Mangal Pandey was born into a high-caste Bhumihar Brahmin family on 19 July 1827 in the village of Nagwa in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh.

22-year-old Pandey joined the army of the British East India Company in 1849. He was made a Sepoy in the 5th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry

He was the first person to initiate War of Indian Independence in 1857, calling upon the men to protest against the issue of cartridges greased with either pig or cow fat given to the soldiers. The cartridges had to be bitten off to remove the cover which was against religious beliefs of both Hindu and Muslim soldiers.

It was believed that the British had deliberately used the fat. Pandey detested this so much that he threatened to kill the first European that he lays eyes on.

To keep his vow, he attacked two Europeans, Lieutenant Baugh and English Sergeant-Major Hewson, injuring them badly with a musket.

Seeing more officers arriving on the scene, Pandey tried to kill himself but was later arrested and executed by the British for his rebellion which significantly impacted the Indian independence movement.

Pandey’s execution was set for 18 April 1857. But, the British authorities preponed it fearing the outbreak of a bigger revolt and thus, executed him by hanging on 8 April 1857

Pandey’s death incited Indian soldiers and triggered off a series of mutinies by them in various parts of the country from Meerut to Delhi to Cawnpore. Because of the sudden outburst by Pandey, the Mutiny, the launch of which was had been planned by other revolutionaries for a date three months later, began much earlier. The East India Company administration got alerted and became better equipped to suppress the United revolution by rulers of various Indian kingdoms.

After the mutiny, the British dissolved the Bengal presidency army saying they to perform their duty in restraining a mutinous soldier

As he was widely known for the outbreak of Indian rebellion of 1857, Indian government recognised him as a freedom fighter and issued a postage stamp in 1984 to honour him. 

To commemorate Pandey, a park named Shaheed Mangal Pandey Maha Udyan was also set up at Barrackpore where he was executed and attacked British officers.

Raghunath Pandey is the sole surviving 5th generation descendant of Mangal Pandey.