When history overlooks history

Mutiny memorial

When history overlooks history

Abundance of anything, more often than not, results in neglect. In a city like Delhi, where every third stone has a history attached to it, structures, especially the ones erected by the colonial masters, are now left in a sorry state.

One such unfortunate living architectural beauty is the Mutiny Memorial, also known as Fatehgarh or Ajitgarh. Located on the Kamla Nehru Ridge in North Delhi, it can be noticed from the Red Line service of the Delhi Metro near Tis Hazari, as a towering structure, which appears more like a church with a white cross amidst wilderness. Commissioned in 1863, in memory of officers and soldiers of the Delhi Field Force who were stationed at Taylor’s Battery and killed in the revolt of 1857, the Mutiny memorial is a 29-metre-high structure. 

It comprises a tapering tower of gothic style, raised on a high base of local hard stone paved with red sandstone. The tower can be entered through an arched opening on the west and a flight of winding staircase leads up to the top, which is cornered by a red sandstone spire with a marble cross.

Names of British officers and Indian soldiers, who lost their lives defending the British, are engraved on white marbles on all sides of the tower. It also includes the chronology of the seize, ranging from the arming of batteries to the capture of the place. It gains historical significance because an exclusive and in-depth data of the forces employed during the Mutiny can also be found engraved here, thus acting as a literary source of historical evidence for researchers and enthusiasts.

On the 25th Independence Day in 1972, the government installed a plaque to enshrine the heroism of the martyrs of Indian freedom struggle, who lost their life fighting the British. The memorial, which in its halcyon days must have been a busy place, now wears an abused look. The monument was last repaired during the Commonwealth Games. Though the government had promised to keep the monument open to public, it still witnesses periodic closures, keeping visitors away.

This, however, raises a major question, about the importance of a monument’s location in determining its value in society. Another colonial structure, the India Gate, built on similar lines to commemorate martyrs of World War I, finds greater prominence. This may be because of its proximity to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament. For all we know, had India Gate been constructed in some unknown corner of Delhi like the Mutiny Memorial, it may not have got the treatment it is getting now! 

The irony is that Delhi is so full of history that history overlooks itself. Had Mutiny Memorial been located in a small town elsewhere, perhaps it would have been accorded the status of a local Taj Mahal or India Gate by the locals.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry