Here’s a brief overview of our heritage walk on 1857 revolt, which was organised this past Sunday. It is great pleasure to walk around the city on pleasant winter mornings and rains only add to this experience, I think. A group of enthusiasts joined us to explore the neighbourhood of Kashmiri Gate for landmarks of 1857. Our starting point was Nicholson’s Cemetery. The cemetery is located in an area which was the battle zone between rebels in Shajahanabad & the British on the Northern Ridge. There were many fierce battles between the two sides during the summer months (June- September 1857), the period of ‘siege of Delhi’. The Cemetery is named after Brigadier General John Nicholson who was an important British commander. The cemetery is still used as a burial place. Another important grave here is that of Master Yasudas Ramachandra. He was an eminent teacher of Delhi College until 1857 but the revolt was a hard time for him. As he had converted to Christianity he was seen as a traitor by Indian soldiers; & despite being a member of the Christian community, he remained a ‘native’ or ‘black’ in the eyes of the British. So, during 1857 he faced hostility from both camps. The next stop on our walking tour is the Kashmiri Gate. One of the remaining gates of city, the fall of Kashmiri Gate turned the tide in favour of the British. The gate still bears the marks of onslaught by cannons & there is memorial plaque for British soldiers who died here. We traced our way through Bada Bazaar which is a crowded market area built in 1890s. Earlier it had houses and mansions of important Mughal officials like Dara Shukoh, Ali Mardan Khan. Later many of these were purchased by Europeans living in Shajahanabad, such as James Skinner & William Fraser. There aren’t many Mughal remains in this part of the neighbourhood. One of these is the Lal Masjid, an example of architecture patronised by women in the Mughal city. If you look closely behind the billboards, there are remains of colonial architecture in the bazaar area. Close by are the old campuses of old St. Stephens College and Hindu College. Across the road is the oldest church in the city, St James Church. It was built by James Skinner who was an Anglo-Indian & has his private band of soldiers called the Skinner’s Horse or the Yellow Boys. The church is also the burial place of Skinner and his dear friend William Frazer. The Skinner family has a family burial ground here. Just behind the church is the residence of William Fraser which is now the Northern Railway’s Office. There are some ridiculous restrictions in place which prohibit the visitors sometimes, even to look! We walked the campus of Ambedkar University Delhi to reach Dara Shukoh’s library. Very little of its remains now & another British resident, David Ochterlony built his Residency over it. Out on the Lothian Road, this is where our walking tour ends. There are two important British memorials on this road. Both the Telegraph Memorial & the remains of the British Magazine give accounts of bravery of the British against the rebels. Since there are no memorials to the rebels, post independence there has been some attempt to provide another version of the story. There is plaque on the British Magazine which tells us that the rebels were fighting against colonial rule & deserve recognition in this light. The Lothian Road Cemetery is located down the road before the Koriya Pul. However, there is little to be seen there. The original gravestones were destroyed and the restored ones are plan cement facades.
Thanks everyone who joined the walk. Do take out time to give your feedback.
(posted by Niti Deoliya & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)