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First war of independence: 1857

Compiled and edited by SHAN MOHAMMAD
Foreword by RAM GOPAL

5 Kasturi Buildings, J. Tata Road,
Bombay 20

Anand Boss,

If interested in writing article on this topic send me PM.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--> IIRC how majority of Muslims had no part in the Rising.
Nehru's Discovery of India (I'm cheating here.. was in Bharat Ek Khoj <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> ) had Sir Syed Ahmed saying just the opposite. He explains the reason of his refusal to join the INC stating that it was because Muslims suffered more (his words) than the Hindus for their part in the 1857 uprising. And he advocated that Muslims shouldn't be part of any group that rebelled against British government.

Now this was Nehru's interepretation, and given his agenda around that time, one can never be sure.
<b>The Great Rising of 1857 - Part I</b> --By Anand K
<!--QuoteBegin-Mudy+Sep 27 2005, 04:39 AM-->QUOTE(Mudy @ Sep 27 2005, 04:39 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>1857 WAR - PART IV - SWAM OMANAND, PURANAN AND, VIRAJANAND, DAYANAND</b>

This version is from the records of the Jat Sarv Khap of Haryana, Shoron, Distt Muzzafarnagar, U.P.

An 18 page version in document format is available in the files section the Yahoo Jat history list


application/ms-word 1857warofindependence.doc
1857 First war of Indian Independence

It is a translation from Dilip Singh Ahlawat's book, "Jat Viron ka ithihaas", based on the original records

Dear all

I have uploaded a file[ "1857 - THE FIRST WAR OF INDIAN INDEPENDENCE Source: Dilip Singh Ahlawat- " Jat Viron ka Itihass"].

It is the Indian version of the first war of independence, which the British and Indian Marxist historians called the Sepoy Mutiny.

It is word .doc format, and is 28 pages long.
It may be accessed at


1857 First war of Indian Independence


British and most native Indian historians treat this event alike as a Sepoy mutiny, a mutiny of the British Indian native foot soldiers against their British officers. Brave and loyal Indians, among the princely states of Baroda, Jaipur, Bikaner, Patiala, Nabha, and Jind and Nepal, put this mutiny.

To get an idea of the treatment of the subject one has to only read a prescribed text in Indian Universities, the highly regarded text " An Advanced History of India-" by the esteemed Historians - R C Majumdar, H. C. Ray Chaudhary, Kalika Ranjan Dutta. Macmillan India, New Delhi republished this textbook first published in 1946, in its 4th edition in 1990.

It tells us that, the British were fortunate "to secure the loyalty of and receive valuable aid from the likes of Sir Dinkar Rao of GWALIOR, Sir Salar Jung of HYDERABAD, Jang Bahadur of NEPAL". Praise and thanks are bestowed on the Rajput princes of Rajastan and the Sikh princes of Punjab, Gulab Singh of Kashmir, all of whom were by then, little more then pensioners and tax collectors for the British. Scindia of Gwalior, Gulab Singh of Kashmir, are singled out for special praise. Of Scindia the British Historians wrote " he. Saved India for the British" and of Salar Jang (later Sir Salar Jang), as a " man whose name deserves to be ever mentioned by Englishmen with gratitude and admiration"

The cause is supposed to have been the adoption of fat filled cartridges in the newly introduced bullets. The fat was of Pigs and Cows, thus offensive to both Muslims and Hindus.

The revolt spread from Calcutta to Peshawar and Central India. To suppress it help came the quarters above.

A conspiracy, against the British, British, between Nana Sahib Peshwa the adopted son of Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa, and the Rani of Jhansi, Laxmi Bai and others is also suggested, and it is also suggested that the conspiracy existed even before the revolt.

At it end untold atrocities were committed on the Indian people in revenge.

The Bombay Telegraph reported, on the aftermath of the taking of Delhi by the British,

" All the city people found within the walls when our troops arrived were bayoneted on the spot; and the number was not inconsiderable, as you may suppose when I tell you that in some houses forty or fifty people were hiding"

When it was over, names like Laxmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi, Nana Sahib Peshwa, Tantia Tope, lived on in the minds of the Indian psyche, to be evoked as the precursors and role models of the freedom movement that came later, and led to the independence of India from the British in 1947.

However one is inclined to ask was this all, and was this cause enough for a major conflagration to envelope then known British India. ?

How is that such a well-coordinated effort existed from one end of the nation to the other?

Was the entire Indian population so enthralled that they would risk and not only risk but also give their lives?

Was all this to save a pension for Nana Sahib Peshwa, or so that Laxmi Bai's adopted son could ascend the throne?

The causes, the organizers, the organization, and the coordination were a little deeper, yet the story has not been told in full.

Names like Swami Omanand, Swami Purananand, Swami Virajanand, Swami Dayanand are nowhere mentioned.

There is no cognizance of names like Nahar Singh, Rao Tula Ram, and of sacrifices of the men and women of the Jat Sarv Khap. There is no mention in our histories of how the headmen of the Panchayat of each village in then Haryana were hanged to death, and entire villages were burnt to the ground.

Haryana as it then was not the miniscule Haryana, of toady, but a vast republic, which spread from the Sutlej in then Punjab, to Rajasthan to Madhya Pradesh to Western UP. Its supreme Panchayat governed this vast entire territory through its panchayat system. Formed in 600 AD by the Jat Emperor Harsh Vardhan Virk, it was headquartered at Shoron, district Muzzafarnagar, some 150 Kilometers north east of Delhi on the Delhi - Dehradun Road. This republic faced down the invaders like Ghazni, Ghauri, Timur and the Khiljis for over one thousand years.

When the 1857 war was lost, it was destroyed. Its people were punished. It was divided between the petty protectorates of the British, the princes of Rajasthan, Punjab, and one part to form the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, and one to create what later became the Union Territory of Delhi. The name Haryana was erased from history.

Some records survived, and Dilip Singh Ahlawat, after much research in the Sarv Khap records, wrote a History book in Hindi; Titled " Jat Viron ka Ithihass" published from Rohtak in1988.

His account of the first war of Independence of 1857 is a little different from the standard one

1 A summary of reasons for the war of 1857. 3
(a) The political reasons. 3
(b) Administrative reasons 4
© Economic 4
(d) Destruction on the Indian system of Education 4
(e) The policy of conversion of Indians to Christianity5
(f) The Army 5
(g) The English government opposes the Sarvkhap Panchayat. 7
2. The leaders of the movement 9
3.0 The four Vedic Yogic Sanayasis- organizers of the 1857 Independence struggle 10
3.1 Swami Omanand's speech at the 1855 assembly at Haridwar 11
3.2 The second assembly in 1855 at Garh Ganga. 11
3.2 The third assembly in the hills of Haridwar 1855. 11
3.4 The speech of swami Virajanand in the countryside of Mathura12
3.5 The sacrifice and effort of Swami Dayanand in the 1857 Independence movement. 13
4.0 The 1857 war: commencement and events 16
4.1 The account of Mangal Pandey and the Barrackpore revolt.16
4.2 Meerut 16
4.3 Delhi 16
4.4 The speech of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to 1,000 members
of the Haryana Sarv Khap. 17
4.7 Bahadurshah Zafar's letter to the Sarv Khap. 17
4.6 The liberation of Delhi 18
4.7 The British assault on Delhi 18
4.8 The valour of 500 warriors (mulls) of the Haryana Sarv
Khap 19
4.9 The battle for Kashmiri gate and the fall of Delhi 19
4.10 The atrocities on Delhi 20
5.0 Nahar Singh, the Jat Raja of Ballabhgarh - his Valour and Sacrifice 22
6.0 The valour and sacrifice of the Jats of Haryana in the 1857

Independence struggle 24

7.0 The atrocities of the British on the population after the revolution was suppressed. 26
7.1 Shyamrdi - hanging of the village leader 26
7.2 Udhiram of Liwaspur 26
7.3 Murthal 27
7.3 Muhammad Ali, Bahdurjang and Abdurehman 27
8.0 The result of the war 28<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
[quote=Ravi Chaudhary,Oct 13 2005, 07:20 PM]

Hello Ravi,
Welcome back from India, hope you had good trip .

Wondering if you have gone through the DNA thread . How does the JAtt theory of foreign origin fit in with new thesis of Human Migration from India.

Prem: There's a separate thread linked here
<!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Oct 14 2005, 01:33 AM-->QUOTE(Viren @ Oct 14 2005, 01:33 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Prem: There's a separate thread linked here

Hi Viren,

[quote=prem,Oct 13 2005, 11:48 PM]
[quote=Ravi Chaudhary,Oct 13 2005, 07:20 PM]

Hello Ravi,
Welcome back from India, hope you had good trip .

Wondering if you have gone through the DNA thread . How does the JAtt theory of foreign origin fit in with new thesis of Human Migration from India.



Trip was good. I may add, as usual.

On response to your query.

It is a " tusami" in a teacup"

see Viren's link- false history etc


<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Contemporary Perspectives of The Sepoy Mutiny: The Beginning of The End of Empire 
Daniel F. Schultz and Maryanne Felter 
Departments of Social Sciences and English   
Cayuga Community College 
Auburn, New York 13021 
315-255-1743 x 263/245 


As Andrew Ward says in Our Bones are Scattered, “Anyone who tries to tell the story of Cawnpore must subsist on a sometimes sparse diet of questionable depositions, muddled accounts, dubious journals, and the narratives of shell-shocked survivors with axes to grind” (Andrew Ward, Our Bones are Scattered [New York:  Henry Holt, 1996], 555).  More than this, <b>Ward acknowledges a “dearth of primary material from the Indian side of the equation”; the Indians at the time—at least those writing in English—told “the British only what they wanted to hear” </b>(Andrew Ward, Our Bones are Scattered, 555). The various depictions of the Mutiny, whether in paintings, cartoons, poetry, or prose, reflect the various agenda that underlie Britain’s presence in India.  <b>Taken together these representations of the Mutiny provide what  might best be called a “theatre,” “a spectacle,” one that was used, even as it was being produced, to justify British action in India.</b> After all the ultimate result of the Mutiny by the sepoys was a relinquishing of the control of India by the East India Company and an official setting of this jewel into the crown.

When the Indian Mutiny began in May of 1857, it was given very little attention in the “respectable” press back home.  It took nearly six weeks for the news to reach London. India was such a “non-topic” in the British press at the time that the Times’s initial reporting of the Mutiny was actually a response to a suggestion in the French press that India was revolting against British rule (Kevin Hobson, “The British Press; The Indian Mutiny” [http://www.edunltd.com/empire/article/mutinypress.htm (2/20/00)], 1). Especially since the administration of William Bentinck (1828-35), Anglo-Indian relations were becoming strained.  <b>A comprehensive education system, emphasizing British language, culture, and traditions was installed, reflecting the Company’s need for educated manpower for which it was reluctant to pay the costs of transporting them from England.  British reforms, however,  were perceived as unsought interference in Indian cultural and religious life.  The irony is that reform spawned revolution.</b>  The introduction of the “Doctrine of Lapse” and the acquisition of the Sind by Lord Dalhousie (1848-56) extended the discontent across religious lines.  Britain,  lulled into complacency, with foreign policy concerns elsewhere—China, the Crimea, Italy--paid scant attention to the rising tide of grievances among the native people in India. At first there was scant attention  paid to the Mutiny in the press.  In fact,  Punch’s early reporting  uses the Mutiny as a way of taking jabs at national politics and politicians. A Punch cartoon of 15 August 1857 entitled “Execution of John Company: or the Blowing up (there ought to be) in Leadenhall Street” (figure 1) was critical of the mismanagement of Indian affairs by the East India Company while “The Asiatic Mystery” (8 August 1857) (figure 2) focused more on anti-Semitic and orientalist views of Disraeli himself rather than on events in India.  Although some of the reports <b>played up racial superiority</b> (as in the Saturday Review’s “resolute vigour of the Anglo Saxon race” qtd. in Kevin Hobson, “The British Press; The British Mutiny,” 3), early reporting remained fairly dispassionate until after the massacre at Cawnpore on 15 July 1857.  By 22 August, Punch was running a full page cartoon, “The British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger” (figure 3), showing India having killed a helpless woman and child, the lion of England leaping onto the tiger in revenge.  Newspaper reports began to portray the siege, and a spate of memoirs, journals, and letters, some still in manuscript, some published, were sent home. For a time in October, Punch’s coverage of Indian affairs seemed an intense “charivari” of reporting. Many full page cartoons focused on Britain’s duties in India while some of the articles and poems  sensationalized  the events.  The shocking descriptions of Cawnpore must have recalled in the British mind images of the Black Hole of Calcutta  about a century before, and rekindled memories of earlier sepoy mutinies (1764, 1806, 1824). Meanwhile, in India caste grievances, coupled with rumor and Company insensitivity, brought four more rebellions (1844-57) thus making it even more urgent to justify retaliation to the general public British (figure 4).  General Sir George Jacob said mutiny was a normal state of affairs in the Bengal army and wrote a letter to that effect to The Times (“The Indian Mutiny”   Encyclopedia Britannica [9th edition 1911], 446).   After the initial frenzy of reporting Cawnpore, Punch returned to its previous position. Punch in 13 February 1858 was critical of the singular pursuit of profit which characterized company rule rather than focusing on the brutality of the rebellion itself. However, in the poem “Our Army of Martyrs,” this narrow economic interest was criticized and something broader, something better, urged. Here Punch anticipated  Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden,” warning of the burdens of empire: “ Laid they their lives down but for this,/ That commerce might pursue/ Her thriving course, and rich men miss/ No doit of revenue?/ Of pompous wealth, or mere purse-pride/ The champions did they fall?/If so, they martyrs only died/ To Mammon after all./ Not so; those martyrs’ blood, we trust,/ To better purpose sown,/ Will not have sunk in Indian dust,/  To bear such fruits alone:/ The blood of martyrs is a seed/ Whence springs another crop,/ Our heroes were designed to bleed/ For something more than Shop” (“ Our Army of Martyrs” Punch, 13 February 1858).  But by 26 December 1857, “How Mr Cooke takes Delhi,” moves the tone of Punch’s India coverage away from the sensational and the sentimental back to heavy sarcasm:  a “Spectacle” seen from a “box at Astley’s” shows the rebellion as a “Most animated affair, the interest never flags, and the author has had the good taste (lacked elsewhere, and where it might have been reasonable looked for),<b> to omit any attempt at reproducing the horrors of the Indian crisis. </b> We see the black rascals plotting and rebelling, and rendering themselves just detestable enough to make the audience shout with joy when the swift vengeance of countless supernumeraries breaks upon the miscreants, and they are banged, beaten bayoneted, blown from guns, or otherwise disposed of, as suits the scene….And as for Delhi, the revenge of England comes down upon it in a storm of fire that makes you smell powder for an hour afterwards.  The spectacle is quite a national one, and sends away the audience most confirmed anti-sentimentalists” (“How Mr. Cooke takes Delhi” Punch, 26 December 1857, 259). Punch’s reaction to this pandering to the Britons’ s needs to see this nationalist/ imperialist battle waged on their own stages was clear. Only a few weeks earlier, in the midst of a (collection) of articles and cartoons in immediate response to Cawnpore,   Punch made fun of liberal humanitarian concerns for the poor native, urging Britons to see that those natives ready to kill British soldiers “are entitled to the tender mercies of the Pagan code of war” (“A Leader from the ‘Star’ “ Punch, 31 October 1857, 177).

Right after the Mutiny, numerous accounts found a welcome audience: John Adye’s  Defense of Cawnpore, by the troops under the orders of Major General Charles A. Windham (1858), Charles Wade Crump’s A Pictorial record of the Cawnpore Massacre (1858), Alexander Duff’s The Indian Rebellion (1858), and Major Charles North’s Journal of an English Officer in India (1858) were just a few titles in a dazzling array of writing on the subject. Mrs. Harris’s Lady’s Diary (1858) is one of the most famous of the “survivor journals,” full of the images people back home wanted to read about.  Harris wrote of  “Many ladies and children [who] have fortunately made their escape from different small stations in the district, just in time to save their lives, leaving all their worldly goods to be burnt and plundered…gentlemen bayoneted on the spot, wives and children looking on….The ladies were equally calm and heroic; they knelt down with their little ones under a tree praying, and as soon as their husbands were slaughtered, their turn came” (Mrs. Harris, A Lady’s Diary of the Siege of Lucknow: Written for the Perusal of Friends at Home .[ London: John Murray, 1858],  n.p.).   Similar outrage was rendered by survivor Amelia Horne, who described the massacres in lurid detail, referring to the victims “shrieks” and their “agonized prayers… the water red with blood…the mutilation of husbands…infants torn from their mothers’ arms and hacked to pieces” (qtd in Chrhistopher Wilkinson-Latham [The Indian Mutiny. Osprey: London, 1977], 26).

It is not only the women diarists and survivors of the Mutiny who dramatized the events for English readers.  <b>Male survivors as well wrote their stories in such a way as to sway English audiences not only to sympathize with the survivors’ plights but also to see that England was clearly justified in its treatment of the rebels. </b>In A Personal Narrative of the Siege of Lucknow: from its commencement to its relief by Sir Colin Campbell, L.E. Ruutz Rees portrayed the siege in yet even more melodramatic ways than did Mrs. Harris.  His description of the treatment of women and children is almost a cliché in accounts of the Mutiny. Indians “had torn infants from their mothers’ breasts, and bayoneted the babes before their eyes….the floor was still black with congealed blood; and large bunches of long hair, probably torn out [lay on the floor]…the walls were covered with bloody finger-marks of little babies and children and delicate hands of wounded females” (L.E. Ruutz Rees [A Personal Narrative if the Siege of Lucknow. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, 1858], 228).  Similar sentimental comments were applied to male combatants as well: “Our men found his [Cornet Raleigh’s] body still warm, and the blood yet oozing from his wounds, when they came to him. Poor fellow! What makes his end more sad is, that the unfortunate young officer—he was only 17—had joined his regiment but three days before. A lock of hair of some young lady love, to whom perhaps he had plighted his faith, was found round his neck.  One of his fingers, on which there had been a ring, was cut off”  (L.E. Ruutz Rees, A Personal Narrative if the Siege of Lucknow, 19). No such condemnation of atrocity and theft is given Hodson, slayer of the sons of Bahadur Shah in whose possession their jewelry was found (“Hodson” Encyclopedia Britannica [9th edition, 1911], 559).

Poets, too, were reacting to the events in India.  Martin Tupper, often called “the English poet of the rebellion ” (Sashi Bhusan Chaudhuri [English Historical Writing on the Indian Mutiny 1857-1859 [Calcutta: The World Press, 1979], 259),  was also significant in molding public opinion.  He steadfastly advocated rigorous repression in the wake of the reported brutalities of the sepoys. The British were so incensed by these atrocities, he says, that they must react strongly to such slaughter: “And England, now avenged their wrongs by vengeance deep and dire,/ Cut this canker with sword, and burn it out with fire;/ Destroy those traitor regions, hang every pariah hound,/ And hunt them down to death, in all hills and cities ‘round (qtd. in Sashi Bhusan Chaudhuri,  English Historical Writing on the Indian Mutiny 1857-1859,  259).  <b>Tupper  personified the domestic British attitude of vengeance and fury</b> : “Who pulls about the mercy?—the agonized wail of babies hewn piecemeal yet sickens the air”  (qtd in Chaudhuri, ibid., 259). If Tupper advocated revenge,  Christina Rossetti focused more on the dramatic story of Alexander Skene and his wife: as the “swarming howling wretches below gained and gained” (lines3-4), Skene and his “pale young wife” (line 5) decide the time has come: “Close his arm about her now/ Close her cheek to his/ Close the pistol to her brow—/God forgive them this!” (Christina Rossetti, “In the Round Tower at Jhansi 1857,” in Chris Brooks  and Peter Faulkner. Eds. The White Man’s Burdens: An Anthology of British Poetry of Empire [UK: University of Exeter Press, 1996], 184). As they get ready to commit a murder/suicide rather than face the rebels, they “kiss and kiss: ‘It is not pain/ Thus to kiss and die” before they part forever” (Christina Rossetti, ibid.,  184).   This bears a striking resemblance to similar rhetoric about settlers in the American West while facing hostile native Americans—the idea of saving the last bullet for yourself.  Death is better than falling into the hands of blood-thirsty savages, of rape, of torture, of untold misery.

In addition to print media, galleries, too, took advantage of the public interest in sensationalized accounts of the Mutiny.  Mutiny paintings and “Scenes of the Headquarters of the Revolt in India” at the Great Globe in Leicester Square were popular entertainment, so much so that Punch on 17 October 1857 complained: “The supply of the demand for information on any point in connection with the melancholy subject of the day, is quite a legitimate undertaking—but…can amuse nobody” (“Amusement Extraordinary,” 17 October 1857, 159).   Paintings on exhibit at the time included Sir Joseph Noel Paton’s In Memoriam: <b>designed to commemorate the Christian heroism of the British Ladies in India during the Mutiny of 1857, and their ultimate Deliverance by British Prowess (1858) (figure 5). Here we see the more sentimental image portrayed, with fair-skinned English women, eyes heavenward, praying for deliverance, while the dark-skinned ayah, turned toward the door, hears the entry of Scottish troops, here to save the innocents. </b> Curiously, Paton had originally exhibited the painting with “ ‘maddenend Sepoys, hot after blood’ as The Times put it,…bursting through the door” (C.A. ed. et. al. Bayly [The Raj: India and the British 1600-1947. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 1990], 241).  One of the most contentious works exhibited at the Royal Academy, Paton was persuaded to exchange the sepoys for Scottish troops entering to rescue the women and children.  According to a critic in the Illustrated London News, the original painting was “too revolting for further description….which ought not to have been hung” (qtd. In C.A. Bayly, ibid., 241). Such a comment reminds us of the common interest in the sensational and the prurient covered up by the genteel Victorian sensibility of the emergent bourgeoisie patterning its behavior on the mores of the upper classes. Thomas Jones Barker’s The Relief of Lucknow (1859) (figure 6)  depicted a famous episode in the war with three of the major heroes being celebrated in England: Colin Campbell, Sir James Outram, and General Sir Henry Havelock.  Commissioned by the dealers Agnews, Barker painted from sketches made by a Swedish artist, the only European artist in India during the rebellion. There was such demand for paintings of the Mutiny that dealers knew they could not possibly send their artists to India to paint and have the painting in time to keep up with the news. Both paintings are typical of the period,  glorifying the British in heroic battles and sieges in heroic stereotypes, gallant poses, and consummate bravery where as natives are portrayed glowering, wide-eyed in terror, and retreating in disarray.  Even Madame Tussaud put “Nana Sahib” in her chamber of horrors until 1878, a “terrific embodiment of matted hair, rolling eyes and cruel teeth,” the standard way of representing the native villain (qtd. in Andrew Ward, Our Bones are Scattered,  531). <b>Not only did sensationalism prevail, some of the depictions were downright false. </b>One of the most famous images of the Mutiny was a steel engraving reproduced in Ball’s History of India, “Miss Wheeler slays her captives” (figure 7).  Here, General Sir Hugh Wheeler’s youngest daughter slayed her captors before they could do her harm, after which she reportedly threw herself down a well.  “Her gallant end became a staple of Victorian theatricals” (Anderw Ward, Our Bones are Scattered,  505) although the story is thought to be entirely false.  In fact, some historians now believe the story was circulated by “Nana Sahib’s agents to discourage mutineers from keeping English girls hostage” (Andrew Ward, Our Bones are Scattered,  675 note 328).
The reports of the  Sepoy mutiny that reached the English audience at the time had such a  powerful effect on the English reading public that it became hard to separate fact from fiction.</b>  Even such novelists as Charles Dickens, known for his sympathy for the downtrodden and the poor in his own country, had this to say in an essay written with <b>Wilkie Collins, entitled “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners” in the Christmas 1857 issue of Household Words: “I wish I were a commander in chief in India.  The first thing I would do to strike that Oriental Race with amazement . . . should be to proclaim to them . . . that I should do my utmost to exterminate the race upon whom the stain of the late cruelties rested; and that I was . . .now proceeding, with  . . . merciful swiftness of execution, to blot it out of mankind and raze it off the face of the Earth”</b> (qtd in Patrick  Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism 1830-1914 [Ithaca: Cornell U.P., 1988],  206-7). This was precisely the kind of response needed in England as the British  response to the Indian atrocities became increasingly vicious and bloody. Although “Clemency Canning” had earlier called for moderation in Anglo-Indian affairs surrounding the Mutiny, Britons wanted revenge (figures 8 and 9).  Even after Victoria’s Proclamation of 1858 calling for leniency and moderation, <b>brutality continued as Britons  punished  their ungrateful subjects</b>. As late as the 9th edition of the Britannica (1911), even such unsavory characters as Major Wilson Hodson, known for fiscal fraud and callousness towards the natives, were painted in a favorable light. For example, George Malleson (1825-98), an Indian army veteran and prolific writer on the Mutiny and Indian history, described him as “daring, courting danger, reckless, he was a condotteri of the hills, a free-lance of the Middle Ages.  He joyed in the life of the camps and reveled in the clash of arms.  His music was the call of the trumpet, the battlefield his ballroom. He would have been at home in the camp of Wallenstein and the sack to Madgeburg” (Sashi Bhusan Chaudhuri, English Historical Writings on the Indian Mutiny 1857-1859, 122). Hodson was lauded for his capture of Bahadur Shah, sultan of Delhi.<b> A later British commissioner in Oudh congratulated him, “for catching the king and slaying his sons.  I hope you will bag many more” </b>(qtd. in Sashi Bhusan Chaudhuri, ibid., 122). Even the murder in cold blood of the unarmed sons of the last Moghul emperor was justified: “This is the most bitterly criticized action in his career , but no one but the man on the spot can judge how it is necessary to handle a crowd; in addition, one of the prisoners…had made himself notorious by cutting off the arms and legs of English children and pouring their blood into the mothers’ mouths.  Considering the circumstances, Hodson’s act at worst was one of irregular justice” (“Hodson,” Encyclopdeia Britannica 9th edition 1911,  559).  <b>Valbezon said, “Posterity must overlook the slaughter of the Delhi princes and place on Hodson’s brow a crown without thorns….[He was] a man of foreign race, a simply cavalry Major was presiding over this species of entombment; but he represented all the living forces of modern civilization, Christian faith, military discipline, political intelligence, science and industry. </b> Hodson, as the instrument of destiny, was merely executing the decree of that irresistible law of progress which condemned the decrepit monarchy of Asia to pass under the sway of free and happy England” (qtd. In Sashi Bhusan Chadhuri, ibid., 250-263). Killed at Begamkuthi, Hodson’s  career was summarized: “On the whole, it can hardly be doubted that he  was somewhat unscrupulous in his private character, but he was a splendid soldier and rendered inestimable service to the Empire” (“Hodson,” Encyclopdeia Britannica, 9th edition 1911, 559).  Similar distortions were perpetuated to rationalize the wholesale slaughter of Indian captives.  Frederic Cooper, who was responsible for the massacre of over 237 Indian sepoys, imprisoned a number of alleged rebellious sepoys and summarily executed a number of them.  As the slaughter proceeded, he was informed that the prisoners refused to depart the barracks. Upon inspection he found that they had suffocated, a gruesome reprise of the “Black Hole” of a century before.  Cooper’s words reflected  Anglo-Saxon sanctimonious superiority: “a <b>single Anglo-Saxon supported by a section of Asiatics, under taking so tremendous responsibility, and coldly presiding over so memorable an execution without the excitement of battle, or a sense of individual injury to imbue the proceedings with the faintest hint of vindictiveness.</b>  The governors of the Punjab are of the true English stamp and mould, and knew that England expected every man to do his duty, and that duty done, thanks them warmly for doing it…<b>wisdom and heroism are still but mere dross before the manifest and wondrous interposition of Almighty God in the cause of Christianity” </b>(qtd. in Robert Huttenback, The British Imperial Experience [New York: Harper and Row, 1966],  65). <b>In short, British atrocities are condoned, justified, and applauded whereas Indian massacres are ascribed to the Asiatic temper and unregenerate barbarism.</b>

            Some British authors made a pretense of historical objectivity.  For example, Charles Ball, in The History of the Indian Mutiny (1859), states categorically that he gets his information from  official documents, dispatches, and Parliamentary papers.  <b>But he destroyed any such objectivity by stating, “that he will inscribe on the pages of history the details of acts of atrocity which have indelibly stained the annals of Indian and its people with crimes that disgrace the name of humanity” (Charles Ball, The History of the Indian Mutiny vol.1[New York: S.D. Brain, 1859],  33). </b>

By 1865, G.O. Trevelyan  published Cawnpore, a respected “history,” one that would characterize the general English tenor about this historical event for a long time to come—at least until Indian independence when Indian historians, who had been suppressed earlier, began to publish their side of the  story (figures 10).  Trevelyan’s “history” clearly emphasized the sensational side of the Mutiny story. In his “Preface,” Trevelyan told his reader his aim was an objective, authentic account of the Mutiny.  He relied on depositions of natives, British soldiers, and government narrative, particularly Sir John Lawrence who provided him with private and unpublished government documents.  The implication is that he was doing good historical research—and he was. <b>But the documents he used from natives are ones that,  merely echo British sentiments. </b>And he chose to perpetuate the melodramatic accounting of survivors with an axe to grind distorting his objectivity. And so the content of his account belied this promise.  The tone of Trevelyan’s work was steeped in Victoria sentimentalism—an account right in line with journal accounts of eyewitnesses, the imperialist poetry, and other “spectacles” of the day.  His antipathy towards the Asiatic comes through in his descriptions of “Mutineers reeking with English blood”  (George Trevelyan, Cawnpore [London: Macmillan, 1865],  n.p.). As he described the Cawnpore massacres, he continued to reinforce those ideas of the cowardly slaughter of non-combatants: “the inner apartment was ankle deep in blood…strips of dresses, vainly tied round the handles of doors, signified the contrivance to which feminine despair had resorted as a means of keeping our the murderers.  Broken combs were there, and the frills of children’s trousers, and torn cuffs, and pinafores, and little round hats, and one or two shoes with burst latchets” (George Trevelyan, ibid., n.p.). Trevelyan relied on contemporary accounts, as he says in his Preface, but the accounts and depositions  were precisely those which had established this sensational tone: “’ bodies,’ says one who was present throughout, ‘were dragged out, most of them by the hair of the head. Those who had clothes worth taking were stripped.  Some of the women were alive…they prayed for the sake of God that an end might be put to their sufferings …Three boys were alive. They were fair children. The eldest , I think, must have been six or seven, and the youngest five years.  They were running around the well, (where else could they go to?) and there was none to save them.  No: none said a word or tried to save them’ ” (George Trevelyan, ibid., n.p.).

Although most of the contemporary account of the Mutiny dramatized and sensationalized it, some political figures such as Canning, Disraeli, and Victoria, and some British writers, showed sympathy, and urged restraint,  for their Indian subjects. For example, William Howard Russell, correspondent for The Times, visited Cawnpore after its recapture and penned his reflections in My Indian Mutiny Diary ( 1860). British racism in India was apparent as was the dawn of a reconsideration of the British imperial mission: “Nana Sahib moving about amid haughty stares and unconcealed dislike. ‘What the deuce does the General ask that nigger here for?’ . . . . But one is tempted to ask if there is not some lesson and some warning given to our race in reference to India by the tremendous catastrophe of Cawnpore….[I]s India the better for our rule so far as regards the social conditions of the great mass of the people[?].…We have put down widow burning, we have sought to check infanticide; but I have traveled hundred s of mile through a country peopled with beggars and covered with wigwam villages” (qtd. in Robert Huttenback, The British Imperial Experience, 67).  Alfred Comyn Lyall , not only a veteran of the Indian Mutiny but also a high ranking civil servant in the Indian government and a member of the Council of India from 1888-1903, published Verses Written in India in 1889, a book that was at the time quite popular. Lyall’s intimate knowledge of Indian culture based on his long stay in India is reflected in his Asiatic Studies published in 1882, exhibiting deep insight into the life and character of India. Since twenty-five years had lapsed and the horrors of the Mutiny were not longer fresh in the public mind, Lyall’s poetry reflects a sympathy to the native cause which would have been unthinkable during the time of the uprising.  “The Rajpoot Rebels,” written around 1858, depicted a ragged, ill-equipped Indian army, wounded, sick, surrounded outgunned, but nonetheless motivated for reasons of retaining land and their culture against the encroachment of the British. It reflects their struggles and losses in the past; they know they must ultimately surrender. The poem, from the perspective of an Indian rebel, ends: “When the army has slain its fill,/ When they bid the hangman cease;/ When they beckon us down from the desert hill/  To go to our homes in peace/ To bow with a heavy heart,/ And, of half our fields bereft,/ ‘Gainst the usurer’s oath, and the lawyer’s art/ To battle that some be left/ At the sight of an English face/ Loyally bow the head/ And cringe like slaves to the surly race/ For  pay and a morsel of bread;/ Toil like an ox or a mule/ To earn the stranger his fee—/ Our sons may brook the Feringhee’s rule,/ There is no more life for me” (Alfred Comyn Lyall, “Rajpoot Rebels,” in Chris Brooks and Peter Faulkner. The White Man’s Burden: An Anthology of British Poetry of Empire, 187-9).

Given the date of publication, Lyall hints at the demise of Empire. Despite protestations in Victoria’s Proclamation  (1858) of universal brotherhood, religious tolerance, and the promise to Indians of sharing in the shaping their own destiny, in actuality British rule was based on naked force (figure 11). In fact, during the 1880s British resistance to the Ilbert Bill (1883) destroyed any faith the vast majority  of Indian subjects could have in enlightened rule.  Within two years the Indian National Congress was formed, itself dividing into moderate and radical wings, the latter urging terror and selective violence against British officials (Bande-Mataram qtd in A.R. Desai, The Social Background of Indian Nationalism [Bombay: Indian Branch Oxford U.P, 1948], 311). 

Finally  the message that came through with few exceptions in contemporary accounts as well as in the early histories of this event justifies the imperial mission.  When humane and often evangelical motives of the “civilizing mission” seemed to fail, the imperialist obsession was reflected in constant reinforcement of ideas of racial superiority, the glory of English manhood, and the justification for revenge against the savage, dark-skinned alien hordes. The general reaction of the English public to the Mutiny was one of outrage and horror.  The Mutiny, as reported in the English press, as well as elsewhere in the Western world, was a watershed event.  England’s orientalizing of her natives had, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, proven true.  <b>Britons felt they had been betrayed by a people who should have thanked them for their introduction  of  “the best that has been known and thought in the world” into such a  dark corner of the globe. They reacted especially to the threat of the “Oriental,” that dark-skinned, overly-libidinous, unruly man who was a threat not just to innocent women and children but to everything civilized (i.e. English) man had sought to protect and serve. </b> This image continues through the early part of the next century in E.M. Forster’s  A Passage to India and Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet. Played out in images of rape—the ultimate violation that the other races could perpetrate on a civilized one--the Sepoy Mutiny had an impact that was profound and lasting, an impact that embittered English relations with their subjects from that time forwards. <b>If the Mutiny influenced the way the English behaved toward the Indians, it also impacted Indian behavior towards the English.  When independence finally came in 1947, Indian historians began to tell another story. Some, such as V.D. Savarkar, even refer to the Mutiny by another name: The Indian War of Independence of 1857. This book, which  was proscribed even before it was printed in 1908 because of its revolutionary intent (V.D. Savarkar, War of Independence [Reprint of 1909 ed. Bombay, 1947], viii, x, xvii)  was finally published in 1947 when Independence was achieved and allowed many of those silenced Indian perspectives to emerge. </b>Despite a few enlightened voices urging moderation, they were drowned out in a crescendo of public opinion justifying retribution and British superiority. The former would be heard and lead to a major soul-searching of the imperial mission in the wake of similar atrocities committed by British arms during the South African War.  Kipling’s warnings as to the burdens of empire were already a half-century too late.


<img src='http://www.geocities.com/genebrooks/sepoy01.jpg' border='0' alt='user posted image' />

Copyright © 1990 Gene Brooks Home

The Sepoy Revolt of 1857-1858 in India was "the most dramatic event in nineteenth-century India,


Just what was the identity of the Revolt of 1857? Four basic opinions are held. First, that it was "only a military revolt caused by ignorance, negligence, and astonishing ineptitude on the part of the [British] government and army."(4) However, if this event were purely military, there is no explanation why the Muslims would support the Hindu caste grievances concerning the greased cartridges. Second, some historians have said that the event was a conspiracy. Those holding this view break down into two religious sides which state that either the Brahmans were using Kshatriya grievances for orthodox purposes, or the Muslims were trying to retake control of the old Mogul Empire. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence to support this idea. More than that, the Hindu Maratha and the Mogul Emperor were taken by surprise at the uprising. Third, a small group believe the Indians were fighting their first war for independence from British rule. However, there was no Indian nation, no common language, and nationalist groups were few and opposed to the insurrection, looking to bring back the past rather than forge a new future. Fourth, some believe that socio-political tensions were set off when military problems came to a head over greased cartridges. A military mutiny stemming from agitating social forces is the most reliable explanation.(5)

The revolt had been secretly and well organized, but a premature outburst rather upset the plans of the leaders. It was much more than a military mutiny, and it spread rapidly and assumed the character of a popular rebellion.(6)

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->THE REVOLT'S AFTERMATH

The cost to put down the mutiny was 36 million pounds,(69) and it was charged back to the Indians in higher taxes. As a result of this revolt, the Crown took over the administration of India with the Act for the Better Government of India signed by Queen Victoria on August 2, 1858,(70) to go into effect November 1, 1858. Amnesty was granted officially to all rebels, and a solemn promise was made that the British had no desire to tamper with caste.(71) All direct government was transferred from the British East India Company to the Crown, and the governor-general's title was changed to viceroy.(72) The Company's European troops became part of the royal forces, and the Indian navy was abolished.(73) The sepoys had lost from the beginning. The sepoys had no confidence, and only a fear of the loss of caste with no new ideas. Their only goal was to turn back the clock to the old days. The British, on the other hand, had to win this contest. They had reinforcements and good leadership, a belief in their right and moral responsibility to rule. British national pride was at its height in a world where the self-confidence of the West reigned. "Neither Mughal, Maratha, or the Company was the real victor of the struggle. It was the pervasive spirit of the West."(74) Though the British government still had cankered problems, they could be assured of a calm British Indian world and a long enforced peace. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

"Mind and Attitude of the Indian Mutiny," The Living Age, vol. 55, issue 703 (November 14, 1857).

* Life of Charlotte Bronte (pp. 385-422)
* Janet's Repentance (pp. 422-436)
* Lofty Buildings (pp. 436)
* Mary Brown at Pompeii (pp. 436)
* Pay of Ministers of Crown (pp. 436-437)
* Mind and Attitude of the Indian Mutiny (pp. 437-439)
* What is certain and what doubtful in India (pp. 439-442)
* Bright Side of the Picture in India (pp. 442-444)
* Within Delhi (pp. 444-446)
* Napoleon and Alexander (pp. 446-448)
* The Women (pp. 448)

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Reflections from Lucknow on the
Great Uprising of 1857

Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones

So much has been written about the Great Uprising of 1857, and as the 150th anniversary draws near, in 2007, we can expect a lot more. Everyone is familiar with the outline of the events of the Uprising but there are some aspects that have not been discussed in great detail. My research for this paper has been mainly based on the work of Indian historians, for we have heard enough from the British point of view.

The uprising is usually presented to us in military terms, not surprisingly, because it started as a revolt by sepoys against the East India Company’s troops. But I want to show why what began as a mutiny in the Army quickly became a popular uprising against the British occupation of India. And to do this, we need to look closely at the signs of revolt that occurred in Lucknow between February 1856 as the British annexed the kingdom of Awadh and May 1857 when the uprising began in the old Lucknow cantonment.

These signs may seem insignificant in themselves, but if one adds them all up, together they indicate the feeling of resentment that was growing against the British during this fifteen-month period. Whether we can call it the First War of Independence, is still open to debate. We have to remember that the uprising was very localised, and that its main focus was only in three or four cities in northern India : Meerut, Kanpur, Delhi and Lucknow. We also have to remember that the powerful Nizams of Hyderabad, in the South, decided to throw in their lot with the British, and that in Calcutta, which was then the British seat of Government, and where you might logically expect an uprising, nothing happened.

To set the scene, Wajid Ali Shah, the last King of Awadh, had been deposed by the British Resident, Major General Sir James Outram, on 7 February 1856. Almost immediately, the ex-King decided to travel to London to seek a personal interview with Queen Victoria. He felt that if he could meet the British Queen personally, he could persuade her that the annexation of Awadh had been a mistake. He hoped, vainly, that he could get her to reverse the annexation and re-install him as King.1

Wajid Ali Shah started his journey to Calcutta on 12 March accompanied by his mother, his brother and two of his wives. From Calcutta, he intended to take a ship to England. Although this was a voluntary move on the King’s part, the feeling percolated in Lucknow that the King had somehow been forced into exile. The impact of the King’s departure from his capital, on 12 March 1856 (5 Rajab 1272) was described by the writer Kamal-ud-din Haider - ‘The condition of this town [Lucknow] without any exaggeration, was such that it appeared that on the departure of Jan-e-Alam [Wajid Ali Shah] that the life was going out of the body, and the body of this town had been left lifeless - there was no street or market and house which did not wail out the cry of agony in separate from Jan-e-Alam.’2 The poet Shahid wrote ‘Laknau bekas hua Hazrat, jo London ko gaye, hum yahan nalan hain whoh faryade - dushman ko gaye.’3 The British had not anticipated that the King would leave his capital, nor that his relatives who were left behind would put up such a fight. Just two weeks after the King had departed, his elder brother, Mohammed Mustafa Ali Khan, stood up after the Friday prayers in the Jama Masjid in Lucknow and told the congregation not to obey the orders of the feringhis.

Once the King had gone, his army was disbanded by the British, who set up their own regiments in what they called the Awadh Irregular Force. But less than half the officers and men who had served in the King’s army could be enlisted into this, or into the new police force which was being established at the same time.4 Because men in the King’s army had traditionally brought their own weapons with them when they entered service, they could not be disarmed when they left. By the end of 1856 there were an estimated number of 30,000 discharged, armed officers and men, pensioned off and left to wander around the countryside without an occupation.5 Not only were they armed, but they were angry and bored, men on the loose, who were to form the bulk of the forces fighting against the British in a few months. There were also an estimated 14,000 civilian contractors to the ex-King’s army, now also without work, because the British had brought in their own contractors. And there was a very small number of European officers who had served in Wajid Ali Shah’s Army, and who remained loyal to him. These white rebels were called renegades and traitors by the British when they joined the uprising, but they continued to fight with the Indian troops.6

For the townspeople, the most visible signs of change were when the British started demolishing buildings in Lucknow. Lucknow was one of the most beautiful and wealthy cities in the whole of India, so it was easy to imagine the resentment people felt when they saw their homes and their splendid public buildings beings knocked down. The Khas Bazar, in the heart of Lucknow, which was a luxury market and a trading centre, was demolished only a month after the King had left. Elihu Jan, who had been the Queen Mother’s hookah bearer, reported that ‘My husband’s shop was cleared away. All the bazaar was cleared away. The English like grass better than bazaars.'7 A Hindu temple on the north bank of the river Gomti, was also knocked down. One of the most insensitive actions of the British was to seize and convert a holy shrine, the Qadam Rasool, which was said to house a footprint of the Prophet Mohammed, into a power magazine.

But these things did not happen without protest by the townspeople. In fact, Sir Henry Lawrence, the new Commissioner was so worried about local reaction that he wrote to the Governor General saying that:

much discontent has been caused by the demolition of buildings and still more by threats of further similar measures: also regarding the seizure of religious and other edifices and plots of ground as nazul, or government property.8

However, the seizures went on. By the autumn of 1856, the British had requisitioned the ex-King’s administrative headquarters, the Moti Mohal, and the old military headquarters, the Macchi Bhawan Fort. When the King’s risaldar in charge of the Fort refused to surrender it, he was overpowered by British troops, who broke into the godowns and seized weapons including 35 pieces of cannon.

There were other indications too, that the British were now taking over every aspect of old Lucknow. The Kings of Awadh had collected a huge menagerie of animals over the years - racing camels, elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, and pigeons, as well as pedigree horses. The cost of feeding all these animals was over a thousand rupees a day, but after the King left, there was no money to feed them. So the British decided to auction them all off. The auction took place just three weeks after the King had gone, in spite of protests from the men who had looked after the animals.

One of the things an occupying force always tries to do, is to control information, and the British were no exception here in Lucknow. The last King, Wajid Ali Shah had wanted to set up an electric telegraph so that messages in morse could be sent in and out of his Kingdom. But the Governor General had absolutely forbidden this, even before annexation.10 However, as soon as the King went, the British installed their own electric telegraph, in the former Banqueting Hall of the Residency, so they could get messages to and from Calcutta.

There were several Urdu language newspapers published from Lucknow during this period. One was called Tilism, and the British authorities arrested the editor on charges of providing misinformation. He was jailed for three months, but released after just one month, due to the public outcry. There is something very modern about all of this, arresting editors of vernacular newspapers is a sure sign of a nervous occupying power. Another newspaper, whose editor was Mirza Bedar Bakht, a grandson of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah, was called Payam-e-Azadi, which means ‘Message of Freedom’ and it was financed by the Nana Sahib of Bithur. It called for the people of Awadh to unite and fight the new rulers, but it was also quickly closed down. In fact the British were so worried about Payam-e-Azadi that not only was it banned, but anyone found with a copy was liable to execution.11

With the King gone, great numbers of servants and staff who had served in the royal palaces were now out of work and they naturally blamed the British for their predicament. They were now without money and without employment. Traders suffered as well, when new taxes were introduced by the British who started charging a market ground rent for traders and also imposed a higher tax on opium.

There was increasing trouble in the countryside too. Outside Lucknow, in the rural areas, a new land settlement, called the ‘summary settlement’ was imposed by the British on the people they found actually farming the land. This meant that the taluqdars, who were the real owners of much of the land, lost out and were dispossessed. Before annexation they had owned 67 per cent of the land. After the ‘summary settlement’ this was reduced to just 38 per cent.12 We get an indication of the warlike atmosphere already present in the countryside. Many of the taluqdars lived in small forts, supported by feudal armies, men that they could call up and arm in times of trouble. In September 1856, the Chief Commissioner ordered 574 forts in Awadh, belonging to taluqdars and zamindars to ‘surrender all warlike stores or artillery’ immediately.

This alienated the taluqdars, who could have supported the British during the revolt that followed next year. But in fact when Hanumant Singh, a taluqdar was asked for help by the British he replied, giving them this answer: ‘Sahib, your contrymen came into this country and drove out our King. You sent your officers round the districts to examine the titles to the states. At one blow you took from me lands which from time immemorial had been in my family.’13 This then was the reaction in the countryside - bitter resentment against the British, mirrored by the same feelings of anger amongst the urban population in Lucknow.

By mid-1857, leaders from the four main groups of people most affected had come together to form a revolutionary junta, called the Sazman-jawanan-Awadh. It was made up from:
(a)  The royal group - the King’s relatives, who had stayed behind when Wajid Ali Shah went to Calcutta.
(b)  The religious groups led by Maulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah, the Maulvi of Faizabad, who called for a jihad against the British.
©  The dispossessed military, that is, the officers and men from the King’s disbanded army.
(d)  The rural element, the taluqdars with their feudal armies, led by Raja Mahmudabad, Raja Jia Lal from Faizabad and Khan Ali Khan from Salone.

The junta was also being joined, and encouraged, by troops coming into Lucknow from Faizabad and Sultanpur, together with a nephew of the Emperor Bahadur Shah, with his own fighting men.

The story of Lucknow during 1857 and 1858 can be divided into three distinct phases: the Uprising and siege of the Residency from May to November 1857; preparations to defend the city, from November 1857 to February 1858; the retaking of the city by the British, in March 1858.

Phase One: May to mid-November 1857

The first sign of the uprising was on 2 May 1857 when the 7th Awadh Irregular Force, one of the new regiments, stationed in the British cantonment at Lucknow, refused to use greased cartridges. It was disarmed the following day by Sir Henry Lawrence, and two weeks later twenty soldiers who took part in this protest were hanged in front of the Macchi Bhawan Fort. This was followed by more hangings in June.

While it is usual to say that it was the greased cartridges that provided the spark for the subsequent uprising, the Lucknow historian Mr. Roshan Taqui said, quite correctly, that it was ‘the stealing of Awadh that was the key to revolt, far more important than tales of greased cartridges or plots to convert all sepoys to Christianity.’14

During May, people in Lucknow quickly learnt that Meerut and Delhi had been seized by Indian soldiers. The Emperor, Bahadur Shah issued a general firman to say he had possession of the whole country and requested the Awadh troops, among others to join. At the same time there were clear indications that the British now realised how dangerous their position had become, and they started to make preparations to defend themselves in Lucknow.

There were several significant signs that the British were now starting to panic. During this period in early summer, a procession to the Hussainabad Imambara was fired on by British troops, and the leader of the procession, Agha Mirza Kambalposh, was hanged by the British, in front of the Macchi Bhawan Fort.15 Then the house of the wealthiest moneylender in Lucknow, Shah Behari Lal, was forcibly seized by the British, and incorporated into the British Residency, because it formed an important tactical outpost if the Residency was attacked. The townspeople also reported seeing convoys of carts filled with grain ad munitions heading for the Residency, as well as firewood, charcoal and fodder for the cattle being taken in.

The Qaisarbagh Palace, the ex-king’s home, was raided for the first time by the British, who seized the crown jewels, much treasure and a number of weapons. Sir Henry Lawrence then ordered more demolitions between the British Residency and the Macchi Bhawan Fort. He had an 18-pounder gun put on top of the Fort gateway pointing towards the street where the public hangings were taking place. Control of the old Lucknow Cantonment at Marion, was lost at the end of May when it was set on fire.

The British had planned to withdraw to two areas in central Lucknow, which they thought they could hold, the Residency and the Macchi Bhawan Fort. But in early June, Henry Lawrence, realised they could not hold both, so he ordered that the Fort should be blown up with the 250 barrels of gunpowder stored inside. The British then retreated to the Residency, which was a site of about 33 acres situated isolated from the rest of British India because as soon as they barricaded themselves in the Residency their new electric telegraph was destroyed by the townspeople, who cut up the wires, hammered them into bullets, used the wooden telegraph supports for firewood, and adapted the cast-iron tubing into rifle barrels. It was not just British people and a handful of Europeans who were in the Residency, but an almost equal number of Indians, most of whom were servants.

Interestingly, it was the taluqdars’ leaders, Raja Mahmudabad and Khan Ali Khan who were responsible for persuading the revolutionary junta in Awadh to surround the British Residency. Originally they had planned to march to Delhi to join the Emperor’s troops. But having forced the British into a tight corner in Lucknow, they hoped to frighten them into surrender, because this would have had an important symbolic impact on the rest of the country.16

In the meantime, Wajid Ali Shah, after having reached Calcutta, decided not to go any further, but sent his mother and brother to meet Queen Victoria, on his behalf. He took no part in the uprising in Lucknow, not even as a figurehead, in fact, he condemned the revolt.17 Even so, he was locked up in Fort William for several months. It was the queen he left behind in Lucknow, Begam Hazrat Mahal, who provided the royal focal point for the townspeople. Her young son, Birjis Qadr, only ten or twelve years old, was crowned King in July 1857 and he became the nominal head of the revolutionary junta.

By the middle of November, British forces led by Sir Colin Campbell were able to enter Lucknow and rescue the Indian and British people trapped in the Residency. But his military force was not strong enough to recapture the whole city, and he withdrew to the Alambagh Palace, south of Lucknow. There are many accounts of this rescue mission available.

Phase Two: mid-November 1857 to end of February 1858

‘History is written by the victor’ and what happened in Lucknow between November 1857 when British evacuated the Residency, and March 1858 when they marched back to retake the city has not been told in any detail. Limited information and a few photographs exist, but the story can be pieced together. The most significant event was that the revolutionary junta, led by Begam Hazrat Mahal, started to build huge earthen ramparts around the city. It is said that she sold her jewellery and valuables for Rs 5 lakhs to pay for the labourers who worked on these sites. There is an interesting description of the ramparts by Martin Gubbins, the Financial Commissioner who had been trapped in the Residency during the siege. He wrote that ‘these fortifications consisted of screens made of wooden palisades, placed in a bank of earth and the roads and passages were everywhere intersected by their ditches and traverses-their batteries were usually formed of strong rafters of wood stuck upright and deeply embedded in the ground, and strengthened and supported by a bank of earth, a square embrasure being left in the centre for the muzzle of the cannon.’18

There were two lines of defence, the first, outer line, formed by the Haider Canal, which ran along the south of the city. This became a wet ditch, with earthen ramparts behind it. The inner line, with dry ditches, skirted round the main street, Hazratganj, and the Moti Mahal, the administrative headquarters and the Qaisarbagh palaces, the King’s home.

A British officer wrote that by March 1858, the inhabitants ‘had left nothing undone to strengthen the city...every outlet had been covered by a work and strong barricade and loop holed parapets had been constructed in every direction. The various buildings formed a range of most massive palaces and walled courts of vast extent and they had been fortified with the greatest skill. Guns swept the long streets and narrow lanes and others were mounted even on the domes of mosques and royal palaces.’19 Not surprisingly, as they waited for the British to begin the mother of all battles, those who could, sent their families away, and there was a steady stream of people evacuating the city. In the countryside, villagers had been pressurised not to supply the Britishers with food, and on the whole, this was a successful manoeuvre. Certainly British reports talk of the difficulty of foraging for supplies.

Phase Three: from 1 March to 16 March 1858

With all the defensive precautions in Lucknow, the British regiments would have had a tough time re-entering the city, and they did. It took them two weeks, from 1 March to 16 March 1858 to fight their way back into the heart of Lucknow.

The British forces were able to re-enter the city because they had been joined by Gurkha soldiers, sent by the King of Nepal. Advancing together, they captured three isolated palaces south of the city. One of these was La Martiniere School on the bank of the river. Indeed, it is said that one could still see bullet holes in the School chapel as late as 1945. In front of the School, the British engineers built a bridge of boats so they could cross the river. The British forces had divided themselves up to form a classic pincer movement. Major General Sir James Outram led his troops across the river on to the north bank and round the outskirts of the city, through fields and gardens, which were not defended. By the time the British had reached the Faizabad Road, the defenders of Lucknow had suffered their first major strategic defeat.

Outram then advanced towards the Badshah Bagh palace, on the north bank, where Lucknow University stands today. He began firing across the river, towards the palaces that lined the south bank. He also captured the two fixed bridges on the river, the Stone Bridge and the Iron Bridge. The Iron Bridge had been mined, but the mine failed to explode, and the breastwork, which had been laid across it, was dismantled by British engineers.

Meanwhile, Sir Colin Campbell had crossed the Haider Canal, over a temporary wooden bridge that the engineers put up, and he advanced along the main street, Hazratganj. There was huge resistance here as he captured the Begam Kothi Palace which was held by an estimated 5,000 Indian troops.20 By 15 March 1858, Campbell had captured the symbolic heart of Lucknow, the Qaisarbagh Palace and Hazrat Mahal and young Birjis Qadr, the boy King, were forced to flee. This was almost the end of the fighting. The religious leader Maulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah retreated to one of the most sacred sites in the old city, the Dargah Hazrat Abbas, in Kashmiri Mohalla. He was pursued by the British, and although the townspeople tried to stop the British and the Gurkha troops by throwing bricks down from the roof tops, they couldn’t succeed. The capture of Lucknow was followed by days of looting, particularly in the Qaisarbagh Palaces, and it is estimated, in sterling, that over a hundred and fifteen million pounds worth of goods were destroyed or stolen and carried back to England and Nepal.

So why did the uprising fail in Lucknow, in spite of the bravery of the sepoys and their supporters? There are several reasons.

Firstly, lack of unity among the leaders of the revolutionary junta, in particular arguments between Hazrat Mahal and Maulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah. These arguments were so serious that in January 1858, three months before the British retook the city, over a hundred people were killed in factional fighting near the north gate of the Qaisarbagh Palace.21 Energy that should have gone towards fighting the British was wasted in fighting each other. It was also a mistake to appoint young Birjis Qadr as Commander of Awadh, instead of a more experienced man like Barhat Ahmed, who had defeated Henry Lawrence in the preliminary skirmish at Chinhat, before the siege of the Residency began.

Secondly, there was lack of money, particularly money to pay the sepoys, and there was resentment among the sepoys themselves, because there were different rates of pay for the men who came from Delhi to fight, and the men from Awadh.

Thirdly, although some of the taluqdars did support the uprising, there were others who had invested their money in East India Company bonds and it was obviously not in their interest that the British should loose. Also, because the revolt continued for almost a year, the rajas and taluqdars who had originally come into Lucknow in May 1857 had to go back to their districts to supervise the collection of the land revenue.22 In November 1857, when the British evacuated the Residency, there were nearly 100,000 fighting men in Lucknow, but by March 1858 there were only 36,000. On the other hand, the British troops, strengthened by the Nepalese Gurkhas, numbered nearly 58,000 so there was a great disparity in the numbers of the two armies.

The fourth point is that for some reason the defenders of Lucknow did not think that the British attack would come from the north of the city, so they had not put up any barricades on the north bank of the river.

The Indian troops didn’t have a guaranteed supply of ammunition. They had a number of cannons but they didn’t always have cannon balls, so they had to improvise. Sometimes they would use wooden beams, usually made of teak, which were trimmed to fit the barrels. And there was no guarantee of a continued supply of satisfactory ammunition and arms either, which is why people had to improvise and use whatever they had.

Lastly, the siege of the British Residency - although it became an epic story in the history of the British Empire, in fact was not strategically important. There was no military advantage in capturing the Residency compound, other than a symbolic one. On the other hand, if the fighting men in Awadh had marched rapidly to Delhi to join Bahadur Shah in May 1857, then I think the whole history of the uprising could have been very different.


1.  Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow, Oxford University Press, Delhi 2000, p 144.
2.  Roshan Taqui, Lucknow 1857 (The Two Wars of Lucknow : The Dusk of an Era) New Royal Book Co, Lucknow 2001, p 29.
3.  Ibid, p 30.
4.  Llewellyn-Jones, op cit p 135.
5.  Llewellyn-Jones, op cit p 136. Sir James Outram, the first Chief Commissioner, warned as early as June 1856 that 'the spirit of dissatisfaction evinced by this large body of armed men, now let loose upon the country to the number of 30,000 is a very serious consideration'.
6.  John Fraser, 'Europeans who sided with the Mutineers in India 1857-9: The Christian Bandsmen of the Native Infantry Regiments' Journal of the Society for Army Historicla Research 79 (2001) pp 119-30 and  'More Europeans who sided with the Mutineers in India 1857-9' Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 80 (2002), pp 110-127.
7.  William Elihu Knighton, Jan's Story or The Private Life of an Eastern Queen, London, 1865 p 13.
8.  Taqui, op. cit, p 53.
9.  Llewellyn-Jones, op. cit, p 138.
10.  ibid, pp 141-2.
11.  Taqui, op.cit, p 53 & p 66.
12.  Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Awadh in Revolt 1857-1858 A Study of Popular Resistance (new edition) Permanent Black, Delhi 2001 p 57.
13.  ibid, p 81.
14.  Taqui, op. cit, p 39.
15.  ibid, pp 59-60.
16.  ibid, p 150.
17.  Llewellyn-Jones, op. cit, p 116.
18.  Taqui, op. cit, pp 109/110.
19.  Sir James Hope Grant, quoted by Roshan Taqui, op. cit, p 217.
20.  William Forbes-Mitchell, Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny 1857-59, London 1910 reprinted Asian Educational Services 2002 p 215 of the 2002 edition.
21.  Taqui, op cit, p 227.
22.  ibid, p 169.

Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones is Honorary Secretary of British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA).

From Deccan Chronicle 21 May 2006 in Sunday chronicle section.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Bengal did little in 1857 mutiny
Itihaas: By Akhilesh Mithal

March 29 and May 10, 2007, will mark the 150th anniversary of the 1857 uprising of the Indians against the British rule, which some also refer to as the First War of Indian Independence.

<b>This revolt was confined to areas where regiments of the Bengal Army were stationed. It was put down almost immediately in Lahore and the Punjab while in Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, it lasted longer and in some places it continued well into 1858.</b> Indians had no trained generals to work out the strategy, and valour by itself does not win wars.

The British used terror as a weapon to overcome resistance and ensure supine, unquestioning submission to their rule. Village after village lying en route of their vengeful army was surrounded by snipers and set on fire. The terrified men, women and children fleeing the fire were subjected to bird-shot and the activity was looked upon as a sport and called “peppering the nigger”.

All adult males surrendering were questioned by kangaroo courts and those suspected of disaffection by their mere look, were sentenced to death and strung from the tallest trees in village squares, the arterial roads and strict orders issued that the bodies not to be taken down, but left to rot, disintegrate and serve as food for birds of prey when hung, and dogs when the dismembered limbs fell on the ground.

There are no figures available for the civilian casualties on the losing (Indian) side. <b>It would be safe to assume that between a million and two million Indians, all men, women and children, were mowed down in the British march from Punjab in Lahore to Arrah in Bihar. </b>

The terror struck in the hearts of Indians by the mere appearance of a white face remained a potent force for generations. <b>No Indian chose 1857 as a subject for study during the ninety years extension obtained by the British victory. By the time Independence came (1947), folk memory had blurred to the point of obliteration and whatever the British wrote about the Great Uprising became gospel truth.</b>

Indian historians of the 19th and 20th century have not served 1857 well. <b>19th century India was dominated by Bengal. During the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th, it was said that “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.”</b>

This was because the first lot of people to become familiar with the English language and the new style of writing history were the people of Bengal. <b>Bengalis did not relate to 1957 as they had no role to play in the uprising. On the contrary, some new zamindars created by the British to provide a group of loyalists to their rule held celebrations to felicitate the East India Company on their victories over the rebels.</b>

In 1857, Bengal was still in the collaborative mode. <b>The role model for the educated upwardly-mobile Bengali was Rajah Durlabhram Mahindra (Rai Durlabh), scion of an old Bengal family which was the claiming descent from one of the original five Kayasthas to migrate from Kannauj in the U.P. to Gaur in Bengal during the reign of Lakhan Sen.</b> This worthy member of the Bengali kayasthas was born in 1710 in a family known for its proximity to the court of Bengal sultans. His own career started in the Orissa administration of Alivardi Khan. Rai Durlabh rose steadily in service and when Alivardi Kahan died, he was an army commander with revenue responsibilities in the Diwani administration. Along with Mir Ja’afar, Durlabh Rai also took an oath of remaining loyal to the young Sirajuddowlah at Alivardi’s deathbed.

Soon thereafter, he appears to have realised that his best bet was to back the British. <b>He was instrumental in subverting the loyalty of Mir Ja’afar. At Plassey (23rd June, 1757) neither Durlabh nor Mir Ja’afar fired a single shot for their master against the forces of the East India Company led by Robert Clive.</b>

Mir Ja’afar replaced Sirajuddowlah and was, in due course, himself dethroned and replaced by Mir Qasim. In startling contrast, Durlabhram who drafted the application, made to the Emperor in Delhi for the grant of Diwani to the East India Company, remained in power until his death in 1770.

<b>Bengal was to rise against the British only at the end of the 19th century when people like Khudiram Bose restored the glory of Bengal idealism by sacrificing their lives. Perhaps an official observance of Mangal Pandey’s uprising in March 2007 by the state, will bring Bengal closer to the rest of India and the history of 1857.</b>

But in fairness a lot of Bengal Army regiments were disbanded. Maybe they had soldiers from Bihar and UP in them. Also note the comment about generalship and role of Bengali historians in wrtiign about the 1857 War of independence.
for me the most striking thing about the whole british presence in india was that it was precisely twice that the english were shaken up - once when they got stick during the revolt of 57, and later when they got stick from the bengal nationalist movement (in general) and the INA (in particular).

stick is the only thing that's ever worked with colonials. a little stick in dien bien phu (or whatever is the name) is all it took vietnam to send france packing.

its sad that the revolt of 57 was a localised affair. else we may have become free then and there.
so a fight for independence was not the real reason?>?

a fight for hinduism was??

the revolt of 57 was more a fight against christian missionaries than against british colonialists?? why, thats news to me!!
<!--QuoteBegin-G.Subramaniam+Jul 12 2004, 07:18 AM-->QUOTE(G.Subramaniam @ Jul 12 2004, 07:18 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Sita Ram Goel etc have the opposite view
It was a muslim effort to reestablish the Mughal empire with the help of foolish hindus

i have also read about this somewhere.

that the muslims didnt co-operate at all in the mutiny and instead tried to re-establish a mughal style rule. the sindhias did cooperate however - with the poms.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->so a fight for independence was not the real reason?>?

a fight for hinduism was??

the revolt of 57 was more a fight against christian missionaries than against british colonialists?? why, thats news to me!!<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<span style='color:red'>
Fight to preserve your religion and way of life itself is freedom fight.


The concept of nation state was still nascent.

They all rallied to reinstate Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah is only because the institutional memory of the Moghul empire was wide spread(for some 300 years) . It got Muslims and Hindus together. And also could bring a united front. Only Sikhs who had recent bad memories of Moghul rules did not agree to the reinstallment and decided British was less worse.

But ulimately The Hindus and Sikhs knew that they had to kick out both the colonizers anyways

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