The Revolt of 1857 was the Culmination of the Recurrent Big and Small Local Rebellions that had Occurred in the Preceding Hundred Years of British Rule. Elucidate.

Updated February 5, 2022

The revolt of 1857 is called Indian Mutiny or the first war of Independence, it began on 10 May 1857 at Meerut and, it spread to Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow. The rebellion of 1857 was no sudden occurrence and was the culmination of a century-long resistance to British rule. The rebellion started with sepoy working in the British army and soon spread into local uprising and rebellions which involved civilians, peasant, artisans, and the whole community of India.

There are Various Causes of the Revolt of 1857

Political causes: The policy of doctrine of lapse was the main cause of the great revolt of 1857. It was an annexation policy Allegedly devised by Lord Dalhousie according to this policy if any princely state or territory under the British East India Company would automatically be annexed if the ruler died without a crown Prince.

Religious causes: The use of a new type of Enfield rifle with a cartridge which, was made from cow and big fat. Loading the cartridge required open the grease with one’s teeth. This would have insulted both Hindu and Muslim religions because Cows were worshiped by Hindus while the pig was considered unclean by Muslims.

Social causes: Saint Thomas the Apostle introduced Christianity in India and, established Christianity. So, in India, there were many Hindus who converted themselves into Christians. This hurts the Hindus community as they left their own caste. Also, Britishers abolished some systems such as sati, child marriage, etc. And, they thought that the Britishers were removing the Hindu caste and disregarding their religion.

Economic causes: The British policy of economically exploiting India, hurts all sections of society. And, the peasants suffered due to high revenue demands and the strict revenue collection policy. British manufactured cheap machinery goods on a large scale into India, which were ruined artisans and craftsmen. Due to this, artisan, small manufacturers of goods lost their source of livelihood which led to the discontentment and become the reason for the uprising of 1857.

Military causes: The Indian military was not satisfied with the policies of Lord Dalhousie and Lord Canning. And, the Indian military was discriminated against in terms of salaries, pensions, promotion. Also, for Indian military Soldiers, the rule was that if they were posted across the ocean and abroad, they would lose their religions.

Before the actual outbreak of 1857 happened the resentment, anger, and anguish of oppressed India took the form of small and big rebellions in a localized manner. These all rebellions possessed one or more characteristic issues seen responsible for the 1857 outbreak. In other words, the revolution of 1857 owed its roots in the small & big revolts and clashes that had occurred in the last 100 years prior to 1857. A glimpse of a few previous rebellions substantiates this fact:

Some Political-religious Movement

Sanyasi Uprising: Sanyasi Uprising in Bengal against the East India Company rule in the late 18th century. It is also known as the Sannyasi rebellion which took place around Murshidabad and Baikunthupur forests of Jalpaiguri. The cause of the rebellion was the restrictions imposed on the pilgrims visiting the holy places. The Sanyasis raided the English factories and collected contributions from the towns, leading to a series of conflicts.

Pagal Panthis: Pagal Panthis rebellion was not a rebellion of individual religion, it was a rebellion of Hinduism, Sufism, and Animism, which became well known in Bengal in the initial years of the 19th century. Leaders such as Tipu politically motivated all religions and, leading the cause of the revolt of peasants against the oppression of the Zamindars. In 1852, Tipu Shah died but the movement continued.

Wahabi Movement: Wahabi Movement was the type of a revivalist movement that tried to purify Islam by eliminating all the un-Islamic practices which had crept into Muslim society through the ages. It offered the most serious and well-planned challenge to British supremacy in India.

Faraizi Revolt: Faraizi revolt became the cause of the revolt of 1857. This movement was started by Hazi Shariatullah in 1819. It helped the peasants to fight against the landlords and the British government. After the death of Hazi Shariatullah, the movement was continued by his son Dudu Miyan.

Kuka Revolt: The Kuka rebellion was also known as the armed revolt of the Namdhari sect of Sikhs. It was started by Guru Ram Singh in 1849 to reforming the Sikh religion. But, later it turned into a political struggle against British rule.

Some Tribal Movement

Santhal Rebellion: It was a revolt against heavy taxes, oppression by money lenders, landlords, these all were the main reason for the rising of the rebellion. With the introduction of permanent settlement in Bengal in 1793, Under Sidhu Murmu and Kanhu Murmu rose against the oppressors and declared themselves independent in 1854.

Khond Uprising: Their uprisings from 1837 to 1856 were directed against the British due to an attempt by the government to suppress human sacrifice (Mariah), the introduction of new taxes by the British, and the influx of Zamindars and money-lenders into their areas which was causing the tribals untold misery.

Early Munda Uprising: Munda Rebellion is one of the prominent in 19th-century tribal rebellions in the subcontinent. Birsa Munda led this movement in the region south of Ranchi in the period of 1789-1832, the Munda rose up in rebellion seven times against the landlords, dikhus, money-lenders, and the British, who instead of protesting them sided with the oppressors.

Main frontier uprisings before the Revolt of 1857 were

Khasi Uprising: The Anglo-Khasi War was fought between the Khasi people and the British empire in 1829-1833 and this was part of the independence. The war started with Tirot Sing’s attack on a British garrison that disobeyed orders of this Khasi king to stop a road construction project through the Khasi Hills. The Khasis were defeated in this war and the British gained supremacy over these hills.

Ahom Revolt: Ahom tribe that ruled much of Assam from the 13th century until the establishment of British rule in 1838. Their power in Assam reached its peak during the reign of King Rudra Singh. After the first Burma war from Assam, the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms territories in the company’s dominion after the war. This sparked off a rebellion in 1828 under the leadership of Gomdhar Konwar.

Singhphos rebellion: The singhphos initiated the open rebellion in early 1830 and killed the British political agent as well as, many soldiers. When the British were engaged in harassing warfare with the Khasis but the Singhphos remained in a mood of sullen discontent and again rose in rebellion in 1839.

On obvious accounts, the Revolt of 1857 was the Major instance of traditional India’s struggle against the foreign rule spread far and wide. And it was no sudden occurrence instead of a culmination of a century-long tradition of fierce popular resistance to British domination.

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