Mangal Pandey is famous in Indian history as a freedom fighter who gave his life to free the country from the British raj. He played a key role in the revolt of 1857 also known a Sepoy mutiny of 1857. He is widely known in India as one of its first freedom fighters.
Born on 19 July 1827 in a Brahmin family in Nagwa, a village of upper Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh. He had 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 mainly known for his participation in an attack on several of the regiment’s officers.
He played a key role in events right away prior the outbreak of the Indian rebellion of 1857.
A new Enfield rifle was introduced into India and the cartridge was rumored to be greased with animal fat, primarily from pigs and cows. To use the rifle, the soldiers would have to bite off the ends of greased cartridges in order to load the weapon.
Mangal Pande, a staunch Hindu Brahmin revolted againsted the British since the cow is a holy animal to the Hindus, and the pig is abhorrent to Muslims, the use of fats from these animals was considered controversial by the Indian soldiers.
Perhaps Pandey was actually able to understand the true motive of the British to divide the country into Hindus and Muslims to ease their dominance.
Then he decided to take violent action against the British to show them his disapproval.
On March 29, 1857, a furious Pandey planned a rebellion against the British rule, and threatened to kill any British officer he comes across.
Lieutenant Baugh, learned of the revolt and galloped on his horse to disperse the rebellious men. On seeing him approach, Pandey took position, aimed at Baugh and fired. The bullet missed the British officer but hit his horse, bringing them down.
Acting quickly Baugh sized a pistol and fired at Pandey. He missed. Pandey then attacked him with a talwar a heavy Indian sword and injured the European officer badly and brought him to the ground.
By this time word reached the other British officers and Sergeant-Major Hewson arrived at the grounda and asked an Indian officer to arrest Mangal Pandey, but Prasad refused to oblige.
Hewson then went to Baugh’s aid, and was knocked to the ground from behind by a blow from Pandey’s musket. More English officers arrived on the scene.
Sensing that his arrest was inevitable, Mangal Pandey tried to kill himself. He shot himself in the chest and collapsed bleeding but was not fatally wounded. He was arrested and brought to trial.
His execution was set for 18 April 1857. The British authorities, however, feared the outbreak of a bigger revolt if they waited this long and executed him by hanging on 8 April 1857.
Pandey is extensively regarded as a hero in modern India. In the year of 1984, the Indian government issued a postage stamp to honour him.
Several movies and stage plays have been based on his life, including the Hindi film ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’ and the stage play titled ‘The Roti Rebellion’ in 2005.
The impact of his name was so great that the British started calling all soldiers in this freedom battle by the name of ‘Pande’.
The harbinger of revolution Mangal Pandey in his death became a hero, a legend who inspired a nation to fight for freedom.