The sound of conch shells pierced the morning air as wisps of smoke from burning incense sticks wafted towards high heavens.
And as priests chanted Vedic mantras, the mortal remains of 282 martyrs of India’s first war of independence, the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, were immersed in the Ganges on Sunday morning.
The remains of the 282 martyrs, dumped in a well by the British 157 years ago, were discovered recently at Ajnala near Amritsar in Punjab. Political activists and other people were present at the Sati Ghat in the Kankhal area of this holy city.
According to Hindu belief, a deceased’s soul achieves ‘moksha’ – liberation from the cycle of birth and death -- only after the ashes are immersed in the holy river.
“It is very satisfying to pay homage to the martyrs since it is believed in Hinduism that one cannot achieve salvation till the holy water touches the last remains of a person after death,” said Gandhian Purushottam Sharma, who also assisted in the immersion.
The Gurdwara Shaheed Gunj Managing Committee at Ajnala had stumbled upon the well – then known as Kaliyan Wala Khuh – more than a year ago during excavation in the area.
The well was later renamed as Shaheedanwala Khuh, the martyrs’ well and the Shaheedganj Shaheedanwala Kuan Committee was formed to oversee the excavation of the soldiers’ remains.
Some of the bigger bones, medals and coins which were excavated along with the human remains have been preserved to be displayed at memorial being built in Amritsar.
According to historians when the Sepoy Mutiny broke out, Indian soldiers posted at Mian Mir, near Lahore, was disarmed on May 13, 1857.
After soldiers of the regiment killed two British officers, they were caught by the British and put in a single room where about 200 died of asphyxiation. The rest of them were shot and their bodies were thrown into the well.