The Sepoy Mutiny was a violent and very bloody uprising against British rule in India. It is a major revolt against the British East India Company but ultimately was unsuccessful. The revolt was against the British East India Company which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. Although there are different sets of causes like political, religious, social, and military causes of the rebellion, sepoy mutiny forms the major rebel against the Company’s rule in India.
East India Company, a private company, which came to India for the purpose of trade in the 1600s eventually transformed into a diplomatic and military operation.
During the early part of the 19-century armies of the East India Company especially Bengal Presidency was victorious. The company had victories against the Marathas, Mysore, and the Gurkha. So serving as a sepoy in the company’s army was considered an honor. Unlike the Bombay and Madras Presidency which were diverse Bengal army recruited exclusively amongst Bhumihars, Rajputs from the large number of native soldiers known as sepoys. These sepoys were appointed to maintain and defend the trading centers. But when the East India Company started annexing the Indian Princely States under the policy “Doctrine of Lapse” Indian soldiers started to feel offended.
The British policy showed discrimination in treatment between the native sepoy and the British soldiers in matters of promotion, pension, and service provisions. The sepoy a generic term was used for native Indian soldiers at the Bengal Presidency.
The company introduced a new cartridge for the Enfield Rifles. The cartridges wrapped in a paper that had been coated in grease. Rumors began to spread that the grease was either derived from the cow’s fat or the pig’s fat. Loading the Enfield required tearing open the greased cartridge with one’s teeth. Cows were considered holy by the Hindus while pigs were considered unclean by Muslims. Therefore it insulted the religious beliefs of both communities.
Mangal Pandey was born on 19 July 1827, Nagwa village, Ballia district. He belonged to a Brahmin family. He was a sepoy in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry of British East India Company. He was 22 years of age when he joined as a sepoy.
A staunch Hindu Brahmin by faith Pandey too become furious after knowing about the grease of the newly introduced cartridge and resolved to show his disapproval to the British. He incited other soldiers in his regiment to revolt against the British Officers and planned a rebellion against the British East India Company. Pandey threatened to shoot the First European he would see. On the 29th March 1857, he placed in front of the regiment’s guard room. On seeing Lieutenant Baugh he aimed at Baugh and fired. The bullet missed, quickly Baugh seized a pistol and fired at Pandey but he too missed. Pandey then attacked with a talwar and brought the officer to the ground. By this time the word reached and other British officers, Sargent Major Hewson arrived to aid Baugh. He was also knocked by a blow from Mangal Pandey. Few other sepoys also joined Mangal Pandey.
Meanwhile, more English officers arrived on the scene. Seeing that his arrest was inevitable, he shot himself in the chest and collapsed. He was arrested and trialed, he was sentenced to death. Although the execution was set for April 18, the authorities hanged him on 8th April fearing a bigger outburst. Mangal Pandey’s revolt was regarded as an outset of the uprise of 1857, India’s first war of Independence. News of the execution of Mangal Pandey was widespread amongst his fellow sepoys and is assumed to have been one of the important factors that lead to the series of mutinies that broke out during the following months. In Indian History, Mangal Pandey has been remembered as a freedom fighter against the rule of the British East India Company in India.
The superior military power of the Company crushed the revolt but the revolt has far-reaching consequences in Indian History. It ended the Company rule in India and marked the beginning of the direct rule of the British Crown. At the same time, it created political awareness among the Indians. The proportion of the Indian soldiers in the Army was reduced and the number of European soldiers was increased.
To honor him Government of India issued a postage stamp with his image in 1984.
At Barrackpore where the courageous sepoy rebelled against the British Officers, a Park was constructed to commemorate the place. The park is named Shaheed Mangal Pandey Maha Udyan.
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