The Siege of Awadh: A tale narrated through the ruins of the British Residency
Lucknow is popularly known as the City of Nawabs, for erstwhile Awadh was under the strong reigns of Mughal Kings and Nawabs who looked after its culture, administration and political standing. Often regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in terms of historical significance, the saga of this city is incomplete without the narration of its inkiest past; The Siege of Awadh.
A lot is known about the Revolt of 1857, and Lucknow's pivotal role in the Indian uprising against the British East India Company, for the testimony of the city's bravery and valor stands in the ruins of the British Residency in the heart of the old city. Unravel all that remains under the wraps of history and learn the truth behind the bullets that are still etched in the walls of the Lucknow Residency:
The British Residency
The Britsh Residency was set up in 1764, post the alliance of the Nawab of Lucknow with that of Bengal after the Battle of Buxar. In order to not lose face in one of the richest Province, Awadh, a representative of the British known as the General Resident was appointed and stationed at the complex which is now called the British Residency.
With the rising power of the Resident General assumed the role of a quasi ruler in Awadh and the then Nawab of the Province ceded half of the land to the British which included royal palaces and open spaces. Spread for over 33 acres, the Residency became a city within the city!
Bailey Guard Gates
The Nawab also built an enormous gate for the King-Maker Resident General who had helped him to acquire the throne. These gates were called the Bailey Guard Gates named after the then Resident Genreal, John Bailey. These gates were the stepping stones to the establishment of a huge living complex which included a banquet hall, school, an officer's mess, post office, places of worship, cemetery, horse stables, sheep house, gardens and parks!
The conversion of this administrative complex into a massive civil township is pinned on the French General and Founder of La Martiniere College in Lucknow, Major General Claude Martin. He built a number of houses around the complex which were rented only to Europeans.
The British Headquarters
With the deposition of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in 1856, the British Residency converted into the most powerful headquarter in the city. All the politcal and administrative control of the city now lay in the hands of the British. What the British couldn't control was how the people of the city viewed the Residency; as a symbol of British Tyranny.
The Siege of Lucknow
When the rising momentum of the Revolt of 1857 reached Lucknow, 8000 soldiers of the British Army and several local landowner surrounded the Residency that was a refuge to all the Europeans in the city. For 6 months, the Residency was guarded by virtue of its elevated establishment, however, the spirit of the Indian was undefeated and the British had to evacuate the complex.
The signs of revolt are still etched into the walls of the complex. From bullet marks to canon attacks, the ruins of the building is a remembrance of the anger and dissatisfaction of the people of Lucknow against the British.
Around 2000 people, includings soldiers, officers, women and children died within these 6 months. Though, the Revolt of 1857 was a national phenomenon, nowhere was the destruction as brutal as it was in Lucknow.
A museum that records this chapter of the Lucknow History stands in the ruins of the complex today and is open for all who wish to learn what transpired within the now broken walls of a once pristine Residency.
Today, the Residency stands as a landmark of tourist attraction with its mowed gardens and parks. It stands as a memorial to those who fought for freedom and who died denying it. The land is and the ruins are now under the management of the Archaeological Survey of India and exists as a monument of national importance.