Sitabuldi fort, site of the 1817 Battle of Sitabuldi, is located atop a small hillock in the middle of Nagpur, in central India. The fort was built by Appa Sahib or Mudhoji II Bhonsle of the Kingdom of Nagpur, just before he fought against the British East India Company during the Third Anglo-Maratha War. The area surrounding the hillock is now known as Sitabuldi and is an important commercial hub for Nagpur. To the south of the hillock is Nagpur Railway Station and a temple to Ganesha (Tekdi Ganapati) is situated at the back of this hillock. The temple was constructed by Bhonsle kings of Nagpur Kingdom. The fort is now home to the Indian Army's 118th infantry battalion.
Battle of Sitabuldi
During the Third Anglo-Maratha War, the British had taken control of Pune, capital of the Maratha Empire. Meanwhile, Appa Sahib had taken the throne of Nagpur Kingdom. On getting the news of Peshwa's debacle in Pune, Appa Sahib quickly expelled the British emissary. The British embassy was on the other side of Sitabuldi hillock from Nagpur. On 25 November 1817, all communication with the British was severed and Appa Sahib, foreseeing a war, sent his family members and valuables out of the city. The British quickly took over Sitabuldi hill and camped at the fort. The British, led by Captain Fitzgerald, were heavily outnumbered, having only 1,400 sepoys, 3 troops of Bengal cavalry and four six-pounder guns. Appa Sahib, on other hand, had 18,000 men, 4,000 Arabs and 36 guns.
On 26 December 1817 at 6 pm, Appa Sahib's forces attacked the Sitabuldi fort. Initially, the British were heavily outnumbered and completely surrounded. The British were heavily resisting a strong attack from Arabs too. Later, Captain Fitzgerald ordered the three Bengal cavalry troops to charge the Arabs. The surprise attack created panic and the Arabs retreated. British sepoys later charged down the hill into the Maratha army to disperse them further, creating confusion and panic. The fiercely fought battle continued till noon on 27 December, and ended with the British achieving victory. Appa Sahib fled after the defeat and the British ambassador established the Appa Sahib's grandson as king while taking control of the kingdom.
After the Battle of Sitabuldi the barracks and other structures were constructed to convert it into a stronger fort.
During British Raj
The graves of British soldiers who died in the battle of Sitabuldi remain in the fort. After the crushing of the 1857 rebellion, Tipu Sultan's grandson Nawab Kadar Ali and his eight associates were hanged on the ramparts of Sitabuldi fort for fighting against the British East India Company. A mosque is maintained in the fort to mark the hangings. The graves along with the mosque are maintained by the Indian Army as a mark of respect for the gallantry of all those who died. A memorial has also been constructed to the soldiers who fell during the colonial period.
Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned in the fort from 10 April to 15 May 1923. King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom gave audience to the people of Nagpur from the fort during their visit to British India. A pillar to commemorate the event stands in the fort. The royals were greeted by a huge crowd gathered at the area towards the present Nagpur Railway Station.
The fort is now home to the Indian Army's 118th infantry battalion. The fort was initially open to the public on 2 days a year i.e. on 26 January and 15 August, but since 19 May 2007 it is now open all year.Now it is occupied by India Army and not open for public anymore. M.S Naravane reports that when he visited the location of the Battle of Sitabuldi in 1993, he found the graves of British soldiers were kept tidy, clean and immaculate whereas the cell where Gandhi was imprisoned was unclean, littered and full of cobwebs.