What an irony that the SPELLING of the starting point of Revolt of 1857 is still unchanged! ITAWA (the way it’s spelled in HINDI) was wrongly spelt by the Brits as Etawah just like their peculiar spellings of Munghyr (Munger in Bihar) and Cawnpore (today’s Kanpur). Alas, no one cared for this small town from where Sepoy Mutiny began and escalated into India’s first war of independence. To show my respect to the place and as a humble tribute to it, I’ll spell it ‘correctly’ throughout my article and write ITAWA and not the silly ETAWAH.
In this historically-challenged country, one doubts whether anyone has heard of this rather backward town in UP. Ask a metro-based youngster or even his/her dad/mom, anything about ITAWA and they’ll give you a blank and vacant look as if ‘Ye aap kya poochh rahe hain’? (What the hell are you asking?). Such is the ignorance because the writer of this piece recently asked a 23-year-old young girl in Delhi whether she heard the name of Mangal Pandey (the first hero of Revolt of 1857 who was hanged by the Brits on April 8, 1857)? Her nonchalant reply shuddered me: Mangal Panday, kaun? (Who was Mangal Pandey?)
ITAWA is in the vicinity of Eta (again misspelled by the English as Etah). Eta (the proper spelling), Mainpuri and ITAWA are almost cluster towns and the modern India knows about them as Dacoit-Belt! Again a degenerated irony.
ITAWA’s collector during the Revolt of 1857 was A O Hume who later became the founder and head of the Congress in 1885. Hume loved India and its people. As a collector of ITAWA, Hume wrote to the East India Company’s head Sir Christopher Collins in Calcutta (no ‘Kolkata’ for me; we can change the names of the big cities because those names were given by the Brits, but can’t change the spelling and name of ETWAH to ITAWA) that the oppressive rule of East India Company and because of its corrupt officers, a revolt by the Indians was on the anvil. And that happened. Hume was a humane British officer who empathised with the poor Indians and requested that Mangal Pandey’s life be spared. Yet, he was hanged (publicly) to set a deterrent for other Indians.
ITAWA is famous for its Lion Safari. It’s home to Asiatic lions (originally from Gir, Gujarat). Lions move freely whereas the visitors move in caged paths. National Chambal Sanctuary is also here. Agra-ITAWA cycle highway (207 km long) is Asia’s first cycle highway. It’s one-of-its kind project.
ITAWA has moderately good schools and colleges, but nothing remarkable. There’re not very good hotels and restaurants here. But there are reasonably good lodges in ITAWA and roadside eateries provide tolerably good meals. The town needs a huge revamp to become a city of renown.
Years ago, Indian President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad suggested that ITAWA ought to have a museum dedicated to Revolt of 1857. The remnants of that important event have not been preserved properly.
I’ve been to ITAWA ( Pin Code 206001 ) and felt nostalgic. Somehow, I could relate to the place as I’ve always been a keen student of history, esp. modern Indian history beginning from 1857 till date of murky politics.
Visit this place and don’t forget to pay a tribute to those unnamed revolutionaries who laid down their lives for us:
When you go home
Tell them with sorrow
That we’ve given our today
For their tomorrow.
Always remember this if ever you go to ITAWA.
Source by Juhi Mateen