The Revolt of 1857 is an important marker in Indian History and is an area where questions have repeatedly featured in the UPSC Civil Services (Prelims) and Civil Services (Mains) Examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The revolt is one of the most important events in India’s freedom struggle. So, it is an important part of the UPSC syllabus.
Here we outline the immediate factor which triggered the revolt.
- The immediate factor was the introduction of the ‘Enfield’ rifle. It was said that the cartridge of this rifle was wrapped in the fat of cow and pig. The cartridge had to be bitten off before loading it into the gun. Thus the Hindu and Muslim soldiers were reluctant to use the ‘Enfield’ rifle.
- At Barrackpore (Bengal), the soldiers of the 34th Native Infantry, refused to obey the commander Lt. B.augh. MangalPandey who led the uprising, wanted to kill Lt. Baugh and finally MangalPandey was overpowered and he was hanged. He was the first rebel who was hanged in the revolt of 1857. This sparked a collective uprising in the form of the revolt of 1857.
- After the event of Barrackpore, on 10th May, 1857 General Bakht Khan who was posted in Meerut, along with the contingent of troops from Meerut and Bareily, marched to Delhi, and then the context of the revolt was set, when he declared Bahadur Shah Zafar as the leader of the revolt.
- So, 10th May, 1857, was regarded as the beginning of the revolt. After initial reluctance, Bahadur Shah Zafar, agreed to become the leader of the revolt. General Bakht Khan raised Bahadur Shah Zafar as the leader of the revolt as the people of India still accepted Mughal suzerainty over India, and it was symbolic for him to lead this revolt. After 10th May, 1857, the revolt spread to different parts of India from Delhi, i.e. Jhansi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareily, Awadh, Assam, Bihar, etc. Thus various parts of Northern India were under the grip of the revolt. Thus from 1857-1858, the British were on a war-footing to suppress the revolt. The revolt was suppressed by 1858.
According to Indian Historians, like V.D. Savarkar, and Ashok Mehta, this revolt was the ‘first war of Indian Independence’. V.D. Savarkar, wrote a book with the same title, i.e. ‘First war of Indian Independence’. He summarized the revolt to be arising out of contradictions between the foreigners and the natives.
|Revolt of 1857: Social Causes|
|Revolt of 1857: Political and Economic Factors|
|Revolt of 1857: Observations by Historians|