Relief of Lucknow by the Gurkhas

Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 had found the Brits totally unprepared to resolve the issue, so Lord Canning, the Governor General of India sought help from Nepal. The Gurkhas, personally led by Prime Minister Jungbahadur Rana Magar descended into the plains from their mountain base and soon wrested from the mutineers control over Lucknow which virtually ended the mutiny. The mutineers who had invested their best to besiege the British Residency at Lucknow realized they were defeated and fled.

After the mutineers’ backbone was broken at Lucknow, Sikhs who had been waiting in the wing, joined the Brits in the mopping up exercise in Delhi. Calcutta used to be then the capital of British India, New Delhi, as the name suggests, was created by the British after it fell into their lap as a consequence of Sepoy Mutiny.

When this welcome news reached London, Sir Noel Paton, R.A., decided to honour the Gurkhas by painting an emotive scene of the Relief of Lucknow. However, since he had never seen a Gurkha but having heard that the Gurkhas were fierce fighters and belonged to British Indian Army, the painting showed an English lady seated with an open Bible in one hand, her eyes heavenwards, with an arm around her daughter while some Indian Sepoys were seen entering the room in the background.

The artist was inundated with hostile comments from the public whose minds were saturated with tales of atrocities the British women and children had suffered at the hands of the mutineers, when the painting was first displayed in a London Art Gallery. Sir Noel Paton was obliged to replace the Indian Sepoys with Sir Colin Campbell’s Royal Scots and that is how the painting as it is seen now had taken its shape.

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