Module 1: Modern India

Written by kasadmin



  • The revolt of 1857 started on 10th May when the Company’s Indian soldiers at Meerut rebelled. The Mutiny spread rapidly in eastern and northern India.
  • This rebellion was a major anti-colonial movement against the aggressive imperialist policies of the British. It was called the Sepoy Mutiny by the British.
  • The introduction of greased cartridges was the immediate cause for the 1857 revolt.
  • The rebels marched towards Delhi, where they were joined by the local infantry and the common people.
  • The rebels captured Delhi and killed many British officers. They declared the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah as the emperor of India. The revolt then spread to other parts of the country.
  • Lord Canning was the British Governor General during the revolt of 1857.
  • The important centers of the revolt were:
  • Patna, Arrah – Bihar
  • Gwalior – Madhya Pradesh
  • Bharatpur – Rajasthan
  • Roorkee – Uttarakhand
  • Azamgarh, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Faizabad, Fatehpur, Jhansi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Etawah, Fatehgarh, Shahjahanpur, Agra, Rahilkhand, Mathura, Meerut, Bareily – Uttar Pradesh
  • Delhi



  • The political causes of the revolt may be traced back to the British policy of expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse, subsidiary alliance and direct annexation.
  • A large number of Indian rulers and chiefs were dislodged, thus arousing fear in the minds of other ruling families who apprehended a similar fate.
  • A large section of the population was alarmed by the rapid spread of Western Civilization in India.


  • The abolition of practices like sati and female infanticide, and the legislation legalizing widow remarriage, were considered as threats to the established social practices.
  • Widows Remarriage Act was introduced by Lord Dalhousie, but it was approved by Lord Canning in 1856. The Hindus saw it as a sequel to the abolition of Sati and took it as a threat to Hinduism.
  • They had an aversion to overseas services, as travel across oceans meant loss of caste for them. But the General Service Enlistment Act of 1856 required sepoys to serve overseas if ordered. This infuriated them.
  • The spread of Christianity and patronage to Christian missionaries and made the people believe that the Government was in collusion with the missionaries to eradicate their religion and convert them to Christianity.


Doctrine of Lapse introduced by the British denied the legal right of adopted sons of rulers to inherit the property or receive the pension which was granted to them by the British. In this way Lord Dalhousie annexed the Maratha States of Satara (1848), Nagpur, Jhansi, Jaipur, Sambalpur, Bhagat, Udaypur and several other minor kingdoms. On the death of Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa of Maratha Empire, the pension granted to him was abolished and the claim of his adopted son, Nana Sahib, to receive this pension was denied to him.


  • In rural areas, peasants and zamindars resented the heavy taxes on land and the stringent methods of revenue collection followed by the Company.
  • Many among these groups were unable to meet the heavy revenue demands and repay their loans to money lender, eventually losing the lands that they had held for generations.
  • Large number of sepoys were drawn from the peasantry and had family ties in village. So the grievances of the peasants affected them as well.
  • The disruption of the traditional Indian economy and its subordination to the British economy affected the lives of millions of Indians.
  • The economic decline of peasantry and artisans was reflected in 12 major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857.


  • The Revolt of 1857 started as a sepoy mutiny. It was only later on that other elements of society joined the revolt.
  • Indian sepoys formed more than 87 per cent of the British troops in India. But they were considered inferior to British soldiers. An Indian sepoy was paid less than a European sepoy of the same rank. Besides, an Indian sepoy could not rise to a rank higher than that of a Subedar.


  • The government decided to replace the old-fashioned musket, ‘Brown Bess’ by the ‘Enfield rifle’.
  • The loading process of the Enfield rifle involved bringing the cartridge to the mouth and biting off the top.
  • A rumour spread that the cartridge of the new Enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. Both Hindu and Muslim sepoys refused to use them.
  • The sepoys were now convinced that the introduction of greased cartridges was a deliberate attempt to defile Hindu and Muslim religion and their religious feelings.
  • The name of the Enfield Rifle, one of the major cause for the revolt of 1857, was Pattern 1853 Enfiled or P 1853. William Pritchett developed the Pattern 1853 Enfield in the 1850s.
  • It was issued for the first time in India to the 60th Queens Royal Rifles in Meerut.


  • On 29th March 1857, at Barrackpore Mangal Pandey a sepoy of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry had refused to use the cartridge and attacked his senior officers.
  • He attacked Adjutant B. H. Baugh Baugh and Sergeant-Major James Thornton Hewson. Later Mangal Pandey was captured under the orders of Major General J.B. Hearsey, who then galloped to the ground with his two officer sons.
  • Mangal Pandey was court-martialed and hanged to death on 8th April 1857. He thus became the first martyr of the revolt of 1857.
  • Another officer, namded Jamedar Iswari Prasad was hanged on 21st April 1857 for not obeying his superiors’ orders to arrest Mangal Pandey.
  • One Paltu Khan was promoted for his active duty towards stopping Mangal Pandey.
  • The news of Mangal Pandey very soon reached other parts of the country.
  • On 9th March, 1857, the sepoys of the 19th Bengal Native Infantry at Behrampur refused to accept the greased cartridges. A court martial was done and the regiment was disarmed.
  • On 23rd March 1857, General George Anson, commander-in-chief in India issued an order suspending the use and firing of the greased cartridges throughout India until a special report is received from Meerut.
  • On 10th May, 1857, 85 soldiers of the 20th and 11th Bengal Infantry and 3rd Indian Light Cavalry mutinied and refused to use the new rifle and were sentenced to 2-10 years imprisonment.
  • The sepoys started an open rebellion, shouted the slogan ‘Delhi Chalo’ and proceeded to Delhi to over-throw the British rule and massacred any European that came their way.
  • They entered the Red Fort and proclaimed the aged and powerless Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah II, as the Emperor of India.
  • Col. Ripley was killed at Delhi and the public welcomed the soldiers and supported the revolt.
  • The son of Bahadur Shah II, Mirza Zahiruddin was declared commander in chief, without having any military experience.
  • Later the command at Delhi was taken by Bakht Khan, the nominal commander in chief of the rebels at Delhi, who later died in the battle in 1859.
  • From Delhi the revolt spread to other places. During May-June, the mutiny turned into a general revolt of the people.
  • In Kanpur, Nana Sahib was declared the Peshwa. His troops were commanded by Tantia Tope and Azimullah Khan.
  • At Lucknow, Begum Hazrat Mahal was assisted by Maulvi Ahmadullah. In Jhansi, Rani Lakshmi Bai and in Arrah, Kunwar Singh led the revolt. Khan Bahadur Khan was the leader in Bareilly.
  • They seized armories and plundered the treasury. They then attacked government buildings – the jail , telegraph office, record room, bungalows – burning all records.
  • Proclamations in Hindi, Urdu and Persian were put up in the cities calling upon the population, both Hindus and Muslims, to unite, rise and exterminate the firangis (meaning foreigners)


  • Before sending out troops to recapture North India, the British passed a series of laws to help them quell the insurgency.
  • By a number of Acts, passed in May and June 1857, not only was the whole of North India put under martial law but military officers and even ordinary Britons were given the power to try and punish Indians suspected of rebellion.
  • The British used military power on a gigantic scale. To recover their lost prestige they took help of the loyal forces from Punjab.
  • The siege lasted four months and Delhi was finally recaptured under John Nicolson on 10th September 1857. The fighting and losses on both sides were heavy. One reason for this was the fact that rebels from all over North India had come to Delhi to defend the capital.
  • The old Emperor Bahadur Shah along with his two sons was taken prisoner. After a trail he was deported to Rangoon. His sons were shot dead at Delhi without a trial.
  • Awadh was brought under control only in March 1858 after protracted fighting.
  • Many landholders died fighting the British or they escaped into Nepal where they died of illness or starvation.
  • It took another ten months of fighting before the Governor-general, Lord Canning, could proclaim the end of the Mutiny on 8th July 1858.


  • British Prime Minister : Lord Palmerston
  • Governor General : Lord Canning
  • British Queen : Victoria
  • Commander-in-Chief : George Anson, Colin Campbell (after Anson’s death)



  • A sepoy of the 34th Native Infantry stationed at Barrackpore, Mangal Pandey, refused to use the greased cartridges on 29th march 1857 and appealed his comrades to oppose the same.
  • He in fact attacked and fired at the Adjutant and was arrested. Later he was tried, court-martialed and hanged on 8th April 1857.
  • He may rightly be called the first martyr of the revolt of 1857.


  • The last Mughal Emperor, he was the leader of the revolt in Delhi and was declared the King Emperor of Hindustan (Shahenshah-e-Hindustan).
  • He was a poet of considerable merit in both Hindi and Urdu and a patron of poets and literary men.
  • He wrote under the pen name ‘Zafar’.
  • He was deported to Rangoon where he died in 1862, at the age of 87.
  • He is known as ‘Saheb-i-Alam Bahadur’.


  • In Kanpur the revolt was led by Nana Saheb. The real name of Nana Saheb was Dhondu Pant.
  • Nana Sahib was the adopted son of Pehswa Baji Rao II and the heir to the dispossessed late Peshwa’s title and estate.
  • Living at Bithur near Kanpur, Nana resented the gradual loss of his status and the consequent humiliation.
  • Baji Rao II was receiving a pension of Rupees 8 Lakh per annum from the British. when he died, Nana Sahib was to get this pension as heir-presumptive to the throne. But the company stopped the pension on the ground that he was not a natural born heir.
  • Nana Sahib sent his friend and envoy Azimullah Khan to England in 1853 to plead his cause but the British were not convinced. The result was that he conspired against the British and led the revolt at Kanpur.
  • He is also known as the ‘master brain of 1857 Revolt’.
  • Nana Sahib, after the failure of the revolt escaped to Nepal.
  • Azimullah Khan, who was Prime Minister to Nana Sahib, was an English lover. But at England, he could not plead the cause of Nana Sahib and while returning from England, he got an opportunity to visit Constantionople, in the Ottoman Empire.
  • Hum hain iske malik, yeh Hindustan Hamara’ (we own India) was the marching song of mutineers penned by Azimullah Khan.


  • Tantia Tope was the military advisor of Nana Sahib. His real name was Ramachandra Pandurang.
  • He launched successful guerilla campaign against British.
  • He also joined hands with Rani Lakshmi Bai to occupy Gwalior.
  • Tope was betrayed by his trusted friends Man Singh and defeated by General Napier’s British Indian troops
  • He was executed by the British Government at Shivpuri on 18 April 1859.


  • Siege of Cawnpore is also known as “Bibighar Massacre” or “Satichaura Ghat massacre”.
  • Before this event the British has approached Nana Sahib and ‘convinced’ him to support in case there is a mutiny at Kanpur.
  • By June 1857, the number of the rebellions got 3000. The place was mistaken as safe by the British, European families began to drift into the entrenchment as the news of rebellion in the nearby areas reached them. The entrenchment was fortified.
  • Nana Sahib entered as a friend of the British inside and declared that he was with the rebels, he proceeded with the soldiers to capture Cawnpore. He made the British officers surrender on a promise of safe passage to Allahabad.
  • Cawnpore was in siege till 15th July 1857 and 200 Europeans including women and children were massacred.
  • On 16th July the British Forces arrived and Cawnpore was recaputured. Nana Sahib disappeared and then fled to Nepal in 1859.


  • Born in a noble family, Kunwar Singh was the proprietor of extensive estates at Jagdishpur in Shahbad in Bihar. He was a natural leader of men, and a popular landlord. He joined the revolt of 1857 when the Britishers threatened to confiscate his land and assumed leadership of the rebellious sepoys.
  • He stormed Arrah, defeated the British forces twice while occupying Azamgarh in February 1858.
  • Kunwar Singh is known as the Lion of Bihar and the Grand Old Man of 1857 Revolt.

Maza Pravas (or Majha Pravas, which translates into English as “My Travels”) is a Marathi travelogue written by Vishnubhat Godse, who travelled to the central and northern parts of India during 1857-1858, and witnessed several incidents of 1857 revolt. The book, written twenty-five years after his travels, is the first account of the 1857 events as seen through Indian eyes. He interprets the Rebellion as a righteous response to British interference in Hindu and Muslim inheritance.


  • In Jhansi, the 22 year old Rani Lakshmi Bai led the rebels, when the Britishers refused to accept the claim of her adopted son to the throne of Jhansi.
  • Her real name was Manikarnika (Manubhai). She was popularly known as Jhansi Rani. Rani Lakshmi Bai was the Wife of Gangadhar Rao Newalkar who was the Maharaja of Jhansi.
  • Rani was joined by Tantia Tope and together they captured Gwalior.
  • She died in the battle field of Gwalior on June 18, 1857. She became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists.
  • Jhansi Rani was called “Joan of Arc of the revolt of 1857”.
  • Gen. High Rose who defeated Rani Lakshmibai remarked that “Here lay the woman who was the only man among the rebels”. He also described her as “most dangerous of all Indian rebel leaders”.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru described her as “the bright spot against a dark background”.
  • The novel Queen f Jhansi was written by Mahaswetha Devi.


  • Khan Bahudar Khan was grandson of the Ruhela leader Hafiz Rahamat Khan. He raised the banner of rebellion in Ruhelkhand with epicenter at Bareilly (U.P).
  • Though seventy years old at the time, he defended four columns of British troops which had converged upon Bareilly, before he was forced to retreat into the forests of the Himalayan foothills.


  • In Delhi Bahadur Shah was the leader. But the real power lay with the soldiers.
  • Bakht Khan, who had led the revolt of the soldiers at Bareilly, arrived in Delhi on 3rd July, 1857.
  • Forced out of Delhi by the British in September, he is said to have been killed in battle during the last days of the mutiny.


  • Begum Hazrat Mahal was the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, who had been deposed by the English in 1856.
  • She played a memorable part in raising the banner of revolt in Awadh.
  • She ruled on behalf of her 11 year old son Birjis Qadar with great wisdom and reorganized the machinery of administration.
  • She directed the attack on the Residency at Lucknow. (Lucknow was the capital of Awadh). Henry Lawrence, the Resident of Lucknow was killed during the war.
  • Finally the British forces captured Lucknow and she escaped to Nepal.


  • Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah was one of the many maulvis who played an important part in the revolt of 1857
  • A native of Arcot (Tamil Nadu) Ahmadullah was educated at Hyderabad. He became a preacher when he was young and settled down at Faizabad.
  • In 1856, he was seen moving from village to village preaching jihad (religious war) against the British and urging people to rebel.
  • He was popularly called Danka Shah – the maulvi with the drum (danka).
  • He fought in the famous Battle of Chinhat in which the British forces under Henry Lawrence were defeated


  • Shah Mal, a resident of Barout in Uttar Pradesh belonged to a clan of Jat cultivators. He mobilised the headmen and cultivators moving at night from village to village, urging people to rebel against the British
  • Shah Mal’s men attacked government buildings, destroyed the bridge over the river, and dug up metalled roads
  • Locally acknowledged as the Raja, Shah Mal took over the bungalow of an English officer, turned it into a “hall of justice”, settling disputes and dispensing judgments.
  • He also set up an amazingly effective network of intelligence.
  • Shah Mal was killed in battle in July 1857.


  • The English called the revolt of 1857 as the ‘Devil’s Wind’.
  • The ratio of Indian soldiers and Europeans in the Army at the time of 1857 Revolt was 6:1
  • John Nicolson who recaptured Delhi is known as the butcher of Delhi.
  • The revolt of 1857 was suppressed in the year 1858.
  • Lotus and Rotti were the symbols of the revolt.
  • Historian Sir Legal Greffin opined that “the revolt of 1857 swept the Indian sky clear of many clouds”
  • The novel based on the Revolt of 1857 “Amritham Thedi” was written by Malayattoor Ramakrishnan.
  • The first western scholar to describe 1857 revolt as the first war of Indian Independence was Karl Marx.
  • The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh released a Commemorative Coin of Rs. 100 to Commemorate on the “150th Anniversary of the First War of Independence 1857” in New Delhi on April 18, 2008.
  • The ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’ is a Hindi movie based on the life of Mangal Pandey, the first martyr of 1857 Revolt. The film was directed by Ketan Mehta and released in 2005. Actor Amir Khan played the role of Mangal Pandey.


  • Limited Uprising: The rebellion confined to northern and eastern parts of the country. Even in the north, Kashmir, Punjab, Sind and Rajputana kept away from the rebels. The British managed to get the loyalty of the Madras and Bombay regiments and the Sikh states. Many Indian rulers refused to help the rebels. Some were openly hostile to them and helped the British in suppressing the revolt.
  • No unity of purpose among the rebels: The sepoys of Bengal wanted to revive the ancient glories of the Mughals while Nana Saheb and Tantia Tope tried to reestablish the Maratha power. Rani Lakshmi Bai fought to regain Jhansi, which she had lost as a result of British policy of Doctrine of lapse.
  • No Effective Leaders: Indian leaders lacked organization and planning. The rebel leaders were no match to the British soldiers. Most of its leaders thought only of their own interest. They were motivated by narrow personal gains. They fought to liberate only their own territories. No national leader emerged to coordinate the movement and give it purpose and direction.
  • Limited Resources: The rebels were short of weapons and finances. Whatever few weapons existed were old and outdated. They were no match to the sophisticated and modern weapons of the British. On the other hand the telegraphic system and postal communication helped the British to speed up their operation. The English mastery of the sea enabled them to get timely help from England and crush the revolt ruthlessly.
  • No/less Participation of the Middle Class and Upper Class: The middle and upper classes and the modern educated Indians also did not support the revolt


  • The revolt marked the end of the East India Company’s rule in India. India now came under the direct rule of the British Crown.
  • The British Government passed Act for Better Government of India on August 2, 1858.
  • Board of Control and the Board of Directors of English East India Company were abolished
  • The office of the Secretary of State for India was created with an Indian Council of 15 members to assist him.
  • The Governor General of India was redesignated as Viceroy of India. Thus Lord Canning, the then Governor General became the first Viceroy of India.
  • Thus, Indian administration was taken over by Queen Victoria, which, in effect, meant the British Parliament.
  • The Act was followed a few months later by Queen Victoria’s proclamation to the “Princes, Chiefs, and People of India”
  • This was announced by Lord Canning at a Durbar in Allahabad on 1st November 1858 in the name of the Queen.


  • On November 1, 1858, a grand Durbar was held at Allahabad. Here Lord Canning read the royal proclamation which announced that the queen had assumed the government of India.
  • The proclamation announced a continuation of the Company’s policies.
  • The Indian rulers were assured of their rights to succession after adoption.
  • The crown promised to honor all the treaties and the agreements made by the company with the rulers of Indian States.
  • A general amnesty (pardon) was granted to the rebels except those who were directly involved in killing the British subjects.


  • Even though they failed to achieve their objective they succeeded in sowing the seeds of nationalism among the Indians
  • By now the British had become distrustful of the Hindu Muslim unity. They decided to follow the policy of divide and rule the country.
  • The policy of imperial expansion and doctrine of lapse were abandoned.
  • The control of Indian administration was passed on to the British crown by the Government of India Act, 1858.
  • The Indians were appointed according to their qualifications.
  • The King’s forces and company’s troops in India were united and called King’s forces.
  • The strength of European troops in India was increased and the number of Indian troops reduced from the pre- 1857 figure.
  • All Indian artillery units with the exception of a few mountain batteries were disbanded, even the artillery was kept with the British soldiers
  • First Secretary of State for India: Lord Stanley
  • Longest Serving Secretary of State for India: George Hamilton
  • Last Secretary of State for India: William Francis Harre


  • The first war of Indian Independence – V.D. Savarkar, Ashok Mehta, S.B. Chaudhuri
  • The last flicker of feudal India – Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Sepoy Mutiny – John Lawrence, Key, Mallison, Seeley
  • National Rising, National Revolt – Benjamin Disraeli
  • Civil Rebellion – S.B. Chaudhary
  • Neither the first, nor national, nor a war of independence – R.C. Majumdar
  • Conflicts between Civilization and Barbarism – T.R. Holmes
  • An effort by the conservative elements to turn the clock back – S.N. Sen
  • A soldier – peasant struggle against foreign and feudal bondage – Marxists
  • Hindu-Muslim conspiracy – James Outram, W. Taylor
  • Pure military outbreak – Percival Spear
  • Feudal Revolt – M.N.Roy, R.P. Dutt, A.R.Desai
  • Fight against the British and feudal glory – Talmiz Khaldum
  • Last attempt to recover departed glory – Thara Chand
  • Though popular a backward looking movement Bipan Chandra
  • The revolt was a war of fanatic religionists against Christians – L.E.R Rees
  • Agrarian Revolt – Eric Stokes
  • Racial struggle for supremacy between the Blacks and the Whites – J. G. Medley
  • Political as well as a national uprising – Lala Lajpat Rai


  • The Indian War of Independence 1857 V.D. Savarkar
  • The Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857 R.C. Majumdar
  • Eighteen Fifty Seven S.N. Sen
  • Flight of Pigeons Ruskin Bond
  • The Indian Mutiny of 1857 G.B. Malleson
  • The Great Rebellion of 1857 Ashok Mehta
  • The Great Mutiny: India 1857 Christopher Hibbert
  • History of Sepoy war John Kayes
  • Civil Rebellions in the Indian Mutinies S.B. Chaudhary
  • History of freedom movement in India Tara Chand
  • The Last Mughal: The fall of a dynasty —————————–William Dalrymple
  • The Skull Of Alum Bheg: The Life And Death Of A Rebel Of 1857– Kim A. Wagner
  • The Indian Mutiny Saul David
  • The Great Uprising Pramod K Nayar
  • The History of Indian Mutiny T.R.Holmes
  • Revolt of Hindustan Earnest Jones
  • The Perils of Certain English Prisoners Charles Dickens
  • With Sword and Pen: A Story of India in the Fifties H.C.Irwin
  • On the Face of Waters: A Tale of Mutiny Flora Annie Steel
  • The Causes of the Indian Revolt Sayyed Ahmed Khan
  • With Them Goes Light Bobbee Reginald G Wilberforce
  • Civil Rebellions in the Indian Mutinies (1857-59) S.B.Chaudhari
  • They Fight Like Devils D.A. Kinsley
  • The Indian Mutiny Julian Spilsbury
  • The Mutiny Julian Rathbone
  • Follow the Drum James Leasor


  • Delhi…………….. Bahadurshah II, Bhakth Khan
  • Bihar ……………. Kunwar Singh
  • Arrah, Jagadishpur. Kunwar Singh
  • Jagadishpur …….. Kunwar Singh
  • Jhansi …….. Rani Lakshmi Bhai
  • Gwalior …….. Rani Lakshmi Bhai, Tantia Tope
  • Lucknow, Agra …….. Begum Hazrat Mahal
  • Awadh …….. Beegum Hazrat Mahal
  • Bareilly …….. Khan Bahadur Khan
  • Faizabad …….. Maulavi Ahammadullah
  • Assam …….. Diwan Maniram Putti
  • Mathura …….. Devi Singh
  • Kanpur …….. Nana Sahib
  • Meerut …….. Kadam Singh
  • Mandasor …….. Firoz Shah
  • Moradabad …….. Abdul Ali Khan
  • Allahabad …….. Liaquat Ali
  • Haryana …….. Rao Thula Ram


Centre Leaders British Officials Suppressed the Revolt Fate of the Leader
Delhi Bahadur Shah, General Bakht Khan of Bareilly regiment John Nicholson,

Willoughby, Lt.


Bahadur Shah deported to Rangoon, Bakht Khan died in battlefield
Lucknow Begum Hazrat Mahal of Avadh Colin Campbell Escaped to Nepal
Kanpur Nana Saheb, Tantia Tope, Azimullah Colin Campbell, Henry

Havelock, Henry


Nana Sahib escaped to Nepal, Tantia Tope was hanged, Azimullah died ofillness
Jhansi Lakshmibai Hugh Rose Died in battle field
Arrah Kunwar Singh William Tyler and Eyre Died of wound sustained in the fight


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