The Revolt of 1857

It was the first rebellion against the British East India Company in India which functioned as a sovereign power under the British Crown. The revolt began in Meerut when Sepoys of the British East India Company rebelled against the Company which led to widespread participation of the masses across the nation. The revolt is known by several names like the Sepoy Mutiny, the First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion.

Causes of the Revolt

  • The immediate cause of the revolt was from a rumour that spread that catridges used in rifles were greased with fat of cows and pigs. Before loading into the rifle the sepoy had to bite of the covering on the catridge. This was a big insult to the ritual of the Hindus and the Muslims. Lord Canning made ammends in the manufacturing of the catridges but the damage was done. In March 1857, Mangal Pandey refused to use the catridges and infuriated he attacked his British superiors. He was executed on April. On 9th May, 85 sepoys in Meerut refused to use the new catridges and were sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
Mangal Pandey
  • Indian sepoys formed a large majority of the British troops but they were considered inferior and paid less than a European sepoy who held the same rank. The General Services Enlistment Act Required the sepoys to be ready to serve even in the British land in the West.
  • The adoption of a new British policy called the Doctrine of lapse. The policy sought annexation of a Hindu ruler’s kingdom if had no natural heir, and also prohibits adopted successor of the ruler from seeking the throne, after the ruler dies. The rule was imposed by Lord Dalhousie. The rule annnexed many kingdoms and a large number of rulers were dislodged. Rani Lakshmi Bai’s adopted son was prohibited from acquire the kingdom of Jhansi. Satara, Nagpur, Jhansi were annexed under the rule. The kingdom of Awadh was also annexed which lead to discontent among the people.
Lord Dalhousie
  • The abolition of social practices like sati, and the legalizing of widow remarriage were perceived as threats to the culture. The introduction of acts like changing the Hindu law of inheritance allowing a Hindu who converted into a Christian inherit their ancestral properties. Introduction of Western style of Education was perplexing for the Indains.
  • The local peasants and zamindars were enraged ny the heavy taxes imposed on their land. Borrowal of money from money lenders in order to meet the heavy taxation demands eventually lead to bad debts, thereby losing their land that survived for generations.
  • The post Industrial Revolution in the West brought in an influx of British machine made goods into India. The action ruined the small scale industries like the textile and the handicraft.
Rani Lakshmi Bai

Many rulers also revolted. Begum Hazrat Mahal lead the revolt in Awadh when the British annxed the kingdom. Nana Saheb the adopted son Peshwa Baji Rao II, led the revolt in Kanpur. Rani Lakshmi Bai led the revolt in Jhansi after British suppressing her adopted son to ascend the throne.

Categories: Culture and History

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