Rebellion of 1857 - First War of Indian Independence

Reasons of the 1857 Revolt – the First War of Indian Independence

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 is considered as the very First War and Revolutionary Upheaval of the Indian Independence History.

The 1857 Rebellion was a major uprising and protest against British in 1857-1858 in British India. It has some other names too, like Sepoy Mutiny, Indian Mutiny, Great Rebellion, Revolt of 1857, Indian Insurrection, etc.

So, in this blog post, I will be covering the Indian Revolt of 1857 and the Reasons of the 1857 Rebellion.

Here we go…

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What is the Indian Rebellion of 1857?

It all started in the Garrison town of Meerut in the form of a mutiny of sepoys of the Company’s army. After that, in the leadership of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the rebels reached Delhi very quickly.

After a few days, the revolt grew so much that it captured most of the parts of the North-Western Provinces and Awadh (Oudh).

Initially, Indians were gaining control over many places but the British also took rapid reaction and started to counterattack after reinforcing their forces. And, due to the lack of centralised control, the mutineers started to lose control over the regions.

First War of Independence 1857

A Scene from 1857 Revolt (Bengal Army) [Source]

 

Reasons for the Indian Rebellion of 1857

There were not one but many reasons for the 1857 Revolt. Below I will be explaining all the main reasons for the mutiny.

1. Patriotic Revolt

In some of the regions, the revolt had taken a patriotic form. Most notably in Oudh, the rebellion had started against the European (mostly the British) oppression.

2. Religious Revolt

The pre-greased paper cartridges of the new Enfield P-53 rifle were also one of the reasons. A rumour spread that the cartridges contained grease fats from Beef and Pork which both Hindu and Muslims were angry with.

3. Communal Revolt

It is said that the Madras Army and Bombay Army were “more localized, caste-neutral armies” and they did not prefer “high-caste men” to be hired in the army.

So, the domination of High Caste people in the army was also one of the reasons for the revolt.

4. Religion Conversions

Yes, there was also a rumour that the British were changing the minds of the Indians and trying to convert both the Hindus and Muslims to Christianity.

5. Heavy Land-revenue Assessments

In some areas, the British had applied a heavy amount of assessments on the land-revenue which was also one of the reasons for the revolt.

6. Lower Pay Scale

Indians in the Bengal army were very unhappy with their sepoy lifestyle and with the salaries they received. So, when the mutiny in Oudh started the Bengal army also started to protest but the reasons were totally different.

Indian Leaders and Commanders Involved in the 1857 Rebellion

  • Bahadur Shah Zafar
  • Bakht Khan (Killed in Action)
  • Nana Sahib
  • Tatya Tope (Executed)
  • Rani Lakshmibai (Killed in Action)
  • Begum Hazrat Mahal
  • Birjis Qadr

Results, Casualties and Losses after the Revolt

Almost 6000 British and 800000 (possibly more) Indians including civilians lost their lives during the revolt.

It was estimated to be 150,000 Indians killed in the Oudh (Awadh) alone and among them 100000 were civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were executed and tortured suspected of supporting the rebellion. Some of the most torturous punishments were:

  • Searing with a hot iron
  • Sequencing the testicles
  • Red chillies in the eyes
  • Hindus and Muslims were forced to eat Beef or Pork
  • Rebellions were tied on the cannons and cannons were fired
  • Red chillies in the private parts of men and women
  • Prevention of sleep
  • Nipping off the flesh with pinners
  • Sexual violence against Indian women
  • Random civilians shot dead and butchered
Execution of Suspected Rebellions

Execution of the Suspected Rebellions by the British

 

Finally, the rebellion ended on 8th July 1858 with the signing of a peace treaty.


Sources:

Indian Rebellion of 1857
The Revolt of 1857- India’s First War of Independence

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