The primary sites of events linked to the events as they occurred at Meerut on the evening of 10th May, 1857, occurred around a localized area extending from Sadar Bazaar upto the City Railway Station. A Kranti Path or walking footpath covering the sites of major events as they occurred on that fateful day has been established, covering a distance of 4.4 km. It begins at Shaheed Smarak and ends there, taking anyone who follows it by foot or bicycle to the sites of major events, 21 bilingual stone markers being present as a guide at these historical sites. The project has been undertaken by the Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh. These photographs are of my inspection of the work being undertaken on 4th of February, 2023.
The Jat village of Johri had taken an active part in the battles that were fought in lands lying between the Yamuna and Hindon on 17th July, 1857. The retreating British force under Major Williams was very worried not to wake up the sleeping residents of the village while withdrawing from Baraut town towards Sardhana, something which Dunlop mentions in his account thus ‘I then moved on considerably in advance, passing in dead silence the rebel village of Johwree (Johri).’
A memorial was established at Johri to commemorate the brave sacrifice of the martyrs of the village which was inaugurated by
Book titled '1857 ...Living History!' authored by Dr. Amit Pathak was released on the 14th of December, 2009 by the famous academic and bureaucrat Mr. T. N. Chaturvedi.
The session was chaired by my guide Lt. Gen. (Retd) Mathew Thomas and was conducted my Sq. Ldr. (Retd) Rana T.S. Chhina.
The lecture was on various aspects of the 900 year oral rendition of Alha which is sung in large tracts of northern and central India, our focus being the rendition which was sung in Western Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and related parts of Haryana in one of the local dialects of this region.
Over and above the task of preserving this nearly lost folk tradition, the task of the fellowship project is to study and analyse various aspects of history, military traditions, social interaction and linguistic information stored within this extremely important source of Indian oral history.
The Western Uttar Pradesh rendition of Alha was nearly lost for the past 15 years. In 2012 and 2013 we could find only one person, Mr. Vinod Kumar, who could sing it in its original format. This was the first ever complete live performance of this dead art form after all these years at USI, New Delhi, held on 27th November 2013.
My assistant, Sanjeev Kumar worked tirelessly and organized a practice session of a few days at his village near Parikshitgarh before this final performance over a very august gathering.
Alha is sung in various languages, especially Bundeli, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Kannauji etc. There was a separate rendition of Alha which was sung in one of the languages of Western Uttar Pradesh and was an important part of culture of West UP, Delhi and related parts of Haryana. People completely stopped singing this rendition for the past few years and it became one of the many aspects of local culture which are vanishing because of rapid urbanization and influx of mass media.
Out of the 52 original stories of Alha, today only 33 survive in West UP, the rest having been lost forever. We are happy that whatever survives has been recorded and preserved and is being subjected to a proper scientific study through a fellowship program of United Service Institution of India.
The Alha rendition originated between 1165 and 1192 AD and is a contemporary of another famous rendition, the Prithviraj Raso. Though the later got partly adapted into authoritative Indian history because it was indirectly linked to the advent of the Delhi Sultanate, the Alha rendition remained mostly neglected. The Alha rendition is based on the adversarial relationship between the Chandel and Banafar Rajputs of what was later called Bundelkhand on the one hand and Prithviraj Chauhan of Delhi on the other.
He was a follower of the Chisti sect of the Sufis and was a disciple of the famous Chisti saint Nasiruddin Shah Chirag Dehelvi.
Sufi Badruddin Shah was born in Sirsalgarh, Dist. Baghpat in 1236. He travelled to Delhi where he was ordained in the great tradition of Sufis before finally coming and settling a Barnawa, also presently in Dist. Baghpat where he continued to give sermons. He died in 1343 and was buried in Barnawa itself where the site of his burial with time evolved into one of the most important Sufi centers of this region.
The primary Sufi shrine of Barnawa lies within the village which exits on the northern mound (page ). Here there are many buildings of the Sultanate as well as later periods, the most important being the shrine proper and an old Mosque adjoining it. Within the shrine there exists an ancient Kuran which has calligraphy in gold over all its pages.
Over the southern mound there exit a few other ancient buildings, probably from the times of the great Sufi himself.
Presently every year an urs and festival is held at the main shrine of Sufi Badruddin and quawals from all over Western Uttar Pradesh come and render quawalis in memory of the great saint, including the original renditions of Amir Khusro, a tradition which is nearly 800 years old.
The continued suffering for generations of those who fought against the British in 1857 in our part of India is best illustrated by the plight of the descendants of a revolutionary as well as their village Ukhulpura near Meerut. Narpat Singh, a revolutionary of this village, led Rajputs and Ranghars in an attack on Sardhana tehsil and freed his region from British rule for nearly 2 months. He died in a direct confrontation with a British military force which attacked his village on the 22nd of July, 1857. All those who fought with him died in true Rajput tradition. The British then confiscated the property of the village and this was auctioned off as a punishment. His descendants are still very poor and when we visited them on 22-07-2012, they were talking of the poor harvest this year, no rains and other miseries of an Indian farmer. It was a sad day for us ....
On 22 July, 2011, for the first time since 1947, a public program was organised at Ukhulpura in memory of the martyrdom of Narpat Singh. Descendants of other freedom struggle villages (Kranti Gramsi) also came to Ukhulpura to participate in the program.
The great sacrifice of Narpat Singh had gone unsung for nearly 150 years and his story was lost in time (chapter ). A survey of the village of Ukhulpura was undertaken in 2011 by the author, Dr. K. K. Sharma, Maj. Himanshu and Dr. Manoj Kumar Gautam. It was found that Ukhulpura, which had taken up the lead in Sardhana region during the Great Uprising of 1857 was today a majhra or small associated village of the larger village of Rardhana. The descendents of Narpat Singh still lived here and they informed that all their property was confiscated by the British colonial authorities after 1857 and sold off to a merchant of Khatauli. It was only after the implementation of the Zamindari Act that some of their land had come back to them, for the intervening time they had lived in abject poverty. Part of the family had migrated to other places because of economic deprivation in the post-1857 period, a punishment that they received for fighting for India. Sadly, no person from the government or non-government agencies had ever visited Ukhulpura since independence.
The survey team was sad to know that the original haveli or bungalow of Narpat Singh had only recently been brought down for the construction of a new building. A well exists in the village which appeared to be quite old and of the period of the Uprising.
Subsequently, a program was organized in the village in memory of the revolutionaries on the 22nd of July, 2011 and a memorial stone with the history of the village inaugurated.
This is a village close to the famous village Bijraul of Baba Shah Mull. Half of this village which today is called `Bagi Patti(rebel part) joined the forces with Shah Mull during the battles that took place in Baraut and around. Even after the death of Shah Mull, this village continued to be one of the centers of revolutionary activity.
After the demise of the Uprising the families which participated were punished and all their lands were confiscated by the British administration. Even today most families of the Bagi Patti part of the village are in service and own relatively very less land which they could buy back from other landowners in subsequent years. Sadly as in all other villages linked to the Great Uprising, no government or non-government agency every visited this village since 1947.
In 2011 a program was organized within the compound of a temple in the Bagi Patti of this village in memory of the martyrs in which many political as well as non-political leaders participated. A stone marker was also inaugurated at this village on that day with the history of the uprising itched over it.
This project was undertaken by the founders. Our guides and teachers have always been Dr. S. K. Mittal and Dr. K. K. Sharma. Mr. Manoj Kumar Gautam and Mrs. Rakesh Chauhan accompanied us on many of these trips and Mr. Sachin Kumar was our assistant.
Through the length and breadth of Western Uttar Pradesh lie village after village that participated in the Great Uprising of 1857. The whole region was boiling against colonial rule and the battles went on for more than a year before peace reigned again on these green fertile lands, leading finally to the demise of the East India Company. This story is written in the blood of thousands and thousands of simple peasants who took on the might of the greatest empire earth has ever known with the simplest of weapons spears, swords and shields, the most powerful weapon in their possession being a matchlock. With these weapons they took on the might of the company and crown regiments which were armed with the first true rifle of the armed forces the Enfield Rifle and military artillery. Most of these European infantry regiments were supported in their operations by crown cavalry regiments as well as corps of mounted volunteers.
Memories of those battles our present all through these lands even today. Some of these memories have been retained as stories of the great deeds of forefathers, some through fears like the fear of the Bar (Fig) tree.
A working seminar on Intangible Cultural Heritage was organised at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi on 4th and 5th of May, 2013. The two cultural regions taken up as a pilot project were Western Uttar Pradesh and Ladakh. Our group represented Western UP.
At the Seminar we showcased our work where we have documented various cultural aspects of North - Western Uttar Pradesh including its language, food, folk music, dress, folk festivals of the region as well as continuing aspects of Mughal and British heritage at Meerut etc. The culture of West UP is as different from the rest of the state as that of Kuch in Gujarat and Darjeeling in West Bengal.
We had five presentations lasting nearly 3 hours
Presentation 1 Introduction to the Western UP cultural identity by Dr. Amit Pathak
Presentation 2 Ancient linkages of the Western UP cultural zone by Dr. K. K. Sharma
Presentation 3 Some salient aspects of Western UP cultural zone under study by Mr. Amit Rai Jain
Presentation 4 Mughal and Colonial identities reflected in the culture of Meerut by Mr. Sandeep Rai
Presentation 5 Cultural aspects of man bird interaction in Western UP by Dr. Rajat Bhargawa
Spent the day travelling on two wheelers through Meerut city along the location of the old fort wall which does not exist today (I obviously was the pillion rider). The wall had been dismantled by the British after the Uprising of 1857. It was a hot dusty day and we finally reached the residence of the Thairandesh Nawab family of Meerut. They are the oldest existing Nawab family of India, predating the nawabs of Awadh and Hyderabad by nearly 200 years. Nawab Muhammad Afzal Khan is nearly 85 years of age and is a mine of information of the days gone by.
With Dr. K. K. Sharma (Historian), Nawab Saab, Mr. Manoj Gautam (Curator Meerut Museum) and Steve a researcher from Germany who has a thesis topic linked to Meerut (from right to left).
The building within which the Museum is now housed had been constructed in 1997. For nearly eight years it lay vacant and unused. Through the personal intervention of the Commissioner of Meerut Division, Mr. Rajeev Kumar, proper appointments of staff and officer of the Meerut Museum was undertaken.
Mr. Manoj Kumar Gautam, who was appointed as the first full time curator of the Museum, took charge in 2005.
Due to certain limitations, initially two galleries were established in the Museum. The first was dedicated to the eruption of the War of Independence 1857, in Meerut and the second was dedicated to the events of the Great Uprising which occurred in other parts of the country. An advisory committee was set up having the following members to decide on the paintings that were to be displayed at the museum.
The artist who made the paintings and also the dioramas was Mr. Pankaj Agarwal of Delhi
The Museum was inaugurated at 5 pm on the 10th of May, 2007, by Mr. J. S. Deepak, the then Commissioner of Meerut Division, on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.
The first memorial to the Great Uprising of 1857 is in the form of a tall pillar within the Shaheed Smarak complex of Meerut, opposite the Income Tax Office.
This is one of the most imposing monuments of North Western Uttar Pradesh. It is in the form of a pillar with the `Ashok Stambh’ at its pinnacle. It was constructed in 1957, on the 100th anniversary of the War of Indian Independence 1857. It lies in the midst of a beautiful public garden.
The grounds within which the pillar exists are called Shaheed Smarak. The whole area was in an utter state of neglect for nearly 20 long years. Someone had planted Eucalyptus trees all around the complex which had grown to such a height that they had completely overshadowed the original memorial pillar. A scrub jungle had taken over the whole compound and water from the adjoining large drain which flows along the northern wall of the complex had formed a large dirt pond in the north-west corner of the compound. Criminal elements operating around the nearby Bus Stand and drug addicts had made the compound their home.
A series of meetings were undertaken by the Commissioner of Meerut Division, Mr. Rajeev Kumar and he undertook a personal survey of the Shaheed Smarak complex with all the officials of the Meerut Development Authority and other government functionaries including officers of the PWD.
Two statues were erected on the Mall Road in 2002 and 2003 to commemorate the Great Uprising of 1857.
Stone planted in memory of revolutionaries of 1857 at village Bichpura, Dist. Baghpat. The village was declared 'baghi' by the colonial authorities. The leader of the Great Uprising in this village and around was a revolutionary named Allah Dia. An interesting fact about this village is that it is primarily constituted of people of Baluch origin.
A memorial in memory of the martyrs of the Great Uprising of 1857 was inaugurated at village Johree. Many revolutionaries including their leader Sri. Jairam Singh were hanged in reprisal killings. Dunlop, who was an officer with the colonial field force which attacked Buraut on 17th - 18th July 1857 and subsequently escaped in the middle of the night due to the tough resistance given by farmer revolutionaries of the region wrote in his book 'The Khakee Risalah' about his passage through this village - 'I then moved on considerably in advance passing in dead silence through the rebel village of Johwree'.