The Monument

In the wing on the left of the Main Altar, there rises over the tomb of the Begum, a monument that has few equals in the country. It is the work of the great Italian sculptor, Adamo Tadolini of Bologna. The grand statue of St. Paul just in front of the Basilica of St. Peter at Rome is one of his famous works. The monument was commissioned by David Dyee Sumru. It was completed in 1842 at the cost of two and a half lakhs of rupees, quite a sum for those days. It was finally erected in the church in 1870. Till then the remains of the Begum were in the side chapel, which now enshrines the Sacred Image of Our Lady of Graces. But when the monument arrived it was found to be too big to be erected there. Hence the Begum's remains had to be transferred to the place where they are now.

This eighteen foot Carrara marble monument consists of eleven life-size figures and three panels in bas-relief. The six figures that stand below around the panels are symbolic, while the others immortalise persons that were intimately conneced with the Begum at the time of her death.

Right on the top, the Begum sits in state, holding in her hand the scroll of the Mogul Emperor, Shah Alam II, conferring on her the jagir of Sardhana, to which she succeeded on her husband's death in preference to Sumru's son. She is dressed in Muslim style with a Kashmiri shawl. The brown piece of marble, upon which her throne rests, contrasts strongly with the rest of the white marble, and sets her further into prominence and apart from the rest.

Immediately below her stand four figures. On her right, gazing up at his benefactress with love and gratitude, stands David Dyce Sumru, the great-grand son of Sumru, whom she adopted and who had the monument constructed. He is dressed in the Knighthood of St. Gregory XVI. Behind him stand Innayat-ullah, the commandant of her cavalry and her first aide-de-camp.

On the Begum's right stands Diwan Rae Singh, her Minister. In her book ``Indira Gandhi'' (Vikas, Delhi, 1976), Uma Vasudeva writes of Moti Lal Nehru, Mrs. Indira Gandhi's grandfather, ``On his mother's side Motilal's great grandfather was the Diwan of Shamru the Begum''. Behind him with Breviary and Rosary in hand, stands Julius Caesar Scotti, the first and only bishop of Sardhana. He had been the domestic chaplain of the Begum and at her request had been raised to the Episcopal dignity. In her letter to Pope Gregory XVI, the Begum wrote, ``I beg leave, most respectfully, to bring to your Holiness' most favourable notice the most Reverend Father in God, Padre Julius Caesar, who has long been in this country as a Missionary Apostolic of our Holy Religion. He is my domestic Chaplain, and I believe him to be a pious and upright man, a person of very great talents and high abilities. He has been about 28 years in this country, and is respected by us all. I most humbly recommend him for the Bishopric of Sardhana''. The Pope granted her request, and created him Vicar Apostolic of Sardhana on 12th Sept. 1834. But after the Begum's death, mainly due to the court life, the intrigues, and the take over of the Begum's state by the East India Company he left Sardhana and went back to Italy where he died on 8 September, 1863. Sardhana was again placed under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Agra, though today it comes under that of Meerut.

These four figures stand round a circular drum which bears the following inscription in Arabic, Latin and English : ``Sacred to the memory of Her Highness Joanna Zibalnessa, the Begum Sombre, styled the Distinuguished of Nobles and Beloved Daughter of the State, who quitted a transitory Court for an eternal world, revered and lamented by thousands of her devoted subjects, at her palace of Sardhana, on the 27th of January 1836, aged ninety years. Her remains are deposited underneath, in this Cathedral built by herself. To her powerful mind, her remarkable talent, and the wisdom, justice and moderation with which she governed for a period exceeding half a century, he to whom she was more than a mother is not the person to award the praise, but in grateful respect to her loving memory, is this monument erected by him who humbly trusts she will receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre''.

On the huge block, upon which the drum rests, there are three panels in relief. The one in front depicts the scene of the Begum presenting a gold chalice to the Bishop, Msgr. Pezzoni of Agra, during the Blessing of the church in 1829.

A large original painting of this scene is in the Billiard Room of the Governor's House, Lucknow. Present at the ceremony are the imporant people of her court. They are, from left to right, after the bishop, the two Fathers, Adeodatus and Cajetan, and the Begum, David Dyce Sumru, her adopted son, Anthony Reghelini, the Italian Architect of the church and Palace, George Thomas, the Irish commander of her forces in the early days, and Le Vaisseau, the Frenchman she married fifteen years after Sumru's death. The panel on the Begum's right shows the Begum as administrator of her realm holding a Durbar. The panel on the left depicts her as Commander of her troops as she leads them into battle. The original oil paintings of both these scenes are now in the Chester Beatty Library and Gallery, Dublin.

The six figures, that stand right below, are symbolic. Taking them from left to right, the first is a woman symbolizing the Begum's courage. With a club in her hand, and a foot on a crouching lion, she stands fearless and calm. In front of her sits a woman heavily shrouded, deep in thought, and holding in her hand a serpent, the biblical symbol of wisdom (Mt. 10/16.) She represents the prudence of the Begum's rule.

In front of this woman and a little to her right, stands the Angel of Time. He shows the Begum the hour glass with its sand run down, while with his right hand he holds the Torch of Life downwards, signifying its extinction. It signifies a life of fulfilment.

On the left of the monument, the figure in front is that of a young woman, joyful in countenance, holding in her right hand the horn of plenty. She is the personification of the prosperity of the Begum's reign. Seated at the back of her is an old man gazing up at the Begum in gratitude and grief, representing the poor, who grieved at the loss of such a great benefactress. Further back is a child offering an apple to the Begum, representing the filial affection of her subjects and her love for the orphan. Behind this child is a mother with an infant at her breast, representing the maternal affection of the Begum for her subjects and her concern for the widow.

In front of the monument, and immediately outside the railing, that protects it, is a marble slab, in memory of the person who lies beneath.

It was he that had the monument made for this woman that loved him as a mother and at whose feet he now lies. The inscription reads, ``Sacred to the memory of David Ochterlony Sombre of Sardhana, who departed this life in London, 1 July 1851. (in conformity to his wishes) in the year 1867 and are deposited in the vault beneath, near those of his beloved and revered benefactress, Her Highness the Begum Sombre.

He was born at Sardhana 18 December 1808 and married 26 September 1840 the Honourable Mary Anne Jervis, daughter of Edward Jervis, Viscount of Meaford in the Country of Stafford''.

Contact Info

Basilica of Our Lady of Graces

Sardhana P.O. Meerut District 250 342 Uttar Pradesh, India

Tel: 0123-723-6127
Mob: +91 7409991161

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