Mangal Pandey is widely regarded as the harbinger of the 1857 rebellion against the British considered to be India’s first war of Independence. As a soldier in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment of the East India Company’s army, he pioneered the sepoy mutiny, which eventually led to the rebellion of 1857.
On his 163rd death anniversary, here are some interesting facts about the martyr who was executed by the British on this day:
1. Born in a Brahmin family, he was a staunch Hindu. His 34th Bengal Native Infantry was largely constituted of Brahmins.
2. His major conflict with the company began in the mid-1850s, when a new Enfield rifle was introduced in India. The cartridges used in the rifle were rumoured to be greased with animal fat particularly cow and pig. To load them into the rifle, a soldier had to bite the cartridges. Cow fat is sacrilegious for Hindus and for Muslims its pig fat. So the use of the cartridges made the Indian soldiers rise up against the company as it hurt their religious belief.
3. On March 29, 1857, Pandey and his fellow sepoys rose up in rebellion against the British officers and even attempted to shoot them.
4. Mangal Pandey was arrested and ordered to be executed on April 18. However, fearing a revolt from other sepoys, the British authorities hanged him 10 days earlier on April 8.
5. To commemorate the brave soldier, the Indian government issued a postage stamp with his image in 1984.
6. A movie on the life and journey of Mangal Pandey was released in 2005, where Aamir Khan played the titular role.