The Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 is also known as the Great Revolt, Indian Rebellion, the Great Uprising and the Great Rebellion of 1857. It is considered as the country’s First War of Independence which was against the rule of the British.
This War is regarded as the most remarkable one which took place after the British came to India and began to establish their rule. This War of Independence took place due the rule of British in India which last for a very long time.
There were many other revolts before this. But this one was a major one as it included a larger dimension. Almost all the people belonging to different sections of the society took part in this Great Revolt of 1857. The reason why this revolt has been given the name as Sepoy Mutiny is because it was the Sepoy’s of the company who took the initiative to start this revolt.
But one should consider this revolt as a small revolt. This is why this Revolt has been given other names apart from Sepoy Mutiny so that the intensity of the revolt is better understood by those names.
Background of the Revolt of 1857
The East India Company brought much of India under their control by the mid of 1850’s. This company came to India during the 1600’s for the purpose of trading in the country. But with time, the company was involved more in diplomatic and military operation rather than on trading.
The company employed many native soldiers. They were called Sepoy’s. They were employed by the company for the purpose of maintaining order and also for defending the trading centers. The British officers used to command these Sepoy’s.
After the Sepoy’s were employed, they were very proud because of their military power. In return of this they were very loyal to their head, that is, the British officers. But later on during the period of 1830’s and 1840’s things took a leap. There were tensions everywhere.
Most of the Indians felt that the British had come to the country to spread Christianity in the country and very soon they would convert them into their religion and faith. Slowly more Christian missionaries started to come to India.
Now it had become sure that the conversion to Christianity would happen for sure. But on the other side the British officers felt that they were not able to maintain their power on the Indian troops.
The British made a new policy which was known as the “Doctrine of Lapse”. According to this policy, if the ruler of any Indian state died and they did not have any heir, then the Company would take control of that State.
During the mid 1800’s, many Indian states were annexed by the East Indian Company which made the Indian soldiers under them very offended.
Problem with the Rifle Cartridge
The Sepoy Mutiny had introduced a new cartridge which was specifically for the Enfield Rifle. But this cartridge caused a lot of problem. The cartridges that were used were coated in grease and covered in paper. But it was said that the grease that used to coat the cartridges were made from the cows and pigs.
These caused problems because the use of cows and pigs as the grease would offend the Muslim and Hindu soldiers who were working for the East India Company. This problem acted as a catalyst in this revolt of 1857 as there was a conflict among the soldiers because of the cartridges.
Violence in the Sepoy Mutiny
There was a Sepoy whose name was Mangal Pandey. He started shooting at a parade ground in Barrackpore on the 29th of March. This shot perhaps turned out to be the first one in the revolt of 1857. The unit to which Mangal Pandey belonged to in the Bengal Army was going to be punished and disarmed.
This was because his unit did not agree to use those cartridges which had the grease of cows and pigs. Mangal Pandey was against this and he shot a lieutant and a British sergeant-major. This act of Mangal put him in trouble as later the British troops surrounded him from all sides.
But ultimately Mangal Pandey killed himself by shooting at his own chest. But he was not killed. He managed to survive but was hanged on the 8th of April.
Important incidents that occurred in the Sepoy Mutiny in the Revolt of 1857
The Sepoy units from the South were loyal to the Company. But the ones in the north and Bengal army were against them. Apart from this there were more Indian troops who were against the Company. There were a few incidents which took place during this revolt which were very important.
The first one took place in Meerut and Delhi. There was a big military camp situated at Meerut which was near Delhi. The Sepoy’s who were present there were not ready to use the new rifle cartridges. As they refused to use them, their uniforms were stripped off and all the Sepoy’s were chained.
Even other Sepoy revolted and slowly the situation became chaotic and they attacked the British civilians which included women and children as well. The number of mutiny increased and many of them traveled to Delhi. They revolted against the British. Due to this many British civilians ran away but most of them were killed.
The next incident took place in Cawnpore. This incident was called the Cawnpore Massacre. This incident took place when many British civilians and officers were living Cawnpore, present day known as Kanpur. When they were trying to run away from the city they were attacked.
The Mutiny killed many British men. They did not even leave the women and children. They took around two hundred and ten British children and women in imprisonment. Nana Sahib was a local leader who ordered to kill the women and children as well. But the Sepoy’s did not agree to do this.
So instead of them the butchers were hired to kill the prisoners. All the women, children were brutally murdered. After this their bodies were thrown into a well. The butchers did not leave even the infants. They killed them too. But the British returned and they saw the state of the massacre. This further inflamed the troops.
Another incident took place in Lucknow. The British officers defended against the mutineers. Later on they were successful in creating a barrier among them.
At this point of time Sir Henry Havelock commanded the British forces. But the Havelock’s army was not able to help their people who were suffering in Lucknow. But there was another British group which was headed by Sir Colin Campbell. They fought against the mutineers in Lucknow and they were successful in saving the children and women.
End of East India Company by the Revolt of 1857
The British had to fight a lot in many places but they managed to control the people of the country. Slowly they were able to capture the mutineers as well. If they had the opportunity to kill them, they killed them wherever they found the mutineers. But most of them were executed.
The British women and children suffered a lot in Cawnpore. So the British officers felt that only hanging them was too humanitarian. So, they changed the method of executing. They lashed them to the cannon’s mouth. After which they would fire the cannon and the person would be blasted into pieces. The Sepoy’s who were getting executed like this had to watch their companions like this.
It was a horrifying situation for them. The British government had to dissolve the East India Company because of this great revolt. But still the government had direct control over India and India became a colony of Britain.
End of the Revolt of 1857
The British Government tried all methods so that they could stop this revolt. But even the Sepoy’s did not lose hope. They kept fighting in the battle. Later on, the Sepoy’s had to move back as Bahadur Shah was arrested, Nana Saheb lost the battle and Tantia Tope surrendered.
Slowly the British government was able to get back their power. Thus, the Revolt of 1857 turned out to be a failure due to many reasons. First, no one took the responsibility of becoming the leader of the organization and help the Sepoy’s.
Second, the strength of the British was much more than the Sepoy’s. Another reason the Sepoy’s lost against them was because they did not have enough and proper arms. Moreover, many states, Rajput kings and educated people belonging to the middle class supported the British Government.