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Unveiling Mangal Pandey: The Flame of India’s First War of Independence

The First War of Independence from the year 1857 to 1858 was the first general extensive uprising against the rule of the British East India Company. The Doctrine of Lapse, the issue of cartridges greased with animal fat to Indian soldiers, the foreword of the British education system and several social reforms had exasperated a very wide section of the Indian people, who rose in rebellion at several places all over India. The East India Company was brought under the straight rule of the British Crown as a result of this revolution.

Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier who played a main part in events right away before the outbreak of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Mangal Pandey was a sepoy in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) division of the British East India Company. While existing British opinion considered him a conspirator and rebel. Pandey is extensively regarded as a hero in modern India. In 1984, the Indian government issued a postage stamp to honor him. His life and actions have also been portrayed in numerous cinematic productions.

Mangal Pandey was born on 19 July 1827 in a Brahmin family in Nagwa.It was a village in the upper Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh. He joined the East India Company’s army in the year of 1849. Pandey was a soldier in the 6th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry and was mainly known for his participation in an attack on several of the regiment’s officers. This thing marked an opening phase in the Indian rebellion of the year 1857. This cemented the way for his death. Pandey was very ambitious and viewed his vocation as a sepoy as a springboard to future success.

Pandey’s career ambitions, although, conflicted with his religious beliefs. While he was posted at the barracks in Barrackpore in the mid-1850s, a new Enfield ransack was introduced into India, requiring a soldier to nibble off the ends of greased cartridges to load the missile. A gossip spread that the oil used was cow or pig lard, respectively repugnant to Hindus or Muslims. The sepoys believed that the British had intentionally used the lard on the cartridges.

Some of the sepoys of the quarter-guard then advanced and struck at the two prone officers. They threatened Shaikh Paltu and ordered him to release Pandey, whom he had tried vainly to hold back. However, Paltu continued to hold Pandey until Baugh and the sergeant-major could get up. Himself wounded by now, Paltu was obliged to loosen his grip. He backed away in one direction and Baugh and Hewson in another while being struck with the butt ends of the guards’ muskets.

In the meantime, a report of the incident had been carried to the commanding officer General Hearsey, who then galloped to the ground with his two officer sons. Taking in the scene, he rode up to the guard, drew his pistol and ordered them to do their duty by seizing Mangal Pandey. The General threatened to shoot the first man who disobeyed. The men of the quarter-guard fell in and followed Hearsey towards Pandey. Pandey then put the muzzle of the musket to his chest and discharged it by pressing the trigger with his foot. He collapsed bleeding and with his regimental jacket on fire but not mortally wounded.

Pandey improved and was brought to trial less than a week later. When asked whether he had been under the influence of any substances, he stated loyally that he had mutinied on his concurrence and that no other person had played any part in cheering him. He was sentenced to death by hanging alongside Jemadar Ishwari Prasad after three Sikh members of the quarter-guard testified that the latter had ordered them not to arrest Pandey.

The personal inspiration behind Mangal Pandey’s behavior remains confused. During the incident itself, Pandey shouted to other sepoys: “Come out – the Europeans are here”; “From sharp these cartridges we shall become infidels” and “You sent me out here, why don’t you follow me”. There was a wide range of factors causing anxiety and distrust in the Bengal Army immediately before the Barrackpore event. There have been different financial records of March 29, 1857.

Though, the general agreement is that Pandey attempted to provoke his fellow sepoys to rise against their British officers, attacked two of them, and attempted to shoot himself after being reserved and finally was beaten and arrested. Some existing reports suggested that he was under the pressure of drugs, possibly cannabis or opium, and was not completely conscious of his actions. His carrying out was set for April 18, but British authorities feared the outbreak of a large-scale rebellion if they waited until then. So it moved the date up to April 8.

Confrontation to the use of Enfield cartridges later that month in Meerut led to the outbreak of a rebellion there in May and the start of the larger revolution.

Indian Posts & Telegraphs Department is advantaged to issue four memorial stamps in memory of these great Freedom Fighters. A park in Barrachpore is named ‘Shaheed Mangal Pandey Maha Udyan’ in memory of Mangal Pandey, who attacked British officers and was hanged. It was in Barrackpore sub-divisional town in North 24 Parganas district. Pandey has been remembered as a great freedom fighter against British rule in India.

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