The cult of Nikal Seyn

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Above:Nicholson’s grave can still be visited in a Delhi cemetery that bears his name,and there is still a ‘Nicholson Road’ by a section of the city wall along which he passed on the day of the September 1857 assault.

In the 1840s a strange religious cult appeared in a remote part of India. Its members numbered no more than half a dozen at first. They wore garments the colour of faded leaves and devoted their lives to the worship of ‘Nikal Seyn’. To them he was nothing short of a god, and when he departed this life in 1857 it came as such a shock that one of the Nikal Seynis killed himself. Nikal Seyn was, in fact, John Nicholson. The cult survived his death. Nikal Seyn became a Muslim saint and stories were told of him championing the poor. According to legend, he once mistakenly chopped off a man’s head but, realising his mistake, stuck it back on again. Remarkably, the last of the Nikal Seynis died only in 2004. He lived in Abbottabad, a link in a remote corner of what is now Pakistan with the life of a remarkable Ulsterman 150 years after his death.

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