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From Kanhapur to Cawnpore to Kanpur

Volume: 13, No: 05 ; May-2019

Tornos operates specialised tour: Revisiting Cawnpore of 1857 – recommended by : Lonely-Planet-Logo


Formerly known as Manchester of India, Kanpur is now also called as the commercial capital of Uttar Pradesh. Kanpur was termed as Manchester of India owing to the flourishing textile industry. In the state, the city is still one of the most important industrial centres.

Situated on the bank of River Ganges, Kanpur is famous for its fine quality leather goods. It is also a fine producer of wool, cotton, sugar refineries, flour, vegetable oil and chemicals.

The city is believed to have been founded by the Hindu Singh Chandel, the king of the erstwhile estate of Sachendi, and the city was formerly known as ‘Kanhapur’.

Kanpur’s history is centuries-old. In fact, Kanpur’s name was derived from Kanhiyapur, the place of Lord Krishna. Later it was known as ‘Cawnpore’ during the British rule. This place was believed to be founded by the Kings of Chandela’s. Though it is famous as a commercial city, it has got its historical significance because of two places Bithoor and Jajmau. These places date back to 600 BC to 1600 AD.

It’s strange to note that Kanpur’s history is not known until the 13th century, it being the earliest mention found. Until the 18th century, Kanpur’s history was insignificant as it survived in a small, unimportant village. But everything changed when, in May 1765, British defeated Awadh’s Nawab Wazir and it came under their rule. It was time for British to use Kanpur as their military and administrative base. Through the treaty of 1801 between the British and with Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Awadh, Kanpur was brought under the British Rule. Soon after, Kanpur became one of British India’s largest military stations. On 24 March, 1803 it was declared a district. Kanpur was given the name, or the English spelling changed to “Cawnpore”, based on English pronunciation.

By this time, European businessmen had gradually begun to settle in Cawnpore. This became a turning point in Kanpur’s history.

During the uprising of 1857, this place played a major role. Due to rebels such as Nana sahib and his close associates Tantya Tope and Azimullah Khan, Kanpur was a significant place during the revolt. Cawnpore witnessed three major events at that time, ‘wheeler’s entrenchment episode’, ‘massacre at Sati Chaura Ghat’, and then ‘Bibighar massacre’.

Nana Sahib whose headquarter was Bithoor, decided to capture Cawnpore back from the British and declared it as independent on 7 June 1857. On 5 June, Nana Sahib sent a warning letter about the attack to General Wheeler and the attack was successful too.

Nana Sahib then sent a note through a female prisoner Mrs. Jacobi to Wheeler to surrender and in return promised safe passage to Allahabad (now Prayagraj). Next morning when women and children were about to ascend the boat, there was all round confusion at Satichauraghat when many were killed. The remaining survivors (mostly women and children) were arrested and shifted to Bibighar (a house of women). Here the butchers were asked to kill the surviving ladies and children. Finally the mutiny failed and the British re-occupied Cawnpore. It was then that a memorial was built to commemorate the dead.

Kanpur’s development was even more phenomenal after 1857. Government Harness and Saddler Factory were started in 1860, followed by Cooper Allen & Co. in 1880, to supply leather material for the army. The first textile cotton mill, Elgin Mills, was launched in 1862 and Muir Mill was launched in 1882.

Also this city owes much to Hindi language propagation and popularisation, with great Hindu literatures such as Acharya Mahavir Parasad Dwivedi, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Pratap Narain Mishra, Acharya Gaya Prasad Shukla ‘Sanehi’ and Balkrishna Sharma ‘Navin’ belonging to Kanpur.

This place has undergone tremendous changes from Kanhapur to Cawnpowre and then to Kanpur in the 20th century. It is now becoming a well-equipped, well-developed and modern city. Not only is it commercially famous, there are also many good educational institutes here, specially the top most engineering college, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Harcourt Butler Technical University, being two among the top notch in India.

The Arms factory is yet another feather in Kanpur’s cap. Guns and arms and other defence material are made in the ordinance factory located in Kanpur and is in fact one of the major factories here still.

Over the time, Kanpur is facing decline in its commercial industries and thus has gradually lost its title of Manchester of India. Yet it still sustains its image of being a major industrial cities of India.

Not just that, Kanpur has plenty of sightseeing spots too. Here are some must-explore places in Kanpur :


Jain Glass Temple






Jain Glass Temple was built as a mark of reverence to their religion’s 24 Tirthankars by the Jain community. The temple contains Lord Mahavir’s and the Tirthankars’ statues. They stand beneath a huge canopy built on a large platform of marble. As the name suggests, the entire temple structure is made of glass and enamel. It is designed in traditional architectural style and attracts huge crowd of visitors. The walls and the ceiling of the temple are decorated with mirrors cut in exquisite artistic designs while the floor is built of marble.


Kamla Retreat







Located on the road to Kamala Nehru, Kamla Retreat houses a museum with a good collection of artefacts from history and archaeology. In addition to parks and a canal with boating facilities, there is also a zoo here.


Nana Rao Park






It is the largest park in Kanpur, formerly known as Memorial Well Garden, and is located on the Mall Road in the heart of the city. It was renamed after Independence after the hero of the First War of Independence of 1857, Nana Rao Peshwa. It is very nicely laid out and has a nursery for plants.


Moti Jheel 







Located in the city’s Benajhabar area, this place has Kanpur Waterworks’ drinking water reservoir. Recently, the Jheel or the lake area has been transformed into a beautiful recreation grounds and children’s park.


Green Park







This is the best and most famous playground in Kanpur. International Cricket matches are held here and it has one of the best pitches in the world.



Jajmau, a suburb in Kanpur, is an archaeological site having a mound excavated in the years 1957-58. . Jajmau is a hub for leather industries and is believed to be the oldest inhabited place in the region. In north India, Jajmau is home to some of the biggest leather tanneries. The excavations conducted here by ASI () suggest that it dates back to c. 1300 – 1200 BCE. The discoveries made by ASI during excavation here, like – Earthen pottery, tools and various historical artefacts are presently placed in the Kanpur Museum.  








The ancient and sacred place, Bithoor is located on the left bank of the River Ganges, just ahead of Kanpur. It is said that Sage Valmiki had written the great Hindu epic Ramayana here and gave his ashram to Goddess Sita to stay. It is also believed that it was here that she give birth to her twin sons Luv and Kush (children of Lord Rama) here. Therefore, in Hindu mythology, Bithoor has a lot of religious essence. Other divine attractions in Bithoor are Brahma Vart-Ghat, Pathar Ghat and Dhruvteela.


Tornos operates specialised tour: Revisiting Cawnpore of 1857 – recommended by : Lonely-Planet-Logo

On this very exclusive curated tour – ‘Revisiting Cawnpore of 1857’, we take you through the areas that were the focus of the siege. We try and understand, how this bloodiest siege progressed to a conclusive end, when General Havelock freed Cawnpore of the shadows of the rebels.







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