Tatya Tope, popularly known as 'Tantia Topi'. was one of the greatest military leaders and legendary figure in the tempestuous happenings of the revolt of 1857. The overall struggle could make its impact only due to his generalship. He strode like a colossus all over - from Kanpur to Rajputana and Central India - and laid his life at the altar of freedom.

Dr (Mrs) Indumati Sheorey (b.1917), was a weill-known Marathi writer, who had worked as sub-editor of The Independent, an English weekly; as assistant producer (Marathi) at AIR, Nagpur; and with the Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi.  


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A Saga of Heroism


Tatya Tope, popularly known as 'Tantia Topi', was one of the greatest military leaders that the revolt of 1857 threw up. His was an unknown name till then. But the dramatic events of 1857 catapulted him from complete obscurity into sudden prominence.

From Obscurity to Fame


Early Life
Not much is known of Tatya Tope's earlier life. Some facts about him can be gleaned from the statement he made after his arrest and some from the deposition made by Ramkrishna Tope, Tatya's step-brother, before the Assistant Resident of Baroda in 1862.

The Gathering Strom


When Tatya appeared on the scene, almost the whole of North India was aflame. Sepoy mutinies had broken out at Meerut, Delhi and several other places in U.P. These mutinies had merged themselves into revolts of civilian populations under local leaders.

Sitting on a Volcano


If Capt. Martineau's discerning eyes could clearly see the writing on the wall, though only just before the storm, the staff at Kanpur, or for that matter in the entire country, had no such inkling, not even as late as March or April. Sir George Trevelyan bemoans that "it seems miraculous indeed that our countrymen in India should not have entertained any idea of what those months would bring forth.

Revolt at Kanpur


That crucial moment came when a European officer in a state of intoxication fired upon a small patrol of II Cavalry. He was court-martialled but was acquitted on the plea that the offence was committed in an inebriated state of mind when he was not responsible for his actions!

Tatya as a Military Adviser


With the last trace of British authority having been wiped out of the city, Nana's dream of revival of the Maratha Empire seemed to have come true. On june 30 he was proclaimed as the Peshwa amidst splendour and ceremonies reminiscent of the old days of the Peshwas. People of Kanpur and the surrounding villages poured into Bithur in large numbers to witness the grand event.

Tatya as a General


After the defeat of the rebel army at Kanpur, the initiative of the Peshwa's military activity passed into Tatya's able hands. Subsequent events show that Nana's choice of Tatya as a general was more than justified.

The Marathon Race


But, obviously, Sir Huge Rose had not reckoned with the spirit of the Maratha general, which had remained unbroken. All his guns were lost. The 'Peshwas's army' was in shambles. He had no foothold anywhere. He was surrounded by the British forces on all sides. Yet he refused to accept defeat.

Capture and Execution of Tatya


Till the beginning of April 1859 Tatya, the last and the greatest of all the rebels and 'the leading spirit of the drama', was still at large. He had defied all attempts to put a noose round his neck. When military tactics failed, the British took recourse to treachery.

The End and the Beginning


With Tatya Tope died the last embers of the rebellion of 1857. The splendid way in which he carried on the struggle has earned him a niche in the history of India. His greatness lies in his undying spirit and devotion to the national cause. And he fought for it with the sang-froid of a karmayogi.



Was Tatya Tope really hanged? In other words, was the man who was hanged really Tatya Tope?
The question has been raised by some writers and students of history who believe that it was not Tatya Tope who was hanged but another man impersonating Tatya.



Bell, Charles: Indian Mutiny.
Dharaiya, Dr R.K.: Gujarat in 1857.
Dharam Pal: Tatya Tope.
Forrest, G.W.: History of the Indian Mutiny.
Government of Bombay: Source Material for History of Freedom Movement in India, vol. I, 1818-1885.

More Details about Tatya Tope

General Information  
Author(s)Indumati Sheorye
PublisherNational Book Trust
Edition5th Edition
Publish YearApril 2012