Nana Sahib
Indian rebel
Nana Sahib
Nana Sahib, born as Dhondu Pant, was a rebel Indian leader during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 who played a part in two massacres of British troops and civilians. As the adopted son of the exiled Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II, he sought to restore the Maratha confederacy and the Peshwa tradition.
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  • 1947
    Age 122
    After the independence of India in 1947, Sahib was hailed as a freedom fighter, and the Nana Rao Park in Kanpur was constructed in honour of Sahib and his brother, Bala Rao.
    More Details Hide Details Nana-Sahib, a drama in verse by Jean Richepin with incidental music by Jules Massenet, opened on 20 December 1883 at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris. Nana Sahib (based on Captain Nemo) is the principal character of the Soviet film Капитан Немо, his role is played by Vladislav Dvorzhetsky. He is also seen in Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties as Nanib Sahir. Jules Verne's novel The End of Nana Sahib (also published under the name "The Steam House"), taking place in India ten years after the 1857 events, is based on these rumours, and not historically accurate - for example, the novel claims Nana Sahib had been married to Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. In The Devil's Wind, Manohar Malgonkar gives a sympathetic reconstruction of Nana Sahib's life before, during and after the mutiny as told in his own words.
  • 1936
    Age 111
    The character of Surat Khan in the 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade seems to be loosely based on Nana Sahib.
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  • 1903
    Age 78
    His diary also records death of Nana Sahib in 1903 in Dave Sheri, Kalyanji's house in Sihor.
    More Details Hide Details The place still displays some articles of him. Keshavlal Mehta, son of Giridhar, recovered these documents in 1970s and his descendants still live in town. The authenticity of documents was accepted by G.N. Pant, former director of the National Museum, in 1992 but the official recognition was never given. K. V. Belsare's book on the Maharashtrian saint Brahma Chaitanya claims that after the lost battle, Nana Sahib went to Naimisharanya, the Naimisha Forest in the vicinity of Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh where he met Bhrahma Chaitanya who assured him safety. He lived there from 1860 until his death in 1906. According to the book, he died between 30 October to 1 November 1906 and Brahma Chaitanya performed his last rites. The authenticity of the claims in the book is not established.
    Two letters and a diary retrieved in the 1970s accounted that he lived as an ascetic, Yogindra Dayanand Maharaj, in Sihor in coastal Gujarat until his death in 1903.
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  • 1888
    Age 63
    Up until 1888 there were rumours and reports that he had been captured and a number of individuals turned themselves in to the British claiming to be the aged Sahib.
    More Details Hide Details As these reports turned out to be untrue further attempts at apprehending him were abandoned. There were also reports of him being spotted in Constantinople.
  • 1861
    Age 36
    Venkateshwar, a Brahmin interrogated by the British, disclosed that he met Nana Sahib in Nepal in 1861.
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  • 1859
    Age 34
    By 1859, Sahib was reported to have fled to Nepal.
    More Details Hide Details Perceval Landon recorded that Nana Sahib lived out his days in western Nepal, in Thapa Téli, near Ririthang, under the protection of Sir Jang Bahadur Rana, the Prime Minister of Nepal. His family also received protection, but in Dhangara, eastern Nepal, in exchange for precious jewels. In February 1860, the British were informed that Sahib's wives had taken refuge in Nepal, where they resided in a house close to Thapathali. Sahib himself was reported to be living in the interior of Nepal. Some early government records maintained that he died in Nepal after a tiger attacked him during a hunt in September 1859 but other record differs on the matter. Sahib's ultimate fate was never known.
  • 1858
    Age 33
    Rani Laxmibai, Tantia Tope and Rao Saheb (Nana Sahib's close confidante) proclaimed Sahib as their Peshwa in June 1858 at Gwalior.
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  • 1857
    Age 32
    In September 1857, Sahib was reported to have fallen to malarious fever; however, this is doubtful.
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    Sahib disappeared after the Company's recapture of Cawnpore. His general, Tantya Tope, tried to recapture Cawnpore in November 1857, after gathering a large army, mainly consisting of the rebel soldiers from the Gwalior contingent.
    More Details Hide Details He managed to take control of all the routes west and north-west of Cawnpore, but was later defeated in the Second Battle of Cawnpore.
    This prompted the rebel soldiers under Nana Sahib to launch a major attack on the entrenchment on 23 June 1857.
    More Details Hide Details However, they were unable to gain an entry into the entrenchment by the end of the day. The entrenchment had been steadily losing its soldiers and civilians to successive bombardments, sniper fire, and assaults from the attackers. It was also suffering from disease and low supplies of food, water and medicine. General Wheeler's personal morale had been low, after his son Lieutenant Gordon Wheeler was decapitated in an assault on the barracks. Nana Sahib and his advisers came up with a plan to end the deadlock. On 24 June, he sent a female European prisoner, Rose Greenway, to the entrenchment to convey their message. In return for a surrender, he promised the safe passage of the Europeans to the Satichaura Ghat, a dock on the Ganges from which they could depart for Allahabad. General Wheeler rejected the offer, because it had not been signed, and there was no guarantee that the offer was made by Nana Sahib himself.
    On 5 June 1857, Nana Sahib sent a letter to General Wheeler informing him to expect an attack next morning at 10 am.
    More Details Hide Details On 6 June, his forces (including the rebel soldiers) attacked the Company entrenchment at 10:30 am The Company forces were not adequately prepared for the attack but managed to defend themselves as the attacking forces were reluctant to enter the entrenchment. The Indian forces had been led to believe that the entrenchment had gunpowder-filled trenches that would explode if they got closer. The Company side held out in their makeshift fort for three weeks with little water and food supplies, and lost many lives due to sunstroke and lack of water. As the news of advances over the British garrison spread, more rebel sepoys joined Nana Sahib. By 10 June, he was believed to be leading around twelve thousand to fifteen thousand Indian soldiers. During the first week of the siege, Nana Sahib's forces encircled the attachment, created loopholes and established firing positions from the surrounding buildings. The defending Captain John Moore retaliated and launched night-time sorties. Nana Sahib then withdrew his headquarters to Savada House (or Savada Kothi), which was situated around two miles away. In response to Moore's sorties, Nana Sahib decided to attempt a direct assault on the British entrenchment, but the rebel soldiers displayed a lack of enthusiasm.
  • 1856
    Age 31
    Harshram Mehta, the Sanskrit teacher of Nana Sahib, was addressed in the two letters probably written by him in Old Marathi and in black ink dated 1856 and signed Baloo Nana.
    More Details Hide Details The third document is the diary of Kalyanji Mehta, brother of Harshram. In Old Gujarati, the diary records arrival of Nana Sahib to Sihor with his colleagues after failure of rebellion. Kalyanji had raised Shridhar, son of Nana Sahib changing his name to Giridhar, as his own son and got him married in Sihori Brahmin family.
  • 1855
    Age 30
    However, Azimullah Khan was unable to convince the British to resume the pension, and he returned to India in 1855.
    More Details Hide Details Nana Sahib won the confidence of Charles Hillersdon, the Collector of Kanpur. It was planned that Nana Sahib would assemble a force of 1,500 soldiers to support the British, in case the rebellion spread to Cawnpore. On 6 June 1857, at the time of the rebellion by forces of the East India Company at Cawnpore, the British contingent had taken refuge at an entrenchment in the northern part of the town. Amid the prevailing chaos in Cawnpore, Sahib and his forces entered the British magazine situated in the northern part of the town. The soldiers of the 53rd Native Infantry, who were guarding the magazine, thought that Sahib had come to guard the magazine on behalf of the Company. However, once he entered the magazine, Nana Sahib announced that he was a participant in the rebellion against the Company, and intended to be a vassal of Bahadur Shah II.
  • 1853
    Age 28
    Accordingly, Nana Sahib sent an envoy (Azimullah Khan) to England in 1853 to plead his case with the British Government.
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  • 1851
    Age 26
    Azimullah Khan joined the court of Nana Sahib as Secretary, after the death of Baji Rao II in 1851.
    More Details Hide Details He later became the dewan in Nana Sahib's court. The Doctrine of lapse was an annexation policy devised by Lord Dalhousie, who was the British Governor-General of India between 1848 and 1856. According to the Doctrine, any princely state or territory under the direct influence (paramountcy) of the British East India Company (the dominant imperial power in the subcontinent), as a vassal state under the British Subsidiary System, would automatically be annexed if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a direct heir". The latter supplanted the long-established legal right of an Indian sovereign without an heir to choose a successor. In addition, the British were to decide whether potential rulers were competent enough. The doctrine and its application were widely regarded by Indians as illegitimate. At that time, the Company had absolute, imperial administrative jurisdiction over many regions spread over the subcontinent. The company took over the princely states of Satara (1848), Jaipur and Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Nagpur (1853), and Jhansi (1854) using this doctrine. The British took over Awadh (Oudh) (1856) claiming that the local ruler was not ruling properly. The Company added about four million pounds sterling to its annual revenue by the use of this doctrine. With the increasing power of the East India Company, discontent simmered amongst sections of Indian society and the largely indigenous armed Jhansi forces; these joined with members of the deposed dynasties during the Indian rebellion of 1857.
  • 1827
    Age 2
    Lacking sons, Baji Rao adopted Nana Sahib and his younger brother in 1827.
    More Details Hide Details The mother of both children was a sister of one of the Peshwa's wives. Nana Sahib's childhood associates included Tatya Tope, Azimullah Khan and Manikarnika Tambe who later became famous as Rani Lakshmibai. Tantya Tope was the son of Pandurang Rao Tope, an important noble at the court of the Peshwa Baji Rao II. After Baji Rao II was exiled to Bithoor, Pandurang Rao and his family also shifted there. Tantya Tope was the fencing master to Nana Sahib.
  • 1824
    Nana Sahib was born on 19 May,1824 as Nana Govind Dhondu Pant, to Narayan Bhatt and Ganga Bai.
    More Details Hide Details After the Maratha defeat in the Third Maratha War, the East India Company had exiled Peshwa Baji Rao II to Bithoor near Cawnpore (now Kanpur), where he maintained a large establishment paid for in part out of a British pension. Nana Sahib's father, a well-educated Deccani Brahmin, had travelled with his family from the Western Ghats to become a court official of the former Peshwa at Bithoor.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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