Sardhana palace of Walter Reinhardt Sombre which now is a seminary of the Catholic diocese of Agra. Begum Samru spent most of her life in this palace. The palace has some exquisitely carved underground cool rooms; however, I was not able to access them due to it being closed on a Sunday. When Begum shifted to her new palace nearby, she gave this palace to Paolo Solaroli, an Italian officer in Begum's army who was also married to Begum's great granddaughter, Georgiana. The Catholic diocese of Agra took over the building when Solaroli left for Italy.
Begum Samru's palace in which she stayed just for a year before her death in 1836. The building is now a college and its interiors are partially preserved, particularly the Begum's bathrooms, all in marble with inlaid pietra dura work. I was not allowed access to the palace by the commandant responsible for securing the premises for polling on the eve of assembly elections. However, after having a long chat with him on the historical importance of the building; he was kind enough to allow me to move around the periphery of the palace and also click some photographs.
The characteristic staircase modeled after a water stream is a common feature in the work of Anthony Reghelini, the architect, who was also an officer in Begum's army. Similar staircases are found at the Sardhana church and at one time adorned Begum's Delhi palace too.
The throne room of the palace had some 25 oil paintings of the Begum and her friends, relations and courtiers. Most of them were bought by the local Government in 1895 and were relocated to the Governor's house in Allahabad. Today only two of them survive.
Sardhana church built by Begum Samru and architected by Anthony Reghelini, Begum's Italian officer. It was completed in 1820 and opened to public in 1822 and was consecrated by the Prefect Apostolic of Agra, the Rev. Fr. Antoninus Pezzoni. During Begum Samru's time this was a Cathedral as Pope had appointed a Bishop for the church. There's an inscription in Latin at the front of the church that translates to -
"To God most good and great, the most illustrious Lady Joanna, ruler of Sardhana, raised (this church) from its foundations at her own expense, and dedicated it according to the Roman Catholic rite, under the title and patronage of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in the year of the Lord 1822".
SardhanaChurch.org has an accurate and detailed description of the entire church.
The monument that David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre got built and imported from Italy. Begum Samru can be seen at the top with a scroll of the Mughal emperor in her hand. Remains of both David and Begum were shifted below this monument at separate times. An excellent description of the monument and the depicted personalities can be found at SardhanaChurch.org.
Reghelini's signature staircase modeled after a water stream at the side entrance of the Sardhana church.
Called 'Anthon Kothi', this was the residence of the architect of Sardhana - Anthony Reghelini. A native of Italy, Anthony was an officer in Begum's army and doubled up as an architect. This building was not as big when Anthony resided here. It was expanded by the nuns of Jesus and Mary in 1922.
Now defunct, Forester Hospital of Sardhana built by Lady Forester (The Hon. Mary Anne Jervis), widow of David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre. An inscription on the main building states -
"Her Highness the Begum Sombre, having left a certain sum of money for charitable purpose; the same was applied in the erection and the endowment of this hospital and dispensary by the Right Honorable Mary Anne, the baroness Forester, for the benefit of the poor of Sardhana, Anno Domini 1881."
Brajendranath Banerji in his book Begum Samru writes -
"The Begam in her will left Rs. 50,000 in trust in favor of Anne Mary, a sister of Dyce Sombre. It was stipulated that should Anne and her husband Col. Troup die without issue, the income of the trust would be appropriated for charitable purposes. It so happened that Col. Troup died on 5th July 1862 without leaving any issue, and his wife, after half a decade, followed suit (18 March 1867). Thereupon Lady Forester, with the principal of the trust, viz. Rs. 50,000 created a new trust on 25th April 1876 for the purpose of a hospital and dispensary, which was built at the end of the seventies or beginning of eighties. She herself gave a piece of freehold ground - in all 1,726 sq. yds.- situated at Sardhana, with a house already erected on part thereof, in order that it might be adopted for the purpose."
A ruined European house in Sardhana. The warning painted on the building states that it is dangerous to approach the building as it may cave in anytime.
There were many such fine houses in Sardhana at one point of time but most of them were located in and around the Sardhana fort. Today there are only some mud walls and mounds where the fort once stood. When the British annexed Sardhana after the death of Begum Samru in 1836, it appears they dismantled the fort because apart from other things it had all the military infrastructure of Sardhana including the canon foundries. The famed mercenary army of Sardhana was disbanded and the arms and ammunitions were confiscated. It is my assumption that the British obliterated any possibility of the mercenary army's rejuvenation, which everybody including the British took seriously.
Grave of Le Vaisseau, the French husband of the Begum. The inscription on the red sandstone has diminished with time. H.G. Keene, who visited the Catholic cemetery at Sardhana in 1880, writes -
"In the very centre of the enclosure a platform with a screen marks the resting place of poor Levassoult, with an inscription in French, recording that he died 18 October 1795, age de 47 ans, and begging the passenger to prier pour son ame (Calcutta Review, 1880)."
Historians however say that Le Vaisseau probably died in late May or early June 1795. October is perhaps the date when the stone was placed on his grave.
Tomb of Franz Gottlieb Cohen. Son of a German-Jewish mercenary, he was a prolific and great Urdu poet of his time having the pen name 'Farasu'. William Dalrymple in his book 'The Last Mughal' has given a detailed description of his tomb, although I think he misidentified Farasu's tomb with that of the Dyce family's. Dalrymple notes about the likeness of the dome of the tomb with Taj Mahal's and mentions that instead of four minarets around the dome there are baroque amphorae. Unless what we see in the picture above can be termed as baroque amphorae, the only other tomb which does have baroque amphorae is certainly that of Dyce family's. Adding to the confusion was absence of any inscription inside or outside the tomb. Hence, based on Dalrymple's narrative, I concluded this to be Farasu's tomb.
Dyce family tomb. This tomb has the grave of Begum Samru's granddaughter Julia Anne along with her children who died young. Julia Anne was the mother of David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre.
Inscription on Julia Anne's grave. She was the mother of David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre. The inscription states -
"Sacred to the memory of Julia Anne, wife of Col. G. A. D. Dyce & daughter of the late Nawab Mozuffur-ud-Dowleh and Julia Anne, who departed this life on Tuesday a.m., June-XIII, A.D. MDCCCXX. Aged XXXI years & V months. Loved & respected by all who knew her & in death deeply regretted. But now she is dead, can i bring her back again? I shall go to her, but she will not return to me. 2nd Sam!XII Chap. 234V. This tomb is inscribed by her disconsolate husband."
Grave of Felix Mitchell. He was an Anglo-Indian Urdu poet but not in the league of poets like Farasu. Not much is known about Mitchell except that he was a resident of Sardhana and a pupil of Shore Sahab. There is a small description of his poetry and gazals in the book 'European & Indo-European poets of Urdu & Persian (1941)' authored by Ram Babu Saksena. The inscription on the grave reads -
"Sacred to the memory of our beloved late father Felix Mitchell, who fell asleep in Jesus on 28th September 1935. Gone from us but not forgotten, poet of Sardhana will not come again. Stone laid by J. Mitchell, Lahore."
Grave of Col. Jean Remy Saleur, the Frenchman who was the witness to Begum Samru's marriage with Le Vaisseau and who was an important player in quashing the rebellion that ensued after Begum's marriage to Le Vaisseau. A gallant officer who had commanded Begum's army on many a battles. The inscription reads -
"Sacred to the memory of Jean Remy Saleur, Colonel Commandant of Her Highness, the Begum Sombre's troops. Born at Nanci of Lorrain in France, who departed this life Sunday, 12 July, A.D. 1812, aged 87 years. He was beloved and respected in life and he died as he had lived, a soldier without fear or reproach."
A long shot of the cemetery. The pyramid-like tombs are of the Reghelini family including of Anthony Reghelini, the architect and soldier of Sardhana.
Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, 4th Baronet, KCB was the Governor-General's Agent at the Imperial court of the Mughal Emperor. Between 1842 and 1844, Metcalfe commissioned an artist Mazhar Ali Khan to paint series of watercolors of Delhi's monuments, ruins, palaces and shrines. He compiled an album called 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi' for his daughter Emily who was to join him soon. The album has been acquired by the British Library. This image of Begum Samru's Delhi palace (Bhagirath Palace) is from the same album and it shows the artist's rendition of the south and north of the palace as it was in 1843.
Image reproduced on BaadalMusings.com with permission from The British Library. Image Copyright © The British Library Board.
Destroyed Bhagirath palace during the mutiny of 1857. Not directly connected with Begum Samru; this palace has an important event in history attached to it. Earlier, in 1847, David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre sold this Delhi palace to an eminent moneylender of Delhi, Lala Chunnamal. George Beresford, a British banker then started a bank in the premises with Lala Chunnamal as his biggest investor. On May 11, 1857, when the mutiny broke out in Delhi, Mr. Beresford and his family along with few clerks were at the bank. A fierce gun and mortar attack began on the bank and Mr. Beresford with his wife and 5 daughters moved up to the terrace to put up a fight. They fought bravely indeed but were overpowered and all of them were slain on the terrace of this building. George Beresford and his family's graves can be found at the St. James' churchyard. Later when the British regained Delhi, they exacted a disproportionate revenge for these killings. The bank later changed hands and Lloyd's bank was an important owner of the building. Today, the building is in immense state of disrepair but the concrete signage added by the Lloyd's bank is still present and prominently visible at the top.
Image Credit - Wikipedia
Shot in April 2014, I tried capturing the staircase at the south end of the palace as it is today, to make a comparison with Metcalf's watercolor. However, the area is so narrow and congested that even with a super wide angle lens; I could only partially capture the staircase. In any case, the 'flowing water' staircase of Begum Samru's palace is long gone, as have the gardens around the palace. Everything around is a medical goods' market.