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The Underlying Causes and Effects of Revolt of 1857

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By the first half of the 19th century, the East India Company had brought major portions of India under its control. One hundred years after the Battle of Plessey, anger against the unjust and unfair British Government took the form of a revolt that shook the very foundations of British rule in India. While British historians called it the Sepoy Mutiny, Indian historians named it the Revolt of 1857 or the First War of Indian Independence. The Revolt of 1857 had been preceded by a series of turbulence in different parts of the country from the late eighteenth century onwards. The Sanyasi Rebellion in North Bengal and the Chunar rebellion in Bihar and Bengal broke out in the late eighteenth century. There were several peasant uprisings in the mid- nineteenth century, the most important of which were those by the Moplah peasants of the Malabar and the Faraizi movement by Muslim peasants in Bengal. The first half of the nineteenth century also witnessed a number of tribal revolts. In this context, mention may be made of the rebellions of the Bhils of Madhya Pradesh, the Santhals of Bihar and the Gonds and Khonds of Orissa. However, all these turbulence were localized. Although serious and, in some cases, long drawn, these did not pose any serious threat to the existence of the British Empire. The Revolt of 1857 is also known as The Great Revolt of 1857 or the Sepoy mutiny of 1857. The sepoys of India who were oppressed by the British for a long time revolted. The 1st proposal was taken by sepoy Mangal Pandey. He had shot a British general. The British had ordered to arrest Mangal Pandey but the Indian sepoys did not follow his instructions. Under the leadership of Mangal Pandey on 29 March 1857 the Indian sepoys marched to Delhi and made the nawab of Delhi the emperor of India. After that many revolts broke out in India. But the British had been winning in suppressing all of them. The Bengali middle class people were however indifferent to the revolt of 1857. Even they did not want the revolt to be successful. This was because they feared that if the British would go back then India would arrival to its age of darkness again .the little money and status that they had acquired during the British rule would be lost. Although the Revolt of 1857 was unproductive it is in some cases identified as the First War of Independence.


The revolt of 1857 was the beginning of the new gunpowder. The British government in February 1857 supplied the sepoys (Indian warriors of Bengal infantry) with new explosive cartridges for the Enfield rifle. At the time when the Indian soldiers were provided with the rifles, a rumour increase around that the cartridges were manufactured from cow and pig fat. Therefore in order to load the Enfield required one to open the greased cartridge with the mouth. Which dishonoured the rituals of both Hindus and the Muslim; therefore, the sepoys began the revolt in the year 1857 under the leadership of Mangal Pandey.  The second most important cause of this revolt was the British strategy of Annexation. The British government under the rule of its various Governors introduced many policies such as the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ and the ‘policy of Annexation’ through which they merged many of the kingdoms of Indian under the colonial territory. For this many of the privileged such as Rani Lakshmi Bai and Begum Hazrat Mahal fought to save their territories from the occupation of the British. The revolt got the support of common people as the Colonial government made attempts to change the active social systems for instance, through various acts they abolished the prevalent system of Sati and introduced the Widow Remarriage act.


The Indian Revolt of 1857 was a major, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown.[footnoteRef:2] The rebellion began on 10 May 1857 in the form of a mutiny of sepoys of the Company’s army in the garrison town of Meerut, 40 mi (64 km) northeast of Delhi (now Old Delhi). It then erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions chiefly in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, though incidents of revolt also occurred farther north and east.[footnoteRef:3] The rebellion posed a considerable threat to British power in that region, and was contained only with the rebels’ defeat in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. On 1 November 1858, the British granted amnesty to all rebels not involved in murder, though they did not declare the hostilities to have formally ended until 8 July 1859. Its name is contested, and it is variously described as the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and the First War of Independence.[footnoteRef:4] Late in the afternoon of 10 may 1857, the sepoys in the cantonment of Meerut broke out in mutiny. It began in the lines of the native infantry, spread very swiftly to the cavalry and then to the city. The ordinary people of the town and the surrounding village joined the sepoys. The sepoys captured the bell of arms where the arms and the ammunition were kept and proceeded to attack the white people, and to ransack and burn their bungalows and property. The Government buildings- the record office, jail, court, post office, treasury, etc. –were destroyed and plundered. The telegraph line to Delhi was cut .as darkness descended; a group of sepoys rode off towards Delhi. The sepoys arrived at the gate of the Red fort early in the morning of the 11 may. It was the month of Ramzan, the Muslim holy month of prayer and fasting. The old Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah, had just finished his prayer and meal before the sun rose and their fast began. He heard the commotion at the gates. The sepoys who had gathered under his window and told him: “We have come from Meerut after killing all the English man there, because they asked us to bite the bullets that were coated with the fat of cows and pigs with our teeth. This has corrupted the faith of Hindus and Muslims alike.” Another groups of sepoys also entered Delhi, and the ordinary people of the city joined them. Europeans were killed in large numbers; the rich of the Delhi were attacked and looted. It was clear that Delhi had gone out of British control. Some sepoys rode into the Red Fort, without observing the elaborate court etiquette expected them. They demanded that the emperor give them his blessings. Surrounded by the Sepoys, Bahadur Shah had no other option but to comply. The revolt thus acquired a kind of legitimacy because it could now be carried on in the name of the Mughal emperor. Through 12 and13 may, north India remained quite. Once word spread that Delhi had fallen to the rebels and Bahadur Shah had blessed the rebellion, events moved swiftly. [footnoteRef:5] [2: Marshall 2007, p. 197] [3: Bose & Jalal 2004, p.74-75] [4:] [5: Indian history,p.288-289]

Causes and Effects of revolt 1857

The causes of the revolt are as follows:-

  1. Social and Religious Causes: The British had abandoned its policy of non-interference in the socio-religious life of the Indians. Abolition of Sati (1829), Hindu Widow Remarriage Act (1856). Christian missionaries were allowed to enter India and carry on with their mission of proselytizing. The Religious Disabilities Act of 1850 modified the traditional Hindu law. According to it, the change in religion would not debar a son from inheriting the property of his heathen father.
  2. Economic Causes: British rule led to breakdown of the village self-sufficiency, commercialization of agriculture which burdened the peasantry, adoption of free trade imperialism from 1800, de-industrialization and drain of wealth all of which led to overall decline of economy.
  3. Military Grievances: The extension of British dominion in India had adversely affected the service condition of the Sepoys. They were required to serve in area away from their homes without the payment of extra bhatta. An important cause of Military discontent was the General Service Enlistment Act, 1856, which made it compulsory for the sepoys to cross the seas, whenever required. The Post Office Act of 1854 withdrew the free postage facility for them.
  4. Political Causes: The last major extension of the British Indian territory took place during the time of Dalhousie. Dalhousie announced in 1849, that the successor of Bahadur Shah II would have to leave the Red Fort. The annexation of Baghat and Udaipur were however, cancelled and they were restored to their ruling houses. When Dalhousie wanted to apply the Doctrine of Lapse to Karauli (Rajputana), he was overruled by the court of Directors.

The effects of the revolt 1857 are as follows:-

  1. It began with the mutiny of the Indian Sepoy`s of the East India Company`s Army.
  2. Subsequently, joined by the peasants, artisans, marginalized farmers, common men became the first national revolt against Britishers.
  3. Almost, wiped away the Company`s Rule in India.
  4. British Crown took control of the administration of India from Company after Revolt.
  5. For the first-time belief of self-confidence developed in minds of oppressed people by the Britishers.
  6. The new form of leadership developed by peasants, Sepoys and artisans, provided a substitution to the conventional feudal lords like Mughals, Marathas, and others.

Outcome of revolt 1857

The outcomes of the revolt are listed below:-

  1. The Revolt was suppressed. Sheer courage could not win against a powerful and determined enemy who planned its every step.
  2. The rebels were dealt an early blow when the British captured Delhi on 20 September 1857 after prolonged and bitter fighting.
  3. The aged Emperor Bahadur Shah was taken prisoner. The Royal Princes were captured and butchered on the spot. The Emperor was tried and exiled to Rangoon where he died in 1862.
  4. John Lawrence, Outran, Havelock, Neil, Campbell, and Hugh Rose were some of the British commanders who earned military fame in the course of the revolt.
  5. One by one, all the great leaders of the Revolt fell. Nana Sahib was defeated at Kanpur. Defiant to the very end and refusing to surrender, he escaped to Nepal early in 1859, never to be heard of again.
  6. Tantia Tope escaped into the jungles of Central India where he carried on bitter and brilliant guerrilla warfare until April 1859 when he was betrayed by a zamindar friend and captured while asleep. He was put to death after a hurried trial on 15 April 1859.
  7. The Rani Jhansi had died on the field of battle earlier on 17 June 1858.
  8. By 1859, Kunwar Singh, Bakht Khan, Khan Bahadur Khan of Bareilly, Rao Sahib brother of Nana Sahib, and Maulavi Ahmadullah were all dead, while the Begum of Avadh was compelled to hide in Nepal.
  9. By the end of 1859, British authority over India was fully reestablished, but the Revolt had not been in vain. It was the first great struggle of the Indian people for freedom from British imperialism. It paved the way for the rise of the modern national movement.[footnoteRef:8] [8: Morden Indian history]


In the last we conclude that The British rule was hostile to all sections of the society — whether rulers, nawabs, zamindar’s, artisans and Craftsman, and tribal’s. They all carried a feeling of hatred and bitterness against the east India Company. It is obvious that when people resented the policies of the company, they would rise in revolution. It was just a matter of time, when they would rebel. In this case, the army refused to load the new cartridges into rifle, as they were lined with fat of the cow and lard of the pig, both disgusting to the Hindus and Muslims. It provided a spark, which erupted into a revolt. Since, In the middle of the 18th century, the Indian rulers were gradually losing their power, authority and honour. Many of them had to sign the subsidiary alliance. The Doctrine of lapse , further added fuel to fire, when Lord Dalhousie annexed many states, in complete disregard of the age- old tradition that the adopted son’s could inherit the throne, e.g. :- Satara, Jhasi,Nagpur. Many Indian rulers tried to consult with the East India Company to protect their interests, e.g:- Rani laxmibai of Jhasi wanted the company to be aware of her adopted son as the heir, after the death of her husband. Nana Sahib, the adopted son of peshwa baji Rao II asked the company that he should be given the pension, when his adoptive father died. The company refused to accept these requirements. And finally, awadh was annexed.  The company planned to bring Mughal dynasty to an ending. The lineage of the Mughal emperor Bhadhur Shah II was given orders by Lord Dalhousie, to vacate the Red fort.

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