The Better India

The Monument That Stands As A Lasting Memory Of India’s First War Of Independence!


As our nation prepares to celebrate its 65th Republic Day, we take you down a narrow but picturesque memory lane that has a monument with a story to tell – a story of India’s glorious past, of courageous men, of intrigues and betrayals and rebellions and brute force. We salute the Heroes of the First War of Independence with this exclusive photo essay steeped in history.

There’s a living monument in the very heart of Lucknow. It’s the ruins of the Residency, where one of the fiercest and the most dramatic of our freedom struggles was fought. It was India’s very first War of Independence, and the year was 1857.


During that war, which the British referred to dismissively as the Sepoy Mutiny, over 1300 Britishers living in the city of Lucknow panicked and took refuge in the residence of Sir Henry Lawrence.


The advancing troop of freedom fighters trapped them inside the Residency in one of the bloodiest and longest sieges in the history of mankind. Supplies of food, water and medicines were completely cut off, and a fierce battle raged on.


It took all of 27 days for a small relief platoon to break through the tenacious barricade, but soon they too were trapped inside. And the siege continued for another 60 gruelling days.


The remnants of the Residency today has a church, a school, a post office, a jail and a stable. Each one deeply scarred with the pock-marks of cannon balls and sniper bullets.


But the graveyard near the church shows the Great Imperial Divide. The Britishers have individual tombstones with flowery epitaphs engraved on them, whereas the Indians who fought for the British against their own brethren have been given an anonymous mass burial. Perhaps it was poetic justice for having betrayed their own brothers!


The red-brick structures stand in mute testimony to the will and determination of the first in our long line of freedom fighters.


It left me wondering why such a dramatic theatre like the Residency doesn’t have a son-et-lumiere show. Probably it’s because in India there is so much of history that every second stone we stumble upon is a relic. And familiarity probably breeds contempt of history.


That said, The Archaeological Survey of India has done a commendable job of preserving it as they found it, with information about the history of the monument aesthetically laid out on stone panels.


Standing there, my heart swelled with pride when I realized that this is the place where the very edifice of the mighty British Empire was shaken to its foundations. And 90 years later it came crumbling down like a pack of Imperial cards. Proving once and for all that the sun does set on the British Empire!

All photographs by: Gangadharan Menon

After 28 years in advertising as a writer and creative director, Gangadharan Menon quit the profession to take up his first and second love: teaching and travel. He has over 90 published articles that recount the joy of travelling in this amazing country. A member of Bombay Natural History Society, he is an avid wildlife photographer too. Currently he is working on his first collection of travel writings titled Evergreen Leaves. He can be contacted on wildganges[at]