Saga of fight for Independence!
Chapter 31: Nana Saheb
Nana Saheb, along with Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, is remembered as the pioneer of the 1857 war of Independence. In fact, Nana Saheb was accredited for having lit the torch of the 1857 revolt and spreading its light to other parts of the country. He himself took up the sword and spread the message of freedom through personal example of courage.
The background for the war of Independence was prepared by Nana Saheb with the help and co-operation of Rango Bapuji and Azimulla. He contacted various royal houses, chief among them being Bahadurshah and Wajid Ali Shah at the outset of the revolt.
His set out ostensibly on a pilgrimage but in reality these journeys were meant to muster support for a revolt against the British regime. On May 27, 1857 he captured Kanpur and on 28 June 1857, at Bithoor, he was enthroned ceremoniously as a ruler and a victor. But, soon after the ceremony he got engaged in a fight with Haviock, the British general in Kanpur.’ He struggled hard for success. The facts regarding Nana Saheb’s death are not known for certain.
He was born on May 19, 1824 as Nana Govind Dhondu Pant to Narayan Bhatt and Ganga Bai. He was adopted by Peshwa Bajirao as his son in 1827. He was given a sound moral education and trained as a soldier. Tantya Tope and Laxmi Bai were his childhood friends. Nana Saheb was brave and talented.
In 1851, when he succeeded Baji Rao Peshwa, the British denied him his pension which embittered him and the British became his sworn enemy. According to the Doctrine of Lapse treaty, after the death of Baji Rao, Nana Sahib was denied to take the throne as he was not the direct heir to Baji Rao.
Nana Sahib stood against this statement of the British Government and launched an attack on their entrenchment at Kanpur (now Kanpur). He was defeated by General Henry Havelock and in December 1857 by Sir Colin Campbell. He appointed a nephew, Rao Sahib, to give orders to Tantia.
At the End
It is believed that after his defeat in the revolt of Kanpur, Nana Sahib took shelter in Nepal to safeguard himself and his family. He was spotted by people in the Nepal hills, where he is thought to have died. His ability to prepare for the revolt speaks of his bravery. Many British writers have praised him for his irrepressible courage, fortitude and generosity.