The Imambara was commandeered as an insurgent stronghold in 1857, and the crucial battle that enabled the British to relieve the Residency was fought in the adjacent pleasure gardens of Sikandrabagh on November 16. It took one and a half hours of bombardment by Sir Colin Campbell’s soldiers to breach the defences of the two thousand sepoys; then the Sikhs and 93rd Highlanders poured through. There was no escape for the terrified sepoys, some of whom are said to have believed the bloodstained, red-faced, kilted Scots to be the ghosts of a group of European women slaughtered at Kanpur earlier in the uprising. Driven against the north wall, the sepoys were either bayoneted or shot, and the dead and dying piled shoulder-high. Tranquil once again, Sikandrabagh is now home to the National Botanical Research Institute and the beautiful Botanical Gardens, with manicured lawns, conservatories, nurseries and herb, rose and bougainvillea gardens.

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