The not so-frequently-visited Nicholson’s monument

Published November 16, 2014
A Greek-styled building on GT Road opposite to Nicholson’s monument. It was also built in memory of John Nicholson.
A Greek-styled building on GT Road opposite to Nicholson’s monument. It was also built in memory of John Nicholson.

Around 40km from Islamabad on the Rawalpindi-Peshawar section of G.T. Road near Margalla Pass, there stands a monument built in memory of a British army commander.

Brigadier-General John Nicholson (1822-57) was considered as one of the finest officers of the Victorian era. Built in 1868, the approximately 40 feet tower, Nicholson’s Obelisk, is located on top of a hill and can be seen from a distance. It is considered as one of the most important landmarks of the colonial period in the region. John Nicholson was born on December 11, 1822, in Lisburn, Northern Ireland.

During his services for the British East India Army, he distinguished himself in four wars. He participated in his first combat action in the first Afghan War (1839-42). During the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46), he was wounded in an attack on the Margalla Pass, where the Obelisk in his memory now stands.

After the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848-49), Nicholson was appointed the deputy commissioner of Bannu. Nicholson was also known as “Hero of Delhi” for his role and planning during what the British called Indian mutiny of 1857.

Leading the assault on Delhi, he was critically injured and died nine days later on September 23, 1857, at the age of 34, and was buried in Delhi. The interesting fact about the monument is that it is located next to the old G.T. Road. It is said that Alexander the Great also passed through the same route. A staircase leads towards the monument at the top.

There is a door in the monument, more than 10 feet high from the base of the tower, which is apparently kept locked. The area around the monument shows that this place is not frequently visited by tourists. John Nicholson is mentioned in several literary works, including Rudyard Kipling’s novel ‘Kim’ in which a native veteran of the Great Uprising of 1857 sings a “song of Nikal Seyn before Delhi”.

A signboard near the old GT Road mentioning the ancient route of the road.
A signboard near the old GT Road mentioning the ancient route of the road.
A room was built at the base of Nicholson’s monument which is more than 10 feet high. Iron stairs have been placed there to reach the door which is mostly locked.
A room was built at the base of Nicholson’s monument which is more than 10 feet high. Iron stairs have been placed there to reach the door which is mostly locked.
A motorcyclist passes through the old GT Road. This road was the original GT Road, and is now preserved as a heritage place.
A motorcyclist passes through the old GT Road. This road was the original GT Road, and is now preserved as a heritage place.
A view of the 40 feet tall monument. / The plaque inside the room at Nicholson’s monument reads as “This column is erected by friends, British and Nativ to the memory of Brigadier General Jogn Nicholson, taking a hero’s part in four great wars for the defence of British India. Cabul 1840, First Siekh War 1845, Second Seikh War 1848, Sepoy Mutiny 1857”. — Photos by the writer
A view of the 40 feet tall monument. / The plaque inside the room at Nicholson’s monument reads as “This column is erected by friends, British and Nativ to the memory of Brigadier General Jogn Nicholson, taking a hero’s part in four great wars for the defence of British India. Cabul 1840, First Siekh War 1845, Second Seikh War 1848, Sepoy Mutiny 1857”. — Photos by the writer

Published in Dawn, November 16th , 2014

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