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Causes of the Revolt of 1857

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Causes of the Revolt of 1857 - Lesson Summary

The Revolt of 1857, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Mutiny, are the different names for India’s First War of Independence against the British.

The policies and laws introduced by the Company created discontentment among the rulers, landlords, peasants, tribals and sepoys and all wanted an end to the colonial rule. The Company appointed Residents who were meant to intervene in the affairs of the states.

The Doctrine of Lapse, introduced by Lord Dalhousie, was used to annex many Indian states like Satara, Sambalpur, Udaipur, Jhansi and Nagpur. The subsidiary alliance policy was used to forcefully annex Awadh. 

The Company hence planned to bring an end to the Mughal dynasty. It stopped minting the name of the Mughal king on its coins, and declared that Bahadur Shah Zafar would be the last Mughal king. The land revenue systems introduced made the lives of the peasants and the zamindars miserable. Huge taxes were levied forcing the peasants to borrow money from moneylenders, who seized their lands if they failed to pay back the loan.

The British also brought in many reforms in Indian society. They encouraged widow remarriage, stopped the evil practice of sati and gave importance to English-language education.

In 1850, a law was passed that made it easier to convert to Christianity. Those who converted were allowed to inherit the property of their ancestors. The sepoys were also dissatisfied by the Company’s rule and were unhappy with the conditions of their service, pay and allowances.
All these reforms stifled the Indians, and they felt that their traditions, customs and religions were being destroyed.

Some of the rules that the Company introduced were also against their religious sentiments. The cartridges by sepoys to be used were greased with the fat of pigs and cows, which was against their religion. This was the trigger that unified the sepoys for the Revolt of 1857.

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