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TN Textbook Class XIl History SIVA PRASAD
THE GREAT REVOLT OF 1857
Military causes . Discontent against the British Raj was widely prevalent among the Indian soldiers in the British army. . The Indian sepoys in the British Indian army nursed a sense of strong resentment at their low salary and poor prospects of promotion. . The British military officers at times showed least respect to the social values and religious sentiments of Indian sepoys in the army. The Vellore mutiny of 1806, a precursor to the 1857 Great Revolt, was the outcome of such tendencies on the part of the military authorities. Another important cause of the sepoys' dissatisfaction was the order that abolished the foreign allowance or batta when they served in foreign territories Thus the discontent was widespread and there was an undercurrent before the volcanic situation of 1857. All that needed was only a spark to set it a fire.
The Beginning of the Revolt The 1857 Revolt was sparked off by the episode of the greased cartridges. The new Enfield rifle had been introduced for the first time in the Indian army. Its cartridges had a greased paper cover whose end had to be bitten off before the cartridge was loaded into the rifle. . The grease was composed of fat taken from beef and pig. The religious feelings of the Hindu and Muslim sepoys were terribly wounded. The sepoys believed that the government was deliberately trying to destroy their religious and cultural identity. Hence they raised the banner of revolt
The Beginning of the Revolt . The events that led to the Revolt began on 29 March 1857 at Barrackpore. Mangal Pandey (a sepoy) refused to use the greased cartridges and single- handedly attacked and killed his officer. Mangal Pandey was hanged. The regiment to which he belonged was disbanded and sepoys guilty of rebellion punished . A chain reaction was set in motion. At Meerut in May 1857, 85 sepoys of the 3rd Cavalry regiment were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for refusing to use the greased catridges. Therefore, on 10 May the sepoys broke out in open rebellion, shot their officers, released their fellow sepoys and headed towards Delh
The Beginning of the Revolt . The following morning the rebellious army reached Delhi. The city of Delhi fell into the hands of the rebellious soldiers on 12 May 1857. . Lieutenant Willtashby, the officer in charge of Delhi could not prevent the mutineers. . Soon, the mutineers proclaimed the aged nominal king, Bahadur Shah lI of the Mughal dynasty as the Emperor of India. Very soon the rebellion spread throughout northern and central India at Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Banares, in parts of Bihar, Jhansi and other places.
Delhi The leadership at Delhi was nominally in the hands of Bahadur Shah, but the real control was exercised by General Bakht Khan. On the side of the British the combined effort of Nicholson, Wilson, Baird Smith and Neville Chamberlain enabled the recapture Delhi by September 1857 In Delhi, Emperor Bahadur Shah Il was arrested and deported to Rangoon, where he remained in exile till he died in 1862.
Kanpur . At Kanpur the revolt was led by Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Baji Rao ll, the last Peshwa. . Nana Saheb expelled the English from Kanpur with the help of the sepoys and proclaimed himself the Peshwa. Nana Saheb in his efforts against the British was ably supported by two of his lieutenants One was Tantia Tope, the other was Azimullah. . Sir Hugh Wheeler the commander of the British garrison at Kanpur surrendered on the 27 June 1857. But, soon Kanpur was recaptured by the British commander Sir Colin Campbell
Lucknow . The principal person responsible for the revolt in Lucknow was the Begum of Oudh . With the assistance of the sepoys, the zamindars and peasants, the Begum organised an all out attack on the British . Sir Colin Campbell suppressed the revolt
Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, the widowed queen of Gangadhar Rao played a heroic role in this revolt. Rani Lakshmi Bai was affected by Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse, was joined by Tantia Tope. The combined efforts of Rani and Tantia Tope saw the capture of Gwalior. Meanwhile, Sir Hugh Rose defeated Tantia Tope and stormed Jhansi on 3 April 1858 He then captured Gwalior. . The Rani of Jhansi died a soldier's death on 17 June 1858. .Tantia Tope was captured and hanged on charges of rebellion
Causes for the Failure of the Revolt The first and foremost cause was that the Revolt failed to embrace the whole of India. . Different sections of society such as moneylenders, merchants and modern educated Indians were actually against the Revolt. The lack of interest shown by the intellectuals in the movement was a serious setback. . The resources of the British Empire were far superior to those of the rebels. . Similarly, the insurgents lacked a carefully concerted general plan or a strong central organisation to plan the movements of the army and oversee their strategy. On the other hand, the British possessed better equipment. . In addition, the British were aided by new scientific inventions such as the telegraph system and postal communications. This enabled the British to keep in touch with all parts of the country and to manoeuvre their troops according to their needs.
Significance and Effects of the Mutiny . As far as the effects of the Revolt are concerned, it brought about fundamental changes in the character of Indian administration which was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown by the Queen's Proclamation of 1 November, 1858. . At the same time the Governor-General received the new title of Viceroy. Lord Canning had the unique opportunity to become the Governor- General as well as the first Viceroy according to the Act of 1858.