''Massacre Ghat'' - harrowing place of Kanpur (Cawnpore) and 1857 Sepoy Rebellion

1857 Massacre Ghat, Kanpur (Cawnpore) flickr.com

Above image:  The Massacre Ghat or Satti Chaura Ghat is a popular  ghat in Kanpur (Cawnpore) City, Uttar Pradesh.  It is located on the south bank of the River Ganges, but  the river already drifted  far away from the bathing ghat.  The ghat has been around for centuries - far back pre-colonial days. That  in the past, some women committed ''Sati'' there, and  a small temple was built in  their honor  has made this place more poignant.(credit goes to the British who abolished this age old tradition of sati meaning voluntary immolation of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre). Here,  the initial events of the Indian Rebellion  named as the Siege of Cawnpore, took place. On the 27th. June 1857, around 300 British men, women and children were killed according to the English Co records. But historians say it was purely accidental and not planned before. .............

execution Indian rebels before cannons. 1957 courses.lumenlearning.com

The First War of Independence or the  Sepoy Rebellion by the Sepoys of the East India company  that started off at the Meerut Cantonment  on 10  May 1857 was not a preplanned one. It happened unexpectedly and the soldiers and the people  who suffered stoically availed themselves of the opportunity to express their pent-up abomination and anger for the unjust English company's rule in India.  So, it  was the culmination of  simmering hatred for the British  who had been misruling India since the middle of the 18th century.

Cawnpore siege 1857 mimimatthews.com

Above image: Blowing Mutinous Sepoys From the Guns, Steel Engraving, London Printing and Publishing Co., 1858. As part of revenge against massacre, the British caught the Indian Sepoys stationed in Kanpur (Cawnpore),  tied them up before the cannons and blew them up. An extreme act of savagery against innocent people. ............................

Racial discrimination in the army, in the govt. offices, exploitation of Indian lands both cultivable and forest lands, dishonest annexation of Indian rulers' kingdoms  - example: annexation of Awadh (part of UP) in February 1856  and   the  state of Jhansi (Madhya Pradesh) in 1857 by  the British under the terms of the Doctrine of lapse by Lord Dalhousie  and a host of other grievances  made Indians angry. Royal members of many families  became part of the upraising against the EIC when it  began to spread across the northern states.  By June 1857, the Indian rebellion had spread to several areas and places like  Cawnpore, Meerut, Agra, Mathura, and Lucknow  became scenes of  mass rioting, rampage and brutality. 

Massacre Ghat, Cawnpore, June 1857. India alamy.com

When the rebellion was spreading like a wild  summer bushfire  and inching toward Delhi, the Siege of Cawnpore was   an important  episode in the history of India's first major  rebellion which punched a big hole on the British Empire. People in the area never expected this sudden turn of political event.  Neither the  besieged Company forces and nor the  civilians  of  Cawnpore (now Kanpur) were  prepared for an extended siege. 

.Massacre Ghat, Cawnpore (Kanpur), India, alamy.com

.It was at the  Ghat near the Ganges in Cawnpore (Kanpur) events became topsy-turvy   Earlier  it  was nicknamed as Massacre Ghat by the East India Company officials in their British Colonial records and the events led them to tag it  the Siege of Cawnpore.  This Ghat has become historically important since the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. 

.Location map. Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) mapsofindia.com

On June 27, 1857 at  the Satti Chaura Ghat, Kanpur, about  300 British men, women and children were  rounded up and killed  by the hell-bent mob and  later this place gained notoriety as the  Massacre Ghat. Unfortunately, those who escaped from the clutches of death here,  as  fate had it, were later brutally killed in  another place; it is called  the ‘Bibighar Massacre.’  The  rioting  rebels got a bad rap because of these massacres at two different locations and the victims included women and children.  

Massacre in the boats, Siege of Cawnpore, June 1857. thehindu.com

After almost three weeks, the company forces  including Indian soldiers  under Officer  Wheeler surrendered to Nana Sahib who headed the rebellion  in return for a safe passage to Allahabad via the river Ganges. Nana Sahib was the adopted heir to Baji Rao II, the ex-Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy.

Chaura Ghat, landing place  2nd massacre victorianweb.org

Cawnpore was an important garrison town for the East India Company forces  and the sepoys there  were not a part of the war. However,  the European families were  not comfortable and began to shift into the entrenchment (a military position fortified by trenches). The Indian sepoys were asked to collect their pay one by one, to avoid an armed  confrontation. Threatened by the fortifications sepoys  protested against it. In the ensued minor skirmishes,  a lieutenant fired on his Indian guard when drunk, and was jailed for a night. On the following day rumors were thick in the air that the Indian troops  would be  summoned to a parade to be  massacred. Not prepared to take risks, in June, 1857 the sepoys joined the rebellion  against the East India Company.

The evacuation  under Peshwa Nana Saheb did not go as planned  and the British thought  it was a safe passage to Allahabad.  The  sudden commotion while getting into the boats, panicked the Sepoys who  fired  at the departing British.  At that  moment  somebody fired a shot possibly from high  banks. Immediately,  boatmen jumped overboard and  prevented a few  cooking fire in the process. The fire soon  engulfed a few boats.

According to Morbray Thompson, in his book ‘Story of  Cawnpore’,   mentioned about the eye witness. He said that   the British  were the first to open fire  on Indian boatmen and this forced Nana Saheb’s men to go for retaliation. Many historians are of the view that  ''Sati Chaura Ghat massacre was  not a premediated or a one   and it happened as a result of  confusion.'' 

When  the East India Company forces stationed in Allahabad marched to Cawnpore, midway  women and children who had been captured by the sepoys were killed and their remains  thrown into a nearby well. Following the recapture of Cawnpore and the discovery of the massacre, the  furious company forces  retaliated and captured rebel soldiers and local civilians.  This came to be known as the Bibighar massacre.


Renamed as Nana Rao Ghat it is a mute spectator to the horrors of the 1857 Sepoy rebellion.  Standing in the serene  Ghat is a small white temple. The sanctity of his place and the nearby Ganges  will replace the scar left behind  here by the English company  and the natives.   The  holy river  has changed it course and drifted   1 km from here - Ghat toward  Shuklaganj as if it does not want to part of a place where the humans became wild animals. The ghat  is, indeed, a traumatic and desolate place where the Indian history is written in blood.  

Weeds have grown all over the place and the district administration has not done anything to clean up this dry area. Ita ghat for name sake as the river moved away from it. Only during the monsoon the river widens its banks and reaches this place.