Dastanbuy- A Diary of Indian Revolt of 1857 by Ghalib

The Revolt of 1857 holds a significant position in the history of India. It was an event after which the territory of India came under the direct rule of British. Dastanbuy written by Ghalib throws light on the socio-political and economical as well as religious conditions and scenario during the revolt.

Ghalib’s Dastanbuy was though an addition of the element of continuity to his pension case, yet he splendidly describes the miseries suffered by Britishers as well as by the natives of Delhi.

In a letter he says, “From the Jami Masjid to the Rajghat Gate is a barren wilderness without an exaggeration. By God Dilli is now not a city, now it is a camp, it is a cantonment. No fort, no bazar, no canals.”

As a customary practice of the poets, Ghalib opens his Dastanbuy by praising the greatness and bounty of Almighty and seeks His Blessings, thus giving the Diary an effect of epic.

Describing his personal grief and despair, he comes to the event of revolt. According to him, on May 11, 1857, the rebels attacked Delhi and the Indians who were guarding the city also joined them that marked the beginning of mass killing of Britishers.

There was looting and plundering and bloody fights were being fought everywhere. the sufferers were not only the Britishers but the commoners also faced the same fate.

Ghalib says in Dastanbuy,“A few poor, reclusive men, who received their bread and salt by the grace of the British, lived scattered throughout different parts of the city, in lanes and by-lanes, but quite distant from one another. These humble, peaceful people did not know an arrow from an axe, their hands were empty of the sword; and even the sound of thieves in the dark night frightened them. They could do nothing but sit, helpless, and grief-sticken, in their locked houses.”

The rebels had spread throughout Delhi. They entered into the royal chambers, murdered the inhabitants and after plundering the palaces destroyed them. Even those who were leaderless also participated in the battle. seized the weapons from the British and continued their rebellion.

Ghalib says, “Throughout the day, the rebels looted the city and at night they slept in silken beds.”

They broke the jails and set the prisoners free who were imprisoned by the British, who also joined the rebels. At that time, some slaves who had thirst for power had have their masters murdered. Ghalib says, “In these days we think of ourselves as prisoners and we are, in truth, passing our days as prisoners.”

A lot of nobles like Khan Bahadur Khan along with some of their soldiers raided their respective cities and proclaimed themselves as the new rulers. All this remained so for about four months. The British were ultimately successful in regaining the power. 

After the revolt, the commoners were compelled to stay within the four walls of their houses and Ghalib was no exception to it. He says, “For two or three days, all the roads from Kashmiri Gate to Chandani Chowk were battle grounds.”

After some days, however, Maharaja of Patiala, who was a close acquaintance of British, sent his troops to Delhi to protect from further plundering. Thus people felt relief from being imprisoned in their houses. Now they were able to open the doors and bring water and other essential things from outside.

In addition to being a good source of events of revolt, the Diary is also a significant record of alienation of Muslims. After the end of revolt, Hindus were given the liberty and freedom whereas Muslims were deprived from these basic human rights. Due to inhumane conditions like such, many Muslims preferred leading nomadic life and left the bloody lap of Delhi and therefore  only few were left and Ghalib was one of them.

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