The Nawab himself was an accomplished poet, playwright and a patron of the fine arts. He became the Nawab in 1822 and was the 10th and final ruler of the Princely state of Awadh. The Nawab could not rule his kingdom (part of the present state - UP) freely as it had been a British Protectorate since May 1816. Besides being a good administrator, he had a good rapport with the British officials. However, the wily British wanted to take over rich Awadh by hook or crook using some pretext. Tagging the ruler as a poor administrator, the British annexed the state on the 13th of February 1856 without any bloodshed invoking the Doctrine of Lapse introduced by Lord Dalhousie. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta where he spent rest of his life. The Nawabi court of Awadh passed in the hands of his son Prince Brijis Qadar with Begum Hazrat Mahal as the guardian.
The state of Awadh played a crucial role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Wajid Ali Shah ’s queen Hzarat Mahal and their son joined hands with the rebels. The British lost control of the kingdom for a brief period but later regained in 18 months after the arrival of reinforcement troops from other places.
After the first war of Independence in 1857,like Meerut, Delhi, Kanpur (Cawnpore) and Gwalior, Lucknow became an important center of rebellion against the unruly British officials who not only discriminated against the Indians but also exploited their fertile lands and annexed various kingdoms cunningly. They also cheated the Zamindars, landlords and the peasants. Here, the rebels both Hindus and Muslims fought against the British under the leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal who headed the rebels after her husband, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was exiled in 1856.
Lucknow city assumed foremost importance in the ongoing Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The British tried hard and made several attempts to storm and capture the state. Thanks to the valor of the native fighters who vigorously defeated every move made by the British. Further, the palace was well fortified by Hazrat Mahal. Sir Colin Campbell along with his band of the trusted battalion, including the still-loyal Punjab Rifles and the Sikh Regiment, had started out to recover the Lucknow Residency twice before. But, he succeeded partially. In order to strengthen the British forces at Lucknow and to recapture the Residency Gen. Havelock's men, who returned to Cawnpore after victory at Bithor (16 August), from here made the final advance. The reinforcement army from Cawnpore to Lucknow began their journey on 18 September, in spite acts of insubordination, Havelock gave his rival a brigade command. The attack was delayed for various reasons and on the 25th, he led the great attack on Lucknow itself. He fought furiously pushing the troop forward and Brig. Gen. Neil was killed in action and was shot in the head at Khas Bazaar, Lucknow on 25 September 1857.
|Kasierbagh palace, Lucknow. .buzzntravel.com|
The the siege at Lucknow taught a lesson to the British administration. It had become clear to the British military that structures such as palace complexes such as Kaiserbagh, places of worship - mosques, temples and big kothis must be seized and pulled down because the future rebels/Indian forces could use them as safe havens. In this regard, a letter from the Secretary of the Chief Commission to the Commissioner of Oudh clearly stated that, ” It is not by an indiscriminate massacre of the wretched sepoys that we should avenge our kindred.” ... They should totally destroy the city of Lucknow so that the “mutineers were taught a lesson”. Only those buildings should be preserved, ........“as may be requisite for our own military or other purposes. No mosque- no temple should be spared.” Yet another letter pointed out....... “As to Buildings in Lucknow, the only one that I think it might be well to level to the Ground is the Kaiserbagh as that is the palace where our chief’ energies have resided during the rebellion.” Thus judgement was taken over the fate of death Kaiserbagh palace. Colonel Robert Napier of the Bengal Engineers was given the task of reshaping Lucknow. In his prepared document known as the Memorandum on the Military Occupation of the City of Lucknow,’ dated 26 March 1858, he proposed to open broad streets through the city and to demolish any enclosures not required for military purposes. Anything that came in the path of the proposed road was demolished. As a result, Kaiserbagh was slowly demolished and had wide streets passing through its main courtyards.
Note: The reference - ''The journey through Kaiserbagh''given below was quite useful in writing this post and the earlier one on Kaiserbagh palace, Lucknow.
Brig. gen. James rge Smith Neill, a Scottish military officer with vast experience was reviled as the "Butcher of Allahabad" by the Indians. Lots of Indians are not aware of the EIC's army officer was behind the killing of thousands of Indians during the Sepoy Mutiny. At back home he was hailed as a great hero in spite of his large scale man slaughter. For his patriotic duty in India during the 1857 rebellion, Brig. Gen. neil got a special appointment - Aide-De-camp to none other than the Queen of England.
The British rulers under the Crown then chose to honor him by erecting a statue of him on arterial Mount Road in (then) Madras in 1860. It was removed in the 1960s after public protest. One man from the local museum said, ''who wanted a statue of a Scottish man who committed massacres against Indians on our own soil?''.