11th May 1857, the day when a troop of soldiers from Merut crossed the river Yamuna and entered into Delhi. Previous night they had killed British Officials and seniors of Merut and burnt the toll house on the way to Delhi.
They met Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II and wished to make him the ‘Emperor of India’. After that they started capturing Delhi. Killing the British officials and soldiers, destroying the offices. This was the advent of 1857 revolt.
Reasons for the Revolt :
There were a lot of reasons for the Revolt of 1857 and why it was supported by different sections of the society.
With the help of various policies like Subsidiary Alliance, Policy of Annexation and Doctrine of Lapse, British East India company was expanding its empire. This made the native states to extinct. The rulers of these states like Nana Sahab, Rani Laxmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Khan Bahadur etc. were looking for some kind of opportunity and the Delhi incident paved them the path.
Social & Cultural Reasons :
British always tried to show that their race is superior and they were born to rule over the Indian race. They introduced missionaries and allowed them to freely preach and convert the citizens to Christianity. The interference of the Administration on the religious matters increased. Abolition of Sati, Widow remarriage, Taxation on Temple and Mosque lands increased insecurity and anger among the citizens. When they saw an opportunity in the Revolt of 1857 they supported it.
Economic and Administration:
Land Revenue Settlement, Removal of Zamindars, Increment in Taxes, Tax even on grass were some administrative factors which created problem for not only the peasants but also the Zamindars. That’s why Zamindars like Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur took active part in the Revolt of 1857. The handicraft and handloom sector was destroyed by the Company. This was considered as the De-Industrialization of India. Thus the workers also took active part in the Revolt of 1857.
Indian soldiers had a lot of problems with the British East India Company’s rule. They were not given good salary or promotion as compared to the same rank British soldiers. Indian soldiers were interfered in their religious beliefs. They had to go other countries and were made to eat things which were not allowed in the religion. This made great problems for the soldiers as they were not accepted in their community. Presence of other caste soldiers also created a feeling of anger among the soldiers.
Soldiers were basically farmers and when they used to see the miserable conditions of the farmers and the policies of the Company, the anger inside used to increase. Mixing of bone powder in wheat flour was like oil in fire. Bur the main explosion was done by the introduction of “Enfield Rifle“.
Loading the Enfield required tearing open the greased cartridge with one’s teeth. It was said that the cartridge of the rifle was greased with animal (cow and pig) fats. This was not accepted by both Hindus and Muslims. They refused to use this rifle and thus protests started. Mangal Pandey of 34th infantry killed his senior and tried to revolt, but it was suppressed and Mangal Pandey was hanged. This news made the soldiers of other parts to revolt against the company rule.
After almost a month of the capturing of Delhi, the revolts broke in almost all big centers like Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareily, Benaras, Allahabad and Jhansi. Although the revolt was from the army, the leadership was given to the local leaders who were once the rulers or Zamindars of the area. But lost their power and land because of the policies and annexations of British East India Company.
Nana Sahab, adopted son of Maratha Peshwa, evolved as the leader from Kanpur. Begum Hazrat Mahal led the revolt of Lucknow. Khan Bahadur was the leader of Bareily. Rani Laxmibai who was earlier trying to get her state with talks also supported the revolt and she started the war from Jhansi. Zamindar Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur, Bihar, also came front to fight and get his land back. The dream of everyone was to support Delhi and reach Delhi.
Although the revolt was big enough to uproot the company rule, it failed to achieve its goals. The first one to fail was Delhi. On 20th September 1957, Company re-captured Delhi and Bahadur Shah was arrested and sent to Burma. Rani Laxmibai fought hard but lost her life on the battleground. Other leaders like Nana Sahab and Kunwar Singh fled. Only Tatya Tope tried to fight for long with his gorilla style but was also killed in 1859. In this way the Revolt of 1857 was crushed.
Reasons for Failure :
The main reasons for the failure of the Revolt of 1857 were :-
Lack of Leadership :
The Revolt of 1857 was led by big leaders but they were distributed. Bahadur Shah was named the Emperor of India but he lacked the leadership quality and other leaders focused on their own problems. Lack of co-ordination was seen among these leaders. When Delhi was re-captured by the company the moral of the soldiers who did revolt went down, as the emperor was arrested.
Lack of Planning :
The Revolt broke out in various centers but it was not planned. After hearing about the news about the success of Delhi they entered into the Revolt of 1857. Each and every soldier wanted to go to Delhi. No one tried to make plans about the organisational structure, supply to fight against the Company. Big businessmen and some Rulers supported the British East India company and thus they were able to suppress the Revolt of 1857.