I was trying to come up with a storyline for Gabrielle while I was living in England. I’d wanted to write a book for quite some time and I already had my two main characters Devlin and Gabrielle in my mind. What I didn’t have was a vehicle or storyline for them that I thought would capture a reader’s attention. I wanted to do this one right. I was finishing my History degree and flipped on the History Channel just for some noise in the background really. I caught the tail end of a two hour special on the Sepoy Mutiny and what took place at the Bibighar I was able to see enough of this program to 1) have my interest piqued and 2) to be totally horrified and wanting to learn all I could about this historic event. This of course led me to my storyline for Gabrielle and Devlin.
The Sepoy Mutiny took place on 10 May 1857. The Sepoys, who were Indian attacked the East India Company’s army in the village of Meerut. This conflict soon escalated into other skirmishes over the area. This uprising soon became known as India’s First War of Independence. There were many reasons listed as the trigger for the uprising but most agree that the main point of contention was Indian soldiers working for the East India Company were asked to use paper cartridges for the rifles which was believed to be greased with animal fat, namely beef or Pork. Beef was considered taboo as the cow is a revered animal for the Indian religion Hindu and Pork was considered unclean from the Muslim viewpoint.
One of the most horrifying incidents occurred at the British Garrison in Cawnpore. While all the men were off fighting in the bush many women and children who lived at the garrison were rounded up and held in the Bibighar. The Bibighar was a gathering place for the women and children of the Garrison—a safe place for them to gather and enjoy feminine pursuits. This feminine retreat soon turned into a place of horror. The women were held there for several days while several members of the Sepoy army went about and looked for local butchers. The butchers killed the women and children leaving no survivors behind. After the women and children were massacred in the Bibighar, their remains were dumped down the well of the Bibighar. The Bibighar itself was later torn down by the British, and they placed a small cross at that location to commemorate the victims. The well was filled with earth and bricked over although as the bodies decomposed, the bricks subsided. Later the inhabitants of the city of Cawnpore were forced to pay £30,000 to pay for the creation of a memorial.