The Indian Mutiny of 1857
The First War of Indian Independence started with the revolt of the
military soldiers in 1857 at Meerut and posed challenge to the British
rule. It was a popular revolt in which by and large the Indian rulers,
the masses and the militia participated.
zamindari system, insisting of the use of British manufactured goods,
opposition of Indian religion and caste system and Indian soldiers as
well as people in administration could not rise in hierarchy as the
senior jobs were reserved for the Europeans; all aroused resentment
among masses. This discontent and disgust against the British rule had
grown when the sepoy were given new cartridges greased with cow and pig
fat, whose covering had to be stripped out by biting with the mouth
before using them in rifles. The Hindu as well as the Muslim soldiers,
who refused to use such cartridges, were arrested This resulted in a
revolt of 1857 by the 'sepoys' at Meerut whose religious sentiments were
The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs and all fought to
outset the British from India. The revolt began from Meerut in May 1857
and ended in Gwalior in June 1858.
The rebel forces soon captured
Delhi and the revolt spread to a wider area and there was uprising in
almost all parts of the country. The most ferocious battles were fought
in Delhi, Awadh, Rohilkhand, Bundelkhand, Allahabad, Agra, Meerut and
western Bihar. The rebellious forces under the commands of Kanwar Singh
in Bihar and Bakht Khan in Delhi gave a stunning blow to the British. In
Kanpur, Nana Sahib was proclaimed as the Peshwa and the brave leader
Tantya Tope led his troops. Rani Lakshmibai was proclaimed the ruler of
Jhansi who led her troops in the heroic battles with the British.
Pandey, a soldier of the 34th Native Infantry in Barrackpore was the
hero of the 1857 revolt. He attacked his British sergeant and wounded an
adjutant, General Hearsay. Mangal Pandey was hanged on 7 April. The
whole regiment was dismissed as a collective punishment. The 11th and
20th Cavalry assembled, they broke rank and turned on their commanding
officers, liberated the 3rd Regiment, and the sepoys reached Delhi and
were joined by other Indians. The Red Fort, was attacked and captured by
Soon, the revolt spread throughout northern India.
Revolts broke out in places like Meerut, Jhansi, Kanpur, Lucknow and many other places.
British moved European regiments towards India. The British fought the
main army of the rebels near Delhi in Badl-ke-Serai and drove them back
to Delhi. After a brief war spanning a week, the British retook the
city. Rani Lakshmi Bai was killed in Gwalior in 1858.
notable leaders were Maulavi Ahmedullah Shah, an advisor of Oudh, Nana
Sahib, Rao Sahib, Tantia Tope, Azimullah Khan, the Rani of Jhansi,
Kunwar Singh, the Rajput chief of Jagadishpur, Firuz Saha, Bahadur Shah
and Pran Sukh Yadav who along with Rao Tula Ram of Rewari.
war of 1857 was a major turning point in the history of modern India.
The British abolished the British East India Company and replaced it
with direct rule under the British crown and a Viceroy was appointed to
represent the Crown.
The British embarked on a program in India
of reform and political restructuring, trying to integrate Indian higher
castes and rulers into the government. They stopped land grabs, decreed
religious tolerance and admitted Indians into the civil service. The
Governor General was given title of Viceroy. They also increased the
number of British soldiers in relation to native ones and allowed only
British soldiers to handle artillery. Queen Victoria assumed the title
of the Empress of India and thus gave the British Government unlimited
powers to intervene in the internal affair of the Indian states. In
1877, Queen Victoria took the title of Empress of India.'
rule of East India Company ended as a consequence to the failure of the
Revolt of 1857 and many important changes took place in the British
Government's policy towards India.
The British provided their
support to the loyal princes, zamindar and local chiefs but neglected
the educated people and the common masses. They promoted the interests
of the British merchants, industrialists, planters and civil servants.
The people of India did not play any role in running the government or
formulation of its policies. Indian National Movement rose as a
consequence of people’s growing discontent.