Rajasthan Board RBSE Class 8 Social Science Notes Chapter 18 The Revolt of 1857
The British founded their empire in Bengal after winning the Battle of Plassey in 1757. Gradually they established their full control over India.
British used decisive policy to control over India. They took advantage of weakness of Indians. During this period Indians revolted against British atrocities at many places, like Sanyasis revolted in Bengal, Ramosi in Maharashtra as well as different tribes in whole India and even Indian soldiers who were in British army also struggled from time to time. But all these revolts were at local level and at different different time, so these couldn’t take widespread form and became unsuccessful.
The biggest Revolution against British took place in 1857, which spread countrywide. It was supported by common people, hence it is called the India’s first war of independence. The revolt of 1857 was not a result of an event or cause but it was the reaction of Indians against the illegal interference of the British in India’s political, social, religious and economic life.
Following were the causes of this Revolt:
1. Political cause
2. Social and Religious cause
3. Economic cause
4. Military cause
5. Role of the public poets and writers
- Political Causes:
- The Anti-Indian British policies: Robert Clive made East India company a political institution. Wellesely and Hastings adopted unfair means to expand their empire. Later on Dalhousie framed a new policy for the expansion of empire. He merged the states of the Indian rulers who had no successor; with the British empire. Dalhousie banned the policy of adopting successor according to which the rulers having no successor could adopt his successor from relatives or caste to rule the kingdom. It was known Doctrine of lapse. This policy of Dalhousie affected many Indian states as Sambalpur, Jaitpur, Satara, Nagpur, Bithoor and Jhansi.
- Anti expansion policy towards the native rulers: Legally the Mughal emperor was still the Badshah of India but was insulted. The coins were inscribed with the name of the king of England rather than that of the Mughal emperor. Similarly the Maratha Peshwa was deprived of his empire and instead was given pension. Later on his son Peshwa Nanasaheb’s pension too was withdrawn. This policy of the British annoyed the Indian masses.
- Expansionist policy of the British: During expansion British signed treaties and alliances with the Indian princes through which they assured them to follow the policy of non-intervention, in their (internal) matters. But through their political agents they continuously intervened in the state matters of local rulers, and later captured some states as Avadh under the pretext of administrative disorder.
- The feudal class autocrats were annoyed with the British. Once the feudals collected tax from the people and gave to the king and gave military support to the king at the time of war. Hence the feudals were accorded respect in the royal court. But after the subsidiary alliances the rulers were no longer dependent on the feudals and their powers were curtailed. The feudals blamed the British for this.For example Rawat Kesari Singh, the feudal of Mewar (Salumber) blamed the British for Maharan’s misbehaviour. Thakur Ajit Singh of Jodhpur was not happy with the political agent. Jhuntharam (Diwan) in Jaipur, on the assistance by the British deprived zagirdars of their hereditary rights. In Jodhpur the feudals of Aahuwa, Aasop, Gular and Aalniyawas were not happy with the ruler and made British responsible for their powerless condition. During the period of East India Company the rulers and the feudals lost their freedom to take independent decisions.
- Social and Religious Causes:
- The British intervened in the lives of Indians in the name of social reforms and often insulted them.The Indian customs and traditions were mocked.
- The Indians were not appointed on the high posts which made Indians annoyed.
- Government allowed freedom to Christians to preach and propagate Christianity and the Christian missionaries started converting the weaker sections to Christianity. The prisoners in the prisons were forced to accept Christianity. Those who accepted Christianity, their punishment was remitted and they were given more facilities in comparison to others. The converts were posted on higher ranks. At the same time the Hindu gods and goddesses and their ways of worshipping were looked down upon. Thus, the Indians became annoyed and were compelled to revolt.
- Economic Causes:
Prior to the company rule India was predominantly an agricultural and industrial country. She was the main centre of the world trade and was known as the ‘Golden bird’ because of her economic prosperity. The British, after coming into power took decisions that harmed India’s economy.
- East Bengal prior to the company rule swas a prosperous province but the British plundered in such a way that hunger and misery spread there They charged very high land revenue from the farmers, which compelled farmers to leave farming and many old feudals lost their jagirdari because they had not paid lagan.
- The British taxed Indian textile heavily with the intention to create market in India for their own goods and theartisans were ill-treated to such extent that they had to leave their family profession.
- In Rajasthan too the British imposed heavy duty and controlled all the economic resources. They established their full control over the trade in opium and salt. After reaching pacts with all the Indian (native) states, the British introduced Octroi which annoyed the people. In order to establish their hold over the production of opium in Hadauti, the British imposed taxes on the opium in Hadauti heavier than those in Bengali opium. Consequently smuggling was encouraged and there were food crises. The British earned a good profit from the salt trade in the whole of Rajputana. Many other industries of Rajputana were ruined.
- Military Causes:
The British army had the soldiers of Avadh in a large numbers. The Avadh military personnel were deeply shocked when Avadh was merged with the British empire. The British imposed many restrictions on their traditional ways of dining, dressing up etc. So they felt highly insulted, especially when they were forced to go to foreign countries against their will. The Indian forces got less salary, and had to pay themselves for their uniforms. Their free postal correspondence was banned.Beside the top most reason of their agony was that greased cartridges which had fat of cow and pig, which had to be bitten off with teeth before use. All these were the reasons which created a feeling of uprising against British.
- Role of Public Poets and Writers:
Losing power in the hands of British was not digested by all. The public of Rajputana was freedom loving and had self respect. The writers and poets of here also inspired nationalism by writing about society and rulers. After the treaties with British in Rajputana the writers were unsatisfied with the presence of British. The Bankedas of Jodhpur, Surajmal mission of Bundi, Aadha, Jawanji, Barhath Durgadutt, Aadha Jaduram, Aasia Budhij, Gopaldan, Dadhiwadia etc. were so many writers who severely insulted the British and inspired their rulers and subjects to struggle against them. So they gave their important contribution in sowing the seeds of revolt against the British.According to poet Bankedas-British came to India and controlled even our respiration or in other words they took control over every field. In early times rulers sacrificed their life for motherland, but never made their land slave, but it is sad that during their time their motherland has gone under the control of foreigners. Folk songs were written in the praise of Doong ji and Jawahar ji who plundered British cantonments. Above mentioned illustrations prove that Writers and poets of Rajputana prepared gunpowder for the revolt of 1857 by inspiring ruler feudals and masses of Rajputana.
Outbreak of the Revolution and Its Spread:
As per plan for revolution drafted by Nanasaheb Peshwa Rao and his associates Azimul-la and Rangoji Bapu, the revolution was to be launched on 31st May, 1857 under the leadership of Mughal Badshah Bahadur Shah. Secret meetings were held in the Red Fort. But it broke out before the scheduled time, on 29th March, when the sepoys at Barrakpore cantonment were given Enfield rifles greased with fat of cow and pig to open with their teeth. They refused to do so.
The British officers tried to arrest them. An Indian sepoy, Mangal Pandey shot at the two officers and they died on the spot. Mangal Pandey was arrested and was hanged to death on April 8. Again on May 9, an Indian brigade of Merrut was given greased cartridges. The sepoys refused to use them. This event fueled up the discontentment among the rebels. They headed towards Delhi, killing many British officers on the way. On reaching Delhi on May, 11, they seized the reigns of Delhi and declared Bahadur Shah, the emperor.
Spread of the Revolution in Other Parts of India:
The messangers of revolution spread the revolt through symbols of revolt in different forms in different parts of the country (flower of lotus and chapati). Revolt had to be started at all places together on 31st May but agony raised due to castridges greased with the fat of cow and pig destroyed the whole plan. The revolt started before 31st May with half preparation with this slow flames of the revolt spread in other parts of India.
In Kanpur revolt was led by Nana Sahib and Tantia Tope, they took control over Kanpur. In Oudh (Avadh) the people of Oudh started struggle in the leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal. In the same manner Rani Laxmi Bai, in Jhansi, Behar Babu Kunwar Singh in Bihar, Diwan Maniram and Kandarpeswar Singh in Assam, Surendra Shahi and Ujjwal Shahi in Orissa (Odisha) led the revolt. At that time the Governor General of India was Lord Canning.
He called upon army from Madras, Bombay, Burma and Sri Lanka. The Sikh army of Punjab and Gorkha army of Nepal also supported British Commander General Neel freed Banaras and Allahabad from revolutionaries. Army of Nana Saheb was also defected in Kanpur. British took control over Delhi and imprisoned Bahadur Shah Zafar, his two sons were murdered and he was imprisoned and sent to Rangoon jail but Tantia Tope and Laxmi Bai of Jhansi took revenge. Some of the traitors opened the gate of the Fort of Jhansi but Rani fearing the hostile Army escaped and reached Kalpi. Tantia Tope joined her, both attacked Gwalior.
Gwalior was surrounded by the British army, though Rani escaped but at one place she was surrounded by the British army. She fought with the enemy army fairly and died in the battlefield. Now Tantia Tope was alone and fighting with the enemy. But was captured and hanged to death by the British. In this way Mangal Pandey, Tantia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai were the brave sons and daughter of motherland and martyred in the first battle of freedom.
Contribution of Rajasthan in Freedom movement of 1857:
Impact of Indian war of Independence held on Rajasthan also:
- At the time of war of 1857 there were British army cantonments in Nasirabad, Beaware, Kherwada, Dewali, Arinapura and Neemach. The British A.G.G was posted at Ajmer from there he controlled the rulers of Rajasthan.
- Rebellion of revolt in Rajasthan started from Nasirabad when on 28th May, 15th Native Bengal Infantry attacked on their officers. Then they proceeded towards Delhi where they would assist the rebels. On 3rd June the revolution set in when soldier named Muhamad Ali Beg challenged the authority of Col. Abbot. The British took shelter in Udaipur. Captain Shovers accompanied by the Mewar army reached Neemach. By then the rebels had headed towards Delhi. On the way, when they reached Shahpura they were welcomed by the ruler of Shahpura and he did not open the gates of his fort for British who were chasing rebellious mob. from there. The soldiers of Neemach also proceded towards Delhi.
- On 21st August 1857 a batallion posted at Erinapura cantonment revolted against the British at Abu. They plundered the contonment and proceeded towards Delhi raising the slogan “Chalo Delhi, Maro Firangi”.
- Erinpura sepoys met Thakhur Kushal Singh of Auwa at Kherawa. Khushal Singh being unhappy with the Maharaja Jodhpur and the British, gave them leadership. On the call by Kushal Singh, feudals of Aasop, Alniyavas and Gular reached to Auwa along with their forces. They were also accompanied by the armies of the feudals of Khejrala, Saloombar, Roopnagar etc. Maharaja Takhat Singh of Jodhpur too despatched his forces to Auwa against the revolutionaries. On September 8, 1857 Kushal Singh’s forces were badly defeated by the Jodhpur forces at Bithoda. As this news reached to A.G.G George Lawrence himself along with his forces reached to Auwa, but had to face defeat on 18th September 1857. Monk Mason, political agent of Jodhpur was murdered by the rebels. His head was hung on the door of the Auwa fort. Lawrence returned to Ajmer. In October 1857 the rebels of Jodhpur Ligiyan too marched towards Delhi. In January 1858 one army batallion led by Hones invaded Auwa.
- Thakur Kushal Singh took shelter at feudals of Salumbar. The British gave bribe to the fort guard to have the fort gates opened and seized the fort. Much atrocities occurred on the residents of Auwa. In 1860 Kushal Singh surrendered to the British at Neemuch. He was legally sued but was later set free.
- Kota was another centre of revolt. Maharao Ram Singh of Kota supported the British, but could do nothing due to widespread disorder and chaos. Major Burton pressurised Maharao to act against the rebels. Consequently the army of Kota got annoyed and attacked residency, chopped off Major Burton’s head and took round with it in the whole Kota city. The army got control over whole state’s administration.
- Kota’s Maharao lived as a prisoner in his own palace. The rebels ruled over Kota for about six months under the leadership of Jai Dayal and Mehrab Khan. In March 1858 the army under the leadership of General Robert liberated Kota from the rebels and Jai Dayal and Mehrab Khan and others were hanged in public.
- Though the Dhaulpur army and public of Bharatpur also showed feeling of unhappiness but their rulers showed loyalty towards British.
- A few feudals of Rajputana showed their resentment by recognising leadership of Thakur Kushal Singh of Auwa. The rebellious mobs were supported at every place by the local farmers, general masses from both Hindu-Muslim communities but the Indian (provincial) rulerssupported the British. They were loyal to the British and gave them full military support. The ruler of Bikaner himself with his army went out of his state to help the British. As regard to native ruler’s cooperation Governor General Lord Canning has remarked, “It would had not have acted as hindrance in the wake of the storm our boat would have sunk or flown away’.
- Doongji and Jawahar (Kaka and Bhatija) of east Sikar region were the great and well known rebels before the war of 1857. They fought against the Bikaner and Jodhpur British forces. They become immortalised in songs due to their sacrifices.
- The resident of Rajputana trader, Amarchand Banthia is famous as second Bhamashah because of his sacrifices. He proposed to give his whole property to Tantia Tope so as to continue struggle against the British.
Revolution of 1857 was not a success because:
- As the rebels headed towards Delhi they became disintegrated and aimless. Moreover in their absence from their home states, the British reestablished their authority over there.
- The British succeeded in suppressing the native Princes because of their staunch loyalty.
Consequences of the Revolution of 1857 and it’s worldwide impact:
Though the 1857 revolution was a failure but it had its far reaching as well as some of the immediate consequences.
- The immediate consequences were:
- The native rulers who had cooperated wholeheartedly with the British were restored the Right to adoption by abolishing Doctrine of Lapse.
- India’s control was passed directly to the British Crown from the hands of the East India Company by the declaration of Proclamation Act 1858.
- Queen Victoria in her declaration, assured the Indian Princes to continue their status.
- The Zamindars had played an anti-British role during the revolution. Therefore the British weakened the feudals. They were made to pay in cash rather than kind (services). Their forces were dismissed and they were denied judicial powers. Their rights in the Zagir regions were minimized and they were degraded. They were deprived of their privileges. With an intention to eliminate the role of feudals in Administration, the English educated, experienced and the loyal personnel were inducted in bureaucracy. Consequently a loyal English educated middle class was expected to be established.
- Far Reaching Consequences:
- The British expanded the railways and road systems keeping in mind about their military and trade interests.
- The rulers were made to learn English so as to enable them to adopt the British ways and continue to show their loyalty to the British Crown and the British civilization.
- The future British policies also had the impact of this revolution. Lord Duffer in during his period helped to found the Congress Party with an idea to give the Indians a platform to express their views and thus, to avoid future chances of revolution of the type of 1857.Whatever the consequences but no one can deny that the revolution of 1857 weakened the roots of the British administration and the Dominion administration. It was the first great and the biggest challenge in the world to the European empire.No such big struggle was held in any revolution of the nation.The description of this event was found in all world’s newspapers of that period. Though British tried to confine its impact by saying it was an army revolt rather than freedom movement, but for the first time Veer Savarkar with his valid facts and arguments proved that it was the first war of independence of India. Though it was a failure it aroused the feeling of nationalism in people and their spirit of patriotism was strengthened. The future independence movements got an impetus from this revolution and it continued till India became free in 1947.