Saturday, 8 September 2018

Destruction of Kaiserbagh palace, Lucknow by the British during the 1857 Indian rebellion

Kasierbagh Palace, Lucknow, destroyed by the British forces adoak.com
Among the three popular palaces built by the Nawabs of Awadh at Lucknow (now the capital of Utter Pradesh) - Daulat Khana palace complex, Chattar Manzil Palace and the Kaiserbagh palace (also known as Qaiserbagh) built by built by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah the latter is an elaborate and impressive one. Close to the Chatter Manzil palace, the Nawab built the complex with a huge garden after he had ascended the throne to suit his needs. He wanted his palace to be a 'Paradise On Earth'. The palace had a space for encouraging fine arts, music, drama and poetry.
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. 


Since the British casualties were high the East India company ordered the demolition of Kaiserbagh  palace as it was the stronghold of the rebels.  Many of the  amazing structures were either pulled down or severely damaged. The southern and northern walls of the complex, the independent structures within the Kaiserbagh court, the enclosures of the tombs, Chaulakhi, and the King’s residential quarters were turned into dust and rubble. The palace complex was not fortified, but because of thick-walled  enclosures, narrow and labyrinthine streets, the British troops had a tough time and could not  penetrable to go into the main palace. After the long siege, with a view to flushing out the rebels in the palace complex, the British decided to destroy many parts of the Kaiserbagh palace including  big kothis, etc. They did not spare the mosques and temples either. The demolition and destruction of the beautiful Kaiserbagh palace  is a poignant part of British India history.
Kaiserbagh Palace Complex, Lucknow, India Tourist Information
Kasierbagh palace, Lucknow. .buzzntravel.com
When the EIC took over the Awadh kingdom and Kaisebagh, the British soldiers went crazy to loot the valuables.  W.H. Russell’s vivid description of the capture of Kaiserbagh shows that British soldiers ran amok, smashing doors and breaking into rooms in search of portable loot.....  It was the lousy attitude of the higher-up  British officials that destroyed the palace and the city of Lucknow, and not the frenzied British foot soldiers. They could find nothing but  the jade bowls, marble statues and furniture. They  were so big and heavy, they could not take possession of them. What was once an impressive palace was in shambles. It was at Sher Darwaza, the notorious  Brig. Gen. Neil was killed by the rebels, hence the gate goes by the name of Neil gate. To access the  Chattar Manzil complex one has to  pass through the Sher Darwaza. Between the Chattar Manzil palace and the Kaiserbagh  there was was another court. This housed the tombs of Nawab Sadat Ali Khan and his Begum Khrushidzadi and they are stll present but their elaborate enclosures and gates are gone for ever. The graves of the family members of the Nawab are housed within the tombs. The old Kaisebagh The old Kaisebagh palace extends  between the Chattar Manzil to the Tarawali Kothi in the north, and to the Roshan-ud-Daula kothi and Chaulakhi kothi in the south. Now, one can see the remnants of the old grand palace - thet bore witness to the English company's atrocities and the EIC officials dishonesty and corrupt practices. 

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. 

Tit-bits
James George  Neill, killed 1000 plus natives,but, a hero in England.en.wikipedia.org

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?''. 

https://www.tornosindia.com/a-journey-through-kaiserbagh
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2016/08/james-george-smith-neill-butcher-of.html
https://www.indianetzone.com/34/effects_siege_lucknow_indian_sepoy_mutiny.html