Like me, if you would have known that the first battle of Indian independence was fought in the year 1857 then technically you are mistaken as the first battle against the European rule actually happened in the year 1806 near 50 years before the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The plot was just like a Bollywood movie a wedding, a group of angry men and a dethroned prince. And all of these happened in a small place known as Vellore around 140 kilometres from Madras (Chennai). This was the time when the English were already dominating the Indian subcontinent ahead of the French.
The Fort – History
The main fort was built in 1566 by the Vijayanagara Kingdom. This fort changed hands between the
Bijapur Sultans (1656–1678)
East India Company/British (1760–1947).
The First Mutiny of Independence
Vellore Fort was the place where the son of Tipu Sultan, Shezada Hyder Ali along with his relatives were relatively put under unofficial house arrest with a monthly stipend from the company. One of Tipu’s daughter was supposed to get married on 9th of July 1806 and with this pretext, many people had gathered inside the fort. Some of the men were here not to attend a wedding but to somehow create a situation of uprising the European rule.
The anger, however, was instigated sometime back when Adjutant General Patrick Alexander Agnew wanted the native sepoys to dress up smartly with round hats having leather cockade made of cow hide. Additionally, Muslim men were asked to have their beards shaved and Hindu men refrained from putting religious marks on their forehead and also preventing them from wearing jewellery.
A portion of them men were angry of this change and had been protesting since May that same year. These men were however disciplined with harsh punishments but the resentment was still boiling under the skin of some.
Finally, on the early hours of 10th of July 1806, the native sepoys started opening fire on the white officers and soldiers. Substantial numbers of them were killed including Colonel St. John Fancourt who was the fort commander. By morning the Mysore Flag had been raised over the fort with Shezada Hyder Ali (Fateh Hyder) being declared the king.
This, however, did not last very long, just like Mir Jafar during the Battle of Plassey out here also a sepoy by the name of Mustapha Baig had been alerting the Company’s officers prior and this proved a vital pivotal moment for this uprising to be put down.
Few British officers managed to escape out of the fort and report the matter at Arcot Garrison. Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie along with his troupe arrived at the fort and managed to easily take the fort back by afternoon the same day. A substantial portion of the mutineers was killed during the charge and the once captured later was shot. The leaders were later court-martialled and were blown apart with guns.
Tipu Sultan’s family was spared the death due to their status but were all shifted to Calcutta (Kolkata). This would be the last time the sultan’s family would see the southern state under the monarchy.
The Fort – Now
Vellore now is more famous for its hospitals than this fort. Even though I am a history lover I was not much informed about this fort till I had the opportunity to visit it personally. I had visited Vellore city not for tourism but for rather something else. During this visit, I had the opportunity to pass by this fort and notice his huge stone walls and a wide moat. On asking the auto driver I was informed that it’s a fort locally known as “Vellore Fort”.
On researching I came to know the much illustrious history of this fort and its significance in the India’s struggle against the European rule.
During my first visit, however, I could not photograph the fort and it’s only during my second trip to Vellore that I did manage to explore the fort from the inside.
The fort is not fully accessible since there is a police training school and their offices which occupy substantial portions of the fort and is not accessible to tourists. However, there are quite a few places that one can see here.
Fort & Park
St. John’s Church
Tipu Mahal & Hyder Mahal
Archaeological Museums (ASI) & Government Museum
Vellore Fort Map
Fort & Park
The fort itself is quite a big structure, the fort is surrounded by high and thick granite rock walls and a deep moat. The walls are thinks and there are ramps on the side by which you can climb to the top and walk around. Right around the fort the area has now been converted into a park and in the evening it’s a place where people come to relax and enjoy a beautiful view of the fort.
This is a functional temple and possibly the oldest structure in the whole fort. Built in the year 1550 AD this is a Shiva temple built during the Vijayanagara Empire by Chinna Bommi Nayaka. As you enter on the left you will see a stage with beautiful stone carvings something which I had seen for the very first time.
Since this fort changed hands between the different dynasties the temple suffered majorly during the Muslim invasion and was almost destroyed.
The temple structure was heavily repaired by ASI (Archeological Survey of India) in 1921, it was only in 1981 that controversially regular puja started back in this temple.
St. John’s Church
The church was built by the British during their reign in the year 1846 since by then this fort had turned into a garrison of the East India Company and later by the British Empire. Initially, there were chapels and other prayer rooms inside the fort but due to the gradual increase in the European population a church was built inside the fort.
Tipu Mahal & Hyder Mahal
These areas are not accessible to tourists as these places house the police training school offices and other administrative buildings.
Built in the year 1750 the mosque is actually named Nawab Chanda Sahib Mosque. Like the Jalagandeeswarar Temple, this mosque was also under ASI and was also renovated by them. After the resumption of prayers in the temple, the local Muslim population demanded that regular prayers be also started at the Mosque. ASI did not want to repeat their mistake thus this place though can be seen by the general public but all entry has been stopped. Guards are placed outside the building to prevent people from entering the place.
Archaeological Museum & Government Museum
These Museum have a vast collection of artefacts from this area from the various periods. You can see stone sculptors, cannon balls, weapons etc.
Location of Vellore Fort and All the Tourist Spots Inside
Click here to open the Google Maps link