Sepoy Mutiny , 1857
Sepoy Mutiny , 1857
Sepoy mutiny was a widespread movement by Indian troops serving in British East India Company.
The ship of independence is sailed by the mutiny of its sailors, rocking to and fro with the waves obstructing it. India sought such independence, but like the ant who took many attempts to climb the wall, India took many movements to reach the final goal of free India. Sepoy mutiny was one of such attempts. India came under complete control of British in the year 1857 and the constant urge and spirit of freedom started to in built itself in the natives of India. Sepoy mutiny that started long before March of 1857 in Calcutta is what is known as the first war for independence against British. Sepoy mutiny though was a widespread movement, (by Indian troops serving in British East India Company) but was ultimately unsuccessful and ended its course in 1858. It started from Meerut and eventually started spreading in Delhi, Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow.
Small proceeding of brewing discontent began to be visible in the first quarter of 1857 leading to a large scale rebellious movement in may which led to end of British East India Company`s rule and power in India, which passed the baton of rule on to British government.
The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys (soldiers) of British East India Company`s army on the 10th of May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon ignited into other mutinies and civilian uprisings, mostly in the upper Gangetic Plain and central India, with the major aggressions restrained to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region. The uprising posed a substantial peril to Company power in that region, and it was checked only with the fall of Gwalior on 20th June 1858. The uprising is also known as India`s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, and the Great Revolt of 1857.
The insurgents of Sepoy Mutiny speedily captured large portions of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, including Delhi, where they set up the Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar, as Emperor of Hindustan. The Company reaction was a speedy action: by September 1857, Delhi had been recaptured with help from fresh British reinforcements. Nonetheless, it then took the greater portion of 1858 for the uprising to be wholly smothered in Oudh.
Other regions of Company-controlled India-Bengal province, the Bombay Presidency, and the Madras Presidency-remained calm for the larger part. In Punjab, just lately annexed by the East India Company, the Sikh princes backed the Company by furnishing both soldiers and support. The large princely states, Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, did not participate in the rebellion, and served, in Governor General Lord Canning`s words, as "breakwaters in a storm" for the Company.
In some regions, especially in Oudh, the insurrection of Sepoy Mutiny assumed the dimensions of a patriotic revolt against European presence; however, although the rebel leaders, especially Rani of Jhansi, became folk heroes in the flourishing nationalist movement of India half a century later. Still, the insurgence proved to be an important landmark in Indian history; it led to the disintegration of the British East India Company in 1858, and forced the British to regroup the army, the financial system, and the administration in India. India was henceforth governed directly from London-by the British government India Office and a cabinet level Secretary of State for India-in the new British Empire, a system of governance that lasted until 1947.
The greased cartridges lit the flame of rebellion and on the 29th March 1857, a soldier by the name of Mangal Pandey of the 34th Infantry at Barrackpur rebelled by firing at an officer on command against the use of the new cartridges. He was arrested and on 8 April he was hanged to death. This followed with repeated outbreak of revolt at Calcutta and Europeans were in a state of prolonged panic. Outside Calcutta the heat was felt everywhere like Birbhum, Jaspura, Banka, Khosi etc. In April 1857,Indian soldiers at cavalry unit in Meerut refused to use the new cartridges, which ultimately led to their arrest and were thrown into prison.
Although this mutiny started among the native soldiers, the others who weren`t affected by British rule also joined hands. Throughout India army units mutinied and in revolt killed British officers and often their families. An appeal was forwarded to 82-year-old Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar for leading the revolt and proclaimed him the Emperor of India. While the British called it the Indian Mutiny, the Indians named it as the Great War of Independence. The rebellion was confined to the Ganges plain between Calcutta and Delhi; troops in the south and west continued to serve the British loyally.
Delhi: Delhi was seized by the Sepoys on 12th May 1857. The palace and the city were occupied. The old Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah II was persuaded to lend support to the anti-British activities and was proclaimed the Emperor of India. The loss of Delhi was a serious blow to the prestige of the British. On 14th September 1857, the British forces started their onward march. In spite of strong resistance from the sepoys, the British recaptured the city on 20th September. Emperor Bahadur Shah captured by British General Hudson. The British finally arrested Bahadur Shah Zafar, and next day British officer William Hodson killed his sons at Khooni Darwaza (blooded door) near Delhi gate. Their heads were reportedly presented to their father. The emperor was exiled to Rangoon (Burma) for life where the king died in 1862 at the age of eight seven. This was the end of the mighty Moghul Empire.
Kanpur: The Sepoys captured Kanpur on 5th June 1857. Nana Sahib the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao was proclaimed the Peshwa. He led the revolt in Kanpur along with Tantia Tope, his able and experienced Lieutenant. The British fought with little food and water when ultimately Nana Sahib asked them to surrender and General Wheeler had no other option than accepting it. After a fierce battle, General Sir Hugh Wheeler surrendered on June 27, 1857.
In June 1857 the General defeated Nana Sahib. Though Nana Sahib and Tantia Tope recaptured Kanpur in November 1857, they could not hold it for long as it was reoccupied by General Campbell on 6th December 1857. Nana Sahib fled to Nepal and perhaps died there. Tantia Tope escaped and joined the Rani of Jhansi.
Lucknow: The Sepoys rebelled in Awadh soon after the events in Meerut. The rebellion broke out at Lucknow on 4th June. The rebels` initial attempts were unsuccessful. Begum Hazrat Mahal who was acting as a regent for her son, besieged the British Residency along with the rebels, killing Sir Henry during the siege. The fighting continued till the end of the year. Ultimately the rebels were defeated in November 1857, when Sir Colin Campbell, the new commander-in-chief sent from England to suppress the rebellion. He evacuated the Europeans and the city with the help of the Gorkha regiments. In March 1858 the city was finally recaptured by the British after three weeks of fierce fighting.
Jhansi: When war broke out, Jhansi became centre of rebellion. Rani Laxmibai, the widow of the late Raja Gangadhar Rao, led the rebellion against the British. She proclaimed the ruler of the state. The British army sieged Jhansi. Though Jhansi was sieged Rani Laxmi Bai fled in disguise to Kalpi where she organized few other kingdoms to rebel against British. Rebel forces captured Gwalior from the British. Sir Hugh Rose advanced towards Gwalior and captured it in June 1858, The Rani died fighting bravely. However the mutiny failed due to lack of strong leadership and proper coordination.
Causes of Sepoy Mutiny
The Indian custom of daily living witnessed a gradual shattering of their future vision because of the continuous English intrusion. The East India Company had initially come to India with a very different intension, which although changed in due course. The first uprisings of 1857 were thus efficiently justified. Numerous political, social, economic, religious and above all the military causes led to the heroic attempt of Sepoy Mutiny being held in such a manner.
Effects of Sepoy Mutiny
The Sepoy Mutiny had impressed upon every Indian in different ways, including even the British living in England. Numerous got divided into pro-British and anti-British groups and sects. After the war came to an end, British army were successful to regain the states of Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Gwalior and Meerut. The ruthless primary effect was that, thousands of native army-men were slaughtered mercilessly, without any valid reason. However, the British in London had highly justified these killings in the press. The last Mughal, Bahadur Shah II was exiled in Rangoon, where he breathed his last. The great revolt of 1857 also saw the historic ceasing of the rule of the British East India Company, and India was formally annexed under the direct rule of the Queen. New reforms, measures, administrative, economic and religious measures came into force, which were to govern the country for the next 200 years
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