Begum Sampru's impressive memorial at the Basilica of our lady of Graces, Sardhana, UP

The Sardhana church or the Basilica of our lady of Graces, is about 22 km from Meerut city in Uttar Pradesh state. Built in1720 by Begum Sambru  alias Joanna Nobilis Sombre, widow of Walter Reinhardt Sombre,  rich owner of mercenary army,  in 1961, it was officially declared a minor Basilica - the first  one in north Indian  states.
tomb of Begum Sambru
tomb of Begum Sambru

tomb of Begum Sambru

Near the sanctuary of this amazing church on the left wing there is an imposing and majestic 18 feet tall edifice  with Begum Sambru's life-size image  over her tomb . She died on 27 January 1836 (aged 82–83) in  Sardhana and the burial took place in the church grave  yard. The statue of the Begum, was once kept out side the church and later  was moved into this place on the church premises and set on the  raised three-tiered pedestal. Her mortal remains are deposited underneath in this cathedral built by herself.
basilica-of-our-lady. Sardhana,

tomb of Begum

The memorial was specially made by David Sumru and the construction was finished in the year 1842.The elaborate tomb was carved in Italy by Italian sculptor Adamo Tadolini and the parts were transported to Sardhna by ship  to Calcutta harbor and from there to this place by boats and bullock carts. Richly carved in quality marble, it shows   Begum Samru on the throne, smoking a hookah as it was wont in those days and women from rich family would also smoke hookah. Other carved features include the  Begum on an elephant, with her retinue  and in the other, the Begum is offering a chalice to the Pope and  on the third side the tableau of the Begum receiving petitions from her courtiers.

Location map, Sardhana, Uttar Pradesh

The marble tom also depicts certain interesting scenes: The Begum is surrounded by audience consisting of Indians soldiers while in the other by Europeans (Sardhana once had a large diaspora of Europeans).  In another depiction he has a scroll, apparently from  Emperor Shah Alam II bestowing upon her the fiefdom of Sardhana (Jagir of Sadhana and other places) after her husband's death and she  also earned for herself the title of ‘Zeb-un Nissa’ — “Adornment of Womanhood”,  from the Emperor,

The marble tomb also carries  well made images of her   her adopted son David Dyce Sombre and her Diwan, Rae Singh who was the great-grandfather of Motilal Nehru, lawyer and father of Jawaharlal Nehru, first PM of India after independence in August 1947. There are figurines and panels in bas relief. You can find the statue of the Begum in her finery. Photo Credit: 

 She is buried in a grand-looking church built for her by Italian architects. Underneath her marble statue is a plaque which reads:

Her Highness Joanna Zibalnessa,

The Begum Sombre

Styled the distinguished of nobles

And beloved daughter of the state

Who quitted a transitory court

For an eternal world

Revered and lamented by thousands

Of her devoted subjects

At her palace of Sirdhanah

On the 27th of January 1836, aged nearly 90 years.

''The people in the Dekhan (Deccan), who knew the Begum by reputation, believed her to be a witch, who destroyed her enemies by throwing her chadir (women’s veil) at them.” — Col. James SkinnerPhoto Credit:


 central tableau.