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 Revolt of 1857, its nature, causes and consequences

    The revolution of 1857, also known as India’s first war of independence. There are many questions related to this revolution which often come in front of us, was it the first freedom struggle? Was it a military revolution? Where did the revolution start? The main hero of the revolution, why did the revolution fail? What was the nature of revolution? All these questions etc. will be answered through this article. You will not find all these questions in any one article, but we have brought this article so that you can get complete and correct information in one article.


Revolt of 1857
 Revolt of 1857

 The British East India Company entered India with trading activities and also took advantage of India’s weak political position due to the tendency of imperialism. The gluttony of the British people knew no bounds. The revolution of 1857 was not a sudden revolution, its seeds were hidden in the 100 years (1757-1857) policies of the British. In these hundred years, the British intimidated all the sections of India – princely kings, zamindars, soldiers, farmers, clerics, Brahmins, traders.

      It is not that there was no opposition to the British before 1857. From time to time there were several rebellions which were quelled – in Vellore in 1806, Barrackpore in 1824, the revolt of 34th Regiment in Firozpur in February 1842, 7th Bengal Cavalry in 1849 and 64th Regiment and 22nd Regiment N.I. The rebellion of the 66th N.I. in 1850. The rebellion of and in 1852 the 38th N.I. Rebellion etc. Similarly there were riots in Bareilly in 1816, the Kol rebellion of 1831-33, the rebellion of the kings of 1848 Kangra, Jaswar and Datarpur, the rebellion of the Santhals in 1855-56. All these rebellions were due to the economic, social, political and religious policies of the East India Company. This fire slowly smoldered and ignited fiercely in 1857 and shook the roots of the Indian Empire of the East India Company.
Nature of the Revolution of 1857

       Historians have expressed different opinions about the nature of the revolution of 1857.

* It was a military rebellion

       The exponents of this idea are Sir John Lawrence and John Seeley. According to Sir John Seeley, the Revolt of 1857 was “a completely patriotic and selfish military rebellion with neither local leadership nor general support.” According to him “It is an installed
The Indian Army was a rebellion against the government.

      It is true that this rebellion started as a military rebellion, but at all places it was not limited to the army. Not all the soldiers also joined the rebellion, but most of the soldiers were with the government. The rebels came from every section of the people. It had public support in Awadh and similarly it happened in some districts of Bihar. In the prosecutions of 1858-59, thousands of civilians, along with soldiers, were found guilty of rebellion and punished.

* It was a war of fanatics against Christians

     Do not L. E. R. It is extremely difficult for Reese to agree with his saying that “it was a war of fanatics against Christians”. In the heat of the rebellion, the moral rules of different religions had no control over the fighters. Both the parties resorted to their respective scriptures to hide their excesses. In the end, Christians won, not Christianity. Hindus and Muslims were defeated but Hindu and Muslim religions were not defeated. Christian missionaries made tireless efforts for the propagation of Christianity but did not get much success. It was neither a war of religions nor a war of castes. Rather it was a rebellion of the citizens of a country which they fought against a foreign power.

* It was a war between barbarism and civilization

      T. R. According to Homage, this barbarism was a war between civilization. Here he is describing Indians as barbaric and British as civilized. While both sides were guilty in the vandalism, the British had crossed all limits of cruelty. Hudson fired indiscriminately in Delhi. Neil was proud of the fact that he hanged hundreds of people without trial. There was no tree in Allahabad on which innocent people were not hanged. Even children playing in the street in Banaras were hanged. Russell, who was a correspondent for the London Times, wrote that the Muslim aristocracy were given live swine in raw pork skin and the pork was cut into their throats. The truth is that both sides forgot humanity in taking vengeance. So the perpetrators of such atrocities cannot be civilized.

* It was a Hindu-Muslim conspiracy

     Sir James Outram and W Taylor have described the rebellion as the result of Hindu-Muslim conspiracy. Outram was of the view that “it was a Muslim conspiracy to take advantage of Hindu grievances”.

* it was a national uprising

     Benjamin Disraeli, a prominent leader of the Contemporary Conservative Party of England, called it a “national uprising”. He believes that this rebellion was not a “spontaneous inspiration but the result of a conscious coincidence and that it was the result of a well-planned and well-organized effort waiting for an opportunity….. the rise and fall of the empire.” Cases don’t happen… Such rebellions happen because of the gathering of just and sufficient causes.”

       Similarly, Ashok Mehta in his book The Great Rebellion has tried to prove that the revolt of 1857 was national in nature. ( The Rebellion of 1857 was nation in character )

    Veer Savarkar has also termed this rebellion as “Planned War of National Independence” and has tried to prove that the revolts of 1826-27, 1831-32, 1848 and 1854 were the ones that took place in 1857. It was only a rehearsal of the great drama.

Apart from this, two famous historians Dr. R. C. Mazumdar and Dr. S. N. Sen has expressed different views. But both agree that the revolt of 1857 was the result of conscious planning and neither was there any skilled and accomplished person behind it.

      The mere fact that Nana Sahib went to Lucknow in March-April 1857 and the rebellion started in May does not prove that he had planned this rebellion.

     To say that Munshi Azimullah Khan and Range Bapu planned this rebellion also does not seem correct. Azimullah Khan had appeared before the Court of Directors on behalf of Nana Saheb for the pension to be given to Bajirao II and on his return went to Turkey and then met Umar Pasha on the battlefield of Crimea. Similarly, Range Bapu was sent to London to retrieve Satara. The visit of both the persons to London does not prove that they took part in the conspiracy.

   Similarly, sending chapatis and lotus flowers to different places does not prove anything definite. In the trial of Bahadur Shah, an attempt was made to prove that this conspiracy was his hand. Even the British officers did not believe the evidence that was collected. In fact, it became clear in that trial that the rebellion had surprised Bahadur Shah as much as the British.

   Both these scholars also agree that in the nineteenth century there was no such thing as nationalism in India. The leaders of the rebellion were not national leaders. Bahadur Shah was not a national emperor. He was forced to become the leader by the rebel soldiers.

   Nana Saheb raised the flag of rebellion when his envoy from London failed to get Bajirao II’s pension for him.

    Similarly, there was a fight in Jhansi over the question of succession and merger and the queen’s slogan was “Mera Jhansi will not give.” Of course, the queen got martyrdom while fighting, but she did not make it clear that she was fighting for the national interest.

  Similarly in Awadh and Bihar also there was a fight for the attainment of individual objectives. The support of the general public was negligible.

      R. C. Mazumdar termed this rebellion only as a military rebellion. Which he has mentioned in his book Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857. Dr. Mazumdar comes to the conclusion that “there was nothing in the behavior and conduct of the soldiers to make us believe or accept that they were inspired by the love of patriotism or that they were fighting against the British because To make the country independent.”


      Here Dr. S. N. Sen’s approach differs from that of Mr. Mazumdar. He argues that revolutions are often the work of a small section, which may or may not have public support. According to Dr. Sen, if “a rebellion in which many people join, then its character becomes national.” Unfortunately most of the people in India remained fair and neutral. Therefore it is not proper to call the revolt of 1857 national.

 Causes of Revolt of 1857

    Most historians, both Anglo-Indians and Indians, have attributed military discontent and greased cartridges to the main causes of the Revolt of 1857. But it has been proved by the research of modern Indian historians that the fat cartridges were not the only reason or the most important reason for this revolt, from the Battle of Plassey of June 1757 till the killing of English agent by Mangal Pandey on 29 March 1857. are hidden in the history of 100 years of English administration. Fattened cartridges and military rebellion was only a spark, which set on fire all those explosive substances which had gathered for political, social, religious and economic reasons, and it took the form of forest fire.

 Political reasons for the revolt of 1857

  • Through the subsidiary treaty of Lord Wellesley, the company established powerful control over the Indian states.
  • Lord Dalhousie’s doctrine of lapse gave rise to the new merger policy, according to which the Hindu kings were stripped of the right to take adopted sons.
  • Satara, Jaitpur, Sambhalpur, Baghat, Udepur, Jhansi and Nagpur were annexed to the British Empire under the principle of lapse.
  • The state titles of the Nawabs of Tanjore and Karnataka were abolished.
  • Awadh was annexed on the allegation of misgovernance
  • The title of Mughal emperor was abolished
  • Thus both Hindus and Muslims were afraid of the policy of the British.

  Economic Causes of the Revolt of 1857

        The merger of Indian princely states had many social and economic effects. The elite of India was deprived of power and status. In the new administrative set-up, it was very difficult for them to get the same old respect, because most of the high posts were reserved only for the British.

  • The highest post for an Indian in the army was that of Subedar, whose monthly salary was 60-70 rupees per month.
  • The highest post in the civil administration was that of Amin, whose salary was Rs 500 per month.
  • The land tax was collected very strictly.
  • If the rent was not deposited on time, the zamindari of the zamindars was taken away.
  • The use of political power by the East India Company led to the destruction of Indian handicrafts and trade.

     Karl Marx wrote in 1853 itself “It was the English infiltrator who broke the Indian loom and destroyed the charkha. The British began to deprive Indian cotton cloth from the English markets and then gave a turning point in India.” That only the land of cotton cloth was filled with cotton cloth. With the destruction of the cotton textile industry, the burden on agriculture increased and in the end the country became impoverished.”

  Social and Religious Causes of the Revolt of 1857

     Like all the conquering castes, the British rulers were very harsh and arrogant towards the conquered people. Apart from this, he was also inspired by the spirit of apartheid. They looked down upon Indians and considered Hindus as barbarians and Muslims as fanatics, ruthless and dishonest.

  • The Indians were called black and boar. The British did not miss any opportunity to humiliate the Indians.
  • British officers and European soldiers used to rape Indians while going hunting. British judges used to give up in these cases with simple punishment.
  • One of the objectives of the British was to convert Indians to Christianity. The Indians who became Christians were given adequate facilities.
  • Ram and Muhammad were abused. Hindu gods and goddesses were insulted.
  • Christian missionaries used to lure people into Christians.
  • So the Indians were convinced that the British would destroy their religion and culture, so there was resentment among the Indians.Military Causes of the Revolt of 1857
  • 60% of the Bengal army came from Oudh and the North-Western Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) and most of them were upper caste Brahmins and Rajputs who were often unwilling to accept the discipline in which they were treated as equals with lower caste soldiers. Sir Charles Napier had no faith in these “high caste” mercenaries.
  • Indian soldiers were also sent abroad and no additional allowance was given. 
  • Indian soldiers who came back from foreign service were excommunicated from Indian society. 
  • Indian soldiers had to bear the cost of their uniform and shoes while British soldiers were given additional allowance for this. 
  • In 1856 the ratio of European and Indian soldiers was about 1 : 5 ( 238000 Indian and 45000 British soldiers )

  The immediate cause of the Revolt of 1857

         In 1856, the government decided to use the more advanced New Enfield rifle in place of the old iron gun ‘Brown Bess’. Training in the use of this new rifle was to be given in Dum-Dum, Ambala and Sialkot. In this new rifle, the upper part of the cartridge had to be cut through the mouth. In January 1857, a rumor spread in the Bengal Army that the fat cartridge contained the fat of cow and pig. However, the British officials denied it without investigation. But further investigation found the fact to be correct that “the fat of cows and oxen was actually used in the Woolwich arsenal.” Now the soldiers were convinced that the use of fat cartridges was a definite attempt to corrupt them.

Mangal Pandey’s rebellion

      The spark of the rebellion began on March 29, 1857, when some Indian soldiers of the 19th and 34th Native Infantry stationed at Barrackpore near Calcutta revolted and Mangal Pandey, a Brahmin soldier, killed two British officers. . The rebellion was given medicine and Mangal Pandey was hanged on 8 April 1857.

Where did the revolt of 1857 begin?

     The revolt of 1857 started from Meerut on May 10, 1857, when on May 10, 1857, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers at Meerut refused to touch the greased cartridges and openly revolted.

Expansion of the Revolt of 1857

     On 11 May 1857 the rebels reached Delhi from Meerut and asked the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to lead. The rebels captured Delhi on 12 May and Bahadur Shah II was declared emperor of India.

      The exit of Delhi was a setback for the British, so the British called forces from Punjab and attacked Delhi, the rebels fought very bravely but were defeated in the end due to limited resources. In September 1857, Delhi fell into the hands of the British, John Nicholson was martyred. Bahadur Shah was arrested and his two sons and grandson were openly shot. Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon where he died on 7 November 1962.

Revolt in Lucknow 4 June 1857

     The rebellion started in Lucknow on 4 June 1857. Begum Hazrat Mahal, the queen of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, declared her 11-year-old son Bijris Qadar as the Nawab. Indian troops surrounded the residency where British resident Henry Lawrence had taken refuge with 2,000 soldiers. Henry Lawrence was executed. In November 1857, Sir Colin Campbell was sent from England to Lucknow to suppress the revolt with the help of Gurkha army. Begum Hazrat Mahal fled to Nepal and Maulbi Ahmadullah was killed while fighting. .

Revolt in Kanpur 4 June 1857

     On 4 June the Second Cavalry and the First Native Infantry revolted in Kanpur and killed hundreds of English men, women and children. Dhodu Pandit alias Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Peshwa Bajirao II, the leader of the rebellion in Kanpur, declared himself as Peshwa. Nana Sahib was assisted by Tatya Tope. After the capture of Lucknow, Colin Campbell suppressed the rebellion in Kanpur and recaptured Lucknow on 6 December 1858. Nana Sahib escaped and went to Nepal. Tantya Tope went to Jhansi and met Rani Laxmibai.

Rebellion in Jhansi

        Rani Lakshmibai led the rebels in Jhansi. Lord Dalhousie refused to accept his adopted son as heir and annexed the state to the British state under the policy of usurpation. The queen appealed against it, but there was no hearing. At the time of the rebellion, the queen again started talks with the British and said that if the British government returned her kingdom, she would support the British. But the British rejected his offer. Then Lakshibai accepted the leadership of the rebel soldiers.

rani lakhsmi bai
Rani Lakshmibai-photo credit


     The Rani of Jhansi fought till the end with ‘manhood’ and got martyred on 17 June 1858 while fighting in the battlefield. General Hugh Rose, who defeated them, said of his formidable enemy that “here lies the woman who was the only man in the rebellion”. Tantya Tope was caught with the help of a betrayer and hanged on 15 April 1859.

Rebellion in Bareilly

       Khan Bahadur Khan, the successor of the former ruler of Rohilkhand in Bareilly, declared himself the Nawab Nazim. By the end of 1859, Bareilly was also occupied by the British. Khan Bahadur Khan was killed.
rebellion in bihar

    Eighty year old Rajput landlord Kunwar Singh, the owner of the vast Jagir of Arrah in Bihar, raised the flag of rebellion. Kunwar Singh conducted the rebellion for the longest time. After ten months of successful battles, Kunwar Singh died on 9 May 1858 due to wounds received in the war.

Colonel Neel suppressed the rebellion in Banaras. Thus the rebellion was completely suppressed by the end of 1858.

Main Reasons for the failure of the Revolt of 1857

1- The revolution should not spread all over India. Punjab, Gwalior, Baroda, Sindh, Rajasthan, Sikhs, Marathas, Rajputs, East India South India Rajputana remained completely British royalists.

2- The British had more resources and army while the rebels were fighting more with limited resources.

3- This rebellion was mainly feudal in which some nationalist elements were present. But everyone had their own interests.

4- Lack of proper leadership and organization. There was no coordination among the rebels.

5- This rebellion had a lot of public support.

6- The British had capable generals like Lawrence brothers, Nicholson, Outram, Havelock, Edwards.

7- The rebels lacked discipline.

Major Hero of the Revolt of 1857

Emperor Bahadur Shah – Delhi

Nana Sahib – Kanpur

Laxmibai – Jhansi

Begum Hazrat Mahal – Lucknow

Kunwar Singh – Bihar

Maulvi Ahmadullah – Awadh and Rohilkhand

Prince Firoz Shah – Mandsaur (Madhya Pradesh)

Khan Bahadur Khan – Rohilkhand

Tantya Tope (Ramchandra Pandurang) – Kanpur and Jhansi


    Thus ended the revolt of 1857. This was the first formidable challenge, in order to overcome which the British had to put a lot of pressure on them. The revolution was unsuccessful but its results were positive. This laid the foundation for changes in the policies of the British. The revolution of 1857 acted as a guide for independence among Indians.

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