What escapes our eye when we look at the ancient monuments of Delhi – whatever is left of them – is the bloody chapters of history that they witnessed. Passing time blurs the pain and
magnifies the glory and the personal memories of these ‘tourist spots’ become forgotten tales.
Yet today, more than a century and a half later, September reiterates what it saw in Delhi in the year 1857. What happened in Khudsia Bagh where many go for morning and evening walks
today, who sought shelter in his ancestor’s burial place and what made Khooni Darwaza bloodier in history than it already was.
On the 21st of September in 1857, the city of Delhi was ultimately declared to be captured after a siege whose earliest attempts were initiated in June. Due to its strong fortifications, it took the
army many months and forms of direct and indirect attack to capture it. Under John Nicholson’s command, a fraction of the British troops bombarded the Kashmiri gate, where a plaque can still be found commemorating the attack. Nicholson, who died the next day of the capture, was buried in a cemetery near Kashmiri gate that was also named after him.Jama Masjid and Bahadur Shah’s palace was captured on the 18th of September and the boats on the Yamuna were dominated in addition to the many forts. As the security strengthened, all the gates were seized and many rebels trapped. The movement fell apart while the king sought refuge in Humanyun’s Tomb with three of his sons. A troop lead by William Hodson convinced Bahadur Shah Zafar that the war was against the mutineers and he would be spared. However,
Hodson took as prisoners three of his sons and executed them at Khooni Darwaza.
Zafar himself, after 20 days of a trial in which he was betrayed by his confidant, was exiled to Burma, where he spent the remaining few years of his life. He penned his grief at separation from his beloved city in the following couplet:
kitna hai bad-nasib ‘zafar’ dafn ke liye
do gaz zamin bhi na mili ku-e-yar mein
How unfortunate you are, Zafar, to be buried
two yards of ground were denied in your beloved street