Magal Pandey who set the first stage for the worst 'Sepoy Mutiny'

Mangal Pandey, one of the early freedom
 "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity with some pride."
            ..............     Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's opening speech  on the Independence day: August 15, 1947.

India' struggle for complete freedom - freedom of a suppressed and emancipated soul of the nation  was a long one. It was a saga of courage, determination, 
sacrifices  and  commitments of numerous freedom fighters for too long a time.

Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier, sepoy (sipahi) in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment of the British East India Company. Mangal, born July 19, 1827, died: 8 April 1857  wasimple, and unassuming soldier,  becoming  one of the early freedom fighters  in the annals of British India  who set the stage for Sepoy Mutiny - worst rebellion against the British invaders in the entire British colony. His place of birth is a subject of debate, however, it is claimed that he was born either  in a Bhumihar  Brahmin family to Divakar Pandey of Surhupur village of Faizabad district’s Akbarpur Tehsil or in the village of Nagwa in district Ballia, Uttar Pradesh.  He was the first one among  the employees of the British company, to be marked as the  warrior of independence struggle against the oppressive British rule under the East India Company.  Unlike many freedom struggles  that have some strong broad-based motivation,  his attacks of senior British Military Officers were based on simple motives driven by  personal patriotic ideology, involving insults to his religion - Hinduism and not based either on  any animosity or grudge against the officers. Incidentally, he was not a vigilante. However, he was not happy about subjugation of Indians under British masters.

Mangal Pandey
At Barrackpore (now Barrackpur), near Calcutta (Kolkata) on the after-noon  of  March 29, 1857, Mangal Pande was in an excited state of mind and  restless in front of the regiment's guard room with a loaded Musket ( ... a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore firearm, fired from the shoulder), calling upon men to to muster courage and rebel against the British soldiers who treated them badly. One Lieutenant Baugh came there, galloping on the horse, Mangal took position and fired at him, the missed bullet hit his the horse that resulted in the fall of both the critter and the officer. Officer, though  shaken-up, somehow managed to grab his  Pistol and fired at  Mangal  and missed him. This time Baugh could draw his sword, Mangal in a flash attacked him  with a heavy sword - Talwar.  His sudden attack hurt him badly and fell to the ground. Before he could gain, another sepoy one Shaikh Paltu, tried to restrain Pandey.

Immediately after the incident  Sergeant-Major Hewson, ordered Jemadar Ishwari Prasad, the Indian officer in command of the quarter-guard, to arrest Mangal Pandey. To this, the Jemadar stated that his NCOs had gone for help and that he could not take Managal  by himself. When Baugh  arrived on the scene, Officer Hewson  asked  him  to move away from  Mangal's firing line. In  the mean time, Hewson tired to interfere in the fight between  Mangal and Baugh. Upon direct confrontation, Hewson was knocked to the ground from severe blow  from behind by Mangal Pandey's musket. When Sheikh Paltu safeguarded  two British officers  and sought the help of other sepoys to help him to hold  Mangal,  the sepoys  asked him  to let him go and, if not,  he might be shot at. The other sepoys threatened the officers and  at last, already  wounded Paltu,  loosened  his  grip on  Mangal.

Commanding officer General Hearsey, upon hearing shots, arrived on the scene and  asked  the Jemadar of the troops, one Ishari Pande, to arrest him, the Jemadar refused, so did the rest of the company except Shaikh Paltu.  In the mean time  Mangal  made an abortive attempt to kill himself by shooting. 

Mangal Pandey after recovery faced trial that last a week and  he, Israri Pandey and others became confirmed accused  and court verdict was Mangal Pandy should be  hanged to death on April 18. However, anticipating trouble brewing among the Indians, Mangal was  executed on April 8th itself, 10 days prior to the scheduled date. The Jemadar Ishari Pandey was  also executed on April 22 on grounds of disobedience.  The whole regiment was dismissed "with disgrace" on 6th May, 1857. As for Sheik Paltu, who defended the British Officers during the attack by Mangal, was promoted  to the post of a Havaldar (native sergeant) by General Hearsay.

What prompted Mangal Pandy to attack the British officers?    A new type of bullet cartridge used in the Enfield P-53 rifle (The P-53 was officially known as the Pattern 1853  Enfield Rifle Musket) introduced in the Bengal Army that year. It has an effective range of 50 to 300 yards. The bullets lack annular grease rings like French or American minie  ball bullets. The cartridge, it was believed, was greased with animal fat (primarily pig and cow fat) for effective loading. To the Muslims and Hindus, both are taboo to be consumed. Before using the cartridge, cover had to be removed by bitting and the soldiers refused to use that kind of cartridge. Further, there was some suspicion among the soldiers  that they would be converted to Christianity by force. Yet another reason was take over of Indian states such as  Awadh in Lucknow by the dubious policy of doctrine of Lapse by the scheming, corrupt East India company officials..

Photo of the Enfield Rifle, the pending adoption of which caused unrest in the Bengal Army in early 1857.
To avoid further precipitation of trouble, discontent and  resentment in the  near future among the sepoys, the British allowed   the sepoys to use their own grease made of Ghee (clarified butter). Lord Canning sanctioned a proposal of Major-General Hearsey to this effect.

Soon after the hanging of Indian sepoys by the tyrannical  British, people across northern states became outraged and it culminated into what was later called "Sepoy Mutiny" most violent revolt against the British occupation in India. After 1857, the British Crown directly  took  over the administration of the Indian sub continent.