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Sikandar Bagh, Lucknow & Interior of Sikandar Bagh

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December 31, 1856
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Mirza Firuz Shah
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Scenery and Places
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Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857

Sikandar Bagh, Lucknow & Interior of Sikandar Bagh

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DESCRIPTION

Sikandar Bagh (Hindi: सिकन्दर बाग़, Urdu: سِکندر باغ‎), formerly known by the British as Sikunder/Sikandra/Secundra Bagh, is a villa and garden enclosed by a fortified wall, with loopholes, gateway and corner bastions, approx. 150 yards square, c. 4.5 acres (1.8 ha), located in the city of Lucknow, Oudh, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by the last Nawab of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah (1822–1887), as a summer residence. The name of the villa signifies '"Garden of Sikandar", perhaps after Alexander the Great, whose name lives on in this form in these parts (compare Alexandria, Egypt, in Arabic الإسكندرية Al-Iskandariya), or perhaps after Sikandar Mahal Begum, the Nawab's favourite wife. It was stormed in 1857 by the British during the Indian Rebellion and witnessed within its walls the slaughter of all 2,200 sepoy mutineers who had made it a stronghold during their Siege of Lucknow. The site now houses the National Botanical Research Institute of India.


Origin


The garden was laid out in about 1800 as a royal garden by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. It was later improved upon by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last native ruler of Oudh, during the first half of the 19th century, who used it as his summer villa. The garden has a small pavilion in the middle, which was likely the scene of innumerable performances of the Ras-lilas, and Kathak dances, music and poetic 'mehfils' and other cultural activities which the last Nawab had a great appreciation for, indeed possibly too great a one as history has judged him to have been over-fond of his leisure interests.


Stormed in Indian Rebellion


During the Indian Rebellion, the Sikander Bagh was used as one of many strongholds of sepoy mutineers during their siege of the British Residency in Lucknow. It stood in the way of the Commander-in-Chief Sir Colin Campbell's planned route to relieve the besieged Residency.


On the morning of 16 November 1857, whilst passing by its eastern side in a southerly direction, in a sunken lane, the British force was surprised and stopped in its tracks by overwhelmingly heavy fire coming from the Sikander Bagh. A staff officer remarked to a comrade "If these fellows allow one of us to get out of this cul-de-sac alive, they deserve every one of them to be hanged". The cavalry were jammed together, unable to advance, and the high banks on either side seemed to offer an impassable barrier to artillery.

 

However Blunt of the Bengal Horse Artillery led his troop and "conquering the impossible", brought them with their guns into an open space to the east of the Sikandar Bagh, galloping through enemy fire. Here he unlimbered with remarkable coolness and self-possession. The six guns opened fire on the Sikandar Bagh. Sappers and miners demolished part of the earth banks which allowing two 18-pounder heavy guns of Travers's battery of the Artillery Brigade to be brought up out of the lane. After half an hour of bombardment from a range of only 80 yd (73 m), an aperture was created in the south-east angle of the wall in a bricked-up doorway, "an ugly blind hole", about 3 ft (0.91 m) square and 3 ft (0.91 m) off the ground. Although only large enough to admit a single man with difficulty it was immediately rushed under heavy fire by some of the 93rd Highlanders and some men of the 4th Punjab Infantry (4th P.I.) under Lieutenant McQueen, 14 managing to enter the Sikaddar Bagh.


At the same time the rest of the 4th P.I. under Lieutenant Paul assaulted the gateway. The gate was in the process of being closed by the mutineers, when Subadar Mukarab Khan, 4th P.I., a Pathan of Bajaur, one of the leading men of the attack, thrust his left arm and shield between its folds, thus preventing it being shut and barred. Though his left arm was wounded, he still managed to keep his shield between the folds by holding it with his right hand until the door was forced. This took place whilst Lt. McQueen's party and some of the Highlanders, who had entered by the breach, came from the rear of the many defenders of the gateway. After a long hand-to-hand struggle the British forced their way in greater numbers into the Sikandar Bagh through the gate, and through the breach which had been enlarged by the sappers. Slowly forced back, the main body of about 2,000 mutineers took refuge in a large 2-storied building and the high-walled enclosure behind it. The 2 doors to the enclosure were assaulted by the 4th P.I. Lt. McQueen led the assault against the right gate, and Lt. Willoughby tackled the left. The defenders had expected an attack from the opposite quarter and had bricked up the door to their rear and in doing so blocked their retreat. After a long struggle they were all slain, no quarter being given. With cries such as "Cawnpore! You bloody murderers", it was clear that the British attackers blamed these mutineers for the slaughter of European civilians earlier in the Mutiny, including women and children, particularly during the Siege of Cawnpore, which caused outrage throughout British India and in Britain. Lord Roberts who witnessed the assault later recalled: "'Inch by inch they were forced back to the pavilion, and into the space between it and the north wall, where they were all shot or bayoneted. There they lay in a heap as high as my head, a heaving, surging mass of dead and dying inextricably entangled. It was a sickening site, one of those which even in the excitement of battle and the flush of victory, make one feel strongly what a horrible side there is to war. The wounded men could not get clear of their dead comrades, however great their struggles, and those near the top of this ghastly pile vented their rage and determination on every British officer who approached, by showering upon him abuse of the foulest description".


Those killed or wounded during the assault included 9 officers and 90 men of the 93rd Highlanders, and 3 officers and 69 men from the 4th Punjabi Infantry.


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Ismail Mazari

average rating is null out of 5

Very good information.

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