Exploring the Battle of Plassey
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Exploring the India’s Ganges River with G Adventures has been one of the surprise moments of my travel year so far. India is intoxicating, and G Adventures showcases it in a way that is accessible to those like me who are first-time visitors. At the same time, the company is dedicated to providing authentic experiences ashore – and that’s exactly what the 17 of us were treated to today.
Breakfast began at the usual time, at 0730. Breakfast, like all meals, is served buffet-style, and I find myself having the same thing each morning: an omelette with spicy jalapeno peppers, a bit of bacon, and some of the excellent toast that the crew of the Varuna make onboard. It’s as thick as cornbread and tastes delicious, with homemade preserves that are something of a cross between a marmalade and a chutney.
At 0800, Varuna weighed anchor and sailed downstream for 30 minutes. This proved to be an excellent chance to enjoy another cup of coffee up on the Varuna’s sun deck before we set off for our excursion half and hour later.
This morning, we’re touring the small garden of Khughsbah, which houses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah and his family. He was the last Nawab of Bengal, and had a reign of just 15 months, from April 1756 to June 1757.
There’s a good reason we saw his tomb this morning. He was executed on July 2, 1757, after the disastrous Battle of Plassey, which is widely considered to be a major turning point in Indian history, as it opened the country up for eventual British rule.
By all accounts, Siraj-ud-Daulah wasn’t a nice guy. His own biographer states that he was a “monster of vice, cruelty and depravity.” Which is a heck of a statement from someone that’s probably looking to put your best foot forward.
The Battle of Plassey involved the British East India Company and the Nawab, and took place on June 23, 1757. The whole thing was over in 11 hours. When the dust settled, the British East India Company was victorious.
The Nawab had, at his disposal, 50,000 infantry, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants. The British beat him with just 3,000 soldiers, but the Nawab didn’t help matters: he retreated back to Murshidabad, and much of his army defected.
Today, the battlefield is a quiet, serene place filled with local farms and a small village. Locals herd goats through the dirt roads, and one man, stripped to the waist and sitting in a plastic sun chair, has taken it upon himself to act as the local radio station, pumping club beats out of two massive speakers and subwoofers situated on the dirt road. You can hear it for kilometres.
Some photos from our time at the site of the Battle of Plassey: