The walk of the month for January was themed on 1857 uprising and its landmarks on the northern ridge. The ridge is an exciting place to explore any time of the year. And this Sunday morning was a perfect day to plan the walk. We started at the Flagstaff Tower, near Delhi University VC’s office. British residents from cantonment of Delhi assembled here after the rebellion broke out in Delhi. They waited for help but none came their way and they fled to Punjab. Nearby is an enclosure which was the burial place of four British officers commanding native infantry stationed in Delhi, and were killed by the rebels. The graves do not exist anymore but the enclosure stands. From here we entered the narrow walking trails within the ridge and reached the Khooni Jheel. This water body is named so because bodies of British killed by the rebels and then then the rebels killed by the British were dumped here. It is believed to be haunted; one hears stories of ghosts of a young girl wearing a tattered white frock and a headless British officer riding his horse! The Delhi Field Force had its outposts all over the ridge which was of strategic importance. One of these was the mosque picket at the Chauburja, a 14th century mosque which was converted into a picket from where the British observed rebels’ movements. A little further from here is the ingeniously named ‘Pir Ghaib’. The monument is an observatory and a hunting lodge built by Firuz Shah Tughluq in the 14th century. Later legend turned it into Pir Ghaib because of a ‘mysterious’ feat of a saint who is believed to have disappeared suddenly while meditating at the site. Pir Ghaib was the centre of action during the siege was Delhi in 1857. The British when moving towards laying siege to Delhi occupied this. Heavy batteries used by the British were stationed very near the observatory. A baoli (step well) nearby forms part of the same complex. It originally had chambers all around it. Close to it is the Hindu Rao Hospital. It was also subjected to heavy shelling by the rebels. The house was built by William Fraser and later purchased by Hindu Rao, a Maratha nobleman and the brother-in law of Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia of Gwalior, after Fraser was murdered in 1835. Hindu Rao, who died in 1855, was very close to British officials at Delhi. Bara Hindu Rao was used as a military hospital after 1857, and later became a civilian hospital, which it continues to be today. The name remains, but the old building is almost gone. A few steps ahead is the Ashokan pillar, a monolith engraved with inscriptions of King Ashoka who lived in the 3rd century BC. The pillar was transported from Meerut, again by Firuz Shah Tughluq. Our final stop was the Mutiny Memorial now also called Jeetgarh or Fatehgarh. The Mutiny Memorial was built by the British in 1863, in the memory of members of Delhi Field Force who were died in 1857. It stands on the spot of Taylor’s Battery which was frequently attacked by the rebels. The plaques on the façade have names and ranks of the soldiers and officers of the British. In 1972, a new plaque was added which mentions that the ‘enemy’ mentioned by the British were actually freedom fighters and martyrs for the country, fighting against colonial rule; and it was renamed.
(posted by Kanika Singh, Snehlata & Pushpa, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)