Mangal Pandey - Indian Freedom Fighter Biography

Mangal Pandey was born on 19 July 1827 in Nagwa, Ballia, Uttar Pradesh to a Bhumihar Brahmin family & died on 8 April 1857 in Barrackpore, Calcutta, was a sepoy (soldier) in the 34th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) of the English East India Company. He is widely seen in India as one of its first freedom fighters. The Indian government has issued postage stamps commemorating him as freedom fighter and his life and actions have been adapted to the silver screen.



He joined the East India Company’s forces in 1849 at the age of 22. Pandey was part of the 6th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry and is primarily known for his involvement in an attack on several of the regiment’s officers. This incident marked an opening stage in what came to be known as the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 or the First War of Indian Independence. It is said that Pandey was a devout Hindu who practiced his religion diligently.

At Barrackpore on the afternoon of March 29, 1857, it was reported that, Mangal Pandey, was pacing in front of the regiment’s guard room by the parade ground, armed with a loaded musket, calling upon the men to rebel and threatening to shoot the first European he set his eyes on. English Sergeant-Major Hewson, had arrived on the ground, summoned by a native officer, before Baugh. He had ordered the jemadar in command of the quarter-guard to arrest Mangal Pandey. The General threatened to shoot the first man who disobeyed. The men of the guard fell in and followed Hearsey towards Pandey. Pandey then put the muzzle of the musket to his breast and discharged it by pressing the trigger with his foot. He collapsed bleeding and with his regimental jacket on fire but not mortally wounded.

Pandey recovered and was brought to trial less than a week later. When asked whether he had been under the influence of any substances, he admitted to having used bhang (cannabis) and opium of late. He pleaded to not knowing what he was doing when intoxicated. He stated steadfastly that he had mutinied on his own accord and that none had played any role in egging him on. When asked to defend himself, he said, “I did not know what I was doing. I did not know who I wounded and who I did not. What more shall I say? I have nothing more to say. I have no evidence”. He was sentenced to death by hanging along with the jemadar. His execution was scheduled for April 18, but was carried out ten days before that date. The jemadar Ishwari Prasad was executed by hanging, on April 21.

The 34th B.N.I. Regiment was disbanded “with disgrace” on May 6 as a collective punishment, after an investigation by the government, for failing to perform their duty in restraining a mutinous soldier and protecting their officer. This came after a period of six weeks while petitions for leniency were examined in Calcutta. Shaikh Paltu was promoted on the spot to the post of Havaldar (native sergeant) by General Hearsey, for his conduct during the incident.

The Indian historian Surendra Nath Sen notes that the 34th B.N.I. had had a good recent record and that the Court of Enquiry had not found any evidence of a connection with unrest at Berhampur involving the 19th B.N.I. four weeks before (see below). However, Mangal Pandey’s actions and the failure of the armed and on-duty sepoys of the quarter-guard to take action convinced the British military authorities that the whole regiment was unreliable. It appeared that Pandey had acted without first taking other sepoys into his confidence but that antipathy towards their British officers within the regiment had led most of those present to act as spectators rather than obey orders.

The primary motivation behind Mangal Pandey’s behaviour is attributed to a new type of bullet cartridge used in the Enfield P-53 rifle which was to be introduced in the Bengal Army that year.

The cartridge was rumoured to have been greased with animal fat, primarily from pigs and cows, which could not be consumed by Muslims and Hindus respectively (the former being abhorrent to Muslims and the latter a holy animal of the Hindus). The cartridges had to be bitten at one end before use. The Indian troops were of the opinion that this was an intentional act of the British, with the aim of defiling their religions.  He played a key part in events immediately preceding the outbreak of the Indian rebellion of 1857.

A film based on the sequence of events that led up to the mutiny, entitled Mangal Pandey: The Rising starring Indian actor, Aamir Khan along with Rani Mukerji, Toby Stephens and Amisha Patel, directed by Ketan Mehta was released in August 2005.

Postal Stamp of Mangal Pandey was released in the year 1984 by the Indian Government 

Postal Stamp Image : 


Stamp Issue Date : 10/05/1984
Postage Stamp Dinomination : 0.50
Postal Stamp Serial Number : 1124
Postal Stamp Name : MANGAL PANDEY
Stamp Information : INDIA'S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM The first war of freedom (1857-58) was the first funeral widespread uprising against the rule of the British East India Company. The doctrine of Lapse, issue of cartridges with animal fat to India soldiers, introduction of British system of education and a number of social reforms had infuriated a very wide section of Indian people, who rose in revolt at a number of places all over India. The East India Company was brought under the direct rule of the British crown as a result of this uprising. Of the very large number of freedom fighters, who led the struggle, four are being commemorated through the present series, which is a part of the larger series on India's Struggle for Freedom. MANGAL PANDEY Mangal Pandey, a resident of Ballia, in Uttar Pradesh, was a soldier in the army of the British East India Company. At the time of the First War of Independence, the Company introduced new rifles, which used animal fat for greasing the cartridges. Influenced by the example of his compatriots in Behrampur, Mangal Pandey refused to use the greased cartridges and broke into open mutiny on March 29, 1857, at Barrackpore near Calcutta and used his comrades to join him. Surrounding by guards and European Officers, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself and was seriously wounded. He was court-martialled on April 6 and hanged at Barrackpore on April 8, 1857. Indian Posts & Telegraphs Department is privileged to issue four commemorative stamps in the memory of these great Freedom Fighters.
Philatelic Stamp Description : Description of Designs The stamp and First Day Cover has been designed by C.R. Pakrashi, and the cancellation has been designed by Alka Sharma.
Stamp Currency : P
Stamp Type : COMMEMORATIVE
Stamp Language : English
Stamp Overall Size : 4.06 x 2.7
Postal Stamp Print Size : 3.71 x 2.3 cms.
Number of Stamps Per Sheet : 40
Stamp Perforations : 13 x 13
Postal Stamp Shape : Vertical
Postage Stamp Paper : Unwatermarked adhesive stamp paper
Indian Stamp Process : Photogravure
Number of stamps printed : 15,00,000
Stamp Printed At : India Security Press
Indian Stamp's Color : Multicolour

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