The Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the “Sepoy Mutiny,” and “India’s First War of Independence,” was preceded by events in which Mangal Pandey played a significant role. Mangal Pandey was a devout Brahmin who served as a soldier in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry regiment of the British East India Company.
He refused to use the recently-introduced greased cartridge and attacked his fellow soldiers before being stopped by authorities. He then joined with the other rebel soldiers and attacked the British officers before being overpowered and taken into custody and court-martialed. As punishment, he became a hero in India in 1984 and was commemorated on a stamp released by the Indian government along with having his life represented multiple times in film and television.
Mangal Pandey History
On July 19, 1827, Mangal Pandey was born in the British Indian province of Ceded and Conquered Provinces (now known as Uttar Pradesh), in the village of Nagwa in the upper Ballia district. His Jayanti, or birth anniversary, is celebrated on the 19th of July. He came from a wealthy, high-caste Brahman family that had fervent Hindu views. He enlisted in the Bengal Army in 1849. He enlisted with the 5th Company of the British East India Company's 34th Bengal Native Infantry (B.N.I.) regiment and there were a few Brahmins involved with him.
Mangal Pandey: Beginning and His Attacks
Mangal Pandey joined the Bengal Army in 1849. As a private soldier, he enlisted in the 5th Company at the Barrackpore battalion of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry in late March 29, 1857. In early April, an adjutant from another battalion named Baugh was informed by some privates that many of his regiment's soldiers were angry.
He also learned that one of them, Mangal Pandey, was inciting the soldiers to revolt and threatening to shoot the first European he saw while pacing in front of the regiment's guardroom close to the parade area while carrying a loaded rifle. At a later inquiry, when Pandey saw a detachment of British soldiers coming off a ship near their cantonment, he took away his firearms and hurried to the quarter-guard building. Concern about discontent among sepoys and bhang intoxication disturbed Mangal Pandey.
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Role of Mangal Pandey in the Revolt of 1857
In the 1850s, the British introduced the Enfield rifle to India and its dirty cartridges would only be fed into the weapon after being bitten off at the ends. Rumors were going around that the lubricant was either pig or cow lard. Hindus held cows in high regard, but Muslims are not allowed to eat pork, which caused Indian soldiers to get furious. At that time, Mangal Pandey was assigned to the Barrackpore garrison, where Mangal Pandey became incensed after learning of their situation and decided to express their displeasure.
It is generally accepted that Mangal Pandey attempted to inspire his regiment's other soldiers to rebel against the British officers and to plot an uprising against British rule. On March 29, 1857, Lieutenant Baugh, the 34th Bengal Native Infantry's adjutant stationed at Barrackpore, learned that some members of his regiment were upset and that Mangal Pandey was stirring them up to revolt. The first European Pandey saw, he threatened to shoot him. After learning that a detachment of British soldiers had arrived on a ship and was disembarking nearby the cantonment, the enraged Pandey reportedly took weapons and went to the quarter-guard house.
General Hearsey, the commanding commander, learned about the event and rode to the site with his two officer sons to calm things down. The general pulled out his revolver and told his sepoys to perform their duties while threatening to shoot anyone who disobeyed him. Now that the sepoys were following his orders, Pandey tried suicide by pressing the musket's muzzle against his chest and firing himself while pulling the trigger with his toe- whereas this did not prove fatal, as he sensed that he would be arrested.
Mangal Pandey Death
On the afternoon of March 29th, 1857, Mangal Pandey was walking around the guardroom for his regiment in an angered and agitated state. He threatened to kill the first European he encountered that day by using a loaded rifle. Despite Jemadar Ishwari's protestations, Sergeant-Major James Hewson rushed out of the guardroom. Ishwari refused to go against Mangal Pandey; claiming that he too was unable, which led to limited support from Sergeant-Major James Hewson, who attempted to arrest Mangal Pandey on his own - but failed because it was late in coming.
After failing to rally the troops behind an open mutiny, Mangal Pandey tried to shoot himself with his musket. He only wounded himself, though, and was taken into custody. In less than a week, Mangal Pandey was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged for daring to rebel against orders. Jemadar Ishwari Prasad was also given the death penalty by hanging because he ordered Mangal Pandey and the other soldiers not to detain him.
In 1857, Prasad was put to death on April 21st and Mangal Pandey was hanged on April 8th. After an investigation revealed the soldiers had failed to subdue a mutinous soldier, the 34th Bengal N.I.S. Regiment was disbanded “with disgrace” on May 6th. A few days before that regiment's disbandment, sepoy Paltu (Mangal's accomplice) was elevated to Havildar but he was assassinated before the regiment disbanded. Mangal Pandey's rebellion sparked massive rebellions across India which ultimately led to the Indian Mutiny in 1857.
Consequences of Mangal Pandey’s Role in the Revolt of 1857
Many historians believe that Mangal Pandey's actions played a role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was well-known among his fellow sepoys, and it is believed that this was one of the factors which set off the larger wave of mutinies that broke out throughout a few months. Later members of the Indian Nationalist Movement, like V.D. Savarkar was influenced by him because of his actions during this time.
Mangal Pandey Legacy
On October 5, 1984, the Indian government decided to honor Mangal Pandey by releasing a postage stamp. A park was built on the site where he attacked and rose against British forces. The Shaheed Managal Pandey Maha Udyan is how it's known in Bengali. West Bengal's Barrackpore Cantonment on Surendranath Banerjee Road also has a cenotaph honoring Mangal Pandey.
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