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Meerut: A central point for the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

On 10th May 1857 began the First War for Independence: The Sepoy Mutiny aka “Revolt of 1857,” in a Town named, “Meerut,” 83.7 Km away from Delhi. This economic, political, and social struggle was a major anti-colonial movement against the aggressive imperialist policies of the British Government. There was a lot of uprising going in various cities like Agra, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi, and Delhi but Meerut became one of the major cities of the revolt.

1857 Sepoy Mutiny Mosque (Source: Wikipedia)

April 24, 1857, is marked as the day when 85 sepoys out of 90 refused to use the disputed “greased cartridges.” Loading an Enfield rifle required the tearing of greased cartridge with one’s teeth that have a saying of being made with a mixture of cow and pig fat. It was Col. Carmichael Smith who initiated to tell his men about using the cartridges without using the mouth, despite his efforts, the sepoys refused to use it. The parade was dismissed and was followed by the proceedings at the court of inquiry in Meerut. Though the revolt had already begun, it started evoking on May 8, 1857, when severe sentences handed out to the troops of the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry. Thus, the revolt officially began on May 10, 1857.

Swatantrata Stambh (Freedom Pillar in Meerut dedicated to the Martyrs in Cantonment)

There were several reasons for Meerut being the central area for the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. One of the reasons was its well-connected location with road facilities. Meerut Cantonment was also the divisional headquarters of the 7th (Meerut) division of the British Indian Army from 1829 to 1920.

The “Revolt of 1857” started from “Kali Paltan” in Meerut Cantonment and Indian soldiers participated in it in abundance. It is said that it began from “Kali Paltan Temple,” known as, “Augarnath Temple.”

A recent picture of the Augarnath temple

Shaheed Smarak inside the temple, a tribute to all the martyrs of the 1857 revolt is given each year on 10 May, here (Source: Wikipedia)

There is a religious story associated with it which talks about a saint in the Augarnath temple who used to dwell water from the well in the temple premises and offer it to the soldiers. One day the saint got to know the secret of greased cartridges and refused to offer water to the soldiers. This incident hurt their religious sentiments and provoked them to go against the East India Company. The Muslims were forbidden to enter the mosques as eating pork is considered unclean in Islam.

Swarn Jayanti Stambh in Sooraj Kund

Due to the uprising, the East India Company prisoned many rebels in the Sooraj Kund Prison. Dhan Singh Gurjar, “The Kotwal of Meerut” was the one who led the initial actions against the East India Company. He released 839 prisoners from the Jail. This area is now one of the most famous sports hubs of India and has a memorial statue dedicated to all the rebel prisoners. This Gurjar Uprising was one of the largest threats to the Britishers.

A museum in Meerut which is dedicated to the revolt of 1857

In Parikshitgarh, the Gurjars declared Kadam Singh Gurjar as their leader by expelling the company police. Kadam led a force of 2000-10000 rebels. The contemporary sources report that nearly all the Gurjar villages between Meerut and Delhi participated in the revolt. The Imperial Gazetteer of India states that throughout the Indian Rebellion of 1857, Gurjars and Ranghars (Muslim Rajputs) proved the “Most reconcilable enemies” of the British in the Bulandsheher area.

Though the sepoy mutiny was raised in many parts of Northern and Central India but the famous logo, “Dilli Chalo,” (Let’s March to Delhi!) was first raised in Meerut.

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