The 4th of February 1994 was a grim, cold and foggy day when our coach reached the small unassuming town of Chillianwala in rural Punjab, about 200 kilometers from Islamabad. The purpose of our visit, organized by the Asian Study Group and comprising foreigners and Pakistanis, was to see a place whose sole claim to fame was an event which had occured there almost a century and a half earlier, in January 1849, and which caused ripples in the British Empire: Chillianwala was the scene of the one of the biggest battles ever fought by Europeans on the Indian Subcontinent. It was a battle which pitted the British East India Company against powerful Sikh adversaries during the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-49) and which resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of combatants. More than 600 British officers and soldiers reportedly died at Chillianwala and their remains lie entombed in its war cemetary which, luckily, still stands to this day and was the highlight of our visit. Stories of great personal courage, of desperate infantry advances and cavalry charges in the face of heavy canon fire, and military incompetence, are associated with the Battle of Chillianwala. Both the British and the Sikhs, who ruled over Punjab at the time, claimed victory, though technically the battle was a stalemate. One month later, at the battle of Gujrat, the British army decisively defeated the Sikhs, resulting in the subsequent annexation of Punjab by the British Empire. A detailed account of the battle of Chillianwala, considered to be among the most important fought by the British in India, can be found here. There is a Chillianwala monument at the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London. 



The photo on the left was taken out of our coach as it was approaching a river (probably the Jhelum). The photo on the right was taken on farmland at Chillianwala on which battle action between the army of the East India Company and the Sikhs took place in January 1849. 

    The photos were taken at a place near the farm fields. I can't recall their significance now. Note the structure in the photos on the right. The persons are members of my group, which mostly comprised foreign diplomats, including from the British embassy.      
  These photos were taken at the British War Cemetary at Chillianwala. In the photo on the left, the red sandstone Memorial Obelisk is visible in the distance. The photo on the right was taken inside the Cemetary and shows the crumbling interior section of the cemetary wall. In front of the tree stands the Memorial Cross.   
    All four photos were taken inside the War Cemetary from points along its wall. Note the farm fields around the cemetary and the settlements at their edge.    
    Photos of the war graves. The dead were interred in pits covered with stone slabs. The photo to the immediate right shows our group surrounded by a small crowd of very noisy and quite cheeky local children. The photo on the extreme right shows a weathered unlegible headstone.    
    The main structures at the British War Cemetary. The photos on the left show the red sandstone Memorial Obelisk inside the Cemetary (I'm standing by it in the second photo), the photos on the immediate right shows the splendid Memorial War Cross. The last photo, shows both the Obelisk and Cross, and the magnificent tree in front of the cemetary gate.       
    After visiting the Cemetary, we walked around the area. As chance has it, a marriage ceremony was taking place in the neighbourhood at the time. The uniformed men in the first photo on the left played the bagpipes at the wedding of the gentlemen on the right (dressed in white with turban). Note the War Cemetary in the background of the first photo.
  A dancing monkey! You see them often on Pakistani streets - in this case in Chillianwala. The photo on the extreme right shows one of our group members who donned a turban for a minute.    


If any visitor to this page has photos of monuments to the Battle of Chillianwala which are or which are not included on this webpage, please eMail me them and I will place them here with an acknowledge-ment, your write-up for the photos and a link to your website. Thanks.



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