There are many landmarks of 1857 rebellion in Delhi. Delhi was one of the centres of the revolt & after the rebellion was suppressed, India officially became a British colony. By all accounts this was the greatest revolt faced by the British empire, even though they have stuck to the calling it the ‘mutiny’. There are many stories, diaries, histories, documentation of 1857 rebellion by the British which indicate the its impact on their lives & the empire. Naturally, many memorials were built to commemorate the dead on the winning side. Our heritage walk in Kashmiri Gate looks at some of the sites where the events of 1857 played out. Many of these are memorials built by the British. There is no monument to the rebels, who ended up on the losing side. Still, after independence, there was an attempt by the Indian government to give both sides of the story. For instance, the British Magazine, an important British memorial has an inscription which tells us that the ‘rebels & mutineers were those fighting to overthrow the foreign government’.
This heritage trail starts at Nicholson’s Cemetery, named after John Nicholson, a British commander who was fatally injured during the British attack on the walled city of Shahjahanabad. Another important person to be buried here is Yasudas Ramachandra, a professor of Mathematics at the Delhi College. He was one of the key personalities of the Delhi Renaissance. His conversion to Christianity, along with Chaman Lal was talk of the town back then. The next stop is the Kashmiri Gate, which gives the neighbourhood its name. It is one of the surviving gates of the old city. From 14 odd gates, there survive only 4 now. The wall too is gone. One gets to see only traces of it at the ISBT & near Daryaganj. The Kashmiri Gate area was the European enclave in the city of Shahjahanabad in the 19th century. After 1857, the European settlement moved out & set up an exclusive neighbourhood called the Civil Lines. Many Indian towns which had a substantial British population all called their neighbourhoods Civil Lines. Some point of interest in Kashmiri Gate area are the old Hindu College & old St Stephen’s College & a small mosque called Fakhr ul Masajid. A prominent monument here is the St James Church, the oldest church in Delhi. Built by James Skinner of Skinner’s Horse fame, there are some noteworthy personalities buried in the churchyard: Skinner family burial, Thomas Metcalfe & William Fraser. The last two were Residents at the Mughal court, and contrasting personalities. Fraser is believed to have been one of the nicer guys who had almost gone ‘native’ whereas Metcalfe maintained a stiff upper lip! He is the same Metcalfe of the ‘Dilkusha’ fame, his weekend retreat in Mehrauli! Next on this heritage walk is the first British Residency, the house of David Ochterlony. It is now part of the AUD campus, and is believed to have been built on the remains of Prince Dara Shukoh’s library. Out on the Lothian Road, there is an island on the thoroughfare which has two important memorials: the Telegraph Memorial & the remains of the British Magazine. Further down the road, just before Kauriya Pul is the Lothian Road cemetery, the oldest one in Delhi. The cemetery has seen terrible vandalism in recent past, and is undergoing restoration work, but much is now lost.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)