Mains Practice Question


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How did the revolt of 1857 take the form of a popular movement with the participation of peasants in Awadh?

A Simple Introduction about the Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857, also known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 or the First War of Independence, was a significant uprising against British colonial rule in India. It began as a mutiny among Indian soldiers (sepoys) of the British East India Company's army in Meerut on May 10, 1857, and quickly spread to other parts of northern and central India.



It is the central part of the answer and one should understand the demand of the question to provide rich content.

  • Awadh was a region that contributed a significant number of military personnel to the British East India Company's army. With 75,000 soldiers, nearly every farming family in the kingdom had representation in the army, making events in Awadh directly relevant to the Sepoys.
  • The removal of the Nawab and the appropriation of taluqdar villages during the 1856 land revenue settlement incited widespread unrest. Over 14,000 petitions were submitted by Sepoys regarding the hardships they faced due to the revenue system. Mangal Pandey's actions reflected the discontentment caused by British authority among peasant families.

Mangal Pandey's Role in the Revolt

  • Mangal Pandey enlisted in the East India Company’s army at 22, serving as a soldier in the 6th company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry. He refused to use the newly introduced Enfield gun, which was believed to have cartridges made of animal fat (beef and pork) that had to be bitten open before use.
  • Soldiers perceived this as a direct assault on their religious beliefs by the British, who were seen as attempting to undermine their religion and promote Christianity.
  • The blending of identities between soldier and farmer, coupled with widespread public anger against British rule, facilitated the uprising's expansion across India. For a time, the public felt liberated from governmental fear and administrative control.
  • In Awadh, the revolt evolved into a grassroots movement, with participation from both dispossessed taluqdars and peasants who had obtained land titles in 1856. They rallied in support of their ousted Nawab, shaping the rebellion into a popular cause. 


The ending of the answer should be on a positive note and it should have a forward-looking approach.

On September 20, 1857, Delhi succumbed after a fierce struggle. Bahadur Shah, seeking refuge at Humayun’s tomb, was captured, tried, and exiled to Myanmar. The British quelled rebels in various regions. On June 17, 1858, the Rani of Jhansi perished in battle. Despite Nana Saheb's refusal to surrender, he eventually fled to Nepal in early 1859, hoping to resume the conflict. Tantiya Tope, who waged successful guerrilla warfare until April 1859, was betrayed by a zamindar, captured, and executed by the British. Thus concluded the most significant challenge the British had encountered in India.


Other Points to Consider 

Other places of revolt in 1857

Who called in the First War of Indian Independence?

Previous Year Questions
1. Why did the armies of the British East India Company – mostly comprising of Indian Soldiers – win consistently against the more numerous and better equipped armies of the then Indian rulers? Give reasons. (2022)
2. Explain how the upraising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India. (2016)


21-May 2024