My last stop in India, before returning to Delhi, was Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh. It was also my last couchsurfing experience: I stayed with Alex, a former artillery officer turned property investor, with an interest in colonial history. We got on well.
Lucknow was one of the key locations in the 1857 Indian Mutiny (which I wrote about previously in the Jhansi and Gwalior post). It was the capital of Awadh (or Oudh to the British), formerly a Mughal province, later a quasi-autonomous kingdom ruled by a Nawab. It was the British overthrow of the Nawab and annexation of Oudh which was one of the causes of the Mutiny. The British garrison in Lucknow were besieged in the Residency complex (the official home of the Resident, the East India Company‘s equivalent of an ambassador to a native state) and held out for six months of intense fighting until relieved. Afterwards, the scarred but still standing Residency building became one of the symbols of British tenacity. I imagine that in India, it was equally powerful as a symbol of continuing oppression.
It’s impossible to write about my visits to the cities of Jhansi and Gwalior without first explaining the historical reasons why I would be interested in them. The first part of what follows is therefore a brief-ish and opinionated summary of what Wikipedia, that bastion of neutrality, calls the “Indian Rebellion of 1857“, but is traditionally known in British historiography as the Indian Mutiny. Feel free to skip it if you just want to read about me wandering around some forts.
Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, one of the leaders of the 1857 Indian Mutiny