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Mangal Pandey

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Mangal Pandey was born 19 July 1827, Nagwa, Ballia district, Uttar Pradesh. He was a Brahmin. His father Divakar Pandey was a peasant. Mangal Pandey had a sister who died during the famine of 1830. Pandey grew up to be an ambitious young man.

Mangal Pandey joined the army of the British East India Company in 1849 as a young man of 22 years. Some accounts suggest that his recruitment was a random event—he was recruited by a brigade that was marching past him while he was on a visit to Akbarpur.

Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier who played an important role in inciting the Indian rebellion of 1857. A soppy serving with the British East India Company, he protested against the issue of greased cartridge to the soldiers; the cartridges were rumoured to have been greased with either cow or pig lard. A staunch Hindu Brahmin, it was against his religious beliefs to bite off the ends of greased cartridges if they had indeed been lubricated with animal fat. Soon the belief rose among the soldiers that the British had deliberately used pig or cow fat, and Mangal Pandey incited the other soldiers to join him in a protest against the British. On 29 March 1857, he paced in front of the regiment's guard room by the parade ground, calling his fellow Indian soldiers to rebel. Armed with a musket, he attacked two Europeans, injuring them badly. Some of his fellow soldiers joined him in the rebellion though another soppy, Shaikh Paltu, restrained Pandey in order to prove his loyalty to the British. In order to escape arrest Pandey tried to kill himself but failed. He was arrested and executed soon after. His death triggered off a series of mutinies by Indian soldiers in various parts of the country leading to what became known as the Indian rebellion of 1857.

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There have been various accounts of the events of March 29, 1857. However, the general agreement is that Pandey attempted to incite his fellow sepoys to rise up against their British officers, attacked two of those officers, attempted to shoot him after having been restrained, and eventually was overpowered and arrested. Some contemporary reports suggested that he was under the influence of drugs—possibly cannabis or opium—and was not fully aware of his actions. Pandey was soon tried and sentenced to death. His execution (by hanging) was set for April 18, but British authorities, fearing the outbreak of a large-scale revolt if they waited until then, moved the date up to April 8. Resistance to the use of Enfield cartridges later that month in Meerut led to the outbreak of a revolt there in May and the start of the larger insurrection.

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