Book Launch

William Dalrymple




William Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” - March 26, 2007
The Last Mughal

The Last Mughal

The Fall of a Dynasty:
Delhi, 1857.


At 4pm on a hazy, warm winter's evening in Rangoon in November 1862, soon after the end of the monsoon, a shrouded corpse was escorted by a small group of British soldiers to an anonymous grave at the back of a walled prison enclosure.

This enclosure lay overlooking the muddy brown waters of the Rangoon river, a little downhill from the great gilt spire of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. Around the enclosure lay the newly constructed cantonment area of the port- an anchorage and pilgrimage town that had been seized, burned, and occupied by the British only ten years earlier. The bier of the State Prisoner- as the deceased was referred to- was accompanied by his two of his sons and an elderly, bearded mullah. No women were allowed to attend, and a small crowd from the bazaar who had somehow heard about the prisoner's death were kept away by armed guards. Nevertheless, one or two managed to break through the cordon to touch the shroud before it was lowered into the grave.

The ceremony was brief. The British authorities had made sure not only that the grave was already dug, but that quantities of lime were on hand to guarantee the rapid decay of both bier and body. When the shortened funeral prayers had been recited- no lamentations or panegyrics were allowed- the earth was thrown in over the lime, and the turf carefully replaced so that within a month or so no mark would remain to indicate the place of burial. A week later the British Commissioner, Captain H. N Davis, wrote to London to report what had passed, adding:

"Have since visited the remaining State Prisoners- the very scum of the reduced Asiatic harem; found all correct. None of the family appear much affected by the death of the bed-ridden old man. His death was evidently due to pure decrepitude and paralysis in the region of the throat. He expired at 5 O'clock on the morning of the funeral. The death of the ex-King may be said to have had no effect on the Mahomedan part of the populace of Rangoon, except perhaps for a few fanatics who watch and pray for the final triumph of Islam. A bamboo fence surrounds the grave for some considerable distance, and by the time the fence is worn out, the grass will again have properly covered the spot, and no vestige will remain to distinguish where the last of the Great Moghuls rests. " 1

The State Prisoner Davis referred to was more properly known as Bahadur Shah II, known from his penname as Zafar (meaning 'Victory'). Zafar was the last Mughal Emperor, and the direct descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur, of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. He was born in 1775, when the British were still a relatively modest and mainly coastal power in India, looking inwards from three enclaves on the Indian shore. In his lifetime he had seen his own dynasty reduced to humiliating insignificance, while the British transformed themselves from vulnerable traders into an aggressively expansionist military force.
Zafar came late to the throne, succeeding his father only in his mid-sixties, when it was already impossible to reverse the political decline of the Mughals. But despite this he succeeded in creating around him in Delhi a court of great brilliance. Personally, he was one of the most talented, tolerant and likeable of his dynasty: a skilled calligrapher, a profound writer on Sufism, a discriminating patron of miniature painters, an inspired creator of gardens and an amateur architect. Most importantly he was a very serious mystical poet, who wrote not only in Urdu and Persian but Braj Basha and Punjabi, and partly through his patronage there took place arguably the greatest literary renaissance in modern Indian history. Himself a ghazal writer of great charm and accomplishment, Zafar also provided, through his court, a showcase for the talents of India's greatest lyric poet, Ghalib, and his rival Zauq- the Mughal poet laureate, and the Salieri to Ghalib's Mozart.

While the British progressively took over more and more of the Mughal Emperor's power, removing his name from the coins, seizing complete control even of the city of Delhi itself, and finally laying plans to remove the Mughals altogether from the Red Fort, the court busied itself in obsessive pursuit of the most cleverly turned ghazal, the most perfect Urdu couplet. As the political sky darkened, the court was lost in a last idyll of pleasure gardens, courtesans and mushairas, or poetic symposia, Sufi devotions and visits to pirs, as literary and religious ambition replaced the political variety.2

The closest focused record of the Red Fort at this period is the court diary kept by a news writer for the British Resident, now in the National Archives of India, which contains a detailed day-by-day picture of Zafar's life. The Last Emperor appears as a benign old man with impeccable manners- even when treated with extreme rudeness by the British. Daily he has olive oil rubbed into his feet to soothe his aches; occasionally he rouses himself to visit a garden, go on a hunting expedition or host a mushaira. Evenings were spent "enjoying the moonlight", listening to singers, or eating fresh mangoes. All the while the aged emperor tries to contain the infidelities of his young concubines, one of whom becomes pregnant by of the court musicians. 3

Then, on a May morning in 1857, three hundred mutinous sepoys*  from Meerut rode into Delhi, massacred every Christian man, woman and child they could find in the city, and declared Zafar to be their leader and Emperor. Zafar was no friend of the British, who had shorn him of his patrimony, and subjected him to almost daily humiliation. Yet Zafar was not a natural insurgent either. It was with severe misgivings and little choice that he found himself made the nominal leader of an uprising that he strongly suspected from the start was doomed: a chaotic and officerless army of unpaid peasant soldiers set against the forces of the world's greatest military power, albeit one that had just lost the great majority of the Indian recruits to its Bengal Army.

* A sepoy is an Indian infantry private, in this case in the employ of the British East India Company. The word derives from sipahi, the Persian for soldier.

The great Mughal capital, caught in the middle of a remarkable cultural flowering, was turned overnight into a battleground. No foreign army was in a position to intervene to support the rebels, and they had limited ammunition, no money and few supplies. The chaos and anarchy that erupted in the countryside proved far more effective at blockading Delhi than the efforts at besieging the city attempted by the British from their perch on the Ridge. The price of food escalated and supplies rapidly dwindled. Soon both the people of Delhi and the sepoys were on the edge of starvation.

The Siege of Delhi was the Raj's Stalingrad: a fight to the death between two powers, neither of whom could retreat. There were unimaginable casualties, and on both sides the combatants were driven to the limits of physical and mental endurance. Finally, on the 14th September 1857, the British and their hastily assembled army of Sikh and Pathan levees assaulted and took the city, sacking and looting the Mughal capital, and massacring great swathes of the population. In one muhalla * alone, Kucha Chelan, some 1,400 citizens of Delhi were cut down. "The orders went out to shoot every soul," recorded Edward Vibart, a 19 year old British officer.

"It was literally murder … I have seen many bloody and awful sights lately but such a one as I witnessed yesterday I pray I never see again. The women were all spared but their screams, on seeing their husbands and sons butchered, were most painful… Heaven knows I feel no pity, but when some old grey bearded man is brought and shot before your very eyes, hard must be that man's heart I think who can look on with indifference..." 4

Those city dwellers who survived the killing were driven out into the countryside to fend for themselves. Delhi was left an empty ruin. Though the royal family had surrendered peacefully, most of the Emperor's sixteen sons were tried and hung, while three were shot in cold blood, having first freely given up their arms, then been told to strip naked: "In 24 hours I disposed of the principal members of the house of Timur the Tartar," Captain William Hodson wrote to his sister the following day. "I am not cruel, but I confess I did enjoy the opportunity of ridding the earth of these wretches" 5

* A muhalla is distinct quarter or neighbourhood of a Mughal city- ie a group of residential lanes usually entered through a single gate which would be locked at night.

Zafar himself was put on show to visitors, displayed "like a beast in a cage" according to one British officer.6 Among his visitors was the Times correspondent, William Howard Russell, who was told that the prisoner was the mastermind of the most serious armed act of resistance to Western colonialism. "He was a dim, wandering eyed, dreamy old man with a feeble hanging nether lip and toothless gums," wrote Russell."

"Was he indeed one who had conceived that vast plan of restoring a great empire, who had fomented the most gigantic mutiny in the history of the world? Not a word came from his lips; in silence he sat day and night with his eyes cast on the ground, and as though utterly oblivious of the conditions in which he was placed… His eyes had the dull, filmy look of very old age… Some heard him quoting verses of his own composition, writing poetry on a wall with a burned stick." 7

Russell was suitably sceptical of the charges being levelled against Zafar: "He was called ungrateful for rising against his benefactors," he wrote.

"He was no doubt a weak and cruel old man; but to talk of ingratitude on the part of one who saw that all the dominions of his ancestors had been gradually taken from him until he was left with an empty title, and more empty exchequer, and a palace full of penniless princesses, is perfectly preposterous …" 8

Nevertheless, the following month Zafar was put on trial in the ruins of his old palace, and sentenced to transportation. He left his beloved Delhi on a bullock cart. Separated from everything he loved, broken hearted, the last of the Great Mughals died in exile in Rangoon on Friday 7th November 1862, aged 87.

With Zafar's departure, there was complete collapse of the fragile court culture he had faithfully nourished and exemplified. As Ghalib noted: "All these things lasted only so long as the king reigned." 9  By the time of Zafar's death, much of his palace, the Red Fort, had already been torn down, along with great areas of the Mughal Delhi he loved and beautified. Meanwhile the great majority of its leading inhabitants and courtiers- poets and princes, mullahs and merchants, Sufis and scholars- had been hunted down and hanged, or else dispersed and exiled, many to the Raj's new, specially-constructed gulag in the Andaman Islands. Those who were spared were left in humiliating and conspicuous poverty. As Ghalib, one of the few survivors from the old court, lamented, "The male descendants of the deposed King- such as survived the sword- draw allowances of five rupees a month. The female descendants if old are bawds, and if young, prostitutes." 10

"The city has become a desert … By God, Delhi is no more a city, but a camp, a cantonment. No Fort, no city, no bazaars, no watercourses…
Five things kept Delhi alive- the Fort, the daily crowds at the Jama Masjid, the weekly walk to the Yamuna Bridge, and the yearly fair of the flower men. None of these survive so how could Delhi survive? Yes [it is said that] there was once a city of that name in the realm of India…

We smashed the wine cup and the flask;
What is it now to us
If all the rain that falls from heaven
Should turn to rose-red wine?"11

*   *   *
Although Bahadur Shah, the last Mughal, is a central figure in this book, it is not a biography of Zafar so much as a portrait of the Delhi he personified, a narrative of the last days of the Mughal capital and its final destruction in the catastrophe of 1857. It is a story I have dedicated the last four years to researching and writing. Archives containing Zafar's letters and his court records can be found in London, Lahore and even Rangoon. Most of the material, however, still lies in Delhi, Zafar's former capital, and a city that has haunted and obsessed me for over two decades now.

I first encountered Delhi when I arrived, aged 18, on the foggy winter's night of the 26th January 1984. The airport was surrounded by shrouded men huddled under shawls, and it was surprisingly cold. I knew nothing at all about India.

My childhood had been spent in rural Scotland, on the shores of the Firth of Forth, and of my school friends I was probably the least well travelled. My parents were convinced that they lived in the most beautiful place imaginable and rarely took us on holiday, except on an annual spring visit to a corner of the Scottish Highlands even colder and wetter than home. Perhaps for this reason Delhi had a greater and more overwhelming effect on me than it would have had on other more cosmopolitan teenagers; certainly the city hooked me from the start. I back-packed around for a few months, and hung out in Goa; but I soon found my way back to Delhi and got myself a job at a Mother Teresa's home in the far north of the city, beyond Old Delhi.

In the afternoons, while the patients were taking their siesta, I used to slip out and explore. I would take a rickshaw into the innards of the Old City and pass through the narrowing funnel of gullies and lanes, alleys and cul de sacs, feeling the houses close in around me. In particular what remained of Zafar's palace, the Red Fort of the Great Mughals, kept drawing me back, and I often used to slip in with a book and spend whole afternoons there, in the shade of some cool pavilion. I quickly grew to be fascinated with the Mughals who had lived there, and began reading voraciously about them. It was here that I first thought of writing a history of the Mughals, an idea that has now expanded into a Quartet, a four volume history of the Mughals which I expect may take me another two decades to complete.

Yet however often I visited it, the Red Fort always made me sad. When the British captured it in 1857, they pulled down the gorgeous harem appartments, and in their place erected a line of barracks that look as if they have been modelled on Wormwood Scrubs. Even at the time, the destruction was regarded as an act of wanton philistinism. The great Victorian architectural historian James Fergusson was certainly no whining liberal, but recorded his horror at what had happened in his History of Indian Architcture: "those who carried out this fearful piece of vandalism," he wrote, did not even think "to make a plan of what they were destroying, or preserving any record of the most splendid palace in the world… The engineers perceived that by gutting the palace they could provide at no expense a wall round their barrack yard, and one that no drunken soldier could scale without detection, and for this or some other wretched motive of economy the palace was sacrificed." He added: "The only modern act to be compared with this is the destruction of the summer palace in Pekin. That however was an act of red-handed war. This was a deliberate act of unnecessary Vandalism."12

The barracks should of course have been torn down years ago, but the fort's current proprietors, the Archaeological Survey of India, have lovingly continued the work of decay initiated by the British: white marble pavilions have been allowed to discolour; plasterwork has been left to collapse; the water channels have cracked and grassed over; the fountains are dry. Only the barracks look well maintained.

I have now lived between London and Delhi for over 20 years, and the Indian capital remains my favourite city. Above all it is the city's relationship with its past that continues to intrigue me: of the great cities of the world, only Rome, Istanbul and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of historic remains. Crumbling tomb towers, old mosques or ancient colleges would intrude in the most unlikely places, appearing suddenly on roundabouts or in municipal gardens, curving the road network and obscuring the fairways of the golf course. New Delhi is not new at all; instead it is a groaning necropolis, with enough ruins to keep any historian busy through several incarnations.

I am hardly alone in being struck by this: the ruins of Delhi are something visitors have always been amazed by, perhaps especially in the 18th century when the city was at the height of its decay and its mood most melancholic. For miles in every direction, half-collapsed and overgrown, robbed and re-occupied, neglected by all, lay the remains of six hundred years of trans-Indian Imperium- the wrecked vestiges of a period when Delhi had been the greatest city between Constantinople and Canton. Hammams and garden palaces, thousand-pillared halls and mighty tomb towers, empty mosques and deserted Sufi shrines- there seemed to be no end to the litter of ages. "The prospect towards Delhi, as far as the eye can reach is covered with the crumbling remains of gardens, pavilions, mosques and burying places," wrote Lieutenant William Franklin in 1795. "The environs of this once magnificent and celebrated city appear now nothing more than a shapeless heap of ruins…"13

The first East India Company officials who settled in these ruins at the end of the 18th century were a series of sympathetic and notably eccentric figures who were deeply attracted to the high courtly culture which Delhi still represented. When the formidable Lady Maria Nugent, wife of the new British Commander-in-Chief in India, visited Delhi she was horrified by what she saw there. The British Resident and his assistants had all 'gone native', she reported:

"I shall now say a few words of Messrs. Gardner and Fraser who are still of our party," she wrote in her journal. "They both wear immense whiskers, and neither will eat beef or pork, being as much Hindoos as Christians, if not more; they are both of them clever and intelligent, but eccentric; and, having come to this country early, they have formed opinions and prejudices that make them almost natives."14

Fraser, it turned out, was a distant cousin of my wife, Olivia. It was this intriguing and unexpected period which dominated the book I wrote about Delhi fifteen years ago, entitled City of Djinns, and which later ignited the tinder that led to my last book, White Mughals, about the many British who embraced Indian culture at the end of the 18th century. The Last Mughal is therefore my third book inspired by the capital. At the centre of it lies the question of how and why the relatively easy relationship of Indian and Briton, so evident during the time of Fraser, gave way to the hatreds and racism of the high nineteenth century Raj. The uprising, it is clear, was the result of that change, not its cause.

Two things in particular seem to have put paid to this easy co-existence. One was the rise of British power: in a few years the British had defeated not only the French but also all their Indian rivals; in a manner not unlike the Americans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the changed balance of power quickly led to an attitude of undisguised imperial arrogance.

The other was the ascendancy of Evangelical Christianity, and the profound change in attitudes that this brought about. The wills written by Company servants show that the practice of marrying or cohabiting with Indian wives or bibis all but disappeared. Memoirs of prominent eighteenth-century British Indian worthies which mentioned their Indian wives or Anglo-Indian children were re-edited so that the consorts were removed from later editions. No longer were Indians seen as inheritors of a body of sublime and ancient wisdom as 18th century luminaries such as Sir William Jones and Warren Hastings had once believed; but instead merely 'poor benighted heathen', or even 'licentious pagans', who, it was hoped, were eagerly awaiting conversion.

There is an important point here. Many historians blithely use the word "colonialism" as if it has a some kind of clearly locatable meaning, yet it is increasingly apparent that at this period there were multiple modes and very distinct phases of colonialism; there were also many very different ways of inhabiting, performing and transgressing the still fluid notion of Britishness. It was not the British per se, so much as specific groups with a specific imperial agenda- namely the Evangelicals and Utilitarians- who ushered in the most obnoxious phase of colonialism, a change which adversely affected the White Mughals as much as it did the Great Mughals.

For by the early 1850's, many British officials were nursing plans finally to abolish the Mughal court, and to impose not just British laws and technology on India, but also Christianity. The reaction to this steady crescendo of insensitivity came in 1857 with the Great Mutiny. Of the 139,000 sepoys of the Bengal Army- the largest modern army in Asia- all but 7,796 turned against their British masters.15  In some parts of northern India, such as Avadh, the sepoys were joined by a very large proportion of the population. Atrocities abounded on both sides.

Delhi was the principal centre of the uprising. As mutinous troops poured into the city from all round Northern India - even the mutinous regiments at Cawnpore intended to head straight to Delhi until diverted to attack their officers by Nana Sahib- it was clear from the outset that the British had to recapture Delhi or lose their Indian empire forever. Equally the sepoys rallying to the throne of Bahadur Shah, whom they believed to be the legitimate ruler of Hindustan, realised that if they lost Delhi they lost everything. Every available British soldier was therefore sent to the Delhi Ridge, and for the four hottest months of the Indian summer, the Mughal capital was bombarded by British artillery with thousands of helpless civilians caught up in the horrors.

While in the first weeks of the uprising, troops came to Delhi from all over Hindustan, thereafter the city, and especially its besiegers, remained to a great extent cut off from news of developments elsewhere. In that sense the siege of Delhi was always a war within a war, relatively independent of the momentous developments to the south and east. Until the very end of July, the British on the Delhi Ridge were still daily expecting to be relieved by General Wheelers army at Cawpore, less than 300 miles to the southeast, quite unaware that Wheeler's army had surrendered and been slaughtered, almost to a man, more than a month earlier, on the 27th June. Equally, the Delhi defenders were convinced they were about to be saved by two non-existent Persian armies, one heading down from the Khyber Pass, while the other was supposed to be making its way northeast from a seaborne landing in Bombay.

Most narratives of 1857 cut back and forth between Delhi, Lucknow, Jhansi and Cawnpore in a way that suggests far more contact and flow of information than there actually was between the different centres of the uprising. In this book I have chosen to limit references to developments elsewhere, except in cases where the Delhi participants were explicitly aware of them, thus attempting to restore the sense of intense isolation and lonely vulnerability felt by both the besiegers and the besieged engaged in the battle for control of the great Mughal capital.

*   *   *
Over the last four years, I and my colleagues Mahmoud Farooqi and Bruce Wannell, have been working through many of the 20,000 virtually unused Persian and Urdu documents relating to Delhi in 1857, known as the Mutiny Papers, that we found on the shelves of the National Archives of India.16  These allow 1857 in Delhi to be seen for the first time from a properly Indian perspective, and not just from the British sources through which to date it has usually been viewed.

Discovering the sheer scale of the treasures held by the National Archives was one of the highlights of the whole project. It is a commonplace of books about 1857 that they lament the absence of Indian sources and the corresponding need to rely on the huge quantities of easily accessible British material- memoirs, travelogues, letters, histories -which carry with them not only the British version of events but also British attitudes and preconceptions about the whole rising; in that sense little has changed since Vincent Smith complained in 1923 "that the story has been chronicled from one side only."17

Yet all this time in the National Archives there existed as detailed a documentation of the four months of the uprising in Delhi as can exist for any Indian city at any period of history- great unwieldy mountains of chits, pleas, orders, petitions, complaints, receipts, rolls of attendance and lists of casualties, predictions of victory and promises of loyalty, notes from spies of dubious reliability and letters from eloping lovers- all neatly bound in string and boxed up in the cool, hushed air-conditioned vaults of the Indian National Archives.

What was even more exciting was the street-level nature of much of the material. Although the documents were collected by the victorious British from the palace and the army camp, they contained huge quantities of petitions and requests from the ordinary citizens of Delhi- potters and courtesans, sweetmeat makers and overworked water carriers- exactly the sort of people who usually escape the historian's net. The Mutiny Papers overflow with glimpses of real life: the bird catchers and lime makers who have had their charpoys stolen by sepoys; the horse trader from Haryana looted by Gujjars on the outskirts of Delhi as he walks home from selling his wares, his pocket full of cash; the gamblers playing cards in a recently ruined house and ogling the women next door, to the great alarm of the family living there; the sweetmeat makers who refuse to take their sweets up to the trenches in Qudsia Bagh until they are paid for the last load. 18

We meet people like Hasni the dancer who uses a British attack on the Idgah to escape from the serai where she is staying with her husband and run off with her lover. Or Pandit Harichandra who tried to exhort the Hindus of Delhi to leave their shops and join the fight, citing examples from the Mahabharat. Or Hafiz Abdurrahman caught grilling beef kebabs during a ban on cow slaughter and who comes to beg the mercy of Zafar. Or Chandan the sister of the courtesan Manglu who rushed before the Emperor as her beautiful sister has been seized and raped by the cavalryman, Rustam Khan: "He has imprisoned her and beats her up and even though she shouts and screams nobody helps her... Should this state of anarchy and injustice continue the subjects of the Exalted One will all be destroyed." 19

As a source for daily events, for the motivation of the rebels, for the problems they faced, the levels of chaos in the city, and the ambiguous and equivocal response of both the Mughal elite and the Hindu trading class of the city, the Mutiny Papers contain an unrivalled quantity of unique material. Cumulatively the stories that the collection contains allows the uprising to be seen not in terms of nationalism, imperialism, orientalism or other such abstractions, but instead as a human event of extraordinary, tragic and often capricious outcomes, and allow us to resurrect the ordinary individuals whose fate it was to be accidentally caught up in one of the great upheavals of history. Public, political and national tragedies, after all, consist of a multitude of private, domestic and individual tragedies. It is through the human stories of the successes, struggles, grief, anguish and despair of these individuals that we can best bridge the great chasm of time and understanding separating us from the remarkably different world of mid-nineteenth century India.

As the scale and detail of the material available from the Mutiny Papers became slowly apparent, and as it became obvious that most of the material had not been accessed since it was gathered in 1857, or least since it was catalogued when rediscovered stored in a series of trunks in Calcutta in 1921, the question that became increasingly hard to answer was why no one had properly used this wonderful mass of material before.20  For at a time when ten thousand dissertations and whole shelves of Subaltern Studies have carefully and ingeniously theorised about Orientalism and Colonialism and the imagining of the Other (all invariably given titles with a present participle and a fashionable noun of obscure meaning- Gendering the Colonial Paradigm, Constructing the Imagined Other, Othering the Imagined Construction, and so on) not one PhD has ever been written from the Mutiny papers, no major study has ever systematically explored its contents.

Certainly, the shikastah (literally 'broken writing') script of the manuscripts is often difficult to read, written as it is in an obscure form of late Mughal scribal notation with many of the diacritical marks missing, and at times faded and ambiguous enough to defy the most persistent of researchers. Moreover many of the fragments- especially the spies' reports- are written in microscopic script on very small pieces of paper designed to be sewn into clothing or even hidden within the person of the spy. Yet the collection could not have been in a better known or more accessible archive- the National Archives of India lies in a magnificent Lutyens'-period building bang in the centre of India's capital city. Using the Mutiny Papers and properly harvesting their riches as a source for 1857 for the first time felt at times as strange and exciting- and indeed as unlikely- as going to Paris and discovering, unused on the shelves of the Bibliotheque Nationale, the entire records of the French Revolution.

No less exciting was it to discover that Delhi's two principal Urdu newspapers, the wonderfully opinionated Delhi Urdu Akhabar and the more staid and restrained Court Circular, the Siraj ul-Akhbar, had continued publication without missing an issue throughout the uprising, and that the National Archives contained almost complete sets of both. Again only fragmentary translations of these have previously been available.21

Outside the National Archives, other libraries in Delhi turned out to contain equally remarkable treasures. The Delhi Commissioner's Office Archive not far from Zafar's summer palace in Mehrauli, contained the full records of the revived British administration as the officials went about their business of expelling the citizens of Delhi, rounding up and hanging any Delhiwallahs they suspected of involvement in the Rising, and demolishing great swathes of the city. The documents allow for the first time the full scale of the viciousness and brutality of the British response to 1857 in Delhi to be properly grasped. As far as the Mughal elite were concerned, the Fall of Delhi was followed by something approaching a genocide. Only the Victorian British, one feels, would keep such perfect bureaucratic records of what in many cases would today be classified as grisly war crimes.

Several fine first-person Mughal accounts of 1857 in Delhi also turned up, previously untranslated into English. Most memorable was the moving account of the destruction of an individual's entire world contained in the Dastan-e Ghadr of the sensitive young poet and courtier, ZahirDehlavi. Written on his deathbed in Hyderabad many years later, apparently from earlier notes, unlike many other writers on 1857 he feels no compunction about writing what he believed to be the truth about what happened, and speaks equally frankly of the failings of the Mughal court, the sepoys and the British.

The longer I worked the clearer it became that there were in fact two parallel streams of historiography, which utilised almost completely different sets of sources. The British histories, as well as a surprising number of those written in English in post-colonial India, tended to use only English-language sources, padding out the gaps, in the case of more recent work, with a thick cladding of post-Saidian theory and jargon. The Urdu histories written by contemporary Muslim scholars in India and Pakistan, on the other hand, tend to make use of an entirely separate and often very rich seem of Urdu primary sources. Moreover in the case of Delhi there exists some very fine works of secondary scholarship such as Aslam Parvez's fine Urdu biography of Zafar, which remain unknown to English-speaking readers. One of the principal aims of this book is to bring the voluminous Persian and Urdu primary and secondary sources on Delhi in 1857 before an English readership for the first time.

But it was not just Delhi that turned out to have great stashes of new material. Other almost unused repositories of documents kept turning up across South and South East Asia. In Lahore the spectacular Punjab Archives, kept within the domed tomb of the Emperor Jahangir's favourite dancing girl, was the resting place not only of Anarkali but also the complete pre-Mutiny records of the British Residency in Delhi, archives that historians had long assumed were destroyed in 1857.22

Here could be read all the correspondence between the British Resident and his superiors in Calcutta about their plans for extinguishing the Mughal court. The archives also contained much material from 1857, including sets of spies' reports and the two famous telegrams sent from Delhi on May 11th that warned the British in Lahore of what had taken place, so allowing them to disarm the sepoys of the Punjab before they themselves heard of the events in Meerut and Delhi. The tomb, then as now, is part of the Punjab Secretariat complex, from which in 1857 John Lawrence masterminded the British effort to retake Delhi. During the period I worked on the Delhi Residency archives in Anarkali's tomb, I found myself scribbling on a desk just ten feet from the marble sarcophagus said to be that of the courtesan immortalised in the great Bollywood movie, Mughal-e Azam, and only a couple of hundred yards from the office from which John Lawrence had planned his moves to suppress the mutiny of his sepoys and restore British control of North India.

An even bigger surprise was the remarkable National Archives in Rangoon (or Yangon, as it has been rechristened by the military government). I had gone to Rangoon mainly to visit the site of Zafar's exile and death- and perhaps at some level to seek the barakat [blessings] his devotees still pray for at his shrine. I only thought of attempting to visit the archives when prompted by a friend there who knew someone who knew the director. Yet it turned out that here lay all Zafar's prison records, efficiently catalogued, scanned and digitally stored in Acrobat PDF files- something the British Library has so far failed to achieve- so that I was able to leave the archives at the end of one morning with a shelf full of research contained on a single, shining CD.

*   *   *
What I have found at the end of all this confirms a growing conviction of many of the more recent historians of 1857. Instead of the single coherent Mutiny or Patriotic National War of Independence beloved of Victorian or Indian Nationalist historiography, there were in reality a chain of very different uprisings and acts of resistance, whose form and fate were determined by local and regional situations, passions and grievances.

All took very different forms in different places- which goes some way to explain why 150 years after the event, scholars are still arguing over the old chestnut of whether 1857 was a Mutiny, a Peasant's Revolt, an urban Revolution or a War of Independence. The answer is that it was all of these, and many other things too: it was not one unified movement but many, with widely differing causes, motives and natures. Thanks to the fine regional studies of Eric Stokes, Rudrangshu Mukherjee and Tapti Roy, scholars have already seen how different were the situations in Muzaffarnagar and the Doab, Lucknow and Bundelkhand,.23  The form that 1857 took in Delhi was again quite distinct from the uprisings elsewhere.

For Delhi was always been quite clear about its superiority to the rest of the country. It was the seat of the Great Mughal and the place where the most chaste Urdu was spoken. It believed it had the best looking women, the finest mangoes, the most talented poets. While many in the city initially welcomed the sepoys in their endeavour to restore the Mughal to power and to expel the hated kafir interlopers, nevertheless the people of Shahjahanabad* soon tired of hosting a large and undisciplined army of boorish and violent peasants from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. For the people of Avadh, the sepoys were local lads, and for them 1857 was a genuine popular uprising that touched a chord across the region24 . In contrast, for Delhi the incoming sepoys remained strangers, with different dialects, accents and customs. The Delhi sources invariably describe them as "Telingas" or "Purbias" # effectively, Outsiders. Neither of these words are ever used of the sepoys in Avadhi sources.

* Shahjahanabad is the walled city now known as Old Delhi, built by the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) and opened as his new capital in 1648.

# 'Purbias' which in Delhi was used alternately with the term Tilangas, simply means Easterners. Both words carry the same connotations of foreignness implying 'these outsiders from the East'

The changing attitudes to the sepoys are well encapsulated in the shifting views of Maulvi Muhammed Baqir, the garrulous and outspoken editor of the Dihli Urdu Akbhar, and father of the Urdu poet and critic Muhammad Husain Azad. At the outbreak of the Rising, in May 1857 he was one of the most enthusiastic cheer leaders of the new regime, writing in his columns how the rebellion had been sent by God to punish the kafirs for their arrogant plan to wipe out the religions of India. For him the speed and thoroughness of the reverse suffered by the British was proof of miraculous divine intervention, and it was no surprise therefore that such event should be accompanied by dreams and visions:

"One venerable man had a dream that our Prophet Mohammed, Praise Be Upon Him, said to Jesus that your followers have become an enemy of my name and wish to efface my religion. To this Lord Jesus replied that the British are not my followers, they do not follow my path ,they have joined ranks with Satan's followers… Some people even swear that the day the troopers came here, there were camels ahead of them on which rode green-robed riders… These green riders instantly vanished from sight and only the troopers remained, killing whichever Englishman they found, cutting them up as if they were carrots or radishes… "25

Only two weeks later, however, in the edition of the 24th May, after the unpaid sepoys had looted most of the Delhi bazaars, destroyed the library of the Delhi College, attacked the havelis of his friends, and monopolised all the city's most desirable courtesans, Baqir's tone had completely changed: "The population is greatly harassed and sick of the pillaging and plundering," he wrote. "Great peril confronts all the respectable and well off people of the city… the city is being ravaged."26  By August he was filling the columns of the Dihli Urdu Akbhar with details of the way the lazy and boorish Bihari sepoys- as he saw them- had become softened by their discovery of the luxuries and sophistication of Delhi:

"The moment they drink the water of the city and do a round of Chandni Chowk and… go around Jama Masjid and enjoy the sweetmeats of Ghantawala [the most famous Delhi sweet shop], they lose all urge and determination to fight and kill the enemy, and they become shorn of all strength and resolution... A lot of people maintain that many sepoys go for battle without bathing after spending nights at the courtesan's quarters.* The setbacks they have suffered and the general mayhem we endure is partly the result of this unseemly practice."27

By this time, Baqir had already secretly changed sides and become a British informer. His intelligence reports, smuggled out of the city to the British camp on the Ridge, still survive in the archives of the Delhi Commissioner's Office.

A large proportion of the Mutiny Papers are the petitions of ordinary Delhiwallahs who have suffered at the hands of the sepoys; invariably they are addressed to Zafar, who they hope will protect them against the increasingly desperate Tilangas.  Significantly, in their petitions to the court, the words the ordinary people of Delhi used to describe what was happening in 1857 were not Ghadr (Mutiny) and still less Jang-e Azadi (Freedom Struggle or, more literally, war) so much as fasad (riots) and danga (disturbance or commotion). For the people of Delhi, the daily reality of what happened in 1857 was not so much liberation as violence, uncertainty and starvation. Indeed reading through the Mutiny papers there are times when it seems almost as if the Seige of Delhi had become a three-cornered contest, with the sepoys and the British fighting it out, and with the people in Delhi caught in the middle, their lives wrecked by the violence of both. Clearly Zafar saw his job as protecting the people of Delhi from both firangi and Tilanga.

Yet the growing gulf between the people of Delhi and the sepoys, so very clear in the sources, has to date never been properly written up by any historian. For the imperial British, the siege of Delhi was a great moment of British heroism against the mass of ungrateful and undifferentiated natives. For the nationalist historians since Independence, 1857 was a great unified patriotic struggle waged by heroic freedom fighters against the wicked imperialists. The reality, it turns out, was far less clear-cut. Ghalib was certainly not alone in viewing the sepoys, with all the hauteur that Delhi aristocrats were capable of, simply as troublesome and ill-mannered "blacks."28

*   *   *

* As Muslims are supposed to wash after having sex, the complaint is as much about ritual impurity as it is about hygiene.

Tilangas' is apparently a reference to Telingana, in modern Andhra Pradesh, where the British originally recruited many of their sepoys during the Carnatic Wars of the 18th century. In Delhi the name seems to have stuck as an appellation for British trained troops although the British had long since replaced Telingana with Avadh as their principle recruitment field, so that in 1857 most sepoys would have come from modern Uttar Pradesh- and parts of Bihar. 'Purbias' which in Delhi was used alternately with Tilangas, simply means Easterners. Both words carry the same connotations of foreignness implying 'these outsiders from the East'.
Nevertheless, for all the ambiguity of the equivocal Delhi responses to 1857, it is clear how very central Delhi was to the great uprising. For despite its very diffuse and fractured nature, many of the different elements that made up the uprising converged into a single programme: to restore the Mughal Empire.

For a century, this fact has been partially obscured by nationalist historians for whom the idea of Hindu sepoys flocking to Delhi to revive the Mughal Empire was more or less anathema. Since the time of VD Savarkar's book, The Indian War of Independence, 1857, published in 1909, the March outbreak in Barrackpore has been seen as the crucial event of the Mutiny, and Mangal Pandey its central icon. This is a position which was cemented by the recent Bollywood film, which though known as The Rising in its English-language avatar, was called simply Mangal Pandey in Hindi. Yet in many ways Pandey was almost irrelevant to the outbreak which took place two months later at Meerut in May29 .

Instead the Meerut insurgents headed straight to Delhi, drawn to the court of the Great Mughal, the one clear source of legitimacy recognised across Hindustan30. Even in Lucknow the sepoys rose in the name of the Emperor, and the court, which had been in rebellion against the Delhi since the late eighteenth century, sent an envoy to Delhi asking for Zafar to confirm the title Wazir for the young heir apparent Birjis Qadir, who was already minting his coins in the Emperor's name. It was the same was true in Kanpur, where the rebels celebrated their victory as due to "the enemy-destroying fortune of the Emperor."31

If Mangal Pandey was the sepoys' inspiration, they certainly did not articulate it, nor did they rush towards Barrackpore or Calcutta. Instead it was, unequivocally, the capture of Delhi that was the great transforming masterstroke for the uprising. The fact that Zafar gave the sepoys his tacit support instantly turned an army mutiny- one of a great number of mutinies and acts of armed resistance that had occurred under the Company- into the major political challenge to British dominance of India, and sparked off what would swiftly escalate into the most serious armed challenge to imperialism the world over during the course of the 19th century.

For powerless as he was in so many ways, Zafar was still the Khalifa, God's Regent on Earth. When Delhi people made an oath, rather than reaching for the scriptures they swore "by the throne of the Emperor."32  When Emily Eden went to Delhi accompanying her brother the Governor General, Lord Auckland, even the Governor General's own entourage bowed low before the Emperor, irrespective of whether they were Hindu or Muslim: "All our servants were in a state of profound veneration," wrote Emily. "The natives all look upon the King of Delhi as their rightful Lord, and so he is, I suppose."33

As his coronation portrait described him, he was "His Divine Highness, Caliph of the Age, Padshah as Glorious as Jamshed, He who is Surrounded by Hosts of Angels, Shadow of God, Refuge of Islam, Protector of the Mohammedan Religion, Offspring of the House of Timur, Greatest Emperor, Mightiest King of Kings, Emperor son of Emperor, Sultan son of Sultan." From this point of view, it was the East India Company that was the real rebel, guilty of revolt against a feudal superior to whom it had sworn allegiance for two centuries; after all, the Company had long governed as the Mughal's tax collector in Bengal, and had until recently acknowledged itself as the vassal of the Mughal even on its own seal and coins.34

For this reason many ordinary people in North India responded to Zafar's appeal, much to the astonishment of the British who had long ceased to take him seriously, and who having completely lost touch with Indian opinion, were amazed at how Hindustan ¤ reacted to his call. Seeing only the powerlessness of Zafar, the British had ceased to recognise the charisma that the name of the Mughal still possessed for both Hindus and Muslims in North India. Mark Thornhill, the British collector in Mathura, recorded his own surprise in his diary immediately after the rebel capture of Delhi:

¤ Hindustan refers to region of North India encompassing the modern Indian states of Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, where Hindustani is spoken, and the area often referred to in modern Indian papers as the ‘Cow Belt’. While the term ‘India’ is relatively rarely used in 19th century Urdu sources, there is a strong consciousness of the existence of Hindustan as a unit, with Delhi at its political centre. This was the area that was most seriously convulsed in 1857.

"Their talk was all about the ceremonial of the palace and how it would be revived. They speculated as to who would be Grand Chamberlain, which of the chiefs of Rajpootana would guard the different gates, and who were the fifty-two Rajahs who would assemble to put the Emperor on the throne… As I listened I realised as I never had done before the deep impression that the splendour of the ancient court had made on the popular imagination, how dear to them were the traditions and how faithfully, all unknown to us, they had preserved them. There was something weird in the Mogul Empire thus starting into a sort of phantom life after the slumber of a hundred years."35

For many the appeal of the Mughal Emperor was as much religious as political. As far as the Indian participants were concerned, the Rising was overwhelmingly expressed as a war of religion, and looked upon as a defensive action against the rapid inroads missionaries and Christianity were making in India, as well as a more generalised fight for freedom from foreign domination. The Great Mutiny has usually been presented by the Marxist historians of the 1960's and 1970's primarily as a rising against British social and economic policies, as both urban revolution and a peasants' revolt sparked off by loss of land rights and employment opportunities as much as anything else. All this certainly played a part. Yet when the Indian participants of the Rising articulated the reason for their revolt- as they do with great frequency and at some length in the Mutiny Papers- they invariably state that they were above all resisting a move by the Company to impose Christianity and Christian laws on India- something many Evangelical Englishmen were indeed contemplating.

As the sepoys told Zafar on May the 11th 1857, "we have joined hands to protect our religion and our faith".36 Later they stood in the Chandni Chowk, the main street of Delhi, and asked people: "Brothers: are you with those of the faith?"37 British men and women who had converted to Islam- and there were a surprising number of those in Delhi- were not hurt; but Indians who had converted to Christianity were cut down immediately. As late as the 6th September, when calling the people of Delhi to rally against the coming assault by the British, a proclamation issued in the name of Zafar spelled out very plainly "that this is a religious war, and is being prosecuted on account of the faith, and it behoves all Hindus and Musalman residents of the imperial city, or of the villages in the country… to continue true to their faith and creeds."38 Even if one accepts that the word 'religion' (for Muslims din) is often being used in the very general and non-sectarian sense of dharma (or duty, righteousness)- so that when the sepoys saying they are rising to defend their dharma, they mean as much their way of life as their sectarian religious identity- it is still highly significant that the Urdu sources usually refer to the British not as "angrez" (the English) or as goras (whites) or even firangis (foreigners, Franks), but instead almost always as kafirs (infidels) and nasrani (Christians).

Although the great majority of the sepoys were Hindus, in Delhi a flag of jihad was raised in the principal mosque, and many of the insurgents described themselves as mujahedin, ghazis and jihadis. Indeed by the end of the siege, after a significant proportion of the sepoys had melted away, unpaid, hungry and dispirited, the proportion of jihadis in Delhi grew to be about a quarter of the total fighting force, and included a regiment of "suicide ghazis" from Gwalior who had vowed never to eat again and to fight until they met death at the hands of the kafirs "for those who have come to die have no need for food"39 .

One of the causes of unrest, according to one Delhi source, was that "the British had closed the madrasas."40 These were words which had no resonance to the historians of the 1960's. Now, sadly, in the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7, they are phrases we understand all too well, and words like jihad scream out of the dusty pages of the source manuscripts, demanding attention.

*   *   *
If all this has strong contemporary echoes, in other ways, Delhi today feels as if it is fast moving away from its Mughal past. In modern Delhi an increasingly wealthy Punjabi middle class now live in an aspirational bubble of fast-rising shopping malls, espresso bars and multiplexes. Visiting Najafgarh, twenty kilometres beyond Indira Gandhi International Airport, and scene of one of the most important battles in the Seige of Delhi, I found that no one in the town had any knowledge or family memories of the battle; but instead recruitment posters for call centres were plastered all over the last surviving Mughal ruin in the town, the town's Delhi Gate.

On every side, rings of new suburbs are springing up, full of back office processing units, software companies and fancy apartment blocks, all rapidly rising on land that only two years ago was billowing winter wheat. This fast emerging middle-class India is a country with its eyes firmly fixed on the future. Everywhere there is a profound hope that the country's rapidly rising international status will somehow compensate for a past often perceived as a long succession of invasions and defeats at the hands of foreign powers. Whatever the reason, the result is a tragic neglect of Delhi's magnificent past. Sometimes it seems as if no other great city of the world is less loved, or less cared for. Occasionally there is an outcry as the tomb of the poet Zauq is discovered to have disappeared under a municipal urinal or the haveli courtyard house of his rival Ghalib is revealed to have been turned into a coal store; but by and large the losses go unrecorded.

I find it heartbreaking: often when I revisit one of my favourite monuments it has either been overrun by some slum or container park, unsympathetically restored or reconstructed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or, more usually, simply demolished. Ninety-nine per cent of the delicate havelis or Mughal courtyard houses of Old Delhi have been destroyed, and like much of the city walls, disappeared into memory. According to historian Pavan Verma, the majority of the buildings he recorded in his book Mansions at Dusk only ten years ago no longer exist. Perhaps there is also a cultural factor here in the neglect of the past: as one conservationist told me recently: "you must understand," he said, "that we Hindus burn our dead." Either way, the loss of Delhi's past is irreplaceable; and future generations will inevitably look back at the conservation failures of the early 21st century with a deep sadness.

Sometimes, on winter afternoon walks, I wander to the lovely and deeply atmospheric ruins of Zafar's summer palace in Mehrauli, a short distance from my Delhi house, and as I look out from its great gateway, I wonder what Zafar would have made of all this. Looking down over the Sufi shrine that abuts his palace, I suspect he would somehow have managed to make his peace with the fast changing cyber-India of outsourcing, call centres and software parks that are now rapidly overpowering the last remnants of his world. After all, realism and acceptance were always qualities Zafar excelled in. For all the tragedy of his life, he was able to see that the world continued to turn, and that however much the dogs might bark, the great caravan of life continues to move on. In the words of the poem commonly attributed to Zafar, and said to have been written shortly after his imprisonment:

When in silks you came and dazzled
Me with the beauty of your Spring,
You brought a flower to bloom-
Love within my being.

You lived with me, breath of my breath,
Being in my being, nor left my side;
But now the wheel of Time has turned
And you are gone- no joys abide.

You pressed your lips upon my lips,
Your heart upon my beating heart,
And I have no wish to fall in love again,
For they who sold Loves remedy
Have shut shop, and I seek in vain.

My life now gives no ray of light,
I bring no solace to heart or eye;
Out of dust to dust again,
Of no use to anyone am I.

Delhi was once a paradise,
Where Love held sway and reigned;
But its charm lies ravished now
And only ruins remain.

No tears were shed when shroudless they
Were laid in common graves;
No prayers were read for the noble dead,
Unmarked remain their graves

The heart distressed, the wounded flesh,
The mind ablaze, the rising sigh;
The drop of blood, the broken heart,
Tears on the lashes of the eye.

But things cannot remain, O Zafar,
Thus for who can tell?
Through God's great mercy and the Prophet
All may yet be well.41

William Dalrymple
New Delhi, January 2006.
  1. National Archives of India (afterwards NAI), Foreign Department, Political, November 1862. P.204/62
  2. Frances W. Pritchett, Nets of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and its Critics , Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994. p10
  3. NAI, Foreign, Foreign Dept Misc, vol 361, Precis of Palace Intelligence. For oil rubbing see entry for Monday the 29th March 1852; for hunting see entry for Thursday the 13th April 1852; for visiting gardens see Friday the 16th April 1852; for enjoying moonlight see entry for Saturday the 10th Sept ; for infidelities of BSZ's concubines see entry for Saturday the 17th April; for other pregnancies among the imperial concubines see entry for Tuesday the 30th August 1853.
  4. OIOC, Vibart papers, Eur Mss 135/19, Vibart to his Uncle Gordon, 22 Sept 1857.
  5. Major WSR Hodson, Twelve Years of a Soldeirs Life in India, London 1859, p302.
  6. Sir George Campbell, Memoirs of My Indian Career, 1893. Vol I
  7. WH Russell, My Diary in India (London 1860), p60
  8. Russell, op cit, vol 2, p51
  9. Cited in Pritchett, p29
  10. Cited in Ralph Russell and Khurshid Islam, Ghalib: Life and Letters, Delhi 1994 p269.
  11. Ralph Russell, The Oxford Ghalib: Life, Letters and Ghazals. New Delhi 2003, p166, 188
  12. James Fergusson, History of Indian & Eastern Architecture London, 1876, p594
  13. Lieutenant William Franklin in the 1795 edition of the new Asiatick Researches
  14. Lady Maria Nugent, Journal of a Residence in India 1811-15, 2Vol, John Murray, London, 1839. Vol 2, p9
  15. Irfan Habib, The Coming of 1857 in Social Scientist, Volume 26, Number 1, Jan-April 1998, p6
  16. The collection was catalogued in 1921. see Press List of Mutiny Papers 1857 Being a Collection of the Correspondence of the Mutineers at Delhi, Reports of Spies to English Officials and other Miscellaneous Papers , Imperial Records Dept, Calcutta 1921
  17. Vincent Smith, Oxford History of India Oxford 1923, p731.
  18. National Archives of India, Mutiny Papers: Bird catcher- collection 67, No. 50, 14th July; Horse trader- Collection 67,No 76, 27 July; Gamblers- Collection 62, no.80, 3rd August; confectioners collection 61, no 296, 4th August
  19. National Archives of India, Mutiny Papers. Hasni the dancer- collection 62, no 84 (no date); Kebab seller- collection 103, No.132, 10th July; Manglu the courtesan- collection 60, no. 605, 29th August
  20. It is true that several scholars- notably Aslam Pervez and Mahdi Hussain have already drawn glancingly on some of the material in the Mutiny Papers, and Margrit Pernau has used it extensively for her forthcoming study of the Muslims of 19th century Delhi, but I believe this book is the first time a properly systematic use has been made of the material for the study of Delhi in 1857.
  21. Margrit Pernau is currently embarking on a project to translate and publish these riches as well the court Akhbarat which preceded the printed newspapers. Up to now scholars have only used the brief passages which are translated in Nadar Ali Khan's., A History of Urdu Journalism 1822-1857 (New Delhi, 1991)
  22. The only historian of Delhi who seems to have used the Punjab Archive seems to be Sylvia Shorto who drew on the material for her fascinating thesis, Public Lives, Private Places, British Houses in Delhi 1803-57 Unpublished dissertation, NYU, 2004
  23. Eric Stokes, The Peasant and the Raj- Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India (London 1978); Eric Stokes, The Peasant Armed: The Indian Revolt of 1857 ed CA Bayly (Oxford 1986); Rudrangshu Mukherjee Avadh in Revolt 1857-8- A Study of Popular Resistance (New Delhi 1984) ; Tapti Roy The Politics of a Popular Uprising: Bundelkhand in 1857 (Oxford 1994).
  24. See Rudrangshu Mukherjee Avadh in Revolt 1857-8- A Study of Popular Resistance (New Delhi 1984
  25. Dihli Urdu Akbhar, issue of 17th May 1857.
  26. Dihli Urdu Akbhar, issue of 24th May 1857.
  27. Dihli Urdu Akbhar, issue of 23rd August 1857.
  28. Ghalib routinely refered to the Mutineers as "blacks" in both his public works- such as Dastanbuy- and his private correspondence. See for example Russell, The Oxford Ghalib p167.
  29. This is well argued by Rudrangshu Mukherjee in his excellent short monograph, Mangal Pandey: Brave Martyr or Accidental Hero (New Delhi 2005), p63.
  30. Though of course there were those who resisted the Mughal claim, such as the Nawabs of Avadh and, further away, Tipu Sultan.
  31. Mukherjee, Rudrangshu, "Satan Let Loose upon Earth" The Kanpur massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857. Past and Present No.128, pp110-1
  32. Akhtar Qamber, The Last Mushaiirah of Dehli: A Translation of Farhatullah Baig's modern Urdu classic Dehli ki Akhri Shama' New Delhi 1979 p62
  33. Emily Eden, Up the Country, Letters from India. London, 1930. p97
  34. This important point was well argued by F.W Buckler (1891-1960) in his righly celebrated essay, The Political Theory of the Indian Mutiny Trans of the Royal Historical Soc, 4 series,5,1922, 71-100 (also reprinted in Legitimacy and symbols : the South Asian writings of F.W. Buckler / edited by M.N. Pearson Ann Arbor, Mich. : Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, c1985
  35. Thornhill, Mark., Personal Adventures and Experiences of a Magistrate, during the Rise, Progress and Suppression of the Indian Mutiny. London, 1884, p7
  36. NAI. Mutiny Papers, Collection 60, number 830
  37. OIOC, Eur Mss B 138 , The City of Delhi during 1857, Translation of the account of Said Mobarak Shah.
  38. Quoted by the prosecution in the concluding speech at the trial of Zafar. Proceedings on the Trial of Muhammad Bahadur Shah, Titular King of Delhi, Before a Military Commission, upon a charge of Rebellion, Treason and Murder, held at Delhi, on the 27th Day of January 1858, and following days London 1859, p142.
  39. OIOC, Montgomery Papers, No.198, 7th Sept 1857
  40. Fazl ul-Haq, The Story of the War of Independence, 1857-8 [Journal Pak Hist Soc, Jan 1957, Vol V, pt 1,
  41. Two of the most celebrated ghazals long attributed to Zafar - "Lagtaa nahii hai dil meraa" ["Nothing brings happiness to my heart"} and "Naa kissii kii aankh kaa nuur huun" ["I bring no solace to heart or eye"], given here in a variant of Ahmed Ali's beautiful translation, are popularly known in the subcontinent largely because of Mohammed Rafi who sang them for the Bombay film "Lal Qila". They subsequently became popular in the Fifties and Sixties thanks to All India Radio. However recent research by the Lahore scholar, Imran Khan, and backed by several other leading scholars of Urdu literature, has cast doubt on Zafar's authorship of both verses, though no other poet has been successfully identified as their writer. Certainly the ghazals do not appear in any of Zafar's four published divans, nor in the periodical "Hazoor-e Wala" where Zafar also published poems. Nevertheless, as William Howard Russell explicitly described him writing verses on the walls of his prison with a burned stick, it is not impossible that these could somehow have been recorded and preserved. I would like to thank Professor Fran Pritchett and Sundeep Dougal for bringing these development to my attention.

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