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Revolt of 1857
The simmering discontent among the different classes burst in the form of a violent storm in 1857 which shook the British Empire in India to its very foundations. It was the first expression of organized resistance against the British East India Company. It began as a revolt of the sepoys of the British East India Company’s army but eventually turned into a popular revolt.
The Indian revolt of 1857 is known by several names, the Sepoy Mutiny (by British Historians), the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion (by Indian Historians), the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence (by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar).
Causes of the Revolt of 1857
The revolt was so widespread that no single cause could justify its occurrence. There were several factors of different dimensions responsible for the revolt of 1857. Some of the important causes are as follows:
- Peasants and zamindars were angered by the heavy taxes on land and the unpopular revenue settlement followed by the Company.
- Many among these groups were unable to meet the heavy revenue demands and repay their loans to money lenders, eventually losing the lands that they had held for generations. This results in rural indebtedness.
- Large numbers of sepoys belonged to the peasantry class and had family ties in villages, so the grievances of the peasants also affected them.
- After the Industrial Revolution in England, there was an influx of British manufactured goods into India, which ruined industries, particularly the textile industry of India and thus resulting in mass unemployment. British rule brought misery to the artisans and handicraft people.
- British expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse and direct annexation caused resentment among a large number of Indian rulers and chiefs.
- Rani Lakshmi Bai’s adopted son was not permitted to sit on the throne of Jhansi.
- 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.
- Indian sepoys were considered inferior to British soldiers. They were paid less than a European sepoy of the same rank. They were required to serve in areas far away from their homes.
- In 1856 Lord Canning issued the General Services Enlistment Act which required that the sepoys must be ready to serve even in British land across the sea.
Social and Religious Cause
- The rapidly spreading Western Civilization in India was an alarming concern all over the country.
- An act in 1850 allowed a Hindu who had converted to 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, was believed as threats to the established social structure.
- The Revolt of 1857 in India eventually broke out over the incident of greased cartridges.
- A rumor 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.
Revolt of 1857 leaders
Different leaders led the revolt locally. Major amongst them included:
- Lucknow- Begum Hazrat Mahal
- Kanpur- Nana Saheb
- Delhi- Bahadur Shah II
- Jhansi- Lakshmi Bai
- Bihar- Kunwar Singh
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Revolt of 1857 Effects
- It resulted in 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.
- Administrative changes were introduced: the Governor General’s office was replaced by that of the Viceroy. The rights of Indian rulers were recognized.
- The Doctrine of Lapse was abolished. The right to adopt sons as legal heirs were accepted.
Military reorganization: the ratio of British officers to Indian soldiers increased but the Armory remained in the hands of the English. It was arranged to end the dominance of the Bengal army.
- Religious tolerance: it was promised and due attention was paid to the customs and traditions of India.
- Though the revolt failed to achieve the desired goal, it sowed the seeds of Indian nationalism.
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Revolt of 1857 – FAQs
Q. Who led the revolt of 1857 from Lucknow?
Ans. Begum Hazrat Mahal led the revolt from Lucknow.
Q. Did the revolt of 1857 spread throughout the country?
Ans. No, the revolt was limited to Northern India in parts of UP, Bihar, Bengal, and Delhi.
Q. Who was the Governor-general during the revolt of 1857?
Ans. Lord Canning was the governor general during the revolt of 1857.
Q. On what ground Awadh was taken over by the Britishers?
Ans. On grounds of maladministration.