Revolt of 1857:The Revolt of 1857 also called Sepoy Mutiny or the first war of Indian independence against the British East India company. Kings, peasants, tribals, landlords and we sepoys, all were dissatisfied with the British rule in 1857-59.Lots of names given by historians worldwide. The Revolt of 1857 was also known as:-
- Indian Mutiny
- Sepoy Mutiny
- Sepoy Rebellion
- Sepoy Revolt
- First War of Independence
It began as a revolt of the sepoys of the British East India Company’s army but eventually secured the participation of the masses.The Revolt of 1857 was a major uprising in India during 1857-58 against the British regime. But it was unsuccessful and was superseded by the British East India Company, which ruled and acted as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown.
Causes of Revolt
- British policy of expansion: The political causes of the revolt were the British policy of expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse and direct annexation.
- A large number of Indian rulers and chiefs were dislodged, thus arousing fear in the minds of other ruling families who apprehended a similar fate.
- Rani Lakshmi Bai’s adopted son was not permitted to sit on the throne of Jhansi.
- Satara, Nagpur and Jhansi were annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse.
- Jaitpur, Sambalpur and Udaipur were also annexed.
- The annexation of Awadh by Lord Dalhousie on the pretext of maladministration left thousands of nobles, officials, retainers and soldiers jobless. This measure converted Awadh, a loyal state, into a hotbed of discontent and intrigue.
Doctrine of lapse:
- The notable British technique called the Doctrine of Lapse was first perpetrated by Lord Dalhousie in the late 1840s.
- It involved the British prohibiting a Hindu ruler without a natural heir from adopting a successor and, after the ruler died or abdicated, annexing his land.
- To those problems added the growing discontent of the Brahmans, many of whom had been dispossessed of their revenues or had lost lucrative positions.
- Highly unpopular revenue settlement
- Heavy taxation – causing peasants to go for a loan from moneylenders at usurious prices
- British policy discouraged Indian handicrafts which were not accompanied by the development of modern industries
- Excessive interference by Britishers: loss of status for Zamindars.
Social and Religious Cause
- The rapidly spreading Western Civilisation in India was alarming concerns all over the country.
- An act in 1850 changed the Hindu law of inheritance enabling a Hindu who had converted into Christianity to inherit his ancestral properties.
- The people were convinced that the Government was planning to convert Indians to Christianity.
- The abolition of practices like sati and female infanticide, and the legislation legalizing widow remarriage, were believed as threats to the established social structure.
- Introducing western methods of education was directly challenging the orthodoxy for Hindus as well as Muslims
- Even the introduction of the railways and telegraph was viewed with suspicion.
- Rampant corruption in the Company’s administration.
- especially at a lower level (police, petty officials).
- No focus on Indian development.
- The Revolt of 1857 eventually broke out over the incident of greased cartridges.
- A rumour spread that the cartridges of the new enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows and pigs.
- Before loading these rifles the sepoys had to bite off the paper on the cartridges.
- Both Hindu and Muslim sepoys refused to use them.
- Lord Canning tried to make amends for the error and the offending cartridges were withdrawn but the damage had already been done. There was unrest in several places.
- In March 1857, Mangal Pandey, a sepoy in Barrackpore, had refused to use the cartridge and attacked his senior officers.
- He was hanged to death on 8th April.
- On 9th May, 85 soldiers in Meerut refused to use the new rifle and were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment
Center of The Revolt
- The revolt spread over the entire area from the neighbourhood of Patna to the borders of Rajasthan. The main centres of revolt in these regions namely Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareilly, Jhansi, Gwalior and Arrah in Bihar.
- Lucknow: it was the capital of Awadh. Begum Hazrat Mahal, one of the begums of the ex-king of Awadh, took up the leadership of the revolt.
- Kanpur: the revolt was led by Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II.
- He joined the revolt primarily because he was deprived of his pension by the British.
- The victory was short- lived. Kanpur was recaptured by the British after fresh reinforcements arrived.
- The revolt was suppressed with terrible vengeance.
- Nana Saheb escaped but his brilliant commander Tantia Tope continued the struggle.
- Tantia Tope was finally defeated, arrested and hanged.
- Jhansi: the twenty-two-year-old Rani Lakshmi Bai led the rebels when the British refused to accept the claim of her adopted son to the throne of Jhansi.
- She fought gallantly against the British forces but was ultimately defeated by the English.
- Gwalior: After Rani Lakshmi Bai escaped, she was joined by Tantia Tope and together they marched to Gwalior and captured it.
- Fierce fighting followed where the Rani of Jhansi fought like a tigress but died, fighting to the very end.
- Gwalior was recaptured by the British.
- Bihar: the revolt was led by Kunwar Singh who belonged to a royal house of Jagdispur, Bihar.
Suppression of the revolt
The Britishers considered this revolt as a serious threat to their regime and considerably changed their policies to overcome this rebellion, and they could succeed also.
• On September 20, 1857, the British captured Delhi. John Nicholson was the leader of the siege, succumbed to injuries later.
•The Revolt of 1857 lasted for more than a year and was suppressed by the middle of 1858. On July 8, 1858, fourteen months after the outbreak at Meerut, peace was finally proclaimed by Lord Canning.
•Bahadur Shah was the prisoner, exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862. Royal princes were publicly shot point-blank by Lieutenant Hudson. With the fall of Delhi, one by one all local revolts were suppressed.
•Sir Sir Colin Campbell recaptured Kanpur and Lucknow.
•At Benaras, a rebellion was mercilessly suppressed, by Colonel Neil.
Results of The Revolt
- End of company rule: the great uprising of 1857 was an important landmark in the history of modern India.
- The revolt marked the end of the East India Company’s rule in India.
- Direct rule of the British Crown: India now came under the direct rule of the British Crown.
- This was announced by Lord Canning at a Durbar in Allahabad in a proclamation issued on 1 November 1858 in the name of the Queen.
- The Indian administration was taken over by Queen Victoria, which, in effect, meant the British Parliament.
- The India office was created to handle the governance and the administration of the country.
- Religious tolerance: it was promised and due attention was paid to the customs and traditions of India.
- Administrative change: the Governor General’s office was replaced by that of the Viceroy.
- The rights of Indian rulers were recognised.
- The Doctrine of Lapse was abolished.
- The right to adopt sons as legal heirs was accepted.
- Military reorganisation: the ratio of British officers to Indian soldiers increased but the armoury remained in the hands of the English. It was arranged to end the dominance of the Bengal army.
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