Wednesday, April 15, 2015

1857 St John’s Church and the Sepoy’s Mutiny

St John's Church, Meerut
For one who likes to get away from the city on weekends, the only belonging I had in my possession is my camera and a will to visit Meerut for St John’s Church where the 1857 Sepoys Mutiny began, sparking off, as it were, the fight for independence for India, from the British, although it took another 90 years to get it.

Meerut is famously associated with the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British East India Company.The famous slogan "Dilli Chalo" ("Let's march to Delhi!") was first raised here. Meerut cantonment is the place where the rebellion started when Hindu and Muslim soldiers were given rifle cartridges rumoured to have a coating made of cow fat.

The revolt, which catapulted Meerut into international prominence, started in March, 1857 at Barrackpore, Bengal. Sepoy Mangal Pandey shot and missed two Europeans, failed to kill himself, and was hanged. By April, the fire of Pandey’s Uprising scorched north India and reached Meerut, the second-largest East India Company garrison. Here, Europeans and native sepoys were evenly balanced, with a little more than 2,000 on each side. The European cantonment was separated from the ‘native lines.’ Close by were Sadar Bazar and Lal Kurti Bazar, the latter named after the red uniforms worn by Company soldiers. On 24 April 1857, Meerut’s commander, Colonel Carmichael Smyth, paraded 90 Indian sepoys of the Bengal Cavalry, hired mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He ordered them to fire the new Enfield cartridges: 85 refused. The cartridges were covered with paper that had to be torn off: Muslims believed the paper was greased with pig and Hindus, with cow fat.

All 85 were stripped of their uniforms, imprisoned for ten years and shackled - this was a major humiliation. The rebels were from the 3rd cavalry: they owned their horses, and were the upper-caste elite. If they could be shackled, what could others expect from the Company?

The Imperial Gazette of India, V.17, pg 263 – 64 (see Here) from the Digital South Asia Library, states that Meerut City, which was the administrative headquarters of Meerut District, had in 1901, 62, 700 Hindus, 50, 317 Muhammadans  and more than 4,000 Christians. Of the total 78, 740, population 39, 389 lived in the Cantonment.

On Sunday, 10 May 1857, Kotwal Dhan Singh Gurjar opened the gates of the prison. These soldiers, along with other imprisoned soldiers escaped prison and declared themselves free, revolted, rushed to (Click to see St John’s Church Here ) and attacked and killed several of the British authorities to take the city in their control. This marked the beginning of a widespread revolt across northern India as these soldiers marched towards Delhi. 10 May is still celebrated as a local holiday in Meerut. Indeed, while the killing and burning happened largely in the cantonment area, the civil area people had no idea of all this, until, at 7 pm, as they came towards the St John’s Church for the evening Service, they saw burning bungalows and were alerted that something major was going on in this area. All the people who died from the European side are buried in cemetery at St John’s Church cemetery, just a few feet away from the church itself. See HERE 






MUST READ: The Mutinyin Meerut by Tanushree Poddar







In case you want to read more on Meerut, please read below.

Thank you Wikipedia 





The ancient city of Meerut at one time a part of the Maurya Empire, 322 – 185 BCE had the 6th Century Ashoka Pillar in sandstone, at Delhi ridge, next to the ‘Bara Hindu Rao Hospital’, near Delhi University, was carried to Delhi from Meerut, by Firuz Shah Tughluq (r. 1351–1388); it was later damaged in a 1713 explosion, and restored in 1867.One of Asoka’s Edits, in Brahmi, is now in the British Museum. Meerut had been a centre of Buddhism in the period of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (r. 273 BC to 232 BC.), and remains of Buddhist structures were found near the Jama Masjid in the present day city.

After the archaeological excavations at ‘Vidura-ka-tila’, a collection of several mounds named after Vidura, in 1950–52, a site 37 km (23 miles) north-east of Meerut, it was concluded to be remains of the ancient city of Hastinapur, the capital of Kauravas and Pandavas of Mahabharata, which was washed away by Ganges floods.

Meerut also contained a Harappan settlement known as Alamgirpur. It was also the easternmost settlement of the Indus valley civilisation.

In the eleventh century AD, the south-west part of the district was ruled by Har Dat, the Dor Raja of Bulandshahr who built a fort, which was long known for its strength and finds mention in Ain-i-Akbari. He was later defeated by Mahmud Ghazni in 1018. A prominent local landmark, the Jama Masjid, dates from this period and is said to have been built by Mahmud's Vizir. Shortly after its capture the city was regained by the local Hindu Raja and part of his fortifications, built for the city’s defence, survived until recent times. The first big invasion on the city came later in 1192 AD, from Mohammad Ghori, when his general Qutb-ud-din Aybak attacked the city, and a much worse fate lay ahead for the district, which came with the invasion of Timur in 1398, during which the Rajputs offered a tough resistance at the fort of Loni, where he fought the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad Tughlaq. But, eventually they were all defeated and all the 1,00,000 prisoners his army had taken in since his invasion of India were massacred, according to Timur’s own accounts in Tuzk-e-Taimuri. Thereafter he went on to attack Delhi, where he again massacred the local population, and returned to attack Meerut town, then ruled by an Afghan chief, Ilias, and took the city in two days, leading to widespread devastation, before heading north once again.

The city then came under the rule of the Mughal Empire and saw a period of relative tranquility.During the rule of Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great (r. 1556–1605), there was a mint for copper coins here.During the decline of the Mughal Empire, after the death of Aurangzeb, the city came effectively under the control of local chieftains, the Saiyids of Muzaffarnagar in the north, the Jats in the south-east, and the Gujars along the Ganges and in the south-west. The city saw Sikh and Maratha invasions in the 18th century, with interruptions by Jats and Rohillas. Walter Reinhardt, an English soldier, established himself at Sardhana and some parts of the district came under his rule. Upon his death, they came into the hands of Begum Samru During this time, the southern part of the district had remained under Maratha rule. In 1803, with the fall of Delhi, Daulat Rao Scindia of the Marathas ceded the territory to the British. The city was made headquarters of the eponymous district in 1818.

The United Provinces, in 1903

Meerut was also the venue of the controversial Meerut Conspiracy Case in March 1929, in which several trade unionists, including three Englishmen, were arrested for organising Indian-rail strike. This immediately caught attention back in England, inspired the 1932 play titled Meerut Prisoners, by Manchester street theatre group, the 'Red Megaphones', highlighting the detrimental effects of colonisation and industrialisation[29] Electricity was brought to Meerut in 1931. In the 1940s, Meerut cinemas had a "Don't Move" policy during playing of the British national anthem.[citation needed] The last session of the Indian National Congress before Indian independence was held at Victoria Park in Meerut on 26 November 1946. It was in this session that the Constitution-making committee was constituted.

The city and district also suffered from communal (Hindu-Sikh) riots in 1984 and (Hindu-Muslim) riots in 1982 and in 1987, during which the Hashimpura massacre took place, in May 1987, when personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) allegedly shot dead 42 Muslims, the trial of the case is still pending. In 2006, a fire at a consumer electronics "Brand India" fair in Victoria Park Stadium killed at least 100 people, with authorities already confirming 45 fatalities, although a specific figure on a toll was difficult to put and was predicted to be much higher.

Mythology

Meerut was founded as Mayarashtra (lit. Maya's country) by Maya, who was the father of Mandodari, Ravana's wife in the Ramayana.Meerut was the capital of Maya.Thus the city is also known as 'Ravan Ki Sasural' literally meaning "Ravana's wife's home". There is an old Chandi Devi temple in the compound of Nauchandi ground. It is believed that Ravan's wife Mandodari used to come here to worship Goddess Chandi and since then every year a fete (Nauchandi Mela) is held in sacred days of Navratri (also called days of Goddess).


     
          
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