Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Haunted Brij Raj Bhavan Palace

Brij Raj Bhavan Palace

This 184-year old palace is located on the banks of the River Chambal near the city of Kota in Rajasthan, India.

It was built in 1830 and used as a British Residency. At the turn of the century it became the Kota state guesthouse.

Kings, viceroys, prime ministers and other important dignitaries stayed at the palace during this time. Among them were-- Queen Mary of England in 1911, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1971.

By the early 1980s the palace became the Heritage Hotel. It is also the residence for the Kota royal family.

The Brij Raj Bhavan palace has one other active resident--a ghost.

It is said this haunting is a result of the 1857 Indian Mutiny.

Clash of Cultures and Religion

Leading up to this mutiny tensions had been rising between the Indians and the British that ruled their country. These two cultures clashed in both customs and religious beliefs. 

In 1829, the British banned Sati-- the practice of burning a widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.* Their ongoing interference with traditional northern religious practices, such as female infanticide caused even more tensions.

Another major factor in these rising tensions was the change in the East India Companies’ philosophy. By the 19th century they were taking a more active interest in India's religious affairs--they sanctioned missionary work. 

The result was that Muslim and Hindu Indians formed an alliance against what they saw as a common threat to their beliefs.

The Sepoy Mutiny

The rock on which British rule in India was built was the fact that 8 out of every 10 soldiers in the British army were Native Sepoys or Native Indians--drawn from the Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim warrior casts.

Sepoy soldiers

The Sepoys who served in the British army did not separate their warrior calling from their religious practices.

In 1857, a rumor spread that Indian troops where going to be issued cartridges that were sealed with pork and beef fat. This meant as they bit the end off they would come in contact with this lard. This infuriated the Sepoys. In the Muslim and Hindu religions these two animal products are strictly forbidden. 

The Sepoys knew if this rule was broken they would become "outcasts" to other Indians.

Battle of Cawnpore (Kampur)
Where entire British garrison,
including women and children
were wiped out.
This combined with the tensions mentioned above sparked the mutiny in May of 1857-- for the Sepoys now firmly believed the British intended to Christianize India.

The Major's Ghost

Three of the many European victims of this mutiny were a Major Charles Burton and his two sons. Major Burton served as the British Resident to Kota.

In 1857, during the revolt all the servants in the Brij Raj Bhavan palace--except for one camel-driver--abandoned the Major and his family. Taking the few weapons they could find they took refuge in an upper room--waiting for help from the Maharaja.

When the Sepoys arrived, they climbed up to the terrace. The major and his sons retreated to a room below, where they surrendered. It is said they fell to their knees and prayed just before they were killed.

It is believed that the Major’s ghost is the entity that haunts the palace. In 1980 a former maharani of Kota told a British journalist that she saw the major’s ghost frequently--often in the drawing room where he was killed.

She described him as an elderly man who walked with a cane. His ghost is harmless with one exception.

During his nightly rounds the major has been known to slap more than one guard who he has found dozing off while on duty.

* It should be emphasized not all Indian’s practiced Sati but between 1813 and 1825, 8,000 widows had died in this way in Bengal Province (Presidency) alone. Sati is a Hindu religious custom that ensured fidelity and piety.

Burning of a Widow
By James Peggs

No comments: