The First War of Independence (1857-58) was the first general widespread uprising against the rule of the British East India Company. The Doctrine of Lapse, issue of cartridges greased with animal fat to Indian soldiers, introduction of British system of education and a number of social reforms had infuriated a very wide section of the Indian people, who rose in revolt at a number of places all over India. The East India Company was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown as a result of this uprising.
Of the very large number of freedom fighters, who led the struggle, four are being commemorated through the present series, which is a part of the larger series on India's Struggle for Freedom.
A Maratha, one of the leaders of the First War of Independence, Nana Saheb was born in 1824 to Narayan Bhatt and Ganga Bai. In 1827 his parents went to the court of the last Peshwa Baji Rao, who adopted Nana Saheb, thus making him heir-presumptive to the throne.
Nana Saheb was well educated. He studied Sanskrit and was known for his deep religious nature. On the death of the last Peshwa, Baji Rao-II, in 1851 the Company's Government stopped the annual pension and the title. Nana Saheb's appeal to the Court of Directors was not accepted. This made him hostile towards the British rulers. When the First War of Independence broke out, he assumed leadership of the mutineers in Kanpur. After seizing Kanpur, which had a small British garrison, Nana Saheb proclaimed himself the Peshwa and called for the total extermination of the British power in India.
Kanpur was recaptured by the British under General Havelock and the last serious engagement (16 July, 1857) resulted in a total rout of Nana's forces. Nana rode away to an unknown destination in Nepal in 1859 and probably perished in the jungle.