Our heritage walk in the Kashmiri Gate area covers some of the sites where the rebellion of 1857 played out. Through this trail we try to weave the story of the revolt, the lives of people around involved in it & memorials left by them.
We begin the heritage walk from Nicholson’s Cemetery. Brigadier General John Nicholson had quite a reputation, as a strict no-nonsense chap who was fatally injured in 1857. The cemetery is named after him. As we spoke of his role in 1857 & his negative attitude towards Indians, we also discussed the military tactics of both the sides. Another important burial here is of Yasudas Ramachandra, a teacher of mathematics at the Delhi College. Delhi College was perhaps the most important cultural institution in 19th century Delhi & it’s around this institution that Delhi Renaissance took place. The next stop on our 1857 trail is Kashmiri Gate. It is one of the four existing gates of the capital city of Shahjahanabad, now old Delhi for us. The gate bears testimony to the assault by British forces & there is a memorial plaque for British soldiers who died fighting here. The break through at this gate turned the tide of the revolt in favour of the British. A social club from the early 20th century, the Bengali Club is located adjacent to the gate. The crude looking Bada Bazaar has some pretty details of architecture hidden behind large shop hoardings. The Lal Masjid or Fakhrul Masajid is also located here. It was built by Khaniz I Fatima in memory of her dead husband, who worked for Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. A few steps ahead are old campuses of two rival colleges: St Stephens & Hindu College. In their new location in north campus of Delhi University, they still stand opposite each other, the rivalry intact! The old St Stephens College is now office of the Chief Election Commissioner & old Hindu College is Nagar Nigam office. The most prominent & elegant building in this neighbourhood is St James Church. It is the first church of Delhi and was built by Colonel James Skinner in 1836. James Skinner, other members of Skinner family, William Fraser, Thomas Metcalfe, some of the prominent citizens of Delhi in 19th century are all buried in its churchyard. Behind St James Church stands the bungalow of William Frazer, now an office of Northern Railways. Next we walked through the campus of Ambedkar University Delhi which has a couple of colonial buildings & the first Residency in Delhi, the house of British Resident David Ochterlony. Interestingly, it is believed to be built upon the ruins of Mughal prince, Dara Shukoh’s library. The last bit of 1857 heritage walk covered a few sites on Lothian Road: the Telegraph Memorial & the remains of British Magazine. Both these are memorials to acts of bravery by British, against rebel onslaught. The Lothian Road cemetery lies at the end of this road, just before Kauriya Pul. In the end, I would like to express my thanks for the enthusiastic audience. It was an enriching experience to interact with them.
(posted by Niti Deoliya & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)