A mighty popular revolt broke out in Northern and Central India in 1857 and nearly swept away the British rule.
It began with the mutiny of sepoys but soon engulfed wide regions and involved the masses. Millions of peasants, artisans and soldiers fought heroically for over a year and by their exemplary courage and sacrifice wrote a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian people.
The revolt broke out at Meerut on the 10th May 1857. The Meerut soldiers marched to Delhi and proclaimed the aged and powerless Bahadur Shah the Emperor of India. Delhi was soon to become the Centre of Great Revolt and Bahadur Shah its great symbol. Bahadur Shah in return wrote to all chiefs and rulers to organize confederacy to overthrow British regime. The entire Bengal army soon rose in revolt which spread quickly.
Awadh, Rohilkhand, poab, the Bundelkhand, Central India, large parts of Bihar, and East Punjab all shook off British authority. In many princely states, rulers remarked royal to their British overload, but the soldiers revolted. Many of the Indore troops rebelled and joined sepoys. Many small chiefs of Maharashtra and Rajasthan revolted with the support of people.
The tremendous sweep and breadth of the revolt was matched by its depth. Everywhere in Northern and Central India, the mutiny of sepoys triggered popular revolts of the civilian population. After the sepoys had destroyed British authority, the common people rose up in arms often fighting with spears and axes, bows and arrows. In many places, people revolted even before the sepoys did or even when no sepoy regiments were present. It is the wide participation by the peasants, the artisans, shopkeepers and zamindars which gave it real strength as well as the character of a popular revolt, especially in the areas included in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Here the peasants and zamindars expressed their grievances by attacking money lenders and new zamindars. British law court, revenue offices. Much of the strength of the revolt of 1857 lay in Hindu, Muslim unity. Among the soldiers and people and among leaders, there was complete; cooperation between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus and Muslims rebels and sepoys respected each other’s sentiments.
The revolt through challenging the British rule could not reverse the changes brought by the British. This was owing to many weakness from which the, revolt suffered. Foremost was the revolt could not assume all India’s character. Also, the rebels did not; have modern weapons and other materials of war.
Also, they did not possess forward-looking programme, a coherent ideology a political perspective I or a vision of future society and economy. It; represented no social alternative to be intermitted after capture of power. The revolt was first great strength of Indian people. It passed the way for rise of modern national movement.