Revolution of 1857 - Modern Indian History

Revolution of 1857 - Modern Indian History
Posted on 03-06-2022

Revolution of 1857

The views of historians about the struggle of 1857 are not the same. Some scholars believe that this rise of 4 months was a peasant rebellion, while some consider this great event to be a military rebellion. VD In Savarkar's book "The Indian War of Independence" (published in 1909), it was considered the first freedom struggle. In the historiography (nationalist historians) of the early 20th century, it is shown the struggle of heroic freedom fighters who are also described as Ghadar. Mangal Pandey's rebellion in Barrackpore Cantonment near Calcutta is considered an important event that turned into the first war of independence.

The role of the army was important in the establishment of British colonial rule in India during the East India Company period. During the reign of Warren Hastings as governor-general, the East India Company's gradual annexation of states led to a continuous expansion of its territory as well as its army. More than 80 percent of people of Indian origin were employed in the British army. Unlike European soldiers, he had the status of a soldier. So far we have seen the devotion of these soldiers towards the East India Company in the battles of Plassey and Buxar.

One of the immediate causes of the Revolt of 1857 was the rumor that the cartridge shell of the 1853 rifle was coated with the fat of pigs and cows. This rumor was hurting the sentiments of people of both Hindu and Muslim religions. These rifles were part of the 1853 rifle arsenal.

The Revolt of 1857 was not an accidental event, but it was the result of many reasons, which were as follows-

Political reasons

  • Dalhousie's Imperialist Policy:- Lord Dalhousie (1848 – 56) adopted various unjust methods to expand his empire in India. Therefore, there was deep discontent against the Company in the princely states and Nawabs. He adopted the principle of lapse. This principle means, “The princely states which are under the Company, they have to take the recognition and approval of the British Government regarding their successors. If the princely states do not do this, then the British government will not consider the successors to be the legitimate rulers of their states. On the basis of this policy, Dalhousie banned the adoption of childless kings and on this basis, he annexed the princely states of Satara, Jaitpur, Sambalpur, Baghat, Udaipur, Jhansi, Nagpur, etc. to the British Empire. He accused the Nawab of Awadh of misrule in 1856 AD. In AD Awadh was merged with the British Empire. Dalhousie's imperialist policy created a feeling of deep discontent and hatred for the British among the Indian kings. Along with this, the royal people also started doubting their existence. In fact, this policy of Dalhousie made a deep impact on the Indians. In these circumstances, rebellion against the British Empire became a human necessity.
  • Contemporary conditions: -  The Indian people earlier considered the British soldiers undefeated, but the plight of the British in the wars of Crimea and Afghanistan, erased this illusion of the Indians. At the same time, there were rumors of Russia's plan to invade India to avenge the defeat of Crimea and India to support it. This strengthened the spirit of rebellion among Indians. He thought that while the British were busy against Russia, they could revolt and drive the British out of India.
  • Misbehavior with Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah:- The  Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah was emotional and kind in nature. The native kings and the Indian people still revered him. The British misbehaved with the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah. Now the British stopped paying tribute to the Mughal emperor and showing respect to him. The emperor's name was removed from the currency.
  • Injustice to Nana Saheb: -  Lord Dalhousie also misbehaved with Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Bajirao II. Nana Saheb's pension of Rs 8 lakh was discontinued. As a result, Nana Saheb became an enemy of the British and he led the rebellion of 1857 AD.

Commercial purpose

  • Destruction of trade: - The British exploited the Indians fiercely. The British obtained money by plundering India and sending it to England. The British sent raw materials from India to England and from there the goods were prepared by machines and started coming to India. As a result of this India started getting poor day by day. Due to this, the industries of Indians started getting destroyed. In this way, the British exploited the Indians economically by establishing their control over the Indian trade.
  • The exploitation of farmers: -  In the name of improving the condition of the farmers, the British implemented the system of permanent settlement, Raiywari, and Mahalwari, but in all these practices the farmers were exploited and a lot of rent was collected from them. Due to this, the condition of the farmers worsened. The land of farmers who could not pay taxes on time was auctioned.
  • Famine:  During the British rule, there were frequent famines, which worsened the condition of the farmers.
  • Snatching the jagirs of the reward: -  Bentik also snatched the jagirs given in the reward, due to which the people of the elite class became poor and they had to stumble from rate to rate. The famous Imam Commission of Bombay confiscated 20,000 jagirs in 1852. Therefore, dissatisfaction began to increase among the nobles, which could only be quelled by rebellion.
  • Destruction and unemployment of Indian industries:-  Due to the policy of economic exploitation adopted by the British, the domestic industries of India started getting destroyed and unemployment spread widely in the country.

Social cause

  • Intervention in the social life of Indians by the British: -  Due to the intervention of the British in the social life of Indians, the traditional and conservative people of India became angry with them. Lord William Bentinck outlawed the practice of Sati and Lord Canning recognized the practice of widow remarriage. As a result of this, there was deep anger among the public. Apart from this, in 1856 AD, changes were made in the succession rules of Hindus by making a law regarding the paternal property. By this, it was decided that the person who converted to Christianity would continue to have a share in his ancestral property. The orthodox Indians could not like this type of intervention of the British in their social life. So he decided to take the path of rebellion.
  • Promotion of Western culture:-   The British encouraged their culture and propagated it in India. He inspired European medical science, which was against Indian medical science. Indian people considered telegram and rail against their civilization. The British gave great encouragement to Christianity. Schools, hospitals, offices, and the army became centers of Christian propagation. Now the Indians were convinced that the British wanted to destroy their culture. Therefore, deep discontent arose among them, which took the form of revolution.
  • Effect of Western Education:-  Western education destroyed the basic features of Indian society. Demonstration of gratitude, duty, mutual cooperation, etc. were the traditional features of Indian society, but British education destroyed them. Western civilization brought about a revolutionary change in the living, eating habits, conduct, etiquette, and behavior of Indians. Due to this, the originality of Indian social life began to end. The nobles were annoyed by the British taking away their jagirs, the interference of the British in the social life of the Indians created fear among the Indians that the British wanted to spread western culture. Indian conservative people considered scientific experiments like rail, wire, etc. against their civilization.
  • Discrimination policy towards Indians:-  The British considered Indians inferior and hated them. He adopted a discriminatory policy towards Indians. Indians did not have the right to travel in the first-class compartment on the trains. Indians were not allowed to enter the clubs and hotels run by the British.

Religious reasons

  • Christianity was first propagated by the Portuguese in India, but the British spread it a lot. In 1831 AD, the Charter Act was passed, through which Christian missionaries were given the freedom to propagate their religion freely in India. The preachers of Christianity openly condemned Hinduism and Islam. They openly condemned the incarnations, prophets, and great men of Hindus and Muslims and called them miscreants. They used to exaggerate the evils of these religions and used to tell their religion was superior to these religions.

Administrative reasons

  • Due to the various flawed policies of the British, the institutions and traditions prevalent in India were getting destroyed. The administration was separating from the people. By adopting a discriminatory policy, the British did not allow Indians to join the administrative services. Lord Cornwallis considered Indians unworthy of higher services. Therefore, they replaced the Indians on high posts and appointed the British. The British considered themselves superior and superior to the Indians in the field of justice. Indian judges could not hear cases against any British.
  • After the establishment of British power in India, a powerful British bureaucracy emerged in the country. This class hated the Indians and did not like to meet them. The Indians were enraged by this policy of the British and the flames of dissatisfaction started burning in them.

Military cause

  • Indian soldiers were angry with the British for many reasons. They were treated discriminately in respect of salary, allowances, promotion, etc. The salary of an ordinary soldier was 7-8 rupees monthly, and after paying for food and uniform, he was left with one and a half rupees. Indians were treated with favor compared to the British. For example, the Indian Subedar's salary was Rs 35 per month, while the British Subedar's salary was Rs 195 per month. Indians were not appointed to high positions in the army. Only the British were appointed to high posts. Dr. R. C. Mazumdar has given three reasons for the fury of Indian soldiers –
    1. There were many soldiers of Awadh in the Bengal army. Therefore, when Awadh was taken into the British Empire in 1856 AD, discontent arose among them.
    2. The British ordered Sikh soldiers to cut their hair and those who did not do so were thrown out of the army.
    3. Indians were also displeased with the British government's propagation of Christianity.

Current reasons

  • By 1857, the atmosphere of rebellion in India was completely ready and now only one spark was needed to set fire to the pile of gunpowder. This spark was provided by greased cartridges. At this time the Enfield rifle was invented in Britain. The cartridges of these rifles were made greasy by the fat of cow and pig. Soldiers had to cut off its cap from the mouth, only after that these cartridges were inserted into the rifle. These fat-laden cartridges instigated the rebellion.

Beginning of revolution

The revolution of 1857 was initiated by the freedom-loving soldier of Meerut Cantonment, Mangal Pandey. On March 29, 1857, Mangal Pandey raised his voice against the use of new cartridges. It is noteworthy that in the new cartridges made available by the British Government for the use of the Indian Army, pig and cow fat was used. The British officers who came forward to capture Mangal Pandey inside the cantonment put him to death. On April 8, 1857, Mangal Pandey was hanged. On hearing the news of the death sentence given to him, an atmosphere of revolution was established in the whole country.

On May 10, 1857, the soldiers of Meerut began to break the jail houses, free the Indian soldiers and kill the British. Enthused by the success achieved in Meerut, the soldiers proceeded towards Delhi. After coming to Delhi, the revolutionary soldiers killed Colonel Ripley and took control of Delhi. At the same time, independence was also declared in Aligarh, Etawah, Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Bulandshahr, etc.

Major centers of rebellion and key leaders of the center

Delhi – General Bakht Khan
Kanpur – Nana Sahib
Lucknow – Begum Hazrat Mahal
Bareilly – Khan Bahadur
Bihar – Kunwar Singh
Faizabad – Maulvi Ahmadullah
Jhansi – Rani Laxmi Bai
Allahabad – Liaquat Ali
Gwalior – Tatya Tope
Gorakhpur – Gajadhar Singh

Major British General at the time of the Rebellion

Delhi – Lieutenant Willoughby, Nicholson, Hudson
Kanpur – Sir Hugh Wheeler, Colin Campbell
Lucknow – Henry Lawrence, Henry Havelock, James Outram, Sir Colin Campbell
Jhansi – Sir Hugh Rose
Benares – Colonel James Neill

Suppression of revolution

  • The nationwide nature of the revolution and the growing resentment among Indians towards the British government adopted a policy of ruthless repression. The then Viceroy Lord Canning brought in English forces from outside. The manner in which the army led by General Neil crushed the revolution in Banaras and Allahabad was completely inhuman. The innocent were also given capital punishment. The massacre started after Bahadur Shah was arrested in Delhi. He got people killed with ruthlessness in Phulwar, Ambala, etc. In violation of military rules, many of the prisoner soldiers were blown away by putting them on the mouth of the cannon. In Punjab, the soldiers were surrounded and burnt alive.
  • The British did not suppress the revolution only with the help of their military power, but they got Bahadur Shah arrested by inducement, killed his sons, and made the soldiers, Sikhs and Madrasi soldiers on their side. In fact, if the Sikh regiment had not helped the British government in suppressing the revolution, it would have proved difficult for the British government to stop the revolutionaries. The British also got help in suppressing the revolution because the revolution had gained momentum in different areas at different times.

Reasons of the failure of the revolution

Following are the main reasons for the failure of the revolt of 1857-

  1.  This rebellion was local, unorganized, and limited. The armies of Bombay and Madras and the states south of the Narmada river fully supported the British in this rebellion of revolution.
  2.  The rebellion was also unsuccessful due to a lack of good means and money. Indian weapons proved to be a dwarf in front of the English weapons.
  3.  The 'educated class' remained completely indifferent to this revolt of 1857. The merchants and the educated class had also prayed for the success of the British by holding meetings in Calcutta and Bombay. If this class had infused enthusiasm among the people through its writings and speeches, then undoubtedly the result of this rebellion of revolution would have been different.
  4.  There was a complete lack of 'national spirit' in this rebellion because this rebellion could not get the cooperation of all sections of the Indian society. A section of the feudalist classes cooperated in the rebellion, but the kings of Patiala, Jind, Gwalior, and Hyderabad fully cooperated with the British in crushing the rebellion. Lord Canning had said at the time of crisis, "If Scindia also joins the rebellion, then I will have to leave India tomorrow". Indian kings were rewarded after suppressing the rebellion. The Nizam was returned to the province of Berar and his debts were forgiven. Scindia, Gaekwad, and Rajput kings also received awards.
  5.  The rebels lacked experience, organization ability, and the power to work together.
  6.  Military weakness contributed significantly to the failure of the rebellion. Bahadur Shah Zafar and Nana Saheb were certainly efficient organizers, but they lacked the ability of military leadership, while the English army had skilled generals like the Lawrence brothers, Nicholson, Havelock, Outram, and Edward.
  7.  The revolutionaries lacked proper leadership. The old Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar could not lead the revolutionaries in the manner which was required in the circumstances of the time.
  8. The rebel revolutionaries lacked concrete goals and clear plans. He was also not sure what to do and what not to do in the next moment. They were moving forward only out of emotion and circumstance.
  9. The use of means of transport and communication helped the British a lot in suppressing the rebellion. In this way, the means of transport and communication also helped in thwarting this rebellion.


The revolt of this great revolution of 1857 had far-reaching consequences, which are as follows-

  1. After the end of the rebellion, in 1858 AD, the British Parliament passed a law ending the existence of the East India Company, and now the full right of rule over India came into the hands of Queen Victoria. In England, under the Act of 1858, an 'Indian Secretary of State' was arranged, for whose assistance an 'Advisory Council' of 15 members was formed. Out of these 15 members, arrangements were made to appoint 8 by the government and 7 by the 'Court of High Courts'.
  2. The local people were told to restore their pride and rights. The Indian monarchs were assured by Queen Victoria to follow all the treaties on her behalf, but at the same time expected the same kind of observance from the monarchs. Along with the expression of the unwillingness to expand his territory, he spoke of not tolerating the encroachment of his territory or rights and not encroaching on others, and also ending religious exploitation and appoint without discrimination in the services. Was done.
  3. The number of European troops was increased on the basis of military reorganization. The appointment of Indians to high military posts was discontinued. The artillery was completely controlled by the English army. Now the ratio of Indian and English soldiers in the army for the Bengal Presidency was 2:1, while in the Madras and Bombay Presidencies this ratio became 3:1. The recruitment of soldiers from among the upper caste people was stopped.
  4. Under the Act of 1858 AD, the designation of the Governor-General in India was changed and he was given the designation of 'Viceroy'.
  5. The feudal structure collapsed as a result of the rebellion against the revolution. The image of the feudalists among the common Indians became that of traitors because this class had cooperated with the British in suppressing the rebellion.
  6. As a result of the rebellion, the feeling of national unity developed among Indians and Hindu-Muslim unity began to gain momentum, which later contributed significantly to the national movement.
  7. After the revolution of 1857 AD, the policy of expansion of the empire ended, but in its place, the era of economic exploitation started.
  8. The Indian Councils Act was passed in 1861 AD with little effort in the field of representation in the administration of Indians.
  9. Apart from this, the lack of propagation of Christianity, the propounding of the doctrine of the supremacy of the white race, and the end of the existence of the Mughal Empire were other consequences of the revolt of 1857 AD.


Thank You