Cawnpore to Allahabad: Nehrus on the Ganges Trail


Nehrus had to flee Delhi after 1857, the mutiny. Gangadhar Nehru being the Kotwal, or the police chief, the last one under the Mughal empire as East India Company was soon to replace the system, had only added to their danger. So They did. 

Strangely, not being Muslims, as opposed to the Sanghi whatsapp forwards, helped them a lot in fleeing. So the Nehrus found themselves on the road to Agra- including Ganga Dhar Nehru and his wife Jeorani, their two sons Bansi Dhar and Nand Lal, and their two daughters Patrani and Maharani. One of the girls with her fair complexion and fine Kashmiri features was mistaken to be an English girl by the British soldiers, and kidnapping being a very serious offence, the whole family was on the line. Thankfully, the sons of Ganga Dhar Nehru spoke English and thus saved the family from a possible massacre. 

Ganga Dhar, however, having lost his job and not finding one in Agra died soon after in 1861 at the age of mere 34. Three months after his death, on May 6, 1861, his wife Jeorani gave birth to a son. He was named Motilal. The Nehru story had finally begun with an elan. 

Thankfully, both Banshi Dhar and Nand Lal were enterprising and Banshi Dhar soon found a job as a 'judgment-writer in the Sadar Diwani Adalat at Agra and rose to the position of a subordinate judge, bringing back the family fortunes. Yet, as his job involved frequent transfers, Moti Lal was brought up by Nand Lal. 

Nand Lal soon got a job as personal secretary to Raja Fateh Singh of Khetri state in Rajputana, a vassal of Jaipur state and rose to the rank of Diwan or Chief Minister. Fateh Singh was one of the progressive rulers as mentioned in the report on the Political Administration of Rajputana for 1865-7 and has already been brought to the notice of and secured the approbation of his Excellency the Viceroy and Governor-General in Council". In his speech at the Agra Durbar in November, 1867, Sir John Lawrence cited the Raja of Khetri as an example for other princes to follow. 

Yet, the Nehrus and misfortune seemed to have been entwined till Moti Lal would finally turn the family fortunes and get everything, name, fame and wealth. Raja Fateh Singh died on November 30, 1870. The principality of Khetri was one of the incongruous ones in being a vassal of Jaipur Durbar and yet dealt directly with the paramount power acting through the Agent to the Governor General for the States of Rajputana. Thus, the death of king without a male child made things complicated in the sense of whether he would be allowed to adopt a son as he has wished. One could remember the Doctrine of Lapse here through which the East India Company had annexed many a princely states, Jhansi being the most well known. 

Nand Lal, along with other confidantes of the king, acted fast, hid the news of the death of the king and brought his dead body to Khetri. There they announced the death and summoned the heir, Ajit Singh, to Khetri to take up the throne. Captain Edward Bradford, the then political agent at Jaipur, too rushed to Khetri. Young Ajit Singh was not installed as the new king yet, but Captain Bradford, presented with almost a fait accompli, confirmed the adoption. The British, it seemed, had learnt their lessons well not to usurp small princely states. 

Nand Lal, though he had carried out the last command of his late master, he lost his job in changed circumstances and shifted back to Agra to work as a lawyer. Finally, when the High Court was transferred to Allahabad, he followed suit. 

The move from the backwaters of Rajputana to a provincial capital- of the then Oudh state as it was known would change the destiny of the family, and in fact the country itself.

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