Mangal Pandey (born July 19, 1827, in Akbarpur, India – died April 8, 1857, in Barrackpore) was an Indian soldier whose March 29, 1857 attack on British officers was the first major incident of the Indian, or Sepoy Mutiny (this uprising is often referred as the First War of Independence or other similar names in India). In this article, we are going to study about Mangal Pandey in detail.
Who was Mangal Pandey?
From here, we’ll study who was Mangal Pandey and what he did. Pandey was born in a town near Faizabad which is now the state of eastern Uttar Pradesh in northern India, though some sources say he was born in a small village near Lalitpur (in present-day southwestern Uttar Pradesh). He came from a landowning high-caste Brahman family with deep Hindu beliefs. Pandey joined the British East India Company's army in 1849, according to some sources, after being recruited by a brigade that marched past him. He joined the 6th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, which included a large number of Brahmans, as a soldier (sepoy). Pandey was ambitious, and he saw his work as a sepoy as a stepping stone to greater things.
Pandey's professional aspirations, however, clashed with his religious convictions. In the mid-1850s, when he was stationed at the Barrackpore garrison, a new Enfield rifle was introduced into India, which allowed a soldier to load the weapon by biting off the ends of greased cartridges. A rumour circulated that the lubricant used was either cow or pig lard, which Hindus and Muslims, respectively, disliked. The sepoys came to believe that the British had put lard on the cartridges on purpose.
The events of March 29, 1857, have been defined in a variety of ways. Pandey tried to provoke his fellow sepoys to rise up against their British officers, assaulted two of them, attempted to shoot himself after being restrained, and was ultimately overwhelmed and arrested, according to the popular agreement. Mangal Pandey was hanged on 8th April 1857 as he was soon tried and sentenced to death. His execution (by hanging) was originally scheduled for April 18, but British authorities pushed it up to April 8 because they feared a large-scale uprising if they waited until then. Later that month, in Meerut, opposition to the use of Enfield cartridges sparked an uprising, which led to the start of the larger insurgency in May.
Pandey is remembered in India as a freedom fighter against British rule. In 1984, the Indian government issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring his portrait. In addition, a film and a stage play about his life were released in 2005.
Beginning of Mangal Pandey and His Attacks
In 1849, Mangal Pandey enlisted in the Bengal Army. He joined the 5th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry as a private soldier (sepoy) in March 1857. Lieutenant Baugh, Adjutant of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, then stationed at Barrackpore, was told on the afternoon of March 29, 1857, that many men in his regiment were in an agitated state. Furthermore, he was informed that one of them, Mangal Pandey, was pacing in front of the regiment's guardroom near the parade ground, armed with a loaded musket, urging the men to revolt and threatening to shoot the first European he saw. Pandey had confiscated his guns and ran to the quarter-guard building upon discovering that a detachment of British soldiers was disembarking from a steamer near the cantonment, according to testimony provided at a subsequent inquiry. Pandey had been unsettled by discontent among the sepoys and intoxicated by the narcotic bhang.
Baugh quickly armed himself and galloped to the lines on his horse. Pandey took up position behind the station gun in front of the 34th's quarter-guard, aimed at Baugh, and fired. While he missed Baugh, the bullet hit his horse in the flank, killing both the horse and the rider. Baugh easily disentangled himself, snatched one of his pistols, and charged Pandey, firing. He didn't make it. Pandey struck Baugh with a talwar (a heavy Indian sword) before the adjutant could draw his sword, stabbed Baugh on the shoulder and leg, and knocked him to the ground. Shaikh Paltu, another sepoy, intervened and attempted to restrain Pandey as he attempted to reload his musket.
Before Baugh, a British Sergeant-Major named Hewson had been called to the parade ground by a native general. He had ordered Pandey to be arrested by Jemadar Ishwari Prasad, the Indian officer in charge of the quarter-guard. The jemadar responded by saying that his NCOs had gone for assistance and that he couldn't take Pandey on his own. Hewson retaliated by ordering Ishwari Prasad to enter the guard with loaded weapons. Meanwhile, Baugh had arrived on the scene, crying, 'Where is he?' 'Where has he gone?' 'Ride to the right, sir, for your life,' Hewson replied to Baugh. 'The sepoy will open fire!' Pandey then opened fire.
While battling with Lieutenant Baugh, Hewson charged towards Pandey. A blow from Pandey's musket knocked Hewson to the ground from behind when questioning him. Other sepoys had been called from the barracks by the sound of gunfire, but they remained silent spectators. At this point, Shaikh Paltu, who was attempting to defend the two Englishmen, demanded assistance from the other sepoys. Shaikh Paltu, who was being attacked by sepoys who threw stones and shoes at his back, asked the guard for assistance in holding Pandey, but they threatened to shoot him if he did not let go of the mutineer.
The quarter-guard's sepoys then charged forward and attacked the two prostrate officers. They then threatened Shaikh Paltu and demanded that he release Pandey, whom he had been attempting in vain to keep in custody. Paltu, on the other hand, kept Pandey until Baugh and the sergeant-major were able to rise. Paltu had no choice but to relax his hold now that he was wounded. While being hit with the butt ends of the guards' muskets, he backed away in one direction and Baugh and Hewson in the other.
Meanwhile, the commanding officer, General Hearsey, had received a warning of the incident and galloped to the field with his two officer sons. After taking in the scene, he approached the guards, drew his gun, and ordered them to do their job by apprehending Mangal Pandey. The General threatened to kill the first man who refused to follow orders. The men of the quarter-guard rushed in behind Hearsey and pursued him to Pandey. Pandey then placed the muzzle of the musket against his chest and pulled the trigger with his foot to discharge it. He was bleeding profusely and his regimental jacket was on fire, but he was not mortally wounded.
Pandey made a full recovery and was placed on trial less than a week later. When asked whether he had been under the influence of any drugs, he claimed categorically that he had mutinied on his own initiative and that no one had encouraged him. After three Sikh members of the quarter-guard testified that the latter had instructed them not to arrest Pandey, he and Jemadar Ishwari Prasad were sentenced to death by hanging.
After a government inquiry, the 34th B.N.I. The regiment was disbanded "with shame" on 6 May as a collective punishment for failing to fulfil their duty in restraining a mutinous soldier and his officer. This came after a six-week cycle in which pleas for leniency in Calcutta were considered. On March 29, Sepoy Shaikh Paltu was promoted to havildar (sergeant) for his actions, but he was assassinated in a remote area of the Barrackpore cantonment shortly before the regiment was disbanded.
The 34th B.N.I. had a strong recent record, according to Indian historian Surendra Nath Sen, and the Court of Enquiry had found no proof of a connection with unrest at Berhampore concerning the 19th B.N.I. four weeks ago (see below). However, Mangal Pandey's conduct, as well as the reluctance of the quarter-armed guards and on-duty sepoys to act, persuaded British military authorities that the regiment as a whole was untrustworthy. Pandey appears to have acted without first gaining the confidence of other sepoys, but the regiment's antipathy against its British officers had led most of those present to behave as spectators rather than follow orders.
Motivation and Story of a New Form of Bullet Cartridge in Detail
Mangal Pandey's personal motive for his actions remains a mystery. "Come out – the Europeans are here," he yelled to other sepoys during the incident, "from biting these cartridges we shall become infidels," and "you sent me out here, why don't you join me." He argued at his court-martial that he had been using bhang and opium and was unaware of his actions on March 29.
A number of factors led to the Bengal Army's anxiety and distrust in the months leading up to the Barrackpore incident. The reference to cartridges made by Pandey is generally attributed to a new form of bullet cartridge used in the Enfield P-53 rifle, which was to be introduced in the Bengal Army that year. The cartridge was thought to be greased with animal fat, mainly from cows and pigs, which Hindus and Muslims, respectively, could not eat (the former a holy animal of the Hindus and the latter being abhorrent to Muslims). Before use, the cartridges had to be bitten at one end. Some Indian troops in some regiments believed it was a deliberate act by the British to defile their religions.
Colonel S. Wheeler of the 34th B.N.I. was a devout Christian who preached with zeal. The Bible was printed in Urdu and Hindi and circulated among the sepoys by the wife of Captain William Halliday of the 56th B.N.I., creating doubts among them that the British were trying to convert them to Christianity.
During the annexation of Oudh in 1856, the 19th and 34th Bengal Native Infantry were posted at Lucknow due to suspected misgovernment by the Nawab. The annexation had detrimental consequences for the Bengal Army's sepoys (a significant portion of whom came from that princely state). These sepoys had the right to petition the British Resident at Lucknow for justice prior to the annexation, which was a major privilege in the sense of native courts. They lost their unique status as a result of the East India Company's acts since Oudh no longer existed as a nominally independent political body.
The 19th B.N.I. is significant because, on February 26, 1857, it was the regiment tasked with testing the new cartridges. However, new rifles had not been given to them prior to the mutiny, and the cartridges in the regiment's magazine were as grease-free as they had been for the previous half-century. The cartridges were wrapped in a different colour paper, which raised suspicions. On February 26, the regiment's non-commissioned officers declined to consider the cartridges. Colonel William Mitchell, the commanding officer, was informed of this information and took it upon himself to persuade the sepoys that the cartridges were identical to those they were used to and that they did not need to bite it. He ended his speech by pleading with the native officers to preserve the regiment's honour and threatening to court-martial any sepoys who refused to accept the cartridge. The regiment's sepoys, on the other hand, confiscated their bell of arms the next morning (weapons store). Mitchell's subsequent accommodative behaviour persuaded the sepoys to return to their barracks.
Court of Enquiry
A Court of Enquiry was convened, and after a nearly month-long review, the 19th B.N.I. was recommended to be disbanded. On March 31, the same procedure was followed. The 19th B.N.I. were permitted to keep their uniforms and were given allowances by the government to return to their homes. Colonel Mitchell of the 19th B.N.I. and Colonel Wheeler of Pandey's 34th B.N.I. were both deemed unfit to command any new regiments raised to replace the disbanded units after the incident on March 29.
Pandey's assault and punishment were generally regarded as the start of what became known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. His actions were well known among his fellow sepoys, and it is thought that this was one of the reasons that sparked the general series of mutinies that erupted over the next few months. Mangal Pandey influenced later figures in the Indian Nationalist Movement, such as V.D. Savarkar, who saw his motivation as one of the earliest manifestations of Indian Nationalism. While a recently published study of events immediately preceding the outbreak suggests that "there is no historical evidence to back up any of these revisionist interpretations," modern Indian nationalists depict Pandey as the mastermind behind a plot to revolt against the British. Pandee or Pandey became a derogatory word used by British soldiers and civilians when referring to a mutinous sepoy during the uprising that followed. This was a direct derivation of Mangal Pandey's name.
On the afternoon of March 29, 1857, Pandey was pacing agitatedly in front of the regiment's guard room. He appeared ecstatic and was shouting to his fellow sepoys. With a loaded musket, he threatened to shoot the first European he saw that day. “Come out, the Europeans are here,” he yelled to the other soldiers, and “by biting these cartridges, we shall become infidels.” Sergeant-Major James Hewson arrived on the scene after being informed of Pandey's actions. When he ordered Indian officer Jemadar Ishwari Prasad to arrest Pandey, Prasad refused, arguing that he couldn't do it alone. Lieutenant Henry Baugh, the Sergeant-Major's adjutant, appeared on a horse and was shot at by Pandey – this is known as the first gunshot at an Englishman during the Revolt of 1857. Pandey missed the lieutenant and instead struck his horse. Pandey was battling Baugh after this when Hewson approached him. He was knocked unconscious. Throughout the ordeal, no soldiers stepped forward to assist the officers. Just one soldier, Shaikh Paltu, attempted to help the English. Other sepoys assaulted Paltu with stones and shoes for attempting to assist the Englishmen. When the other soldiers threatened to shoot him if he didn't let go of the mutinous sepoy, Paltu grabbed him.
Meanwhile, General Hearsey, the commanding officer, arrived on the scene with two officers. Pandey attempted to kill himself with his musket after failing to invite all the men to open revolt. However, he just hurt himself and was arrested as a result. Mangal Pandey was put on trial and sentenced to death by hanging in less than a week. During his trial, he said that he mutinied of his own free will and that no other sepoy encouraged him. Since he had told the other soldiers not to arrest Pandey, Jemadar Ishwari Prasad was also sentenced to death by hanging. Pandey was executed on April 8, 1857, and Prasad on April 21, 1857, according to the verdict. The BNI's entire 34th Regiment was disbanded "with disgrace" on May 6th. This was done after an inquiry found that the soldiers had failed to restrain a mutinous soldier. Sepoy Paltu was promoted to Havildar before the regiment was disbanded, but he was murdered within the cantonment. One of the main preceding events before the 1857 revolution was Mangal Pandey's act of rebellion.
A Gesture of Tribute:
Every year, July 19 is celebrated as Mangal Pandey Jayanthi and many politicians pay tribute for his contribution towards Indian freedom.
In 1984, the Government of India released a postage stamp in his memory, and in 2005, a play and a movie were released to pass on his contributions to Indian Independence to future generations.
Interesting Facts about Mangal Pandey
Here are some interesting facts about the martyr:
He was a devout Hindu who was born into a Brahmin family. Brahmins made up the majority of his 34th Bengal Native Infantry.
When a new Enfield rifle was introduced in India in the mid-1850s, he had a big disagreement with the company. The rifle's cartridges were said to be greased with animal fat, especially cow and pig fat. A soldier had to bite the bullets in order to load them into the rifle. Hindus consider cow fat to be sacrilegious, though Muslims consider pig fat to be sacrilegious. As a result of the cartridges' use, the Indian soldiers revolted against the company, arguing that it violated their religious beliefs.
Pandey and his fellow sepoys rose up in revolt against the British officers on March 29, 1857, and even tried to shoot them.
After being arrested, Mangal Pandey was hanged on April 18. The British authorities, fearing a rebellion from other sepoys, had him hanged 10 days earlier, on April 8.
In 1984, the Indian government issued a postage stamp with his portrait to honour the brave soldier.
Aamir Khan starred in a film about Mangal Pandey's life and journey, which was released in 2005.
In a country with 130 crore inhabitants, everyone has the right to enjoy their rights to the fullest. However, as they read their history books, they find that this was not the case just 73 years ago. India's journey to independence had not been simple. On August 15, 1947, we got freedom as thousands of freedom fighters made the ultimate sacrifice. Although there was a strong desire to be free of colonial rule, only a few people in early British India were willing to publicly oppose White supremacy. In such a situation, it was Mangal Pandey, the man who is often referred to as India's first freedom fighter, who dared to revolt against the British. He was a key figure in the 1857 Indian Independence War, which ignited the spark that led to India's independence 90 years after the Sepoy Mutiny.