The rebellion of 1857 is one of the most significant events of the history of the city and for India. Variously known as the Mutiny, the First War of Independence, the Uprising and the Rebellion, it altered the history of the city. Delhi was one of the centres of the rebellion. It is here that the rebel sepoys from Meerut came, and got the support of the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The recapture of Delhi by the British forces comes as the most significant of victories in 1857-8. This heritage walk on 1857 tries to capture some moments of tension, conflict, hopelessness and anger which motivated both the rebels and the British. Our walk starts at Nicholson’s Cemetery and covers the neighbourhood of Kashmiri Gate, which was part of the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad. The cemetery lies just outside the city walls and it is named after Brigadier-General John Nicholson, who is buried here. He is one of the heroes of British recapture of Delhi. The cemetery is also the burial place of Master Ramachandra, the Professor of Mathematics at Delhi College. He had converted to Christianity and was targeted by both the rebels (during 1857) and by the British (after the rebellion had been crushed). He had to flee the city as his life was in danger; and later he was ill treated by the victors, as a ‘jet back native’. Next we walked towards old Delhi, to the Kashmiri Gate, which stands, looking rather lonely in the entire crowd around the bus terminus. One of the gates of old Delhi which still survives, Kashmiri Gate still bears the damage done to it by British cannon balls as they tried to break through the defenses of the rebels. The fall of Kashmiri Gate was a turning point of the rebellion, in favour of the British. A little further ahead is marketplace, know after Lala Sultan Singh. A little mosque is tucked above the hoardings of the shops, and almost takes you by surprise. This is Farkhr ul Masajid built by a lady called Khaniz Fatima, in memory of her husband. Close by are the old Hindu College and old Stephen’s College buildings. The former is now the offices of Nagar Nigam and the latter is used by Election Commission of India. An old sketch of St. Stephen’s College was shared by one of the members in the audience (Ashish Singh) and has been included above. Ashish told us that the sports ground of the college was where the ISBT (bus terminus) stands today! It is amazing how landscapes change in cities!
We walk across the road to the oldest church in Delhi, St James Church. Built by James Skinner in thanksgiving, the church is well preserved and still an active place of worship. The churchyard has the burial ground for Skinner family, and also the grave of William Fraser. While discussing William Fraser, everyone was reminded of his house with the basement rooms (tehkhana) and we decided to take a detour to take a look at this house which stands behind St James Church. Now occupied by Indian Railways, it is still a majestic building to behold. Next we walked into the campus of Ambedkar University. This campus has been the home for many a educational institutions, for more than a century now: Delhi College, Indraprastha University, Delhi College of Engineering to name the most famous. The British Residency which was home to David Ochterlony is located here. It is built on the remains of what is believed to be Prince Dara Shukoh’s library. On Lothian Road, outside the campus, are important landmarks of 1857 in Delhi. The British Magazine (which was blown up by British officers when they could not longer hold out against the rebels), the Telegraph Memorial (to commemorate bravery of officers who stayed on duty in event of danger to their lives) and the Lothian Road cemetery (the oldest British burial ground in Delhi).
(posted by Kanika Singh & Pushpa, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)