Central India, Part I

As we have completed looking at the events of 1857 in Gwalior, it would be remiss if we did not now turn our attention to Gwalior’s bordering territories in Central India.
These events are generally less known than those of Oudh and the North West, lacking some of the drama and tragedy which mark Lucknow and Delhi.

Central India and Gwalior

Yet events south of the Jamuna cannot be neglected and remain the scene of a turning points during the rebellion. It is something of a jumbled history – however one which my readers might find interesting nevertheless.

Instead of focusing on each station individually, I will outline them all here as a sequence of events – some will get a little more attention, others less.

Some History and Geography

Central India was, as it is today, a vast area, comprising mostly of the tableland of Malwa, a highly cultivated area, broken up by small flat-topped hills and low ridges. A multitude of rivers flow through the are including the Chambal, Sindh, Banas and Betwa all draining into the Jamuna on the north, with the Narbada and its tributaries on the south.
Much of the country was, in 1857, densely forested, especially in the hill regions and these at the time were but sparesly cultivated.
The inhabitants of Central India are as varied as the landscape – Pathans, Mahrattas and Rajputs, and the forest and hill dwelling aboriginal Bhils and Gonds. With such a variety of castes, creeds and languages, Central India could be seen as a country of its own – the Mahrattas certainly thought so.

Many of the regions in Central India where the rebellion took place had been the scene of operations during Anglo-Mahratta War of 1817, which had led to the end of the Mahratta Confederacy, the nation founded by Shivaji broken up and the territories of the last Peshwa annexed. Included in the theatre of operations in 1857 to south of the Cawnpore-Agra line included Central India -Gwalior, Western Malwa, Indore and Bundelkhand with Jhansi, a portion of the Central Provinces then called Sagar and Narbada Territories and parts of Rajputana (today called Rajasthan.)

As we have already seen, Peshwa Baji Rao II, overthrown in 1817, was still not quite the distant memory the EICo would have wished him to be. His successor was his very disgruntled adopted son, Nana Sahib, his understandable fury at Dalhousie and the Doctrine of Lapse aside, had aspirations not just to the overthrow the English but reinstate the Mahratta Empire. Although not everyone wanted Nana Sahib in particular as their leader, there was certainly little opposition to his actual plans and it took but “little encouragement to kindle into a blaze…the whole country from the Jumna to the Krishna and Tunabhdra…” It was not only revolt of the army in Central India, but of a nation. The Nana Sahib had been busy for months, possibly years before the uprising of 1857, sowing seeds of dissention throughout the lands he thought by right were his; his childhood friend the Rani of Jhansi had her own grieveances against the EICo and she herself would finally follow the Nana’s call. The Nana had spent much of early 1857 travelling, even as far as Kalpi on the banks of the Jamuna, and had sent his agents far and wide throughout the former Mahratta country. He was hoping, it would seem for a clear and decisive uprising, all of Central India falling in behind his flag. With Gwalior and its mighty contingent but 70 miles from Agra, it was no wonder the Nana was particularly keen to have Scindia as an ally, yet have already seen things did not go exactly to plan. He also had Holkar at Indore to contend with. We shall look into Holkar’s history later and in some more detail than presented here.

On the eve of rebellion, Central India stood, it can be said, on the threshold of change. The EICo, as in many of their territories had to a greater extent taken their strategies of so-called development to extremes, encouraging capital gain, promoting trade and removing without much care the traditional institutions of farmers and their landlords. What they contined to forget, as bad as a leader might be in the eyes of the EICo, he was the man the people of the land understood and would follow. A foreign government, no matter what their intentions were, would remain what they were – invaders. Although the British were able to prove that in some cases their rule was profitable for the people, it always came at a loss for the self-same people who were in essence robbed of their identity.
In Central India, one of the main problems was debt. The British viewed the situation with some disgust,
“…many of the chiefs own very large estates, either rent free or from which they pay a quit rent to government, and nearly all of which are neglected or grieviously mismanaged. The chiefs are illiterate, some of the debauched…and are so deeply involved in debt that many of them cannot honestly maintain themselves, families and numerous other adherents, nor satisfy their creditors, or their followers, and the latter…greatly plunder their neighbours…”

It was to some extent, a rule of lawlessness and the British were determined to put an end to it. They treated the indebted chiefs with severity and in 1856, called into life, direct management.

“…owing to their being exempt from the operations of the ordinary Civil Courts, shall be called on for a schedule of their liabilities, and to make immediate arrangements for the settlement of their debts, if they fail in doing so, the creditors shall also be called on to come foward and register their claims…The Chiefs…shall be invited to place their estates under the management of the District Officer…Should the Chief not agree…the same shall be reported to the Commissioner, who will either direct the estate be taken in trust, or place the Chief, at once under the ordinary Civil Courts. When an estate is taken in trust, the chief’s management shall cease. The District Officer will then nominate a paid manager…The District Officer shall after paying the Goverment Demand put aside a fair sum for the maintenance of the Chief and his followers. If the Chief should become again involved…he will be at once declared liable to the the Ordinary Civil Courts…The District Officer may lease out the villages of an estate, as he sees fit.” (W.C. Erskine to W.C. Western, 11 July 1856)

Despite this, many estates continued to wither away under massive financial problems.

There was nothing noble in the EICo’s intentions. They were not as concerned with the welfare of the chiefs but more so with the loss of revenue a failing estate meant for the company.
To maximize their profit the government continued to investigate cases of maufi land – land which had been granted revenue-free in return for services to the state – and quite deliberately encroach on traditional lands. There was of course much confusion in this regard and the EICo simply added to it, by trying to figure out to whom the land had belonged to initially and returning it to the “rightful” owners in the settlement drive that plagued District officers throughout their territories for years. Gubbins and many others spoke out against this since there really was no way to ensure it was fair, someone would always lose out. In 1855 they attempted to crawl out of this rather large hole they were digging by detailing officers to deal with the larger estates and leaving settlement officers to handle the smaller cases and although this hurried the process along for smaller plots it did not really help much with larger ones. In 1856 the government declared “that incumbents at cession were to hold for life, but their heirs would hold for the term of the settlement progress. Otherwise, the state was to resume all maufi grants.” (David Baker, Modern Asian Studies, 1991)

Though this might have cleared up one point it did not deal completely with the larger estates. The EICo still saw these as hindering rural progress and they had begun investigating tenured rights as far back as 1834 but the problem was more far-reaching than that. The breakup of a large estate meant the inevitable loss of status for its current owner so the government took up a policy of investigating these when the owner died, taking then, into consideration the rights of the incoming heir. Settlements were often changed, revised, opposed and granted in cases which could take years, during which time, the progress the EICo so craved was hampered, and the problems of bad management and debt were not actually solved. A combination of “high assessments, coercion and failing seasons” had forced many a landower even deeper into debt thus alienating them further from the government who saw them as sinners, one and all.
Not everyone on EICo pay was happy with this situation. Sleeman often complained loudly and very vocally that the government assessments were too high, they had failed to consider the actual effects of drought and that much of the debt incurred was not just due to their “debauched” ways but due to nature herself. It was a very complex problem without any easy solutions. It started with the chiefs and went all the way down to the tenants who were more often than not in debt with moneylenders simply to pay off the exhorbiant rates demanded from the landowers leaving them poor and starving.

In the midst of this mess, the EICo still had time to consider how they were going to turn a profit. They instituted forestry departments to manage more effectively the vast tracts of jungle, from which valuable teak and other hardwoods could be extracted. Sleeman forbid the indiscriminate cutting of trees without a permit on the grounds the land belonged, not to the people, but to the government. By 1852, the first official conservators of woods and forest were appointed for all forest that was not part of a settlement case and in 1854, it was proclaimed that “the Goverment reserves to itself the rights to all large forests, where valuable timber exists….Where large tracts of lands either forests or cultivated exists, the Government also reserves the right to dispose of such as it may think proper.” Officials in forested districts were instructed to stop issuing permits for cutting and to hand over the teak and other forests to the appointed officers. In the same year, the provincial government of the Northwestern Provinces under which Central India fell at the time, prepared to demarcate and reserve entire forests simply to utilize them for their own profit. While they portioned and parcelled off forests, the indigenous people, namely the Bhils and Gonds in Central India who lived in the forests and hills, were being trampled on.

The government, in it’s drive for development determined now who could do what. They slated much of the fertile land in Central India to grow wheat as it was the most profitable crop for them, regardless if the peasant population could do anything with the surplus, without taking into consideration the traditional crops of the region. Wheat eventually won the war, becoming the prime export of Central India by 1853. They also implemented projects to move goods quicker and more efficiently out of the area – roads, bridges and railways, the intention on the outside was “development” but in essence, it was simply a way to shift profits quicker from one end of the country to the other. Besides wheat and wood, there was much to made of the iron and other metals which naturally occurred in the area. On the upside, this lead to an improvement in the economy of Central India. With goods shifted out, other were brought in and traded. Salt, sugar, spices, brass and copper utensils from the north and rice from the south were the principal imports. Iron, cloth, leather and timber flowed in ample quantities out of Central India. A substanital merchant community sprang up who quickly took control of the import and export trade, and as communication improved and the demand for agricultural produce increased, prices too started to go up and stabilise.

Where Central India stood in 1857 was described quite fittingly as such,

“In short, every aspect of agriculture and agricultural life was either in the process of change or at the point of incipient change…far more rapidly in the lowlands than in the hills, and in the Cotton and Wheat Zones than in the Rice Zone.”

This foreign government had essentially turned Central India on its head. The local chief, depending on their debt, had either had to relinquish their holdings altogether to outside management, or had had to see their estates decreased or settled with losses. It cannot have been much of a surprise when these chiefs rose in rebellion.


In order to conclude our efforts to traverse Bundelkhand we shall begin this chapter there, however as we have already seen, nothing in 1857 is ever so simple. The main opposition the British faced was from a multitude of disgruntled Bundlea chiefs, many of the same mindset that had made Scot’s escape from Nowgong such a misery. In other parts of Central India they would meet marked resistance from the Gonds, a tribal people who had been ruthlessly trampled on by the EICo’s forestry claims, leaving many barred from their traditional homes. They were further exploited by the settlement of farmers into their lands and in all, their demands had been largely ignored by the EICo. Many Gond thalukdars and thakurs openly joined the rebellion. In other areas, Lodhi rajas and thakurs participated in the revolt, notably, Damoh, Mandla and Narsimhapur, with additonal outbreaks in Sagar, Jabalpur and Seoni. Everywhere they joined the Gonds and Bundleas in defying the EICo. Their intention was to reverse the efforts of the government to change the very structure of their homeland.

Rebellion in Bundelkhand started in Jhansi and quickly escalated, swallowing Nowgong and the little station of Lalitpur in the Jhansi District. There was not exactly a mutiny in Lalitpur -the officers, suitably terrified of the local Bundelkhand chiefs took the decision to leave before anyone got the idea to cut their throats. However, by abandoning their post so prematurely, they left an open door for rebels to march practically unhindered and put themselves in all sorts of trouble.

Events at Lalitpur

While the events were taking place in Jhansi (which led to the eventual annhilation of the Europeans of the station), the Chanderi district had become more and more unsettled. Captain A.C. Gordon, Deputy Commissioner of Chanderi, had taken the place of Liuetenant Hamilton on the 7th of June only to find the Bundleas were up in arms in all directions. As the news of the outbreak at Jhansi spread, plundering commenced everywhere, and large disorderly bands of Rajputs scoured the countryside, collecting first at Chanderi, then at Talbehat and finally around Lalitpur. The Raja of Banpur, Mardan Singh invited by Hamilton before he left), to a sojourn in Lalitpur, first professed his loyalty to the government and expressed his disgust at the rebellious Rajputs. He took it on himself to occupy the hill passages with strong bodies of matchlockmen, while at the same time, endeavoured to demoralise the sepoys of the 6th Regiment of the Gwalior Contingent, stationed at Lalitpur. Captain Gordon, aware of the Raja’s duplitous nature, but realising he could do nothing without reinforcements of Scindia’s commander at the next station of Isagarh, urged the Raja to prove his fidelity by retiring back to his own territory of Banpur.
Captain Gordon was summarily ignored. The Raja then refused to meet with the captain, leaving Gordon no choice but to order the Raja to leave Lalitpur. The Raja condescended to go but he took up quarters at his fort at Maraura, barely four miles from the station. He quickly collected a strong force of Bundleas and some guns, thumbing his nose not just at Gordon but at the entire EICo.
Meanwhile, in Lalitpur, the situation was not improving.

In the station, the Europeans were becoming decidedly nervous. They were, as follows:

Captain A.C. Gordon, Deputy Commissioner,
Captain Sale commanding the 6th Regiment, Gwalior Infantry
Lieutenant Irwin, second in command, 6th Regiment
Dr. O’Brien 6th Regiment
Sergenat Major, as yet unnamed, 6th Regiment
Mr. Verrier, Customs department

Men attached to the Raja of Banpur had pushed their way into the Lalitpur bazaar, and Captain Gordon found himself ordering a retreat. His first step to ensure some peace had been to hand the entire treasury into the hands of the sepoys of the Gwalior Contingent for safe-keeping, and then to ask Brigadier Sage stationed at Sagar for assistance in the form of guns. He received the mssage on the 13th of June and promptly sent off two 9-pounder guns escorted by one company of the 31st BNI, one of the 42nd and seventy-five troops of the 3rd Irregulars under Major Gaussen. The detachment was destined never to reach Lalitpur.

Captain Gordon did two inexplicable things but in the situation, he can perhaps be forgiven. Besides handing over the treasury to the Gwalior Contingent, he then thought it advisable to make over the entire district to the Raja of Banpur. His intention was to prevent plunder and he hoped this would secure him and the remaining Europeans at Lalitpur safe passage, they had after all the contingent for protection.
However, once the treasury was in their hands, the contingent refused to move. They announced they were “servants of the King of Delhi” and advised their officers to be off.
Seeing there was nothing for it, Gordon and the others left the station to its fate.

The party, along with the wife and children of Lieutenant Irwin, made their way on the Sagar road, but at the end of the bazaar they were captured by the Raja’s men, who promptly marched them off to their liege.
They were met by the Raja’s agent who, armed with a piece of paper guaranteeing them protection, escorted them to the fort at Maraura and put them into confinement, all the while the Raja refusing to see Captain Gordon.
With Lalitpur now free of Europeans, the Raja of Banpur threw off the rest of his momentary alliegience to the government and moved into the station with a strong force and some guns. His mind was on the treasury but he would be disappointed.

The 6th Regiment paid no heed to the Raja and marched off with the treasury, prompting him to attack them. The contingent repulsed the attack and continued their march. Baffled and somewhat sore, the Raja ordered Gordon and the other fugitives to be imprisoned in his fort at Tehri and then marched off to meet the force coming from Sagar. He hoped to induce them to rebel and join him in the chase after the 6th Regiment.
Major Gaussen, commanding the detachment from Sagar, had reached Malthon, some 40 miles from that place when he heard of the mutiny at Lalitpur and of the movements of the Banpur Raja. He at once halted his force and wrote to Sage for instructions, asking for reinforcements. Sage replied by sending 400 infantry and 100 cavalry to Gaussen’s aid.

The Sagar and Narbada Territories

The Narmada Valley and the adjoining districts had come under British administration after the defeat of Sagar and Nagpur in 1818. From 1820, this area was known as the “Saugor and Nerbudda Territories” and administered, at different times either by the governor-general directly or as a commissioner’s division of the North-Western Provinces. There were three military stations in the Sagar and Narbada Territories: Sagar, Jabalpur and Hoshangabad. We will look at Sagar first.
The troop in the territories were distributed thus:

Sagar: 1 Company European Bengal Artillery
3rd Irregular Cavalry
31st BNI
42nd BNI
Damoh: 2 Companies, 42nd BNI
Jabalpur: 52nd BNI
Mandla: A Havildar’s Guard, 52nd BNI
Seoni: 1 Company, Madras Infantry
Narsinghpur: 4 Companies, 28th Madras Infantry
Hoshangabad: 4 Companies, 28th Madras Infantry
Betul: 2 Companies, 28th Madras Infantry

Sage at Sagar
Sagar was garrisoned by the 31st and 42nd BNI, the 3rd Regiment Irregular Cavalry and sixty-eight European gunners. In Jabalpur were stationed the 52nd BNI and at Hoshangabad, the 28th Madras Native Infantry. The commandant of this district force was Brigadier Sage, who made his headquarters at Sagar.
Neither the news of the mutiny at Meerut nor the events at Jhansi appeared to adversely affect the men under Sage’s command. Outwardly, they all appeared calm and their conduct unchanged. Some disobedience and mutterings were creeping into ranks of which Sage was aware but he was not going to abandon Sagar until the men mutinied in earnest.
The events which unsettled Sagar somewhat was as follows:
On the 14th, some men of the 42nd reported that four men of their regiment had tried to prevent Gaussen’s men from leaving the station. The four were seized, tried by Native Court-Martial and sentenced to six months in jail. The very next day, On the 15th, Lieutenant Millar of the 52nd had had a musket thrust at him while inspecting the guards, however, the man was seized by the Subadar Major and confined to the guardroom while his comrades remonstrated on his behalf. Interestingly enough, the medical officer declared the man mad and he was scurried off to Benares to the lunatic asylum, only to be declared sane upon arriving and hung.

Brigadier Sage was in something of a bind – the station, in the event of a mutiny would be impossible to protect with only 68 Europeans should the entire force rise. At one end of the station were a fort, the magazine and the battering train; at the other, some three miles away, a position known as Artillery Hill. He had long since made up his mind which point he would abandon and it was Artillery Hill. It had neither an adequate supply of water nor anywhere to store provisions- it would be a grave folly to try and keep it but strategically, an equally terrible loss.

We now return to Major Gaussen.
The detachment marched from Sagar in good order and joined Major Gaussen at Malthon on the 23rd of June. Gaussen decided to make a show of force and promptly attacked the fort of Balabet, held by rebels. Successfully storming the position with one European killed and one wounded (Ensign Spens killed while blowing up the gate and Lieutenant Willoughby wounded) and taking 16 rebels prisoner, it seemed like a sure victory, but what Gaussen did not know, is his men had promised the prisoners their lives. Two days later and back at Malthon, Gaussen was forced by his men to give them up to the Raja of Banpur.

The Raja, seeing his opportunity had come, entered the British camp and openly offered the sepoys a monthly pay of 12 rupees if they would leave their officers, provided they brought their arms and ammunition with them. The sepoys readily agreed and dismissed Gaussen and the other Europeans, swelling the ranks of what could now be called an army of the Raja of Banpur.
Gaussen and the others were forced to return to Sagar with a few exceptions, 2 companies, 75 irregulars and 2 9-pounders short. It is not recorded what Brigadier Sage said to Gaussen in reply but in any event, it prompted Sage to take action. He now had a querulous Raja to deal with besides a mutiny. Yet, Sage had a plan.

“Accordingly he at once, and in the most judicious manner, began his operations. He first moved the contents of the treasury into the fort; to the same place he next conveyed the contents of the expense magazine and the artillery magazine; and, last of all, he removed thither the women, the children, and the baggage of the European artillery. As soon as this had been accomplished, he took a guard of Europeans and relieved the Sipahi guard at the fort gate. Thus, by a few decisive strokes, the one following the other with lapidity, Sage gained a place of refuge, secured the contents of the magazine, and saved the treasure.”

On the morning of the 30th of June, whilst the usual guard-mounting was in progress, Sage marched the Europeans and 60 cavalry who remained loyal, to the fort. He then sent a message to all the native officers, frankly explaining why he had taken this decision and adding that they had “suffered acts of mutiny to take place without opposing them, and had forfeited their character; that there was yet one method open to them of regaining it, and that was to have the leading mutineers seized and delivered up to justice.”

The officers, taken aback by Sage’s words, quickly promised him everything he asked for, but the very next morning, the 3rd Irregulars and the 42nd BNI broke into open mutiny, plundering the bazaar and their officer’s bungalows. The 31st stood aside and continued to profess their loyalty. Sage remained barricaded in the fort. A stand-off ensued.

Sagar Fort

Done for a moment with pillaging and general distruction, some of the mutineers left Sagar and made their way to Damoh, intent on convincing the 2 companies of the 42nd stationed there to join the cause.
In the meantime, some of the men of the 31st who had accompanied Major Gaussen relieved the Light Company of that regiment, which had proved itself beyond saving, and returned to Sagar. Some men of the 31st pled contrition, but 45 of them quickly joined the ranks of the 42nd. The men sent out by the 42nd on the same venture had all joined the mutineers – the 6 who refused were put to death by their comrades.

In Sagar, a new ruler had now declared himself. Subadar Shaikh Ramzan of the 42nd, styling himself a general, took command of the cantonments The mutineers siezed the large saluting gun on the top of Artillery Hill and brought it down to the quarter-guard of the 42nd which was now declared their headquarters.

Meanwhile the 31st, with the execption of the 45 men, stood back from these proceedings. The native officers of the corps made daily reports to Sage in the fort and even saved much of the European officers property, conveying it to the fort.

Things however came to a head when sepoy of the 31st killed a trooper of the 42nd who had opened fire on him. The 31st requested permission from Sage to attack the 42nd. The brigadier did not oppose their plan but he refused to allow their English officers to join them. Instead, he sent out a strong party of Customs chaprassis, armed with muskets to make a demonstration in favor of the 31st – these were accompanied by the officers of the Customs Department and by Captain Pinkney and by Lieutenant Hamilton, the Assistant Commissioner.
The mutineers realising they were about to be attacked, took the initiative and fired round shot at the 31st from the saluting gun – the first volley in the battle of the Sagar regiments. The 31st were in a terrible position – besides the saluting gun, the 42nd were making solid use of two further guns. The 31st again sent a message to Sage, this time asking him for guns to dispatch the 42nd, once and for all.
As night was drawing in, Sage replied that although it was too late to send out the guns now, in the morning, he would bring them victory.
The message spread through Sagar like wildfire.
For the 31st, it strenghtened their resolve to remain loyal, while it so dispirited the 42nd, they fled the station during the night, actively pursued by men of the 31st, who managed to even capture one gun.
“When the victors returned, it was ascertained that whilst the entire 31st, the forty above alluded to excepted, had remained loyal, fifty of the 42nd had followed their example,
and the sixty loyal troopers had been joined by at least an equal number of the same temper from out-stations.”

Brigadier Sage now turned his attention to further strenghthening the fort. He had supplies and medical stores for 6 months and enough guns and ammunition. He also had a large contingent of men at his disposal. He further ordered all the civilian men to be drilled which grew his force by further 60 men and the total of European fighting men to 123. He still had 190 women and children to look after but compared to what he had had before, it was certainly a better position to be in than he had been in, in June.
He was not a man to take attacks lightly – the Bundlea rebels repeatedly opened fire on the fort and in his turn, Sage sent out a force to persue them, it was a cat and mouse siege, that would last 3 months.

His was not simply a battle against the Raja of Banpur. Sage had to contend with every petty chief from the surrounded district who had flocked to the united banners of Banpur and Shahgarh.

The Fugitives of Lalitpur and the Raja of Shahgarh
We had left Captain Gordon and the other fugitives of Lalitpur as well-treated prisoners in the fort at Maraura. On the 15th of June they were sent off to Banpur and their first visitor the next day, was the disgraced minister of the Raja, one Muhammad Ali who had from the first opposed his leader’s rebellious schemes. Through his contrivances, they were moved, on the 17th of June to Tehri where they took up residence in the house of the Prem Narayana, once tutor to the young Raja and stayed until the 2nd of July. The Tehri authorities treated them well but were not keen on extending their visit – on the 2nd the party started out with a strong guard to Shahgarh with the promise of being escorted to Sagar, but the soldiers deserted and they were left with only the 2 Madras servants of Captain Gordon who had accompanied them from Lalitpur and now formed the entirity of their guard. After three days, they arrived in Shahgarh where on the 7th of July, they were apprised of the mutiny at Sagar, thus forcing them to stay under the protection of the Raja of Shahgarh, Bahkt Bali Shah.

Rebels from Sagar started to arrive in Shahgarh on the 10th and the Raja of Banpur accompanied them – it was not the best situation for Captain Gordon nor for the Shahgarh Raja who quickly moved the party out of his fort; first to a garden house some distance away and then had them moved about from village to village until the mutineers left.
It was but the start of a rather long and winding journey.
The Raja of Shahgarh in the meantime had invaded Sagar territory himself and although he continued to profess his loyalty to Gordon, he was also keeping up intense correspondence with the Banpur Raja. On the 18th of July, after firing a salute for the erroneous news of the fall of Delhi, he marched the Europeans out of Shahgarh, and put them on the road to Sagar, not as friends but as his prisoners.
Unfortunately, the Raja of Shahgarh met in open battle with the British forces who were on their march into Central India – at Benaika he was defeated, lost a gun and was severely wounded. He quickly sent for Gordon who was now living in a cowshed in Papit, and explained his troops had fired on the British by mistake, quite against his orders. If Gordon (who had already signed a paper handing Lalitpur over the Raja of Banpur) would agree to give him the Garhakota District, he would ally himself at once to the British cause. If not, the Shahgarh Raja would openly join the rebellion
Gordon, to save what he could of this rather difficult situation whîch could cost him not only his head but that of the other fugitives, agreed. The Raja once again promised to send them to Sagar but their journey terminated at Papit and the inevitable cowshed until the 29th of July.
That day saw them marched off to a jungle fort at Baretta from where they were informed there was no chance of them reaching Sagar as the country was much too unsettled and thus impossible to traverse. Captain Gordon and his party would have to twiddle thumbs, badly fed and poorly treated until their release. On the 12th of September they left Baretta and finally reached Sagar on the 14th, the Raja having been induced to set them free by his obvious alarm at the advance of the British – Colonel Millar’s Nagpore Moveable Column was in full force.

We have already seen that Raja Mardan Singh of Banpur from the first had made his intentions clear – he was not going to ally himself with the British and as such, he fought a valiant fight. It is no denying he was a fine leader and in his intentions to free his country of the foreign rule, a noble man. He would fight to the end, joining the Rani of Jhansi at her final battle with Hugh Rose. He would suffer the indignity of capture, sent until his death into exile in Mathura, his territories lost and parcelled off mostly to Scindia. Bahkt Bali Shah helped Tatya Tope during his later attack on Charkhari and would be invited by Nana Sahib to join him in Gwalior during Scindia’s brief absence. He was captured by the British on his way to Gwalior in September 1858 and sent, a prisoner to far-flung Lahore. He died in 1873 in Vrindavan. Like that of Banpur, his territory was siezed and after the mutiny was over, split up, never to unite again. The end of the mutiny also brought to a close any chance of re-establishing a traditional economy in Central India – they were firmly in the grasp of of the imperial economy and by the official aims of “progress and development” could be realised.

We are not yet finished with Central India and the journey continues.


The Indian Mutiny to the Fall of Delhi – compiled by A Former Editor of the Delhi Gazette (1857)
Central India During the Rebellion of 1857 and 1858 – Thomas Lowe M.R.S.C.E., L.A.C. (1860)
Kaye’s and Malleson’s History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, edited by Colonel Malleson, C.S.I, Vol V. (1907)
The Revolt in Central India 1857-58, compiled in the Intelligence Branch (1908)
Baker, David. “Colonial Beginnings and the Indian Response: The Revolt of 1857-58 in Madhya Pradesh.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 25, no. 3, 1991, pp. 511–43. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/312615. Accessed 20 Aug. 2022.