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. Continue Reading This Post
The crowds at Chandni Chowk are an amazing sight, even on a Sunday morning when the market is officially closed. From Digambar Jain Lal Mandir (of the well known bird hospital) till Gurudwara Sisganj there were cars lined all along the road-of devotees to the Jain Mandir, Gauri Shankar temple, Central Baptist Church and Sisganj Gurdwara. Friends who visit the area are often surprised to find places of worship of all faiths so close to each other. But perhaps it is not such an unusual thing in the closely knit urban population as in our Purani Dilli. Continue Reading This Post
The rebellion of 1857 is well known in Indian history. 1857 was the largest uprising anywhere against the British and Indians call it the first war of Independence, the Uprising or the simply the rebellion. For the other side, the British, it remains the Mutiny. After suppressing the rebellion, India was brought directly under the rule of the British Crown. Delhi was one of the biggest centers of the 1857 rebellion and our heritage walk in the northern ridge explores some of the sites where events of 1857 unfolded.
The first stop on our heritage trail is the Flagstaff tower. A look out space, it would have been one of the highest points on the ridge. This is where European men, women and children took shelter when they escaped the city of Shahjahanabad, away from the attacking rebels. They waited for help and when none came they moved further to Karnal. Now the area is surrounded by trees but photographs of 1858 show this land to be barren, with the Flagstaff tower standing lonely at this height. There was a photographer, Felice Beato who travelled around the country photographing the sites of the rebellion in the year 1858. His photos are a telling account of the situation then, and help us imagine it as we see those very sites today.
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When we think of old Delhi, there are many cliches about its character. We like our old cities to look a certain way: the chaos, the crowd, the noise, and yet the seeming ease with which every thing operates. Yes, on the surface perhaps all old cities are like that, and our purani dilli is no different. Yet, there is more to these that catches the eye. Cities, even historic ones, change rapidly, and often these changes come and go without us noticing them. This heritage walk to the old city tries to capture a little bit of all of this: the life of the city, what is typical and what lies beneath the typical.
We start our heritage walk just outside the Red Fort. The fort was the palace complex of Shahjahan, and what is today the purani dilli for us, was Shahjahanabad, the capital city of the Mughals in the 17th century. As we step into Chandni Chowk, we are greeted by two monumental temples, the Digamber Jain Lal Mandir in red sandstone and the Gauri Shankar temple in white. There is a small flower market right across the road which caters to the devotees who come in and pray. This entire land was once the estate of Begam Samru. Orignially a dancing girl from Kashmir she went on to marry a European, Walter Reinhard and covnverted to Christianity. She is particularly known for establishing the church at Sardana, near Meerut. Today whatever little of her mansion remains, has become part of Lala Bhagirath market. Continue Reading This Post
This heritage walk weaves its trail through the neighbourhood of Kashmiri Gate. Our first stop is Nicholson’s Cemetery, where the British hero John Nicholson is buried. He was an important figure in the British success in putting down the rebellion. At Kashmiri gate, our next stop, the destruction by cannon balls could clearly be seen. Some of the battlements too are missing from the top of the gate. The breach of Kashmiri Gate by the British forces was the turning point in their favour. It was exciting for everybody to climb atop the roof and look as far as St. James Church while the modern metro rail line works like city wall demarcating the city controlled by the rebels and the ridge where the British were camped. Moving ahead, we passed the Bengali Club (estb.1925) walked towards a market setup by Lala Sultan Singh. In the same complex, there stands an 18th century mosque called the Lal Masjid or Fakhrul Masajid. It was built by Khaniz i Fatima in the memory of her husband. Next spot was my personal favorite as I am an alumnus of Hindu College, it was fascinating to see and explain history of the same. Continue Reading This Post