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Day 4 – Q 2.The rebellion of 1857 was something more than a sepoy mutiny, but something less than a national revolt. Do you agree? Substantiate your views.

2.The rebellion of 1857 was something more than a sepoy mutiny, but something less than a national revolt. Do you agree? Substantiate your views.  

1857 का विद्रोह सिपाही विद्रोह से कुछ अधिक था, लेकिन राष्ट्रीय विद्रोह से कुछ कम था। क्या आप सहमत हैं? अपने विचारों का सारगर्भित करें।


The 1857 revolt was much more than a mere product of sepoy discontent. It was the end result of accumulated grievances of the people, rulers, zamindars etc., over the company’s administration especially the economic exploitation built over the time. Yet, the spread and extent of revolt shows that it was less than a national revolt with an idea of ‘India’.



There are multiple views about the nature of 1857 revolt which are listed below

  • Sepoy mutiny: as some British historians like John Seeley observed – “it was a wholly unpatriotic and selfish sepoy mutiny with no central leadership”. 
  • Military outbreak as some of the historians like K. Datta observed which was taken advantage by certain sections of discontented landlords and princes. Though this may be true up to an extent, the nature of revolt had a nationalist feeling over the time.
  • Planned war of national independence: as nationalists like V D Savarkar interpreted, the revolt was inspired by the intent of self-rule by the Indians.

More than sepoy mutiny:

  • It involved many sections of the civilian population (artisans, peasants etc.,) and not just the sepoys. As per an estimate, more than half of the people dead are civilians.
  • The revolt as said by Nehru was also an uprising against the feudal class. The instances where villagers attacked and burnt moneylender books shows the revolutionary character of the revolt.
  • The revolt spread all over north India which involved various princes, local chieftains and not just led by sepoys and military commanders.
  • The mutineers looked up to the Mughal King to lead them with the intent of self-rule. This shows that it was an intent for freedom from British rule and not just discontent among sepoys.
  • The sepoys who revolted for the reason of Pig-Cow greased cartridges later used the same cartridges to fight the British. This shows, the revolt was against the British rule and policies per-se than just about sepoys’ discontent.

Less than a national revolt:

  • All-India participation was absent which would have made it national revolt. The eastern, southern and western parts of India remained more or less unaffected.
  • The revolt was not organized by any institution or a group with a proper structure with a defined goal like the Indian national congress.
  • All classes did not join. 
    • Big zamindars, Taluqdars, Money-lenders and merchants helped the British. 
    • Educated Indians trusted British as way of modernization and did not support the mutineers.
    • Most Indian rulers refused to join, and many rulers like Holkar, Sindhia etc., gave active help to the British.
  • No Unified Ideology: There was no idea of an Indian nation and the mutineers had no concrete plan to overthrow British.
  • As R C Majumdar considers it was neither the first, nor national nor a war of independence as major parts of the country is not affected.


Thus, the 1857 revolt as British called it was indeed a mutiny of soldiers. However, when it spread among civilians it assumed the civilian character and instilled nationalist feelings. The observation by S N Sen summarizes it “The Mutiny became a Revolt and assumed a political character when the mutineers of Meerut placed themselves under the king of Delhi. What began as a fight for religion ended as a war of independence. “ 

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