Phillip Mason of the ICS, attributes the rising of 1857, partly to the social change and threat to the Brahamanic order brought about by the British conquest, partly to the policies of Lord Dalhousie’s Doctrine of lapse and the intrinsic nature of the Native infantry. He writes, “In almost every case of mutiny, it was possible to trace the same pattern. There were usually two predisposing factors and then some immediate occasion, which might be trivial””. The spark was provided by the use of the greased cartridges in the new Enfield rifles, the mutiny had begun in Barrackpore and like wild fire spread through Behar, the ‘United Provinces’, the ‘Central Provinces’, Delhi, Ambala, Lahore & Nowshera.
Your mutiny memorial tour begins in Delhi, with your arrival & transfer to Hotel Imperial. The Imperial was built in 1931 by Blomfield & inaugurated by Lord Wellingdon, the hotel is known for it’s contemporary colonial design, unique artefacts & paintings. The Imperial has the largest collection on display of land war gallantry awards in India, apart from a sizeable record of orders and decorations bestowed by the King, the Emperor of India, as an honour to the local Maharajas and ruling Princes of different states of India.

Courtesy: The Last Empire – Sikh Cavalry with Lt. Meacham & station officer Anderson at Lucknow, March 1858.
Picture by Felice A. Beato

However, you could also begin your journey in a quiet boutique guesthouse in Delhi, ideal for those not partial to large luxury hotels.

Your site seeing destinations in Delhi takes you to all the monuments related to the uprising of 1857, the battle field of Badli-Ki-Serai, the ridge, Kashmiri Gate, The Red Fort, James Skinners church, General Nicolson’s cemetery, the victory memorial & the Rajpur cemetery, resting place to about 1000 British troops, who gave their best on the field of battle & the Humayun Tomb, where the Mughal princes were taken by William Hodson.

Meerut (Mirath) lies 40 miles north east of Delhi and one of the strongest of cantonments , a regiment of British Cavalry, a battalion of infantry & riflemen; your next site seeing destination. Perhaps a decisive action, for a ‘blow in time saves nine’ could have nipped the rising in the bud. You shall be visiting the St. John’s church (c.1819) the oldest in northern India, scene of heavy fighting; the nearby cemetery where rest in peace John McNabb, the young lieutenant who correctly assessed the mood of sepoys & reported to the command. The Parade Ground where 85 sepoys of NI were court martialled; Residence of Carmichael Smyth, the commandant of the 3rd light Cavalry; the British & Indian Cantonments, where the conflagration actually started. Return to Delhi.

The tour next takes you through Agra Fort, where the officers, civilians, women & children remained garrisoned before arrival of the relief.

And since you are in that neck of the woods, a morning visit to the Taj Mahal is not too out of place, for, after the return to normalcy many a parties were held under the moonlit night on it’s marble plinth, restored by Lord Curzon in the year 1905!

Your next port of call is Gwalior & Jhansi, home to the brave Rani, who lost her kingdom to Dalhousie’s doctrine. You shall visit the Queen’s Palace; the Jockna Baug & the Jhansi Fort.

Overnight at Orchha on the banks of the Betwa river.

Your next destination is Cawnpore (Kanpur), regrettably, associated with the darkest deeds of the mutiny where British men, women & children were massacred, the Satichaura Ghats, which impelled the British to show no mercy when the town was retaken by Major Renaud, with instructions…”The villages of Mubgoon and neighbourhood to be attacked and destroyed; slaughter all men; take no prisoners…Futtehpore to be promptly attacked, the Pathan quarters to be destroyed, all in it killed; in fact make a signal example of this place”! You shall visit the All Saints memorial church at Wheelers entrenchment, the Massacre Ghats, the Bibighur & the place where the Bridge of Boats existed.

The epic siege and relief of Lucknow, lies 60 miles to the east & your next destination. You shall however, first pay your homage to General Havelock who lies buried some 5 miles short of Lucknow. You shall visit the Burra Immambara, The Machhi Bhawan, Shah Najaf a rebel stronghold, The Secunder Bagh. You shall also visit The Le Martinier Boys School & pay your homage to Gen. Claude Martin. William Hodson lies buried nearby at Dilkusha. To end an interesting day, you shall today visit the well preserved British Residency.

Finally, after a short flight you shall arrive in Calcutta, where it all started in the Brahmin dominated 34th & 19th NI, stationed at Barrack pore & Behrampur. You shall sail to Barrack Pore and visit the cantonment, the Lat Bagaan (Viceroys garden), before driving back on India’s oldest metalled road, the Barrackpore Trunk Road. You shall visit the Victoria Memorial, St. John’s church, the Park street cemetery, past Ochtorlony’s column at the maidan, Chowringhee & the writers building.

You could further opt for an extension tour to Kanha, the area made famous by Dunbar Brander, as an officer of the Imperial Forest Service, for a few nights at the Flame of the Forest, located on the river Banjaar!

Tentative Itinerary
Day Destination / route Hotel
1 – 2 Fly London >> Delhi Overnight flight
2 – 4 Delhi (2n) Imperial or Boutique Guesthouse
4 – 5 Delhi >> Meerut >> Delhi (1n) The Claridges
5 – 7 Agra (2n) Taj Gateway
7 – 8 Gwalior (1n) Taj Usha Kiran
8 – 9 Orchha via Jhansi (1n) Amar Mahal
9 – 11 Kanpur (2n) Landmark
11 – 13 Lucknow (2n) Taj Residency
13 – 15 Fly Calcutta (2n) Oberois Grand

Post script: If any of your honourable ancestors took part in the campaign of 1857 – 58, we shall be happy to research and refocus.

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