The Revolt of 1857

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 is also termed The First War of Indian Independence. The revolt was one of the important yet unsuccessful rebels against the rule of the British East India Company, which lasted from 1857 to 1859. There were political, social, military and economic causes that had added the uprising of the discontent among the citizens to fight against the British regime. Thus, the eventful mutiny was termed in various names viz. Sepoy Mutiny, The Revolt of 1857, The First War of Independence, etc.




  • The material for mass upheaval for the initial spark of the mutiny was ready by 1857. The episode of the greased cartridges of the Enfield Rifles of 1853 had commenced the outburst of the sentiments of the Muslim and Hindu sepoys.
  • The reason is that the cartridge had been greased by the fats from the beef and the pork (beef was offensive to Hindus and Pork for Muslims).
  • The sepoys had to bite the cartridge open for releasing the powder into the rifle. The fatty greased cartridges were found invasive for the religious sentiments of the sepoys.
  • In March 1857, Mangal Pandey, one of the sepoys at Barrackpore, had objected to the greased cartridge usage. Thereby he had revolted against his senior commanders.
  • General John Hearsey had ordered to arrest Mangal Pandey for his rebellious attack. Later, Mangal Pandey was arrested and hanged to death on 8th April 1857.
  • The effect had reverberated in major Northern and Central India by May 1857. In May, many sepoys of Meerut were sentenced to long-term prison for objecting to the use of the cartridges.


  • The native Indians were affected by the interference of the British in the religious and social customs.
  • There were social reforms like the Abolition of the Sati system; Female infanticide; Widow Remarriage which had presented a negative side of the British rule.
  • Rapidly spreading of western culture influence in the country had also shown a path for conversion to Christianity in a much prevalent way by the Christian Missionaries.
  • The Religious Disabilities Act(1850) introduction had interfered in the Hindu Law where the son who has converted into Christian would be able to inherit his father’s property.
  • Western methods of education also affected the social structure.


  • Most of the sepoys belonged to the peasantry class, who had to abide by the harsh ways of revenue collection.
  • Heavy taxes levied on agricultural lands had enraged the farmers and zamindars.
  • Due course of the Industrial Revolution had caused an infusion of British Manufactured goods which had adversely affected the industries of the country especially the textile industry.
  • There was draining of the country’s wealth causing the gradual outburst of mutiny.


  • One of the prime causes was the British policy of expansion in the country.
  • Lord Dalhousie had passed the Doctrine of Lapse in the late 1840s which had prohibited the Hindu Ruler without a natural inheritor to adopt any successor and after the ruler’s death, seizing his property.
  • Many of the upper caste Hindus, Brahmins were growing displeasure with such imposing doctrine had them lose their revenues and position.
  • Due to the Doctrine of Lapse, places like Awadh, Satara, Nagpur, Jhansi, etc. were annexed. The adopted son of Rani Lakshmi Bai was denied the throne, thus seized by the British.
  • Thereby during the tenure of Lord Dalhousie, there was a major British Indian territorial expansion.


  • Approximately 87% of the British troops in India engaged Indian soldiers. But they were considered much inferior to the British.
  • Hence there were discrepancies in distributing the wages to the Indian sepoys even though they served the same rank with the British.
  • Governor General Charles John Canning, in 1856, had introduced the General Services Enlistment Act wherein the Indian sepoys appointed are mandatorily asked to serve in British Land as well. It inflicted the spark of the sepoy revolt.


  • The revolt was limited to certain areas like Doab region, Rajputana, Sindh, Kashmir and most parts of Punjab, but most of the princely states like Hyderabad, Mysore, Travcancore and southern provinces did not participate in it.
  • The revolt lacked effective and strong leadership who could hold the drive as a whole.
  • Major problem was the revolt did not have sufficient money, men and resources to aggressively fight against the injustice. The British on the other hand had a good influx od men, money and ammunition in the country.
  • The educated middle class, rich traders and the zamindars had denied their participance for the revolt.


                             OUTCOMES OF THE REVOLT

  • British east India Company Rule ended after the revolt
  • Under the Proclamation made by Lord Canning at Durbar in Allahabad, on 1 November 1858, Indian administration will be directly taken over by Queen Victoria i.e., the British Parliament.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse was abolished considering the restoring of the rights of Indian rulers.
  • The Sepoy mutiny was able to be suppressed completely considering the interests of the Indian sepoys as well as the army was reorganised to avoid such relapse.


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