was. However, it is presumed that James Skinner’s wish to fulfill his vow must have been rekindled by Begum Samru’s commissioning of a great church at Sardhana in 1822 – as he did not start the construction as soon as he settled in Delhi. His church became ready in 1836, the same year when Begum Samru died, and was entirely financed by Skinner, all without accepting a single rupee either from the EIC or from any missionary society. The church was named after Saint James, perhaps keeping in mind the coincidence with the patron’s name.
Although the early records regarding its construction are all lost, historians credit Major Robert Smith and Captain de Bude of Bengal Engineers with the architecture of the building. Regarding its first priest, there are no records up until Rvd. H.A. Loveday served from 1842 till 1848. The most illustrious priest in those days was Rvd. John Jennings, who took charge in 1851 and served until he was murdered in 1857. Jennings made Delhi the center of Christian activity based out of it’s first church, St James. In 1852, two notable people, mathematician Ramachandra and surgeon Chiman Lal, were baptized in this very church. In 1854, the first missionaries from England arrived in Delhi.
(A representative floor plan of Stanford Memorial Church at Stanford University, USA, showing different parts in a typical Gothic Church with Cruciform architecture. The unusual and distinct layout of St. James Church can be compared with respect to this standard layout: A- Altar, B-Chancel, C- Crossing, D-Naive, E- Aisles, F-Narthex, G-Arcade, H – East Transept with Transept Galley above, J-West Transept/Side Chapel with Transept Gallery above, K-Round Room. CC-BY-SA-3.0. Creative Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stanford_Memorial_Church_Plan.jpg)
In a traditional Gothic cruciform church layout design, the entrance generally opens to a longer side of the cross, called the naive. The shorter arm lying across the naive is called the transept. The naive and the transept are normally used as the sitting space for people. The head of the cross-styled architecture plan has a dome over the altar and the chancel. However, in St James church, an unusual majestic dome stands atop the structure’s centre and covers the entire congregational area, which is otherwise situated at the naive and the transept. This imposing eight-leafed dome is surmounted with a metal ball and a cross, supported on eight short pillars.
The metal ball and the cross are not the original ones. During 1857, the originals were targets for rebel sepoys, who tried to destroy them. After its restoration post 1857, those were replaced by a new pair and the originals were installed on the ground in the church courtyard. The metal ball and cross remained there until 1947, when they were stolen.
As per the records by a soldier named Fred Roberts, the scene in 1857 was such that the church was ‘riddled with cannonballs, filled with dying men, and made a magazine for shot and shell.’ In recent years, major restorations have been done by INTACH and the UK Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, including the restoration of the beautiful stained-glass windows that are placed on either side of the altar, depicting the Crucifixion and Ascension. Other restoration measures by INTACH include arresting water seepage, complete electrical re-wiring, and strengthening the dome to prevent its collapse.
( Tomb of William Fraser, at St. Jame’s Church)
The church’s surrounding garden has many memorials and graves. A small enclosure on the north side has a large number of beautifully crafted tombs that belong to the Skinner family. Many of the grave inscriptions are in Persian, the official language of Skinner’s times. It is interesting to note that the man and his two closest friends lie buried in its small compound, as if united in death as well: James Skinner, Thomas Metcalfe, and William Fraser.
The tomb of William Fraser lies in the garden, just opposite to its main entrance. Its beautiful tombstone was destroyed in 1857. A large marble plate stands affixed the top of a raised platform and reads a eulogy to Fraser, who was killed on 22nd March 1835. William Fraser was the Resident Commissioner and Agent of Delhi territory to the Governor General of India during the reign of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. He was the successor to David Ochterlony and the predecessor to Sir Thomas Metcalfe as the East India Company’s Delhi Resident. He was very much an Indianised, white Mughal who adored Indian dresses and had six or seven Indian wives.
( Tomb of Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, at St. Jame’s Church)
He was a close friend of poet Ghalib and is best remembered for commissioning almost ninety paintings by local Mughal painters, together known as the Fraser Album. He was killed by an assassin hired by the ruler of Loharu, Nawab Shamsuddin Ahmed Khan, for his interference in a property dispute. Today, his palatial bungalow is known as the Hindu Rao hospital in the Delhi Ridge. The grave complex of the Nawabs of Loharu can be found inside the Dargah of Bakhtiyar Kaki in Mehrauli.
Behind his tomb stands a huge grey cross that commemorates the Christians killed in Delhi during the uprising.
(For the memory of those who were killed- at St. James Church)
The Church complex also has the grave of Sir Thomas Metcalfe, EIC Resident at the Mughal court, who died mysteriously of food poisoning a few years before the 1857 uprising. The poisoning was carried out ostensibly by the orders by Zafar’s wife, Zeenat Mahal. Metcalfe is best remembered for commissioning a beautiful book of paintings titled “Dehlie Book: Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi” in 1844. He had a farmhouse in Mehrauli that he called Dikusha, or the “delighter of hearts”— a pleasure retreat built by extending Akbar’s wet-brother Quli Khan’s tomb. The exquisite stone screen that once surrounded his grave and a tombstone were destroyed in 1857.
Renovated and restored by James Skinner in his estate grounds, it was originally built in 1728 by a Fakr al-Nisa Khanum, wife of Nawab Shuja’at Khan. Literally meaning the “pride of mosques,” it has the main mosque on the first floor and shops occupy the ground floor. This arrangement was meant for the regular maintenance of the mosque to be financed from the shop rentals. Its bulbous striped dome and minarets topped by chhatris is the typical architecture style of the late Mughal era. The mosque is often cited as one of the three religious structures that James Skinner constructed or restored to fulfill his death-vows. Since this mosque preceded Skinner by almost a hundred years, we can only presume that only a major restoration was carried out by him.
Dara Shikoh’s Library/Old Residency
(An old photograph of the Residency building , Picture © ASI, New Delhi, from their publication, ‘List of Muhammadan and Hindu Monuments of Shahjahanabad, Vol-I, illustrations, Calcutta, 1915.’ Reproduced with permission.)
The building was part of Shahjahan’s scholarly son Dara Shikoh’s estate and library until 1659, when he was killed by the orders of his brother, Aurangzeb. Thereafter, it was owned by a Portuguese lady named Juliana who then sold it to Safdarjung, the prime minister in the royal court of emperor Muhammad Shah, during the first half of the 18th century. It was bought by David Ochterlony, the first British Resident in Delhi in 1803, and continued as the official British Residency till 1844, when the Residency was moved to Ludlow Castle.
The building is believed to have been commissioned as part of Dara’s haveli around 1650, when the Shahjahanabad was built. Its ground floor constituted the Qutub Khana, or the library where his collection of books were kept. We can still see some old Mughal architecture such as cusped arches and baluster columns in the building behind its outer facade and verandah with Roman pillars. There are many terracotta and bone items, belonging to the late Harrapan era and from first century BC to fourth century AD, arranged in glass cabinets around its verandah. On its rear side, a series of Mughal arched structures co-exist with a row of Roman arched chambers, believed to have been used as stable houses.
(Although the building’s outer facade is colonial in looks, its interior still has original Mughal-era arches and pillars)
(Colonial and Mughal era stable houses on the backside of the building)
( Harrapan artifacts on display inside the protected building. An original Mughal pillar can be seen on the left)
Currently, the building is under the protection of Delhi government’s Department of Archaeology. As per a proposal by INTACH, the building is to be converted into a museum.
Old St Stephen’s College
The building today houses the office of Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi. Colonel Samuel Swinton Jacob, the chief proponent of Indo-Gothic, or Indo-Saracenic architectural style, designed this unique building. He implemented architectural features like overhanging Chattris, domed chajjas, and eaves on cantilevers projecting from the walls, of Mughal style; co-existing with balustrades, semi-circular aches, arched colonnades, and a majestic square porch of Western design. The two-story building has half-octagonal turrets around circular staircases on its north side.
St Stephen’s high school was founded by Rvd. M. J. Jennings in 1854 in Chandni Chowk area; in 1876, it was allowed to introduce university classes. In 1889, Samuel Scott Allnut proposed a new college building either at Kashmiri Gate or outside the Lahori Gate. The former site was chosen and a new building – designed by Swinton Jacob, Chief Engineer of Jaipur – was constructed in 1891 at the cost of Rs. 92702 and 10 paise. Allnut was the founder and first principal of the college with 3 teachers and 5 students, which increased to 99 students by 1899, when he retired. He was nicknamed “the Giraffe” and rode about Delhi on his tricycle.
The cricket ground of the college was the site where the British troops gathered in 1857 for the final assault on Delhi; now the Inter State Bus Terminal occupies that site. The college boasts three Heads of State as its alumni: Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (India), Gen Zia Ul Haq (Pakistan), and Selim-e-Selim (Tanzania).
Sultan Sing’s Haveli and Estate
In the Chabi Ganj area stands a stately 19th century building called Sultan Singh’s haveli. Built in the 1890’s, it now houses the National Cadet Corps (NCC) office. Sultan Singh’s grandson, Virendra Singh, was one of the founders of the NCC.
A sweeping staircase leads up to the house, whose façade is a mix of Mughal and Colonial style. On both sides, projecting balconies supported on slender circular pillars stand above doors framed in Roman arches. Two arched windows with decorative keystones puncture the wall on either side of the door. Two beautiful decorative frames of Chinese glazed tiles in plasterwork frames are on either side of the staircase, believed to date back to the original structure. On its backside, the projecting jharokhas are enclosed with antique-looking wrought iron grills and wooden frames. It is believed that all decorative wrought iron grills in those days were manufactured entirely in England and were assembled here. A taikhana, or underground room, can be seen in the structure, whose ventilator projects out just above ground level.
The entire area surrounding the haveli was once his estate. Even the line of market in the street from Fakr-ul-Masjid on the left-hand side is called “Sultan Singh Market.” Dilapidated and faded ancient shop fronts with old Mughal styled pillars and traces of stylized grills and wooden planks mark the first floor of this market.
The area originally belonged to James Skinner. In 1902, Sultan Singh donated one of his buildings to the Hindu college, which then shifted to the location it is in now from its original location in Kinari Bazar. The college operated here from 1902 to 1953. Juxtaposed with the old St. Sephen’s college, it acted as its academic counter-weight and fueled healthy rivalry in education. During the freedom movement, the college played an important role in intellectual and political debates.
The Bengali Club was constructed in 1925 as a cultural institution for the swelling Bengali population in Delhi after the Capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1912. Many illustrious personalities like Subhash Chandra Bose and Rabindra Nath Tagore were associated with the Club. The first Durga Puja of Delhi started from here in 1910.
It is a two-story building, currently proposed for renovation by INTACH. The Bengali Club occupies two rooms and the lobby in the first floor, and the rest of that floor is converted to a hotel. The ground floor houses shops.
Finally, a brief timeline of the series of major outbreaks against the British, outlining the popular character against the British authority that may be regarded as the background and pre-cursor to the great revolt of 1857.
|Year||Reactions against British conquests|
|1792||Revolt by Raja Verma of Kottayam, Kerala|
|1794; 1830-32||Fighting by Raja of Vizianagaram|
|1798||Outbreak in Ganjam, Orissa|
|1800||Rebellion by Dhundia Wagh of Mysore|
|1800;1835||Revolt by the Bhanjas of Gumsur, Orissa|
|1805||Rebelleion following second Maratha War, specially at Ajaygarh & Kalanjar forts|
|1813||Revolt by Gujjars|
|1824;1829||Revolt in Belgaum|
|1824||Fighting in Bijapur|
|1826-29||Revolt in Poona by Ramosis|
|1830;1839||Fighting at Sadiya, Assam valley|
|1830;1832;1836||Revolt at Savantvadi on Konkan coast|
|1835||Fighting with hill tribe Kapaschor Akas|
|1840||Uprising at Badami Fort|
|1842||Revolt by Talukdar of Kunja near Roorki|
|1844||Revolt by Kolhapur|
|1844 onwards||Revolt by South Indian states(Tinnevelly, Bellary, Anantpur, Cuddapah, Kurnool, north Arcot)|
|1844||Rebellion by Gadkaris of Kolhapur|
|1849||Revolt by Naga tribe|
|Revolts due to Political Causes|
|1781||Rebel by Chait Singh of Benares|
|1799||Rebellion by Awadh|
|Revolts due to Misrule in British Protected States|
|1804;1808||Revolt by Travancore|
|1815-18||Revolt by Rajput Baji Rao II of Kathiawad|
|Uprisings due to Economic causes|
|1767;1770;1773||Revolt by Raja of Dhalbhum, Bengal|
|1770;1799;1800||Rebellion of Chuar tribes in the hills of Ghatsila and Barabhum|
|1783||Revolt by Peasants of Rangpur|
|1783||Fighting in Tinnevilly by the Poligars|
|1789||Revolt in Bishnupur|
|1802||Revolt in Malabar|
|1807;1817||Rebellion in Aligarh at Dayaram’s fort|
|1816||Outbreak in Bareilly|
|1817||Revolt by Paikas of Orissa at Khurda; joined by Khonds from Gumsur|
|1817||Outbreak at Puri|
|1842||Outbreak in Bundelkhand|
|1852||Revolt by cultivators in Khandesh at Savda and Chopda|
|1772||The Sanyasi rebellion in Bengal|
|1799||Uprising at Cachar, with help of Naga Kukis|
|1810||Revolt by Imam of Meerut|
|1821||Start of Wahabi movement in U.P.|
|1825||Uprising by Pagla Panthis in North Bengal|
|1831||Battle by Wahabis in Bengal|
|1838||Faraidi Movement in Bengal|
|1783||Rebellion by Khasi tribe in Garo and Jantia hills|
|1787;1789||Rebellion by Khasis of Laur|
|1809||Revolt by Jats in Bhiwani, Haryana|
|1818-19; 1820-25; 1831; 1846||Revolt by Bhils in Khandesh|
|1820||Revolt by Mers in Rajputana|
|1820||Rebellion by the Hos of Singhbhum|
|1824;1839;1844||Rebellion by Kolis in Western Ghats|
|1831-32||The Kol uprising at Ranchi, Hazaribagh|
|1832||Rebellion of Bhumij in Manbhum at Barabazar, and Barabhum|
|1846||Uprising by the khonds of Orissa|
|1855||Uprising by the Santal tribes in Bhagalpur|
|Outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny|
|6th Feb 1857||34th NI, Barrackpore: Open rebellion, setting fire to officers’ bungalows|
|19th Feb 1857||19th NI, Berhampur: Sepoys Excited but not violent, shouting against officers; 19th NI disbanded|
|29th March, 1857||34th NI, Barrackpore: Mangal Pandey shoots Lt Baugh; Mangal Pandey executed & 34th NI disbanded|
|End of March, 1857||Similar incident at Amballa|
|3rd May, 1857||Lucknow; sepoys threaten to murder their officer|
|9th May, 1857||Meerut: Full scale uprising by Third Cavalry, joined by 20th and 11th NI|
|11th May,1857||Meerut Sepoys capture Delhi, epicentre of the “Clash of Civilisations”|
- The Last Mughal; by William Dalrymple, New Delhi, 2007.
- Video and Transcript of William Dalrymple’s lecture for ‘City of London Festival’ at the Gresham College: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-last-mughal
- The Sepoy Mutiny and the revolt of 1857; by R.C. Majumdar, Calcutta, 1957.
- The Siege of Delhi; by Charles John Griffith, 1910; Photographically reproduced, Delhi, 1995.
- The Indian Mutiny to the Fall of Delhi; compiled by a Former Editor of the “Delhi Gazette.”; London,1857.
- John Nicholson, the Lion of Punjaub; by R.E. Cholmeley, London,1908. Courtesy: The Gutenberg Project (www.gutenberg.org) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21985/21985-h/21985-h.htm
- Mutiny Records, Correspondence Part I, Punjab Government Publications,1911, Lahore.
- Letters written during the siege of Delhi; by Hervey Harris Greathed, Elisa F. Greathed; London, 1858.
- The Seven Cities of Delhi; by Gordon Hearn, 1928, Calcutta and Shimla.
- Delhi: 14 Historic Walks, by Swapna Liddle, Delhi, 2011.
- The Tazkirat Al-umara of Colonel Skinner: http://www.quaritch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Colonel-Skinner.pdf
- The looting by British Prize Agents and Zafar’s crown-cap: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2000/20000611/spectrum/main3.htm
- History of St. Stephen’s college : http://ase.tufts.edu/chemistry/kumar/ssc/html/sschis.html
- Timeline map of Mughal Empire: http://www.zum.de/whkmla/histatlas/india/haxmughalempire.html
- Timeline map of British Empire in India: http://www.zum.de/whkmla/histatlas/india/haxbrindia.html
- Hindu Astronomy, by G.R. Kaye; 1998, ASI, New Delhi.
- The Wonder That Was India, by A.L. Basham, London, 1954.
- The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems; by Agha Shahid Ali
- Three Mughal Poets; by Khurshidul Islam and Ralph Russel, New Delhi, 1991
- ‘Princess and Painters in Mughal Delhi 1707-1857’ : Exhibition by Asia Society New York, Feb 7 to May 6, 2012, William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma: www.sites.asiasociety.org/princesandpainters
- INTACH Delhi Newsletter, Vol 1, Issue 2, September 2015: http://www.intachdelhichapter.org/docs/Newsletter_issue_02.pdf
- Delhi, A Thousand Years of Building, by Lucy Peck, 2005, Delhi.
- Grave Secrets of Yangon’s Imperial Tomb, 09 February 2014, Myanmar Times, http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/lifestyle/9507-grave-secrets-of-yangon-s-imperial-tomb.html
- ‘When telegraph saved the nation’; 18 November 2012, Indian Express, http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/when-telegraph-saved-the-empire/1032618/0
- Find A Grave at Nicholson Cemetery: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GSsr=1&GScid=2146299&
- Restored cemetery raises ghost of colonial brutality in India, October 28, 2006, Financial Times, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/975408de-6621-11db-a4fc-0000779e2340.html#axzz3qu4KSv3s
- Master Ramachandra of Delhi College: Teacher, Journalist, and Cultural Intermediary, by Gail Minault: http://www.urdustudies.com/pdf/18/10MinaultRamchandra.pdf
- History of Hindu College: http://www.hinducollege.org/aboutus.asp
- Graves of empire tell of India’s troubled past: http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/02/14/india-cemetery-john-nicholson-idINDEEA1D00420140214
- God’s Acre, by R.V.Smith; October 28,2006, The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/gods-acre/article3202024.ece
- The Victorian Blogs of John Nicholson: https://johnnicholsonofindia.wordpress.com/about/
- A Living Witness – An account of St. James’ Church and its builder, Nirendra Kumar Biswas, St. James Church, 1999, Delhi.
- India, Mutiny Amongst the Bengal Native Troops (From the Sydney Herald, July 11.) http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=OW18570905.2.25
- Maulvi Fazle Haq Khairabadi & 1857: https://www.academia.edu/9791121/THE_REVOLT_OF_1857_AND_MAULVI_FAZLE_HAQ_KHAIRABADI
The sites were explored during heritage trails led by Kanika Singh of Delhi Heritage Walks and Jaya Basera of INTACH Delhi. Thanks to both of them for making my study interesting and insightful.