Introduction to Revolt
The Revolt of 1857 marked the first large-scale rebellion against British rule in India. Often termed as the First War of Independence, it was a culmination of socio-political and military elements.
British economic policies devastated Indian artisans and farmers. Imposing heavy taxes, land revenue systems, and promoting British goods over local handicrafts led to widespread financial distress and resentment.
Indian sepoys were dissatisfied with their pay, conditions, and prospects. The introduction of the Enfield rifle and the greased cartridge rumor, believed to be tainted with cow and pig fat, incited religious fury.
Doctrine of Lapse
Lord Dalhousie's Doctrine of Lapse policy, which allowed the British to annex princely states with no male heir, directly threatened Indian rulers and eroded their sovereignty, sparking defiance.
The British interfered with religious customs, introducing the Religious Disabilities Act, 1856, which changed traditional inheritance laws. This was seen as an attempt to convert Indians to Christianity, fueling further unrest.
British social reforms, such as the abolition of Sati and the promotion of widow remarriage, were perceived by many as a threat to the traditional social order, causing alarm among conservative sections.
The mutiny began with the 19th-century sepoys at Meerut, on May 10, 1857. The greased cartridge incident was the immediate cause, but the revolt quickly encapsulated broader issues of discontent.