villages of Northern India, chupattis (unleavened bread cakes) were passed
from hand to hand--silent messengers that the hour of the "Devil's
Wind" was near.
For had not the
fakirs prophesied that 100 years after the fateful battle of Plassey, where
the British had consolidated their control of India, Muslim and Hindu brothers
would join forces and rise up to overthrow the despotic rule of these
Feringhees (English)? That time--1857--had come.
Bahadur Shah, the
Honourable East India Company's 89-year-old puppet Mughal emperor, sat amidst
his harem in Delhi's Red Fort dreaming of India's bejeweled past. At the
same time, princes and priests were clandestinely plotting to recapture those
jewels from the corrupt "John" Company and set them in the hilts of
a thousand razor sharp tulwars. All that was needed to touch off this
poweder keg of hate was the proper spark.
British themselves would provide that spark. It came, innocuously
enough, in the form of a new-pattern, general issue muzzle loading rifle
Since the mid-1840s,
the British Board of Ordnance had been studying various rifles, with the
eventual aim of replacing the older Pattern-1842 smoothbores then in service.