A Time for Kali – The Indian Rebellion of 1857

Kali and Bhairava - terrible form of Shiva -  in_Union 18th C. Nepal

Kali and Bhairava – terrible form of Shiva – in_Union 18th C. Nepal

This has been a difficult article to write for many reasons. First of all, there is the scope and length of the subject matter. One can hardly do justice to a war by reading a single chart.. However, the beginning of a war, the initial attack can be read which will, in the process, give us the essence of the larger conflict. I have therefore elected to read the chart for the time of the beginning of the fomenting hostilities in Meerut The explosions occurred later in the day, but we cannot call that the beginning hardly’ There had, after all, been 20 acts of arson and the bazar had become frenzied – full of passionate intensity.

Secondly, the subject matter is particularly gruesome. It is as if Kali were unleashed to kill all indiscriminately. The was no mercy and in fact when a group of survivors were offered safe passage by what were believed to be sympathetic Indians, it turned out to be a trap. The survivors were set afloat and the boats set on fire.

Kali is a goddess of some complexity, but I doubt she has ever been accused of rationality or peaceful resolutions. Hers are primal and chthonic powers. She is known as the goddess of empowerment. She is the consort of the wrathful form of Shiva, who has been fairly compared to Dionysus by A. Danielou in Shiva and Dionysus (1984) The Hindu texts tell us that when she first entered the world, she killed everyone,  driven by blood lust and revenge, unable to stop the slaughter once it had begun. To suggest that she represents the Indians alone in the uprising would be too simplistic, but we can certainly say it was a time for Kali.

Jahangir_investing_a_courtier_with_a_robe_of_honour_watched_by_Sir_Thomas_Roe,_English_ambassador_to_the_court_of_Jahangir_at_Agra_from_1615-18,_

Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe o honour watched by Sir Thomas Roe English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615-18,_

The British East India Company had been chartered by Elizabeth I in 1600 and formed a treaty with the Mughuls under Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (r. 1605–1627. India was not yet part of the British Empire and wouldn’t be for centuries. However, the company required an armed force, 80% of which was made up of native Indians

In some respects the essence of the conflicts seem modern – human versus religious rights imposed by an occupying force. The hegemony of the British was at the very heart of the matter At the centre of indigenous fears were the rights of women, It is not unlike the attempts of western groups to stamp out female circumcision, child marriages and the privation of an education. The British had banned Sati, where a Hindu wife is burned alive in the husbands funeral pyre. They had outlawed female

Family group of Thugees  (Robbers). The Indian thugs kill people by strangling them with their long kerchiefs which they carry on their shoulders.

Family group of Thugees (Robbers). The Indian thugs kill people by strangling them with their long kerchiefs which they carry on their shoulders.

infanticide and passed laws enabling Indian women to own property or get a divorce.  Even today, there are countries which will not permit a woman to drive a car.  In some instances,  it is virtually impossible not to have sympathies for both sides of a conflict; but today we have Boku Haram and the Taliban, both violently opposed to education for women and enforcing their brutal mentality through slavery and massacres while insisting they are acting in conformity with their religion.

For most of us this goes far beyond any concerns for religious freedom. Violent denial of the most basic rights isn’t something we can simply accept, even if we know we are powerless to change things in the short run. However we decide to act, it is imperative to understand that for many people the attempt to better the lives of women is seen as a religious attack.

The British had also brought 400 years of Moghul rule to an end. Orthodox Hindus or Muslims thought the traditional ways were being seriously challenged. William Wilberforce had pressed for a particular system of ethics which was alien to the Indians.

The Company had been rapacious in Bengal. Lands for which there was no legitimate heir could be subsumed into British India. There were unpopular revenue policies. Of course the humiliation of being governed by a foreign power contributed to the Rebellion. Indian aristocracy more than anyone else feared the changing society.

Bahadur_Shah_II_of_India - "the last Moghul"

Bahadur_Shah_II_of_India – “the last Moghul”

“The pretext for revolt was the introduction of the new Enfield rifle. To load it, the sepoys had to bite off the ends of lubricated cartridges. A rumour spread among the sepoys that the grease used to lubricate the cartridges was a mixture of lard and beef tallow.; thus, to have oral contact with it was an insult to both Muslims and Hindus. There is no conclusive evidence that either of these materials was actually used on any of the cartridges in question. ” (Indian Mutinee. Encyclopaedia Britannica).

There were also far more wide sweeping issues that had brought about the Rebellion Some Hindus were concerned that he British were undermining the caste system and one could in fact lose caste if their lips touched the flesh of the sacred cow, even if done in ignorance.  If the rumour had been correct both Hindu and Muslim would  expect retribution in this life and the next. The Sepoys were soon offered the older cartridge design for their rifles to allay their fears, but only a tiny fraction of them accepted them. It was so much more than cartridges. In the final analysis, the greatest concern was the fear of a Christianized and Anglicization India. We can say this was a religious war in that sense.

Sepoy C, 1857

Sepoy C, 1857

There are many excellent sources for the background of this nightmare. I particularly recommend The Last Moghul by William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury 2006) and Heaven’s Command by James Morris (Folio 1992) I have also added two videos below, that give a reasonable overview of an epically complex scenario.

Although the event has been called a mutinee, it was so much more than that. First of all, it was one of several mutinees, ignited for a variety of reasons and characterized by extreme brutality of mythic proportions. When all had settled down, there was a new social order and power structure and ironically, the mutinee lead to India becoming a part of the British Empire – The jewel in the crown. The last Moghul was pensioned off by the British and sent to Burma, where he died shortly thereafter.

The mutiny soon escalated into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region

indianmutinymap

After Sunday Church services on 10 May 1857 in the cantonment of the town of Meerut, the inhabitants could not have imagined the horror to come. Meerut was not a military outpost per se.  It had minimal defences and there were women and children living there wh0 had been thought secure. It was like a barracks with family quarters.

There is no source fir the exact time for the beginning of hostilities , but by referring to other events I feel confident with this chart for 10.40 am. I f we turn to the chart, we find that it is at once quite literal and richly mythological at the same time .Picture2

The Lord of the Geniture is the Sun, the Lord of the Ascendant  Jupiter in Aries in the Ninth House is Almuten Figuris, ,Lord of the Eighth and in a Martian Sign. Jupiter is Peregrine. That could very well indicate many deaths with a religious causation, If we take the Leo Ascendant to be the British, the Solar Lord of the Ascendant is bringing the force of Algol or in this case Kali to bear on their lives.

The Ninth House informs the Tenth and the Eleventh House provides the support, What we find in the Tenth is truly extraordinary. The Lord of the Tenth is a strong Mercury in Gemini. The planets and luminary are all in Taurus, but Venus is Cazimi and both she and the Sun are conjunct Algol. The Sun is also Peregrine. Moreover, Venus is retrograde and transferring her light to Mars. It is just past Full Moon and the last Planetary Aspects made by the Moon is an opposition to Mars, she is also parallel the Fixed Star Facies, denoting ruthlessness.

Perseus from al-Sufi

Perseus from al-Sufi

Algol has the most malicious reputation and always seems to deliver what is promised – losing one’s head, often literally and significant of piled up corpses according to the Chinese. This is the eye of Medusa, the ultimate demonic star. More often than not, we will find Algol in the charts of extreme disasters. The hidden enemy is represented by Saturn in the Twelfth House, disposited by the Moon and conjunct the Fixed Star, Sirius — indicating searing heat.  Saturn is Lord of the Seventh House of open enemies. The attack was in the form of explosions and fires everywhere

The S. Node is in the House of the Goddess in Venusian Libra and the N. Node in the same sign as Jupiter. This is a volatile and violent chart and also one in which the power of the Feminine is overwhelming.

Perhaps in a later article, we might explore other charts for the myriad of events of the great rebellion , but for now we have what I would call the chart of its essence

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