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Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier who played a major role in inciting the Indian rebellion of 1857. A sepoy serving with the British East India Company, he protested against the issue of greased cartridge to the soldiers; the cartridges were rumored 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 sepoy, 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.

Mangal Pandey was born on 19 July 1827 in Nagwa, Ballia, Uttar Pradesh into a high-caste Bhumihar Brahmin family. 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 is best remembered for his revolt against the British officers on 29 March 1857 when he incited his fellow soldiers to join him in a rebellion against the Europeans. He managed to badly injure two English officers before he was arrested and sentenced to death. This incident is believed to have provoked Indian soldiers across the nation which led to a series of revolts all over the country in the ensuing weeks.

After being arrested he was tried and sentenced to death. Some reports suggest that Mangal Pandey was under the influence of drugs—possibly cannabis or opium—at the time of the revolt and was not fully conscious of his actions.

His execution was set for 18 April 1857. The British authorities, however, feared the outbreak of a bigger revolt if they waited this long and executed him by hanging on 8 April 1857.

Mangal Pandey’s actions against the British triggered off a series of revolts all over India which ultimately culminated in the outbreak of the Indian rebellion of 1857.

He is considered to be a freedom fighter in India and the Indian government issued a postage stamp to commemorate him in 1984.

Several movies and stage plays have been based on his life, including the Hindi film ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’ and the stage play titled ‘The Roti Rebellion’ in 2005.