Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mangal Pandey - Remembering the Cause

Mangal Pandey

Mangal Pandey ignited the first spark that led to the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 against the East India Company which symbolised the British Rule until then.
On 29th March 1857, 26 year old Mangal Pandey, a Sepoy in the 34th Regiment, Native Infantry, stationed at Barrackpore near Calcutta, went to the parade ground armed with a musket and sword and began inciting his fellow men to join him and take arms. He fired from his musket at Sgt.Maj. Hewson and Lt. Baugh, and also injured them with his sword. He later on wounded himself with his own musket and was taken into custody. Tried on the 6th April, he was pronounced guilty the next day and hanged on 8th April, 1857.
Barrackpore in Mangal Pandey's generation 1840-1870

Barrackpore environs and entrance to Barrackpore

Barrackpore Bridge and Government House-two views

Barrackpore Government House and Officer's Bungalow

His action was to mark the beginning of the Mutiny which then exploded in Meerut in early May and thence spread to other places.
Mangal Pandey's action was for a Cause. He was protesting against the use of the new issue cartridges which were greased with fat of animals, in particular, cow and pig, that deeply hurt the religious sensitivities of Hindu and Muslim alike. As he told his fellow men, 'it is for our religion'.
Some have questioned whether the cartridges were indeed coated with animal fat as the soldiers believed. The British Imperial Gazetteer has this to say on the subject:

Mangal Pandey gave up his life to protect his beliefs for the religion he belonged to. So did other soldiers who mutinied at that time.
But nearly 150 years after he was hanged for taking arms for this Cause, his name is remembered but the Cause is apparently forgotten.
Viewed in the context of the present, people's religious sensitivities seem to have sadly undergone a sea-change. Animal fat - tallow - which at one time the religiously inclined would not consider even touching with their teeth, is now freely used, apart from soaps, in food products. Tallow is used with impunity in food products like Bakery products and as adulterant in edible fats like Ghee and Vanaspati while the Central and State Governments close their eyes. Even staunch religious organisations which pretend to protect their religion and breathe fire and fume at the slightest provocation, do nothing to stop such actions against their beliefs. And the people themselves - whether staunch Hindu or Jain - out of ignorance or indifference, seem to have little concern.
But sensitivities of the people can be unpredictable and may change. When they become alive to the issue, those in authority - the Government - will surely have to face the wrath of the people for their indolence and be held responsible not for 'culpable ignorance' as happened in 1857, but for 'culpable negligence'. It took only one Mangal Pandey to ignite the spark in 1857.

(Barrackpore Views: Courtesy British Library -Oriental & India Office Collections)


At August 16, 2005, Anonymous Vinod Mishra, Lucknow said...

The hypocrite UP Govt. instead of concentrating on such vital matters, is trying to ban the film "Mangal Pandey" for petty reasons to play the vote bank politics.

At August 29, 2005, Anonymous Manjunath said...

What are the Health Departments of the Central and State Govt. doing? Are they waiting till things flare up?
When the patience of the people breaks, they will treat our politicians the same way as they treated the Brits.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous Vivek said...

Truly, I am fed up at Indian propaganda against British and everything 'western' or 'phoren'! If it were not for the British, we would be under muslim rule today. The descriptions of British autrocities is highly exaggerated; we were ourselves the source of many, many cruel things. At the peak of British rule both military and civilians combined only 20,000 people - ruling a nation of 400 million.... How much "oppression" has really come from that? Like a mosquito squatting on an elephant!
So stop being so darn stupid and mislead about hatred and propaganda about the west. Its good for us to live in the west, receive their money, but we stab them in the back at every opportunity! Real low.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anand said...

Look at these old pictures, how clean India looked! We should have had British rule today and the whole country would have been in a better condition than with our own politicians. We are ruining our own culture, our country.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous Vijay said...

What! So much fighting over animal fat on bullets when muslims used to rape Indian women and slaughter people in India for hundreds of years. Where are movies about this???
Besides, India has become 90% non-veg after our independence. Shows what doublemorals we live by.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous Proud-to-be-Indian said...

The rule by the British or the Mughals were both a matter of shame but people like some of those who comment above were the ones who did not have any self-pride and let outsiders rule the country. We should at least not try to repeat their follies by praising outsiders' rule whether British or Mughal and worse still try to show that one was better than the other.
It just shows that we are no better than what our forefathers were and we would not mind to be ruled one way or the other -politically or economically - by the West. There is a deep rooted inferiority complex which people are trying to hide by criticizing those who are trying to assert their pride as Indians.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous Iqbal. K. said...

Things were clean in those days because there was not so much population where the British had cantonments and they had a lot of natives to work all day. But that is past. One should concentrate on the future and try to make India a better place to live in by making a beginning oneself. And shed the 'inferior being' complex in the first place.

At September 14, 2005, Anonymous skjain said...

The article does not criticize the British as stated by vivek. It is just a narrative background from history. Also there is no reason to comment 'so much fighting over animal fat' simply because we live in a different time and have to accept the sensitivities of the participants in the happenings at that particular time. We should be aware that even now people have sensitivities which others have to respect and accept.

At September 20, 2005, Anonymous sumit said...

nice to see some pictures linking with the past. good way to make the article interesting.

At September 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of you here can easily get a membership in either BJP or VHP

At September 28, 2005, Anonymous Proud-to-be-Indian said...

its not a question of BJP or VHP. One has to believe in one's religion and tradition, which incidentally is not against anyone else. It just shows a way of life for the individual.

At September 28, 2005, Anonymous Iqbal. K. said...

It seems that some of the people who have written above are almost afraid to show that they believe in their own religion. That is a sign of hypocrisy or a wrong feeling that there is something wrong in wanting to be a vegetarian. People should shed such thinking. There is nothing wrong in being vegetarian.

The Muslims believe in their religion and are not afraid to follow what their religion teaches them. And they are proud to do that.


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