Braving the summer heat, a group of heritage enthusiasts got together to explore the landmarks of the revolt of 1857 in Delhi. We covered sites located in the neighbourhood of Kashmiri Gate which falls within the old city, the former Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad. The starting point was Nicholson’s cemetery, named after Brigadier General John Nicholson who died fighting the rebels in 1857. He was fatally shot during the storming of Lahori gate, during recapture of Delhi by the British in September 1857. Another important person who is buried here is Master Ramachandra, professor of Mathematics in the then Delhi College. Across the road from Nicholson’s cemetery are remains of the city walls and the Kashmiri gate. The road roughly marks the demarcation between rebels inside the city and where the British were camped on the Ridge. The Kashmiri gate is one of the four surviving gates of the boundary of Shahjahanabad. The others which still stand are Ajmeri gate, Turkman gate & Dilli gate. Kashmiri gate still bears the damaged done to it by the British cannons while storming the city. There is also a memorial to the dead of the British army at this gate. We then walked towards the Kashmiri gate market, built in the 1890-s by Lala Sultan Singh a prosperous banker who must have brought the greater part of James Skinner’s estate. This area once contained mansions of Shah Jahan’s eldest son, Dara Shikoh & Ali Mardan Khan, a very important noble and responsible for a lot of building activity in Shahjahanabad. These estates passed through several hands before being used by the British administrators after 1803 when they pretty much controlled Delhi. The market has an 18th century mosque called the Lal Masjid, built by a lady, Khaniz i Fatima, in memory of her husband who worked for Emperor Aurangzeb. This mosque is also known as Fakhrul Masajid or the ‘pride of mosques’. A little ahead are the old Hindu college and old St. Stephen’s college buildings, now the MCD and Election Commission offices respectively. St James’ Church here is a major landmark of early British presence in the city. It was built in 1836 by James Skinner who led irregular cavalry corps called the Yellow Boys or Skinner’s Horse. It was a mercenary army and not a British unit. The church was a target for rebels during the 1857 and was badly damaged in the revolt. The churchyard had the family burial ground of the Skinners and is the final resting place of William Fraser, the British Resident the Mughal court. In the campus of Indraprastha University, adjacent to the church are a couple of interesting buildings. The Residency building which is built upon what is traditionally believed to be Dara Shikoh’s library is in the campus. It now houses ASI offices. A couple of colonial buildings typically marked by square battlement pattern also exist within the campus. Unfortunately we were denied permission to enter the campus by security men despite having official permission from the university PRO. No amount of official permission could convince the university security that a group of heritage enthusiasts walking around on a Sunday morning pose no threat to their system. Next on the heritage trail was a couple of monuments situated in the middle of Lothian road. There is an island on the road just opposite the Kashmiri gate post office. It has a grey stone obelisk called the Telegraph memorial, erected in 1902 by the members of British telegraph department. It is memory of service rendered by its staff when the revolt broke out in Delhi. The last point on this 1857 heritage walk was the remains of a British magazine. The magazine was blown up by British officers commanding it when they could no longer hold out against the rebels.
(posted by Rajesh Ranjan & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)