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Tatya Tope

Tatya Tope

(1814-1859)

details

Born
Tatya Tope
Tatya Tope
 1814
Yeola, Nashik, Maharashtra
Died18 April 1859 (aged 44–45)
Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh,British Raj
Other names real nameTatia Tope, Ramchandra Pandurang
MovementIndian Rebellion of 1857
ReligionHinduism

Tatya Tope biography & history

Tatya Tope is a forgotten hero of the l857 uprising. He had an extraordinary skill as a military strategist and was an expert in guerilla warfare without having any formal training. Along with Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, he fought the British forces in central India with extraordinary perseverance and resolve, harassing the much superior forces of-the British for almost a year. Sir Hugh Rose, the British commander, said about him: “Of all the rebel chiefs Tatya Tope possessed the greatest enterprise as regards initiative and the most enduring resolution of character.His talent for organisation was remarkable".
Not much is known about the early life of Tatya Tope. His real name was Ramchandra Pandurang, son of Pandurang Rao and Rukma Bai. His family belonged to the Nasik district in Maharashtra. In the statement made by him during his court-martial in 1859 he stated that he was forty-five years old; his year of' birth may, therefore, be assumed to be as 1814. His father was among the retainers of Peshwa Baji Rao II who had settled at Bithur, near Kanpur. Tatya Tope grew up in the Peshwa’s palace in the company of Peshwa’s adopted sons, Nana and Bala Saheb. Later Manu, who later became famous as Lakshmibai of Jhansi, joined them as their playmate. It seems Tatya knew Hindi, Gujarati, besides his mother-tongueMarathi. While still a teenager, he learnt riding, shooting and other martial arts. It seems ‘he had inherited the natural instincts of his race for guerilla tactics. John Lang (1817-1864), a British barrister and fiction writer, who was also employed by Rani Lakshmibai as her counsel, had met Tatya Tope at Bithur before the uprising and described him thus; “He was a man of about the middle height_ say five feet eight_ rather slightly made, but very erect. He was far from good-looking. The forehead was low, the nose rather broad at the nostrils, and his teeth irregular and discolored. His eyes were expressive and full of cunning, like those of most Asiatics; but he did not strike me as a man eminent ability”.
Tatya was and was bound to Nana Sahib by ties of loyalty and gratitude. Tatya Tope came into limelight only after his master Nana Sahib’s defeat and flight from Kanpur on 17 July 1857. Now the real authority and initiative had passed into the hands of Tatya Tope, ‘his able and devoted lieutenant’. Tatya gathered a force of four thousand men at Bithur itself and marched to Kanpur. But he was defeated by General Havelock on 16 August 1857. Tatya then proceeded to Gwalior and won over the sepoys of the Gwalior contingent and with this increased strength, he seized Kalpi. Henceforth, Tatya took orders from Rao Sahib, nephew of Nana Saheb. Rao asked Tatya to seize Kanpur. Leaving a small detachment for defence at Kalpi. Tatya advanced to Kanpur which was being defended by General Windham with the help of a small force, as major part of the British forces were engaged in Lucknow and Awadh. After an initial setback at Pando River, Tatya managed to attack Kanpur the following day (27 November) and after a fierce fight lasting two days he overwhelmed the British forces and the whole city of Kanpur; all the baggage and store fell into his hands. This was his greatest victory but it proved to be short-lived. On hearing the capture of Kanpur by rebel troops under Tatya Tope, Sir Colin Campbell, British commander-in-chief, who had gone to Lucknow with his strong contingent to relieve the city rushed back towards Kanpur and defeated Tatya Tope’s forces. That was the last battle fought for Kanpur. Tatya fell back on Kalpi extracting cleverly almost all his forces. Henceforth his activities were confined to the region further. The defeat at Kanpur had not dispirited Tatya Tope and he soon appeared in Char-Khari, the Capital of a small Bundela state of the same name, who’s Raja was a friend of the British. There he received a message from Rani Lakshmibai for help as her fort was under siege by the British forces. On 31 March 1858, Tatya marched to Jhansi leading a force of twenty thousand men. Before his men could salvage the Jhansi fort, Tatya was defeated after a hard-fought battle outside Jhansi itself. He fell back on Kalpi where Lakshmibai and Rao Saheb joined him. But on 23 May, the rebels were compelled to evacuate Kalpi, after a series of hard-fought actions. Their last stronghold was thus lost. From there, Tatya stealthily went to Gwalior and was successful in engineering a revolt of the forces there that joined the rebel forces when they approached Gwalior. Gwalior fell without a shot. But the victory was short-lived. Soon the British commander, Hugh Rose’s army marched to Gwalior. Rani Lakshmibai fell while fighting and the rebel forces dispersed. Tatya Tope escaped to Central India and from then on he changed his fighting strategy and engaged the British forces in guerilla tactics, resorting to attacking enemy bases and destroying their line of communication, while keeping his troops intact by carrying out rearguard action to cover the retreat of his troops. Pursued by his enemies, Tatya Tope escaped his capture for almost a year and moved from Central India to Rajasthan, back and forth. He fought his last battle at Sikar in Rajasthan in January 1859.
At last, worn out with fatigue and thoroughly disheartened, he crossed the Chambal and hid himself in the jungles near Seronge which belonged to Man Singh, a feudatory of Scindia. Being deprived of his estate by the latter, Man Singh had rebelled, but was defeated by a British detachment. He was wandering in the forest when he chanced upon Tatya, and the two became very friendly. As soon as the British commander learnt of this, he won over Man Singh by holding out the hope of restoring his wealth and position. Man Singh not only surrendered, but led a few sepoys of the British detachment to Tatya Topes hiding place. The sepoys, guided by Man Singh, found Tatya asleep, seized him and carried him to the British camp at Sipri. The only arms that Tatya had with him were a sword and a kukri. He was court-martialed on 15 April 1859 on the charge of having been in rebellion and having waged war against the British Government between January 1857 and December 1858 especially at Jhansi and Gwalior. The result was a foregone conclusion. He was found guilty of the heinous offence charged, and accordance with the law, he was sentenced to death”. He was hanged three days later on 18 December in the presence of a large crowd.
The capture of Tatya Tope and his execution was the last important act by the British in the suppression of the revolt in Central India. The wonderful guerilla warfare which Tatya had carried on for almost a year against a powerful enemy elicited admiration even from his enemies and “may be looked upon as a fitting end to a struggle which was hopeless almost from the very beginning”. His death certainly-brought an end to the uprising of 1857-58 but the revolt which was the first great challenge to the' British rule in India, shook the British »Empire The memory of 1857-58 sustained the later freedom movements, infused courage into the hearts of freedom fighters who were prepared to lay down their; lives for the emancipation of the country, following the example of Rani Lakshmibai and Tatya Tope. The inspiration which the revolt inculcated in the hearts of later revolutionaries-did more damage to the cause of the British `rule in India 'than the revolt itself.
Apart from its impact on the Indian mind the revolt had a permanent after-effect on: the British mind also: they could never trust the Indians in their army. From the very beginning of their rule the British were ruling the country with the help of the Indian soldiers. “Though the British could not do without the native portion of their Indian army, and despite-its gallant performance in two world wars, never again would they wholly trust The raising of Indian National Army by Subhas Chandra Bose in 1943 consisting mainly of the Indian prisoners-of-war in Malaya and Singapore and the revolt of the British Indian Navy and Air Forcein 1946 confirmed their suspicion. “There is no. doubt that the fear ofanother, `and greater Mutiny had its effect upon the negotiations that ended with India’s independence-in 1947. It took almost a century for the sacrifices of the like of Tatya Tope and Lakshmibai to bear fruit.

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