Regarded as one of the most important figures during the early stages of the uprising against the colonial rule in India, Manga Pandey ushered in an era of much-needed change within the country that had been long distraught and subdued under British rule.
Born on July 19, 1827, in Nagwa, Ballia district in India, Mangal Pandey is attributed as the harbinger of the freedom movement in colonial India when he became the front runner against the British regime in what came to be known as the first war for India’s independence in 1857.
Mangal Pandey joined the army of the British East India Company in 1849, with some accounts even implying that he was enlisted by a battalion that paraded past him in a village. Pandey was thereafter made a soldier or sepoy in the 5th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry and remained a part of it until he defected and promoted the sepoy mutiny into action.
Mangal Pandey was known to be an ambitious and righteous man. Since childhood, he has dreamt of attaining a name for himself and accomplishing things for his country.
Therefore, he always perceived his duty as a sepoy in the British army as a stepping-stone to future triumphs and fulfilled the role assigned to him with virtue despite the feeling of animosity he had garnered against the British East India Company’s regime.
But his career ambitions quarrelled with his sacred principles as the British launched a new rifle in the army. Mangal Pandey’s hatred towards the regime only swelled as the Indian soldiers were made to use the rifles despite the outcry against it.
The conflict reached its climax and Pandey, outraged at the East India Company’s anti-people policies, lashed out at the British officers in his battalion and made attempts to incite his fellow sepoys to join him in the rebellion. This move by Pandey resonated with such intensity with the Indian soldiers across provinces that it led to war, directed at entirely wiping out the East India Company from the country.
Of course, the revolt failed and the British regime emerged stronger on the other side. But Mangal Pandey had done what only a few could have — unite the country against a common enemy to reach a common goal. In India, Pandey is still recalled as a pivotal freedom fighter against British rule, despite the brutal nature of his rebellion. His contributions towards the liberation crusade in the country are hailed to this day.
Here are 8 facts you might not know about Mangal Pandey:
- Mangal Pandey was arrested and subsequently convicted to death after he assaulted two British officers in Barrackpore on March 29, 1857. Anticipating an uprising of soldiers as an aftermath of the arrest, British authorities moved up his initial execution date from April 18 to April 8, when he was hanged.
- The spot where Mangal Pandey opened fire on the British Officers and where he was later hanged as a punishment for his crimes is now recognized as the ‘Shaheed Mangal Pandey Maha Udyan.’
- Mangal Pandey was born in an affluent Bhumihar Brahmin household and was rumoured to be a staunch Hindu Brahmin as well. In fact, the 5th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry where he was deployed as a soldier comprised mostly Hindu Brahmins.
- When Mangal Pandey failed to kill the British officers he had attacked, he knew his detention was inevitable. Therefore, sensing the bleak future of his fate, Pandey tried to kill himself. He shot himself in the chest and collapsed while bleeding profusely but was not fatally wounded. He was thereafter arrested and brought to trial.
- It is rumoured that the influence of his name was considerable in the early stages of the freedom movement and the impact of his actions was so widespread among the British governed provinces that the British started calling all soldiers in the freedom battle ignited by him by the name of ‘Pandey’.
- During Mangal Pandey’s trial in court, he contended that he mutinied on his own free will and was not motivated by any other sepoy. He refused to take names of all who aided him during the skirmish and was accordingly sentenced to death by hanging.
- On the day he defected and led a rebellion against the British officers in command, Mangal Pandey had been seething due to the regime’s aristocratic entitlement and vowed to kill every English person he saw. He even kept his words by firing shots at Lieutenant Baugh. Although he missed the shot, he went on to confront Lieutenant Baugh with a sword.
- Recognising Mangal Pandey as one of the first Martyrs in the Indian freedom struggle, the government of India launched postage stamps bearing his name on the 5th of October, 1984.