Destination freedom

When we think of our Independence Movement, some places have instant recall, while others have faded to the fringes. Here, some of these lesser-known places from across the country

Kashmere Gate, Delhi

Past the Red Fort, near St James Church, Kashmere Gate is a culmination of the lead up to it: a Mughal structure with British additions. In the mostly-exposed-brick structure, narrow Mughal-style Lahori bricks coexist with the bigger colonial-era ones.

“In 1803, the British captured Delhi from the Marathas. The colonisers invested in fortifying the gates so that guns could be mounted on them,” says Gaurav Sharma, who leads heritage walks.

The Gate was built as an exit to Shahjahanabad on the road to Kashmir, one of 14 gates, when the Mughal capital was shifted to Delhi in 1638. It became a site for the First War of Independence in 1857, when sepoys, in the employ of the British took hold of it. “The British troops maintained steady bombardment on the bastions, gates and walls around Kashmere Gate from their vantage position on the Ridge. After four months of siege, the gate was breached in a daring raid on September 14, 1857,” says the Go UNESCO website.

At the entrance is a plaque that reads: “During Mutiny Indian freedom fighters used the gate to attack Britishers by firing cannon balls,” telling us subtly that the British no longer rule.

Sunalini Mathew

Tilak Bhavan, Chennai

Ask an autorickshaw anna to take you to WelcomHotel, and he’d probably drop you at this hotel (formerly Chola Sheraton) on Cathedral Road.

A hundred years ago, at this very place stood ‘Tilak Bhavan’, where Gandhi spent quite some days, the most memorable of them being March 18, 1919, around the time when the Rowlatt Bills were passed. Gandhi spent the entire night mulling about how to battle it.

“I was still in that twilight condition between sleep and consciousness when suddenly the idea broke upon me…that we should call upon the country to observe a general hartal,” writes Gandhi about that memorable evening he spent at the house owned by Kasturiranga Iyengar, Proprietor of The Hindu. He called for the nation to observe April 6 as ‘Protest Day’, which would subsequently become a massive success.

This dream of Gandhi soon blossomed into a non-violent, non-cooperation movement, which would pave the way for eventual freedom for the country many years later.

Srinivasa Ramanujam

Salt Satyagraha Monument, Tiruchi

Two pillars commemorate a non-violent act of civil disobedience at an intersection leading to the Tiruchi Railway Junction.

The pillars mark the spot where C Rajagopalachari, led a group of 150 people, mostly from the Indian National Congress, on a 240-kilometre march to the coastal town of Vedaranyam on April 13, 1930. Modelled along the lines of the Dandi March led by Gandhi a month before, the Vedaranyam Salt March was a rallying cry against the British Raj’s unfair revenue policies.

The first pillar was put up in 1973 and the second in 1986.

Nahla Nainar

Twin halls of history, Thoothukudi

Roughly 35 kilometres separate two important monuments in Thoothukudi that bring Veerapandiya Kattabomman’s story to life. Panchalankurichi is the place where the Palayakarrar was born in 1760 and Kayathar, where he was hung by the British when he was 39 years old, for waging war against the East India Company and refusing to pay taxes.

“Both sites are of historical importance and bus loads of school students come regularly for a history class in the outdoors,” says Srinivasan, Tourism Officer, Thoothukudi district.

The original Panchalankurichi fort was razed by the British to teach Kattabomman a lesson after he was captured near Pudukkottai. It was three weeks after his arrest that he was hanged to death.

In 1974, the Tamil Nadu Government constructed a new fort over five acres next to the ruins, now fenced by the State Archaeology Department. Tickets priced ₹2/1 (adult/child) gains you entry into the mandapam holding a six-feet bronze statue of the fighter and 36 paintings by local artists that tell the stories of Kattabomman’s valour. At Kayathar, stands another bronze statue of Kattabomman. Entry is free here.

Soma Basu

Sankagiri Fort, Salem

The Sankagiri Fort was built in the 15th Century by the Vijayanagar Empire and as years went by Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, and later, the British added to it. “Earlier, it was used as a watchtower by Kongu chieftains,” says J Barnabas, general secretary, Salem Historical Society.

The Fort has 11 gates, and five to six tiers of walls. “It was also used as a treasury, and armoury. But among the Fort’s defining attributes, is a story that surrounds Kongu chieftain Dheeran Chinnamalai, a Palayakarrar, who waged wars against the East India Company. Legend goes that at Sankagiri Fort, he once intercepted a British troop headed to Mysore with tax money, and distributed it to the people. He was hanged at the Fort in July 1805. “Chances are he was buried on top of the hill or at the foothills,” says Barnabas.

The Sankagiri Fort is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. It is open through the day and to visit it, prior permission from the ASI office in Salem is advised. It’s a steep trek uphill and ideally, start early in the morning and plan the downhill trek by 9 am.

Akila Kannadasan

Maharaja’s College, Kochi

On August 14, 1947, Cochin maharaja, Kerala Varma VII, issued an order that all Government buildings in the State hoist the tricolour alongside the Cochin State Flag, both at the same height. Indian Students Union, the student wing of the Indian National Congress, objected to hoisting the Cochin State Flag on August 15, after the formation of India. The students planned to hoist the tricolour in the college quad and erected a flag mast. The leaders of the student agitation were V Vishwanatha Menon, TCN Menon and Ambat Sulochana. This led to conflict between the elected college union and them. A hartal was called the next day.

Priyadershini S

Gandhi Bhavan, Bengaluru

Listed amongst the must-visit museums in Bengaluru, the serene Gandhi Bhavan on Kumara Krupa Road, is located on the grounds where the Mahatma enjoyed strolls on his visits to the city.

“There are pictures from his childhood to the last day of his life as well as letters written by him,” says VN Tippanna Gowda, vice president, Gandhi Bhavan. The charkhas that Gandhi used are also on display.

Apart from being a venue for seminars, Gandhi Bhavan’s new ₹10-crore venture, Mahatma Gandhi Multimedia Project, has a display of 1,000 photos, cartoons, films, animated movies and writings accessible on the touch screen. The display is being readied for release on Gandhi Jayanthi. “The project will be in English and Kannada and uses the Mahatma’s voice to answer FAQs,” says Gowda.

Entry is free. Closed on Sundays and public holidays.

Ranjani Govind

Gandhi Hill, Vijayawada

Gandhi Hill got its name after the Mahatma’s visit in 1921 to address a gathering at the foot of the hill. An 18-acre memorial project was developed here, with a foundation stone for the first of the six Gandhi memorial columns planned by the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, laid here by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on November 9, 1964. The library lies in a shambles today. The stupa, designed by Acharya Nandalal Bose, was built with red marble from Rentachintala. “The pedestal has carvings depicting Gandhi’s birthplace, Sabarmati ashram and a motif of cottage industry,” says G Rashmi, member, Andhra Pradesh State Gandhi Smarak Nidhi.

A toy train attracting tourists (around 250 on weekends), is perhaps the only functional feature of the project today.

P Sujatha Varma

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 12:44:21 AM |

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