Udayavni Special

India’s first war of Independence: The first blow that came to shatter the British rule in India.

Team Udayavani, Jul 10, 2020, 12:03 PM IST

India’s first war of independence also known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857, began on May 10 in the year 1857. The first martyr of the revolt was Mangal Pandey. Other rebellions and leaders included Rani Lakshmibai, Kunwar Singh, Bahadur Shah, Nana Saheb, Tatia Tope and Begum Hazrat Mahal

This was the first joint revolt against the British and the British historians called it “Sepoy Mutiny”

Reasons that led to the war

There was a policy of non-interference in the socio-religious life of the Indians but the British did not follow it. Christian missionaries were allowed to enter India and carry on with their mission of proselytizing. Also, The Religious Disabilities Act of 1850 modified the traditional Hindu law.

The Indians disliked and distrusted the administration of the British as they had abolished several intermediaries like Jagirdars, Taluqdars etc. with whom the people had direct contacts and they drew certain advantages as well.

British utilized the sources and wealth of India for their own ends. After Industrial Revolution imports from England augmented and the British created monopoly on trade in their favour. They converted India into a supplier of raw materials and a market for their finished goods

British interfered in the internal matters of Indian States and followed the policy of divide and rule. The subsidiary alliance and the Doctrine of Lapse of Dalhousie angered Indian Princes. Dalhousie announced in 1849, that the successor of Bahadur Shah II would have to leave the Red Fort. When Dalhousie wanted to apply the Doctrine of Lapse to Karauli, he was overruled by the court of Directors.

On January 1857, rumours had been taking rounds that the English cartridges were greased with animal fat. Cow was sacred to Hindus and pig was prohibited for Muslims and the Indian soldiers felt that the British were deliberately trying to spoil their religion.

Indian soldiers in the British army were looked down upon by their English officers. They were required to serve in area away from their homes without the payment of extra bhatta and were paid low salaries and not promoted above the rank of subedar.

Introduction of a new land revenue system which snatched the land from cultivators.

Reasons for its failure

The epicentres of the war Kanpur, Lucknow, Aligarh, Agra, Arrah, Delhi, and were far from each other due to which there was a communication gap between the leaders.

Also, the rebellion had no central leadership due to which it got limited to some parts of India only

The  rebels did not have enough weapons and money whereas British had advanced weapons and enough money to fight the war.

Majorly northern India was affected by this revolt, the three presidencies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras remained mostly unaffected  and Sikh soldiers also did not take part in the rebellion.

Impact of the war

The revolt of 1857 shook the foundation of British East India Company. In August 1850, the British Parliament passed an act for Better Government of India.

It marked the beginning of British raj that bestowed powers in the hands of the British government to rule India directly through representatives.


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