Modern Indian History

Revolt of 1857

The Indian Rebellion 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. 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 miles 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. 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 formally to have ended until 8 July 1859. The rebellion is known by many names, including the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Insurrection, and India's First War of Independence.

Political Causes

Nana Sahib was refused pension, as he was the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II.
The policy of Doctrine of Lapse.

Economic Causes

Heavy taxation, evictions, discriminatory tariff policy against Indian products and destruction of traditional handicrafts that hit peasants, artisans and small zamindars.

Administrative Causes

Indian soldiers were paid low salaries; they could not rise above the rank of subedar and were racially insulted.
They were also grieved because of the refusal of British to pay Foreign Service allowance (batta) while fighting in remote regions such as Punjab and Sindh.

Socio - Religious Causes

British social reforms (widow remarriage, abolition of Sati, education for girls, Christian missionaries).
The introduction of Enfield rifle, the cartridge of which was greased with animal fat, provided the spark.
Inventions like railway and telegraphs spread of Western education also promoted the cause.


On Mar 29, 1857, a soldier named Mangal Pandey attacked and fired at his senior at Barrackpur in Bengal (in 19th and 34th Native infantry).
On May 10, there was a mutiny of sepoys’ at Meerut (3rd native cavalry).
Mutiny spread throughout UP along with some other parts of the country.
‘Mar to Delhi’ became the battle cry of the rebels. At Delhi, the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II was proclaimed the Emperor of India.
Where the rulers were loyal to the British, the soldiers revolted as in Gwalior and Indore. In some places, the people revolted before the sepoys did.
In the beginning, the rebels were successful. Europeans were killed, law courts and police stations were attacked and revenue records were destroyed. But reverses soon began to occur.



Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah, but real command lay with Bakht Khan (was from the Barreily unit of the army).


Nana Sahib (from Kanpur, along with Tantia Tope and Azimullah)


Begum Hazrat Mahal of Awadh (declared her son as the Nawab of Awadh).


Khan Bahadur

Bihar (Arrah)

Kunwar Singh, Zamindar of Jagdishpur


Rani Lakshmi Bai, the queen of Jhansi, represents a symbol of resistance to British rule in India. Affectionately called Manu, she was married to Raja Gangadhar Rao, the Maharaja of Jhansi in 1842. She gave birth to a son in 1851, but this child died when he was about four months old. In 1853, the couple was forced to adopt a child as Gangadhar Rao fell very ill and died.
Lord Dalhousie tried to annex Jhansi under the Doctrine of I.apse. But Rani was determined to defend Jhansi. She fought valiantly and was even able to acquire Gwalior from the Sindhia rulers, who were British allies. But eventually, the Rani reached her martyrdom at Kalpi, near Jhansi.
Because of her unprecedented bravery, courage and wisdom, and her progressive views on women’s empowerment, and dAue to her sacrifices, she became an icon of Indian nationalist movement.

Rani Lakshmibai, the widowed queen of Raja Gangadhar Rao of Jhansi (Tantia Tope joined her and they defeated the Scindia of Gwalior, but both were defeated by Sir Hugh Rose. She died on Jun 17, 1858, while Tantia was later captured and executed).
Kunwar Singh and Amar Singh (Bihar).
Maulavi Ahmedullah (First Awadh and then Rohilkhand).
Devi Singh of Mathura.
Kadam Singh of Meerut.


Delhi : By John Nicholson and Hudson
Kanpur : By Campbell, Havelock
Lucknow : By Havelock, Outram, James Neill and
Campbell Jhansi : Hugh Rose
Banaras : James Neill
The revolt was completely suppressed by the end of 1858.


Bahadur Shah II : Deported to Rangoon, where he died in 1862. His sons were shot dead.
Nana Sahib and Begum Hazrat Mahal : Escaped to Nepal.
Rani Jhansi : Died in the battle field.
Tantia Tope : Was captured and executed in 1859.


Scindia of Gwalior, the Holkar of Indore, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Raja of Jodhpur, the Nawab of Bhopal, the rulers of Patiala, Sindh and Kashmir and the Rana of Nepal provided active support to the British.
The military equipment of the rebels was inferior.
Comparative lack of efficient leadership.
The modern intelligent Indians also didn’t support the cause.


The revolt was mainly feudal in character carrying with it some nationalist elements.
The control of Indian administration was passed on to the British crown by the Govt, of India Act, 1858. The army was carefully reorganized to prevent the recurrence of such an event.


British Historians - A Mutiny, due to the use of greased cartridges.
Disraeli (Opposition Leader) - A national revolt rooted in deep mistrust.
V D Savarkar- First War of Independence.
S B Choudhary - Civil Rebellion.
R C Majumdar - Neither “first” nor “national” nor ‘a war of independence”.
S X Sen - An effort by the conservative elements to turn the clock back
Marxists - A soldier-peasant struggle against foreign and feudal bondage
Malleson - Sepoy Mutiny


February 1857 - Mutiny of the 19th Native Infantry at Berhampur.
10 May 1857 - Mutiny of Sepoys at Meerut.
11-30 May 1857-Outbreaks in Delhi. Ferozepur. Bombay. Aligarh. Etawah. Bulandshahr. Nasirabad. Bareilly. Moradabad, Shahjehanpur and other stations in UP.
The Mughal Emperor proclaimed as the Emperor of India.
June 1857 - Mutinies at Gwalior, Bharatpur. Jhansi. Allahabad. Faizabad. Sultanpur. Lucknow etc.
The civil rebellion spreads through the Indo-Gangetic plain. Rajputana. Central India and some parts of Bengal.
July 1857 - Mutinies at Indore, Mhow. Saugar and certain places in the Panjab like Jhelum. Sialkot etc.
August 1857 -Civil rebel I ion spreads throughout Saugor and Nerbudda districts.
September 1857 - The English recapture Delhi: further out-breaks in Central India.
October 1857 - Revolt spreads to Kotah Stale
November 1857 - The rebels defeat General Windham outside Kanpur
December 1857 - Sir Colin Campbell wins the battle of Kanapur
Tantia lope escapes
March 1858 - Lucknow recaptured by the English
April 1858 - Jhansi falls to the English, fresh rising in Bihar led by Kunwar Singh
May 1858 - The English recapture Barcilly. Jagdishpur and Kalpi
Indian rebels begin guerilla warfare in Rohilkhand

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