1857 Mutiny


They initially attacked the town of Sikandrabad on the 12th of May and Turnbull, the Magistrate of Bulandshahr, subsequently went down to this region with a detachment of native sepoys, arresting 46 Gujjars from Dalergarh and Rampur and imprisoning them in Bulandshahr jail. The jail was built in 1835 and enlarged in 1845 which housed the mutineers.

The 1857 Mutiny: a video presentation

By 21st of May, 1857, more news poured into Bulandshahr about the spread of the uprising throughout the surrounding region. News came from Aligarh of the mutiny of the soldiers and the departure of the Europeans of Aligarh to Agra. Prisoners from Meerut district jail, which had been broken earlier, had also by then reached various parts of Bulandshahr and nearby villages, seeing them the residents of this region understood that they could also release their comrades from the district jail of Bulandshahr. Gurjar and Rajput residents of many villages, namely Deotoh, Til, Wair, Bhonra etc, therefore collected themselves and attacked the city of Bulandshahr on the evening of the same day.

At that time there were seven European officers in station at Bulandshahar, the District Collector Brand Sapte, Turnbull, Melville, A. Lyall (who later became the Lieutenant Governor of the United Provinces), Lieut. Ross of the 9th Native Infantry and Knight with his son. They decided to send the European ladies and children of the station to Meerut and organise affairs with the help of levies that they had earlier requisitioned from the landholders of the district. The treasury of Bulandshahr was attacked the same day and the sepoy guards of the treasury themselves looted it, firing at the approaching Europeans who tried to capture it. All the Europeans subsequently withdrew to Meerut and the Gurjars of the villages around the region attacked the European quarters within Bulandshahr town `As the Gurjars entered the station they fired each house, commencing with the Dak Bungalow, and during the four days that the station was without British officers all property, public and private, belonging to Government or Government officers, was carried off or burned. The public offices were gutted and all the records were destroyed … The people of the town and the neighbouring villages took a very active part in the work of demolition.’

The village of Chandpur has been specially mentioned in the context of this attack on Bulandshahr and it was the first to be subsequently searched. A detachment of Gurkhas from Dehradun travelled down the Ganges Canal up to Dasna from where they travelled (by foot probably) to Bulandshahr as the canal locks had been destroyed at Dasna. They reached Bulandshahr on the 24th of May. On hearing of the arrival of these Gurkhas, the European officers of Bulandshahr, Sapte, Lyall, Rose and Tyrwhitt returned to Bulandshahr on the 26th. With them came a detachment of Craigie’s levies from Meerut, but they turned out to be highly untrained combatants not fit for prolonged operations.

These European officers with their re-enforcements went to many of the villages which had participated in the attack on the European quarters of Bulandshahr on the 21st of May; those who had participated in those events were identified and hanged.

The Gurkhas subsequently left on the 28th of May to join General Wilson’s force at Ghaziabad. Nawab Walidad Khan in the meantime arrived in Malagarh from Delhi, having been appointed Subedar of Bulandshahr and Aligarh by the Mughal king (as discussed in chapter 18). He met the Gurjars of Dadri as well as Rajput zamindars to plan and overthrow colonial rule from the lands which had been assigned to him. The town of Sikandrabad was again attacked on the 31st of June, tehsil records were destroyed and the treasury looted.

The Europeans at Bulandshahr decided to break the bridge of boats at Anupshahar, to prevent revolutionaries from crossing the Ganges and attacking Bulandshahr from the direction of Rohilkhand.

By the 1st of June the uprising had reached its crescendo in Bulandshahr and the colonial authority had nearly ceased to exist in this region. At this time two more European officers, Clifford and Young, reached Bulandshahr. The roads in all directions of Bulandshahr were blocked by villages that lay along them. Umrao Singh of Kateyreh declared himself the Gurjar king of Dadri and Surjeet declared himself leader of Danpur. During this period a seesaw battle was taking place at Aligarh between the colonial and Indian fighters with each holding the town for one day alternatively. It was also the time when many sepoys of regiments which had mutinied and joined the uprising in the eastern lands, including Awadh and beyond, were marching toward Delhi along the Grand Trunk Road passing through Bulandshahar.

On the 10th of June, 1857, a large of body of men belonging to the Oudh Irregulars (Awadh Irregulars) reached Khurja. 20 men of the Irregular cavalry who had been till this time working under the orders of the European officers of Bulandshahar then decided to leave their posts and join these sepoys who were now stationed at Khurja. The British residents of Bulandshahr, hearing of all this news and the reputation of the Oudh Irregulars at Khurja, decided to vacate Bulandshahr and withdraw to Gulaothi. Khurja had till this time been under the control of the European officers of Bulandshahr and Melville had just recently visited the place and brought the treasure down from there to Bulandshahr. But now Khurja also slipped out of colonial hands. Immediately after the withdrawal of the European officers, Walidad Khan entered Bulandshahr town and occupied it, taking it also away from direct colonial control.

The situation all around Western Uttar Pradesh had completely changed after the fall of Delhi on the 20th of September, 1857. 

Final Battle of Bulandshahr and reassertion of Colonial Authority

A colonial force under Colonel Greathed was sent to Ghaziabad on the 28th of September to launch an attack on Bulandshahr from that direction. The force marched further and reached the outskirts of Bulandshahr town on the 28th itself, encamping at the point where the road to Malagarh branches out from the main road. Seeing this movement, a picket of revolutionary cavalry fell back on the town and the sepoys and others guarding it took up their positions, ready for battle. An artillery battery guarded the town and the infantry had taken up positions in the gardens and over the walls.

Bulandshahr during 1857 mutiny

The colonial force left a reserve at the site of their camp to guard their stores and advanced into the town of Bulandshahr, fighting their way through. The revolutionary cavalry tried a diversionary tactic by attacking the colonial reserves left behind but this was not successful as they were fought back. The right and left flanks of the colonial force got engaged with the revolutionary soldiers. The revolutionary artillery guns were silenced and the lines of the revolutionary cavalry and infantry were broken by grapeshot. The colonial cavalry and artillery marched into the city, driving the revolutionary soldiers in front of them. Finally Bulandshahr town was re-taken by the colonial force. The clock tower in Bulandshahr that was built in 1835 stands as a testimony to the mutiny of 1857 in Bulandshahr.

By Dr Amit Pathak (http://www.amitpathak.org/)

He has many publications to his credit in the above fields of study and is at present working on books linked to the Military History of India (1000AD to 1800AD) and the anti-colonial Uprisings of North East India. He has been continuously working since 2001 on various aspects of the Great Uprising of 1857 and studying the history & culture of Western Uttar Pradesh.

He is a practicing Radiologist focusing on Gastrointestinal Ultrasonography and Nephrology / Urology. He has many publications to his credit in this field and is at present working on a book for approach to Gastrointestinal Radio Diagnosis.

Dr. Amit Pathak is a Fellow of Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research, United Service Institution of India, New Delhi. He is fluent in Hindi, English, Assamese and is an avid student of History, Culture, Radiology, Linguistics, Archaeology, Sociology, Anthropology etc.

Images and video in the article are courtesy Bulandshahr Legacy and The Kala Chaupal Trust.