Nana Sahib was born on 19 May 1824 as Dhondu Pant and his father was Narayan Bhatt and mother was Ganga Bai.
Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa of the Maratha Confederation, adopted Nana Sahib & his younger brother in 1827. The mother of both children was the sister of one of the Peshwa's wives.
Nana Sahib's close associates included Tatya Tope and Azimullah Khan; Tatya Tope was the son of Pandurang Rao Tope, an important noble at the court of the Peshwa Baji Rao II. After Baji Rao II was exiled to Bithoor, Pandurang Rao and his family also shifted there. Azimullah Khan joined the court of Nana Sahib as Secretary, after the death of Baji Rao II in 1851. He later became a dewan in Nana Sahib's court.
The Doctrine of Lapse was a British policy introduced in the 1840s when Dalhousie had taken over as Governor-General. It stipulated that in the event there weren't any direct heirs for a ruler, or the ruler was manifestly incompetent, British authorities would take over their territory and appoint another official with better judgment.
The Doctrine replaced the long-established legal rules of inheritance and instead dictated who was eligible to serve as an interim leader or successor to an Indian king. The Doctrine was largely unpopular among Indians, as it gave the East India Company complete control over many regions. That discontent is what led to the 1857 rebellion by groups such as Jhansi forces and deposed dynasties.
Nana Sahib was granted the entitlement of heir to the Maratha throne through his adoption. However, after his death, he received no payment because the Raja escaped and Poland was no longer a monarchy. The Nawab of Poona, while still wealthy due to investments made in Britain, lost everything because of pressure from Britain and also various titles that had been given to Baji Rao when he was in exile.
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Role in the First War of Independence of 1857
On June 18, 1857, British Collector of Cawnpore Charles Hillersdon met with Nana Sahib and requested he raise 1,500 armed troops to defend the area if it became necessary.
On 6 June 1857, rebel forces of the East India Company attacked the British contingent at a stronghold in Cawnpore. Amid the chaos that ensued, Sahib and his men managed to break into a magazine where they declared their allegiance to Bahadur Shah II. The soldiers guarding the magazine believed that Sahib had come to guard it on behalf of the Company, when in fact he was a participant in the rebellion.
Despite being loyal to the Company and protected by five guns, Sahib was met with disbelief and suspicion. The soldiers were suspicious of his intentions, which became even more apparent when he contacted them. Sahib tried to win their trust by promising gold and doubling pay if they would help him destroy British forces in Cawnpore. In time, they agreed to join Sahib on his quest with an excitement that suggested that this might be their only chance of fighting the Marathas themselves.
Attack on Wheeler's entrenchment
The British occupied a compound that was home to the Lahore Fort in Lahore, India. It was held by around 100 personnel. Just before noon on June 5th, 1857, the British received a letter from Nana Sahib informing them to expect an attack that night at 10 PM. On the morning of 6th June, his forces (including rebel soldiers) attacked the Company entrenchment at 10:30 am.
The Company side was poorly prepared for the attack but managed to defend themselves despite some initial hesitation and reluctance from Nana Sahib's forces about entering the defense system. They finally surrendered just three weeks later with little water and food supplies after being holed up in a makeshift fort under scorching summer conditions.
Nana Sahib was motivated to end the deadlock between the Europeans and himself near Delhi. He sent a female European prisoner, Rose Greene, to the entrenchment on 24 June requesting her to convey his messages. The British provided safe passage out of India for those who surrendered, in exchange for which Nana Sahib promised surrender when he got word that the British agreed to their terms. General Wheeler however rejected these plans, because there was no guarantee the messenger was actually from Nana Sahib himself.
On 25 June 1857, Nana Sahib sent a second message, signed by himself. The entrenchment was divided into two groups: one group was in favor of continuing the defense, while the other considered accepting his offer and retreating. During that day, there was no bombardment from Nana Sahib's forces. Finally, Wheeler decided to surrender for safe passage to Allahabad in return for a day of preparation followed by burying their dead. After that morning, on 27 June 1857, the Europeans left for Allahabad.
With the Company recapturing Cawnpore at the end of 1857, Sahib vanished after losing control of his forces, who were defeated in a large battle. General Tantya Tope tried to recapture Cawnpore in November, with an army mainly composed of those who formerly served with him. He managed to take control of all routes to the west and northwest of Cawnpore before being defeated in another major battle.
In September 1857, Sahib was reported to have fallen to malarious fever; however, this is doubtful. Rani Laxmibai, Tatya Tope, and Rao Saheb (Nana Sahib's close confidante) proclaimed Sahib as their Peshwa in June 1858 at Gwalior.
In 1859, Sahib was reportedly killed by Babu Dake. Later that year, Nana Sahib himself fled to Nepal for protection, spending the remainder of his days in Thapa Téli. His family was also provided shelter in Dhangara, eastern Nepal. In February 1860 the British were told Nana's wives had taken refuge with him in Nepal where they lived at Thapathali. Sahib himself is believed to be living in Nepal today.
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