Tatya Tope

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Tatya Tope
Tantiatope.jpg
Tatya Tope, after his capture in 1859.
Born 1814
Yeola, Nashik, Maharashtra
Died 18 April 1859 (aged 44–45)
Shivpuri
Other names Tatia Tope
Movement Indian Rebellion of 1857
Religion Hinduism

Ramachandra Pandurang Tope (1814 – 18 April 1859), popularly known as Tatya Tope (तात्या टोपे) was an Indian Maratha leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and one of its more renowned generals. He was a personal adherent of Nana Saheb of Bithur. He progressed with the Gwalior contingent after the British reoccupation of Kanpur and forced General Windham to retreat from Kanpur. Later on, he came to the relief of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and with her seized the city of Gwalior. However he was defeated by General Napier's British Indian troops at Ranod and after a further defeat at Sikar abandoned the campaign.[1] Finally he was betrayed by his trusted friend Man Singh. He was executed by the British Government at Shivpuri on 18 April 1859.

Early life[edit]

Born in a Yeola of Nashik District (Maharashtra), he was the only son of Pandurang Rao Tope and his wife Rukhmabai. In 1851, when James Andrew Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie deprived Nana Sahib of his father's pension, Tatya Tope also became a sworn enemy of the British.

Role in the 1857 uprising[edit]

"Tantia Topee's Soldiery"
Illustrated London News, 1858

Tatya Tope was Nana Sahib's close associate and general. During the Siege of Cawnpore in 1857, Nana Sahib's forces attacked the British entrenchment at Kanpur in June 1857. The low supplies of food, water and medicine added to the misery of the British Forces who accepted Nana Sahib offer of safe passage to Allahabad.

Many of General Wheeler's men were either killed or captured. The surviving British women and children were moved from the Savada House to Bibighar "the House of the Ladies", a villa-type house in Kanpur.

Nana Sahib decided to use the captives for bargaining with the British.[2] The Company forces from Allahabad, under the command of General Henry Havelock, advanced relentlessly towards Cawnpore. Two forces sent by Nana Sahib to check their advance were defeated. When it became clear that the bargaining attempts had failed, an order was given to murder the women and children imprisoned at Bibighar, on July 15. The details of the incident, such as who ordered the massacre, are not clear.[3] The sepoys refused to kill the captive women and children, but some of them agreed to remove the women and children from the courtyard, when Tatya Tope threatened to execute them for dereliction of duty.

The Company forces reached Cawnpore on July 16, and captured the city. Both Nana Sahib and Tatya Tope escaped from the city. While Nana Sahib fled to an unknown place, Tatya Tope continued the fight against the British. In November 1857, he gathered a large army, mainly consisting of the rebel soldiers from the Gwalior contingent, to recapture Cawnpore. By November 19, Tatya Tope's advance guard of 6,000 dominated all the routes west and north-west of Cawnpore. However, his forces were defeated by the Company forces under Colin Campbell in the Second Battle of Cawnpore, marking the end of the rebellion in the Cawnpore area. Tatya Tope then joined Rani Laxmi Bai at Kalpi.

Capture and death[edit]

Old India Photos - Tatya Tope and troops, 1857

After the battle of Gwalior Tatya undertook a campaign in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and the Narmada River regions and in Khandesh and Rajasthan. He took shelter for some time in Nadiad ni haveli with Bhausaheb Desai of Nadiad.

After losing Gwalior to the British, Tatya Tope and Rao Sahib (nephew of Nana Sahib)fled into the Rajputana and was able to induce the army of Tonk to join him. He was unable to enter the town of Bundi and though announcing he would go south in fact went west towards Nimach. A British flying column commanded by Colonel Holmes was in pursuit of him and the British commander in Rajputana, General Roberts, was able to attack the rebel force when they had reached a position between Sanganir and Bhilwara. Tatya again fled from the field towards Udaipur and after visiting a Hindu shrine on 13 August he drew up his forces on the River Banas. They were defeated again by Roberts's forces and Tatya fled; he crossed the Chambal river and reached the town of Jhalrapatana in the state of Jhalwar. He induced the state forces to rebel against the raja and was able to replace the artillery he had lost at the Banas river. Tatya then took his forces towards Indore but was pursued by the British now commanded by General Michel as he fled towards Sironj. He was still accompanied by Rao Sahib and they decided to divide their forces so that Tatya could move to Chanderi and Rao Sahib with a smaller force to Jhansi. However they combined again in October and suffered another defeat at Chota Udaipur. By January 1859 they were in the state of Jaipur and suffered two more defeats, after which Tatya escaped alone into the jungles of Paron. At this point he met Man Singh (raja of Narwar) and his household and decided to stay with them. Man Singh was in dispute with the maharaja of Gwalior and the British were successful in negotiating with him to surrender to them in return for his life and protection of his family from any reprisals by the maharaja. After this Tatya was alone.[4]

The British forces had failed to subdue him for over a year. He was however betrayed into the hands of the British by his trusted friend, Man Singh, raja of Narwar, while asleep in his camp in the Paron forest. He was captured on 7 April 1859 by a detachment of native infantry from British General Richard John Meade's troops led to him by Man Singh and escorted to Shivpuri where he was tried by a military court.

Tope admitted the charges brought before him saying that he was answerable to his master the Peshwa only. He was executed at the gallows on 18 April 1859.

Memorials[edit]

There is a statue of Tatya Tope at the Nana Rao Park, commemorating his role in Indian Independence and the Cawnpore massacre. It is located at the site of his execution near the present collectorate in Shivpuri town in Madhya Pradesh. Recently, a statue of Tatya Tope was inaugurated at his home town Yeola.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books; pp. 132-34
  2. ^ East India Company
  3. ^ Mukherjee, Rudrangshu (February 1994). "The Kanpur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857: Reply". Past and Present 142: 178–189. doi:10.1093/past/142.1.178. 
  4. ^ Edwardes, Michael (1975) Red Year. London: Sphere Books; pp. 129-35

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]