The Rohillas were originally from the mountainous regions of Afghanistan & were mostly descendants of the Yousufzai tribe of Pathans, but also included several smaller tribes & sub-tribes. The chief amongst these were the Yousufzai & the Barech tribes from Kandhar which contributed most of the Rohilla leadership. They came to India under the service of local Zamindars & nawabs who wished to settle personal scores with each other. Several thousand of them were also inducted in the Mughal army by Emperor Aurangzeb to subdue the incendiary Rajput population. They slowly took control of the provinces they were stationed in & carved out a large chunk of territory for themselves christened “Rohilkhand” (“Land of the Rohillas”, the districts of Bareilly, Rampur & the surrounding regions in modern-day Uttar Pradesh). As the Mughal Empire waned, the Rohillas declared their independence & soon became a power to contend with. They played a very important role in the Third Battle of Panipat (1761) by providing notable assistance to the Afghan Shah Abdali against the Maratha confederacy. However a series of campaigns against them by Marathas, Sikhs & Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, weakened their armies and depleted their resources. A final defeat was administered to them by the British in the Second Rohilla War (1793) following which the British raised the Rohilla War Memorial within the campus of St. John’s Church, Calcutta to commemorate their fallen soldiers.

Rohilla Memorial Calcutta 1

Description                 The 15-meter high memorial consists of a small hemispherical roof surmounted on twelve Doric pillars. A plaque fixed on the side of the memorial’s base 101 years after the war names the military officers killed in action.
History When the Rohillas refused to pay war damages to Shuja-ud-Daulah after he protected them from the Marathas who had embarked on a punitive campaign against the former, the Nawab assisted by the British East India Company’s army defeated the Rohillas in 1774 & annexed most of their kingdom. The British established a small “protected” Rohilla state at Rampur & let the Rohilla chief Faizullah Khan continue as its Nawab. After Faizullah Khan passed away in 1793, his ill-tempered sons began contending with each other for the throne. The Company was forced to intervene again & General Abercromby led the British forces in the Second Rohilla War. 25,000 Rohilla soldiers were defeated & executed; the British raised the memorial to their fallen that were relatively very small in number.
Protection  The Memorial, like the entire St. John’s Church Complex falls under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I).
Ownership    Archaeological Survey of India
Location         St. John’s Church is a short walk away from Esplanade & can be reached by foot as well as taxi.
Remark     Guards have been employed to safeguard the Church complex. The sales from tickets do not go to the A.S.I but are instead used for helping the poor of Calcutta. For a detailed write up on the history of the Rohillas & the memorial click here! To know about St. John’s Church, click here!

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Disclaimer: The article expresses individual views of the author. The rights to the content of the article rests with the author.

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