The ''Memorial Hall'', Park Town, Chennai and its link with Sepoy rebellion of 1857

 Memorial Hall - Madras - 1860

The Great Rebellion of 1857, often dubbed as the Sepoy Mutiny or Rebellion that started off at the British Cantonment of Meerut city  over the use of  grease made from pig and cow fat (to be used in the cartridges) to fire the new model Enfield rifles (Pattern 1853), became a serious issue over the mishandling of the protests by the Muslim and Hindu (pig and cow fat were offensive to them) soldiers by intemperate British officers. They  refused to bite off the edge of  lubricated cartridges.  The protests in the barracks  snowballed into a big rebellion and over a short period engulfed the northern states.  Nagpur, Kanpur, Lucknow and Delhi and the near-by places became pitched battle grounds between  British forces and  former Indian soldiers. No doubt a few hundred British including civilians lost their lives. On the Indian side the casualty ran into  a million. It is unfortunate the official records do not come up with the correct figures. 

The Memorial Hall, Chennai (Park Town).

The memorial Hall, Parktown, Chennai.

William Stephen Raikes Hodson, whose grave is at La Martiniere , Lucknow, UP  was a  British officer with no mercy and no scruples. After the capture of Delhi he arrested India’s last Mogul king and  shot dead point blank his three princes near the Khooni gate.  Ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled in Burma till his death in the prison there.  ''The Butcher of Allahabad"  Brigadier General James Neill  whose  large  statue on arterial Mount Road in Madras was removed in the 1960s after protests by the people. He was in action near Kanpur and  killed Indians in thousands in 1860; a large number of them were innocent.  He became a celebrated hero in England. 

The English people who had been in India away from their land were in a fix after the rebellion was suppressed by the British army under the East India company's rule with great struggle. At last  when the rebellion was over they  breathed a sigh of relief.  Later, the British Crown took the administration directly as the company misruled the subcontinent with corrupt and arrogant officials.  Overcome by Christian belief in God's deliverance and to put the horrors of war on the back burner, some memorials came up  and the most celebrated ones are in  Lucknow, Cawnpore and Delhi - the places that witnessed the dark  and nasty side of the rebellion massacres, killing of large contingent of Indians, etc.

However in the case of southern India in particular, Madras presidency there were no protests and brutality  when the rebellion was on in the northern states. The British residents of Madras wanted to have a memorial built in the form of a Town Hall and the cost of construction was met through public subscription. The architects were Captain George Winscom and Colonel Horseley, the latter redesigned it. Architecture: Classical Greek, resembling Greek temple in purer form. 

The memorial was  dedicated "to the glory of God as a memorial to the goodness of forbearance of the Almighty God in sparing this Presidency from partaking of the Sepoy Mutiny which devastated the sister Presidency of Bengal in the year 1857.''

On the frieze just below the triangular pediment is the inscription: "The Lord hath been mindful of us: He will bless us", taken from Psalm 115:12.

Because of  lack  periodic repairs and  interest in old colonial buildings, like many other structures, this one shows the ravages of time and climatic changes on the exterior. The hall, I understand, is in fairly  good shape, however the entire building needs revamping  in order to be strong enough to last  in the coming decades.