Revolt of 1857 - Examine the reasons

Revolt of 1857 - Examine the reasons

Question - Greased Cartridge Incident became a prime cause in the outbreak of the Revolt of 1857. This gave a grounding for other causes to unravel which contributed to the revolt becoming a mass event. Comment.


Question - Years after the Battle of Plassey, anger against the oppressive British Government took the form of a rising that shook the foundations of British rule in India. Explain.

The revolt of 1857 is often referred to as the first war of independence. Preceding events with disturbing effects from different parts of the country contributed to the revolt. The revolt is seen as the first organized resistance against the oppressive British rule. Although it began as a revolt of sepoys of the Company’s army it eventually was seen as a mass participation event irrespective of caste creed and religion.

Political Causes: The Doctrine of Lapse issued the policy that the East India Company would take control of those Indian states of a which a local ruler had died without a heir. The doctrine worked as a cover under which the Company annexed territories in a questionable manner.

Awadh became the focal point of discontent when it was annexed by Lord Dalhousie under the pretext of maladministration leaving nobles and officials jobless. Above all, the declaration that Bahadur Shah II of the Mughal Empire, would not be allowed to live in the Red Fort, created discontent. The various peasant and tribal uprisings too contributed to the revolt.

Religious and Social causes: To the outrage of Hindus, the East India Company dissuaded certain religious traditions like sati and undermined the caste system. To add to the existing frustration, Christian missionaries started arriving in India to preach Christianity which made the Indians feel threatened in regard to their religion. Unfair practices like letting go of Company officials despite them having murdered or abused Indians fueled the angst. There existed a general sense of racial superiority among the British.

Economic causes: Heavy taxes on land and unfair methods of collecting revenue led to deep resentment. This also at times led to losing their land to the British in case they were unable to repay loans.

The post Industrial Revolution period witnessed a rapid flow to India of goods manufactured in England. India was made a source for raw material and a consumer of
Britain goods. This resulted in Indian handicrafts suffering a setback having to compete with British produced goods. This economic exploitation bore grievances against the Company's rule.

Military causes: Indian sepoys formed more than eighty percent of British troops in India. Despite this majority they were considered inferior to British soldiers and were paid less than their European counterparts of the same rank. Besides, an Indian sepoy could not rise to a rank higher than that of a Subedar.

Immediate causes: Number of preceding piled up angst and frustration proved to be reasons for the revolt however the immediate cause that broke out was the greased cartridges which were rumored to have been greased with the fat of cows and pigs. This cover had to be bitten off before loading. Both Hindu and Muslims refused to use them. The revolt had its roots in Meerut which happened to be the first area to receive the new weapons. The British manufacturers soon changed the cartridges however this only confirmed the rumors leading to a greater resentment.

Despite an organized revolt from all classes and society of India, this did not bring freedom but laid a foundation for the freedom movement. As a matter of fact this resulted in Britain taking stronger control by the British Crown assuming power and the Company losing its hold.
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