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Most sources agree that the Indian Rebellion took place in 1875 as a mutiny of sepoys. Muslim soldiers and Hindu in the Indian army, called sepoys, began a mutiny that ended by the destruction of Mughal Empire which was the cause of the direct control of India by the British government. India has been a country with its own traditions and very conservative people with their specific beliefs, way of life, culture and traditions. Great Britain and its government disregarded Indian people and forced on them their own rules, reforms, religion, which had influenced different spheres of Indian life, i.e., political, cultural, military and economic among others. The historical events in India in 1875, known as the Indian Rebellion or the Indian Mutiny, were studied by scholars, politicians, researchers and historians for many years, and there are different approaches to this historical phenomenon (Bayly 1988, 247). By overviewing various resources and approaches, we can make an attempt to analyze the Indian Rebellion from different points of view and all aspects, such as political, military, cultural, etc.
Immediate Causes of the Indian Rebellion
To identify the problem, we must find out the causes that led to this historical event and opened a new page in the Indian history. Many scholars consider that the Indian Rebellion was the Indian war of independence, because the native citizens were deeply suffering from the English Empire and its rulers who offended them a lot. Having their own ancient culture, religion, traditions, customs, army, etc., the Indians were not satisfied with the English policy upon their culture that made them to resist the British conquerors with violence (Saul 2003, 528). The British ignored the Indian culture, what made the Indian people to be aggressive upon the English rulers and be ready for the war with the aim to get rid of them and gain independence. However, the British Empire was very powerful and for the poor Indian people it was almost impossible to achieve their goals, but they tried. Due to their religion (Hinduism and Buddhism), they had specific standards in life, like caste and beliefs: for instance, they consider cows to be sacred and pigs to be untouchable.
Sepoys were Indian troops consisted of the native Indians that worked in behalf of the British Empire for the English East India Company. They refused use their rifles that were greased with the fat of pigs and cows due to their religious beliefs. At the beginning, there were eighty five sepoys, who later freed other sepoys from prison, including hundreds of political prisoners, and killed forty British citizens, who were mainly officers of the British army (Washbrook 1999, 125). The Indian princess along with other followers supported the mutiny in an attempt to protect their culture and independence, thus, the Indian Rebellion of 1857 had started.
From the History of India before the Rebellion
In the beginning of the 19th century, when Great Britain had already ruled India, the Indian economy was rather stagnant at that time and the British made their attempts to educate people, improve the Indian army, and develop economy, by providing different reforms. India was mainly uneducated country with the poor citizens, especially in its rural areas. The British brought the European influence to the Indian towns, such as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, which were known as the old bases of the British trade. In fact, their influence was positive on the purview of intellectuality they brought into the Indian society, but they could not change their minds and beliefs in their attempt to promote Christianity (Mukherjee 1984, 143). Traditional Indian beliefs got even stronger than before; their caste separation had strong roots going deep in its history. The British could enforce the Indian army, educate people, make reforms, but they hardly could change beliefs and cultural traditions, which still exist in the modern Indian life. By controlling all spheres of the Indian life, the British got high income from the native farmers as they were collecting high land taxes and also part of the crops. Though, the position of the British was not stable in the 19th century, a period of reforms was followed by conservatism that led to the nationalism, which was the basis of the modern Indian society (Stanley 2004, 530).
Many historians consider that the interpretation of the Indian history in the 19th century is rather controversial and difficult, because of various factors, such as, for example, that the British intentions and achievements in India were different things. India had been colonized many times before the British invasion, but in its history the British conquest had much more complicated consequences for India and its people. Scholars indentify four main features of the British invasion in India, they are: the communication factor, the religion factor, the economic factor and the organization factor. Firstly, it is worth mentioning, that Indian history before the British was much simple. The British thought that they are a very special nation and the people of India could stay on the very low stages, thus the Indians could not claim higher ranks in the society or be a part of the dominant class, what was available only for the whites. Therefore, the native Indians were limited in communication and had to treat the British as slaves.
Secondly, from the religion point of view, scholars identified two main religious groups: Hindu and Muslims that were constantly struggling with each other. After the British came to India, they tried to promote Christianity that was not a simple thing to do, because the Indians were very much addicted to their religion unlike the British, to whom religion was not of great priority in life (Stanley 1998, 34). The Christian missionaries made their activities all over the India with the aim to involve more people into it, but both Hindus and Muslims were very aggressive against Christianity. The main target of the new religious propaganda was low caste Hindus, because they were prone to become Christians as their position was extremely oppressed and degraded in the society. The Christian missionaries arranged special Bible classes in schools which looked like a real attack on their own religion. The British demand to force Christianity upon Indians was not of great success.
Thirdly, the economic factor deals with the trading relations and objectives between Britain and India. Britain has transported from India raw material on the discrimination and exploitation basis providing high taxation rates, what made India to be dependent from Britain. In the economic aspect India was a prisoner of Britain and most Indians saw London as the main evil (Washbrook 1999, 130). The British did not make contribution into the Indian economy, their main purpose was to explore and discriminate the natives in order to get high profits.
Fourthly, though most of the British were conducted as racists, not all of them were like that. Many of them liked India and its people, respected their religion and culture and those of them who had positive attitude upon India made a positive contribution in the social development, literature, education, economic and political spheres. Thus, to overview the historical conditions before the Indian Rebellion, we come to the conclusion that the war of independence was obvious and most Indians consider that to be the only way out of their discriminative situation (Bose & Jala 1998, 55). In 1856, most British landowners lost control over their estates, which, in fact, were Indian property. It was rather difficult to make profits, because the taxation rates were very high. Resistance to the government and the British rulers were strong among the native Indians, especially in its Northern part. The British tried to control the order with the help of soldiers of the Bengal army, who are known in the history as sepoys.
What was The Indian Army before the Rebellion?
The native Indian soldiers were called “sepoys” who were recruited by the East India Company mainly from the Northern part of India. It was called the Bengal army. The military service allowed the Indian soldiers to rich the higher status, what was practically impossible in the caste civil life. So, to serve in the army was a prestigious position which gave soldiers a chance to see themselves as elite. The officers in the Indian army were exclusively the British, who kept under control every Indian soldier. By 1857, there were certain conditions that led to the Indian Rebellion or Indian Mutiny. It was a kind of an independence war against the British conquers (Stanley 1998, 314). “The First War for Independence” started after the sepoys had risen against British officers and Britain in Meerut and then spread to the capital city of Delhi and some other cities.
The reason for the mutiny was the religious beliefs of the Indian soldiers and the introduction of new rifles. In April 1857 they refused to use rifles with cartridges that were stuffed with pigs` and cows` lard, as it was an insult to both Hindus and Muslims. They were sentenced to jail with long prison terms. That punishment pushed other Indian soldiers to support them, thus the sepoys` troops marched to Delhi and joined other Indian troops there. There were no British troops there, what gave them assurance in their actions (Metcalf 1964, 234). The mutiny had spread throughout the Northern part of India. The sepoys strongly believed that they would get the victory over the British with the help of their religion, but the miracle did not happen.
According to researchers` review, the Northern part of India had constant disorder and resistance to the government, what became a tradition in the Indian army. The situation in the middle of the 19th century had become more intense and it led to the Rebellion. There were three parts of the mutiny: the first was the summer struggles in Delhi, Lucknow and Cawnpore; the second – the winter operation in Lucknow in 1857-1858 under the direction of Sir Colin Campbell; and the third – the military campaigns directed by Sir Hugh Rose in early 1858. The peace was officially signed on July 8, 1858.
The Results of the British Superiority in India
The paramount power in India was a result of the supremacy of the Mogoul Viceroys. The Mahrattas and the Afghans conquers pushed British to take India under its control in order to protect it from the whole destruction and because of its imperial causes. Constant invaders and wars had destroyed the country not only by territories, but also by tribes, Hindu and Muslims, between caste and caste. The whole Indian history is the history of invasions and conquests. Many historians consider that the British had saved India from the total destruction and made its history. The British Empire was one of the most powerful empires in the world and there was always a doubtful question whether it would be better for India if the Turk, the Russians or the Persian had conquered the country (Washbrook 1999, 124). The Indian passive basis gave the place for new intruders over the history and the British stopped this process which was intended to cultivate new progressive ideas that could help India and its people to develop. The British experience in the economic, political and military spheres had made a great impact on the Indian life much more positive than negative. Hence, most scholars consider that England had fulfilled two missions in India: one constructive and the other destructive. It was the foundation of the Western society in Asia, which provided English language, Christianity, education, economic growth, etc. On the other hand, they destroyed native economy, law, army, communities, etc. The process of regeneration of the Indian culture, religion and way of life never stopped, though the influence of Britain was strong, especially in the cities and towns (Bose & Jala 1998, 50). The British trained and armed the Indian army making it strong and professional that could resist any aggression from abroad. That was inevitably a great impact of the British on the Indian army development and improvement.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 had influenced the introduction of the free press, which was the first one in Asiatic society, that was, in fact, a reflection of new powerful reconstruction of India. New schools and colleges had educated the native Indians under English superintendence, what gave them an opportunity to integrate with European and world economy and science. India had received rapid communication with Europe and got rid of its political and economical isolation, what was the main cause of its stagnation (Washbrook 1999, 130-135). Transformation of India after the Indian Rebellion has become of vital importance for the British, because they knew the real potential of the country. The British government had an exceptional interest in the Indian progress.
A New Government
After the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the Indians had got the new royal government that kept under control all spheres of life, including political, economic, cultural, military, and educational spheres. The landlords received more rights getting new lands for their agricultural activities. There were changes in the army, politics, economy, etc. The scholars characterized a new royal government as conservative, what was actually the reflection of the British government system. Many changes had occurred in the life of the Indians that gave an access to the future development, integration with the world trade, new technology, politics and economy. The British helped to construct a new railroad system that diminished the isolation of the Indian villages and cities; irrigation systems that increased the profits of farmers. The opening of the Suez Canal gave an access for wider trade and cooperation with the world market. From then native Indians received an opportunity to sell their crops and goods in Europe and in other parts of the world. The unique Indian textile industry has got recognition. Many other industries have developed due to the investments that were coming from Britain. The changes that had place in the second part of the 19th century had positive results and the great impact into the Indian economy. The British had changed the economic situation and put an end to the stagnation which was in the first part of the 19th century (Bose & Jala 1998, 50-55).
All these changes were rather rapid and progressive and led India to the new level of life concerning of various spheres of life. The British and progressive Indians understood the role of education in the development of the country, that’s why they opened colleges, universities and schools providing English as the second state language for the sake of better communication. It is worth mentioning that the towns and villages began to develop and people were able to choose what kind of culture and religion to choose. The Indians could use their own language in addition to English, as they realized that English has become an international means of communication. The historians called that period as the intellectual movement that was so necessary for the future development of the country. Hinduism and Islam were still the leading religions, though many people converted to Christianity (Stanley 2004, 530). It was hard to call India a colonial country. We can identify that all changes that a new government has brought to the Indian life were of the great importance and could be viewed as revolutionary ones.
Observations of the Great Indian Rebellion of 1857 have shown the consequences that had occurred in the Indian society, its advantages and disadvantages for the native Indians. We must underline that there were more advantages than disadvantages of this historical event for the further development of India (Bayly 1988, 247). The changes affected all spheres of life, such as political, economic, cultural, educational, religious, etc. The whole system of the social organization has been changed under the influence of the British leadership and investments. After the Indian Rebellion, transformations in all spheres of life had a positive impact on the future of India. New civilization has been started that mastered and improved Indian society. Saving their own traditions, specific beliefs, way of life, culture and traditions, the Indian people were involved into the world culture, economy and politics. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was the basis for the future development of the country. Now India is a fabulous country with unique culture, traditions, natural wealth, that attracts many tourists and businessmen from all over the world. To achieve that, the Indian history has overcome many difficulties, the one of which was the Indian Rebellion of 1857.