The Historic Awadh's capital Lucknow which until today is known for its ‘tehzeeb’ holds a prominent chapter in Indian freedom history...
Independence Day: Lakhnawi ‘Tehzeeb’ to ‘Rebel’ for Indian Freedom

Lucknow:  The city known for its decorum and behaviour has a grey-haired history in the Indian freedom movement. Begum Hazrat Mahal also known as Begum of Awadh who was the second wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, is the unsung heroine of the first war of Independence. She shot the Brit ruler Sir Henry Lawrence and defeated British army in a Battle at Chinhat on June 30, 1857.


Begun Hazrat rebelled against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. She took charge of the affairs in the state of Awadh and seized control of Lucknow after her husband had been exiled to Calcutta. Her bravery at that time in a male-dominated society is incomparable. One of the principle complaints of Begum Hazrat Mahal was that the East India Company had casually demolished Temples and mosques just to make way for roads. In a proclamation issued during the final days of the revolt, she mocked the British claim to allow freedom of worship.

Between 1 July 1857 and 17 November 1857 the famous Lucknow Residency was subjected to the Siege of Lucknow which was a part of the Revolt of 1857 which makes it now exist in ruins. Sir Henry Lawrence took over appointment as the British Commissioner six weeks before the rebellion broke out. Earlier to him was Coverley Jackson. 

The sepoys in the Bengal Presidency were already suffering since an year and felt threar to rheir religions and customs. Lawrence was well aware of the rebellious mood of the Indian troops under his command. The rebellion broke out after the cartridge episode of Enfield rifle took place.


On 23 May, Lawrence began fortifying the Residency and laying in supplies for a siege troops at Lucknow broke into open rebellion. 

Lawrence also had the bulk of the British 32nd Regiment of Foot available, and they were able to drive the rebels away from the city.

On 4 June, a rebellion took place in Sitapur, followed by another at Faizabad, one of the most important cities in the province. Outbreaks at Daryabad, Sultanpur and Salon British authority in Oudh slowly diminished. Later around June 30, although he had comparatively little military experience, Lawrence led the expedition himself. As a result, his exhausted British soldiers who were forced to march without food and water retreated. Some even died of heatstroke within sight of the Residency.

According to Britannica' World History, Commander Lawrence then ordered all women and children of Lucknow to take cover in the Residency, the city’s chief fortress, on May 25, and Lawrence himself retreated there on June 30. The Residency was protected by battery positions but was vulnerable because a number of buildings surrounding it were occupied by rebel snipers and artillery. Despite this precarious position, and the death of Lawrence early in the siege, the troops and civilians managed to hold out thanks to the actions of a number of soldiers who were later awarded the Victoria Cross.


The first relief attempt occurred on September 25 when a force under the command of Major General Sir Henry Havelock fought its way across rebel-held territory to Lucknow. However, by the time he reached the Residency, Havelock had lost so many troops that he considered it too risky to attempt to evacuate the civilians. The relief force joined the garrison, improved the defenses, and waited for a second relief.

On November 16, a much larger force approached Lucknow, led by Lieutenant General Sir Colin Campbell. The force stormed the Secundra Bagh, a walled enclosure blocking Campbell’s route to the Residency. By now, the British soldiers had learned of the massacre at Cawnpore, and no mercy was shown to the rebels. The British reached the Residency on November 19 and began evacuations. By November 27, the residents had been removed and relocated to safe locations. 


Begum organised an army of women and placed Uda Devi as its commander. She actively took part in the revolt of 1857 against the Doctrine of Lapse under which Dalhousie wanted her to surrender Lucknow. She gave stiff resistance.  She was a very brave woman and 

During the Rebellion from 1857 to 1858, Begum Hazrat Mahal's band of supporters, led by Raja Jailal Singh, rebelled against the forces of the British and they seized control of Lucknow and after which she declared her son, Birjis Qadr, as the ruler of Oudh.