A painting of Tatya Tope
|Died||18 April 1859 (aged 44–45)|
|Other names||Ramachandra Panduranga|
|Organization||Hindu Janajagruti Samiti|
|Movement||Indian Rebellion of 1857|
Tatya Tope or Tantia Tope[a] was a general in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and one of its notable leaders. He was born as Ramachandra Panduranga to a Marathi Deshastha Brahmin family and took on the title Tope, meaning commanding officer. His first name Tatya meant General. A personal adherent of Nana Saheb of Bithur, he progressed with the Gwalior contingent after the British reoccupied Kanpur and forced General Windham to retreat from the city. 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. He was executed by the British Government at Shivpuri on 18 April 1859.
According to an official statement, Tatya Tope's father was Panduranga, an inhabitant of Jola Pargannah, Patoda Zilla Nagar, in present-day Maharashtra. Tope was a Maraṭha Vashista Brahman by birth. In a government letter, he was said to be the minister of Baroda, while he was held identical to Nana Sahib in another communication. A witness at his trial described Tatya Tope as 'a man of middling stature, with a wheat complexion and always wearing a white chukri-dar turban.'
After the rebellion in Cawnpore (Kanpur) took place on 5 June 1857, Nana Saheb became the leader of the rebels. The British forces surrendered on 25 June 1857, Nana was declared Peshwa in late June. General Havelock fought with Nana's forces in battle two times, they were defeated the third time and withdrew to Bithur, after which he crossed the Ganges and retreated to Awadh. Tatya Tope began to act in Nana Saheb's name from Bithur.
Tatya Tope was one of the leaders of the massacre of Cawnpore, which occurred on June 27, 1857. Since then, Tope held a good defensive position until he was driven out by the British force led by Sir Henry Havelock on August 16, 1857. Afterward, he defeated General Charles Ash Windham at Cawnpore II, which occurred from November 27, 1857 to November 28, 1857. However, Tope and his army were later defeated at Cawnpore III when the British counterattacked under Sir Colin Campbell. Tatya Tope and the other rebels fled and took shelter with the Rani of Jhansi, while aiding her as well.
Later on Tatya and Rao Saheb, helped Jhansi during British assault on Jhansi, successfully helping Rani Lakshmibai escape the attack. Together with Rani Lakshmibai, they took control of Gwalior Fort declaring Hindavi Swaraj (Free Kingdom) under the name of Nana Saheb Peshwa from Gwalior. After losing Gwalior to the British, Tope and Rao Saheb, nephew of Nana Saheb, fled into the Rajputana. He 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 Abraham Robert was able to attack the rebel force when they had reached a position between Sanganer and Bhilwara. Tope again fled from the field towards Udaipur and, after visiting a Hindu shrine on 13 August, he drew up his forces on the Banas River. They were defeated again by Roberts's forces and Tope fled. He crossed the Chambal River and reached the town of Jhalrapatan in the state of Jhalawar. Even after the Revolt was 1857 was put down by the British, Tatya Tope continued resistance as a guerrilla fighter in the jungles. He induced the state forces to rebel against the raja and was able to replace the artillery he had lost at the Banas River. Tope then took his forces towards Indore but was pursued by the British now commanded by General John Michel as he fled towards Sironj. He was still accompanied by Rao Saheb and they decided to divide their forces so that Tope could move to Chanderi, and Rao Saheb, with a smaller force, to Jhansi. However they combined again in October and suffered another defeat at Chhota Udaipur. By January 1859 they were in the state of Jaipur and experienced two more defeats. Tope then 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 Tope was alone.