Revolt of 1857
The Revolt of 1857 is one of the most significant, unsuccessful and unprofitable revolts against the British East India Company in Pre-Independent India. This widespread Revolt was also known by numerous names given by chroniclers worldwide. The rebellion of 1857 is also known as –
- First War of Independence
- Indian Mutiny
- Sepoy Revolt
- Sepoy Mutiny
- Sepoy Rebellion
The rebellion began on 10th May 1857 at Meerut and gradually spread to various places. The Indian Sepoys initiated it under the Bengal Presidency against the British rulers.
The Revolt of 1857- The Beginning
The Revolt of 1857 began at Meerut on 10th May 1857. The other boys’ sepoys released their fellow inmates and they marched towards Delhi and reached Red Fort in the early hours of 11th May 1857. Once they reached Delhi, Bahadur Shah was proclaimed as the Emperor of India and the revolt was started under his leadership.
British East India Company and their Motives in India
The British East India Company was initially a Trading Company and established itself as a political power in India in 1772. Their main and cunning motive was to deprive benefits of Indian Territories rather than improve the lives of the people. The British introduced many expansions and unjust policies to fulfil their intention of becoming a strong political power in India. The cumulative effect of these policies, exploitation and administrative innovations over the years adversely affected the positions of all Rulers, Sepoys, Zamindars, Peasants, artisans, pundits, maulvis, etc.
Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The revolt of 1857 started due to various reasons, and was broadly categorised into the following five reasons:
- Political Causes
- Economic Causes
- Socio-Religious Causes
- Military Causes
- Immediate Causes
Let’s discuss all these causes in detail –
1. Political Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The Britishers wanted to expand their policies and their ruler’s tyranny to impose the rules on the Indians. Political causes held due to –
- Doctrine of Lapse Policy: Lord Dalhausie imposed the Doctrine of Lapse Policy in the late 1840s. According to this rule, no ruler was allowed to adopt any child, only the natural heir had the right to rule the throne. In case of, if the ruler dies without any male heir, that state would be annexed, and will be ruled and governed by the British East India Company.
- Subsidiary Alliance: The British government had imposed unjust and unfair policies of Trade and Commerce that had led the Nawabs and Zamindars into a significant loss residing in various places in India.
2. Economic Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The British East India Company had imposed such cruel tactics on the Indians that led to the loss of Economic sources –
- British Revenue Policy: The permanent settlement of the Ryotwari system had led a large proportion of the population into extreme poverty. The imposition of high taxes on land and revenue systems on the Indians had an adverse effect, especially on the Peasants and Zamindars.
- The British Policy emphasised the importing of cotton from England, which had a significant loss to Indian Cotton Manufactures.
- The British East India Company led to the destruction of local artists and craftsmen as they lost the patronage of the Indian ruler.
3. Social-Religious Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The Britishers were imposing Western Culture on the Indians. The various causes are –
- The Western civilization was a major concern all over the country. The British Government was planning to convert Indians into Christians. The ACT of 1850 imposed among the Indians changed the Hindu Law of Inheritance, whoever is converted to Christianity, they will have no rights in their ancestral properties, the Britishers will look after it.
- Measures like the the abolition of Sati, Female Infanticide, widow-remarriage and Women Education were taken into consideration as interference by the Orthodox sections.
- The reforms introduced by the British East India Company had abolished the Traditional fabric of India.
4. Military Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The Revolt of 1857 was initiated as the Sepoy Mutiny.
- The Indian Sepoys had a majority of the population in the British Troops, thus they were always considered inferior to the British soldiers.
- The Indian Sepoys were discriminated against in the troops and paid low remuneration, no pension and fewer promotions for the services as compared to the British Soldiers.
- They were not allowed for foreign allowances, called ‘Bhatta’.
- The Indian Sepoys were not allowed and were restricted to wearing caste or any sectarian symbols.
5. Immediate Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The major reason for the Revolt of 1857 broke out over the ‘Enfield Rifle’s Greased Cartridges incident.
- The British East India Company started using the new weapon, ‘Enfield Rifles’. These new rifles cartilages were to be bitten off before loading and the rumours were spread that these cartridges were coated and greased with beef and pig fat.
- Both Hindu and Muslim sepoys refused to use these greased cartridges Enfield Rifle.
- It was an attempt to destroy their religion.
- On 29th March 1857, a young sepoy named Mangal Pandey in Barrackpore, refused to use the greased Cartridge Enfield Rifle. He gets enraged and attacks his officer. Later, he was overpowered by the European soldiers of the regiment.
- The Indian Sepoys got inspired by Mangal Pandey’s act and the entire regiment supported him.
- Mangal Pandey tried to attack himself with his armament but survived.
- On 8th April 1857, Mangal Pandey was hanged to death.
- On 9th May 1857, in Meerut 85 sepoys who refused to use the Enfield Rifle were stripped of their uniform and were sentenced to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
- This act is one of the factors that led to the larger wave of the other mutinies that broke out over the following months.
Centres of Revolt of 1857
The revolt started to spread in various regions but it predominantly affected the northern parts of the country. The significant centres of revolt include Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi and Gwalior, Bareilly, and Bihar.
- In Delhi, the revolt was under the leadership of Bahadur Shah Zafar.
- Later, eventually, the command shifted to the hands of General Bakht Khan.
- The Britisher John Nicholson suppressed the Revolt.
- The Revolt in Lucknow began on 4th June 1857. Begum Hazrat Mahal took over the reign.
- However, Henry Lawrence suppressed the Revolt but he was killed along with several Europeans.
- Later, Lucknow was under British rule in March 1858.
- In Kanpur, the Revolt began on 5th June 1857. Nana Saheb led the revolt in Kanpur.
- His troops was commanded by Tatya Tope and Azimullah.
- Sir Hugh Wheeler was killed in the Revolt.
- Later, in December 1857, Sir Colin Campbell took reign over Kanpur.
4. Jhansi and Gwalior
- The twenty-two years old Rani Laxmi Bai led the revolt,
- She got enraged when the Britishers refused to accept his adopted son as a legal heir and ruler of Jhansi.
- Rani Laxmi Bai fought the battle but was finally defeated by the Britishers.
- Rani Laxmi Bai escaped, then she met Tatya Tope and they both marched to Gwalior.
- Rani Laxmi Bai fought fearlessly like a tigress but was defeated and killed by the Britishers.
- She joined the Revolt on 5th June 1857 and died on 17th June 1858. This revolt was suppressed by General Hugh Rose.
- The revolt was led by Khan Bahadur Khan and he proclaimed himself as a Nawab. He formed his own government in Bareilly.
- His main concern was related to the low pension, which was offered by the Britishers.
- However, he was defeated by Sir Colin Campbell and was sentenced to death.
- The rebellion Kunwar Singh led the revolt of 1857.
- He felt resentful, as the Britishers deprived him of his estate.
- He struggled and fought bravely with the Britishers till he died on 26th April 1858.
The Revolt of 1857 Suppression
The Revolt of 1857 lasted more than a year but due to many reasons it got suppressed in the middle of 1858.
Consequences of the Revolt of 1857
End of the British East India Company
- The Queen’s Proclamation( 1858) led by Lord Canning incorporated the transfer of the governance of the British East India Company to the ‘British Crown’ and was made public at Allahabad on November 1,1858 by Lord Canning.
- Lord Canning decided to make a council of 15 members including the secretary itself.
- Lord Canning abolished the Doctrine of Lapse to impress the rulers of other states, . The Britishers made a promise of no annexations in the future.
- The British also decided to stay away from interfering with the religion of India and decided to allow the Indians to initiate the social reforms themselves.
- The Government General’s office was replaced by the Viceroy.
- The recognition of the Indian Rulers was accepted.
Causes of Failure of the Revolt of 1857
The main causes of the failure of the Revolt of 1857 were Restricted Territorial Spread, Lack of Support of Certain Classes/Groups, and No United Ideology. The reasons for the failure of the revolt in 1857 have been briefly discussed below.
Restricted Territorial Spread
- The revolt was mainly spread and restricted to the Northern parts of the country.
- The Eastern, Southern and Western parts of the country did not participated in the Revolt of 1857 and were mostly unaffected.
Lack of Support of Certain Classes/Groups
- Many classes or groups like the Upper Class, Middle Class and even intelligentsia did not support the revolt much.
- The Educated Indians were afraid of the Feudal system of the revolt, and thus remained neutral.Inferior Military Technology
- The British army had various different arms and artillery available.
- Indian rebels followed and were dependent on traditional like swords, spears and axes.
No United Ideology
- One of the major reasons is that all the sections were fighting against the British for different grievances and concerns.
- They Lacked the Long-termed vision, which is the main reason for the defeat of the revolt.
Leaders/Freedom Fighters of the revolt of 1857
|Important Leaders of the Revolt of 1857
|Bahadur Shah, General Bakht Khan
|Begum Hazrat Mahal
|Nana Saheb, Tatya Tope
|Rani Laxmi Bai