What Caused The Sepoy Rebellion
What caused the Sepoy Rebellion in India? What was the legacy it left behind?
Broadly speaking, the "Great Rebellion" (known at the time as the "Sepoy Rebellion" because it was led by "sepoys," or Bengal soldiers serving under the British) was caused by the sense that the British were exploiting the Indian people and threatening to expunge traditional Indian culture. There were many other factors, such as forced commercialization of farming, taxation, and others, but these cultural concerns were profoundly important.
The British disrespect for the people they ruled was symbolized by a story that spread through the ranks of the Bengal army. The story held that cartridges to be used in new rifles issued to Bengal soldiers were greased with pork fat, which was anathema to Muslims, or beef fat, which Hindus could not consume for similar reasons.
Rebellions broke out in the ranks of the sepoys, and quickly spread throughout Northern India. As for the legacy of the rebellion, its most important legacy was that the British crown took control of the subcontinent from the East India Company. The new government attempted to create loyalty and stability by building infrastructure, respecting traditional Indian culture, and simultaneously educating a class of Indian people to serve in the imperial bureaucracy. Indian princes were granted increased autonomy, and the commercialization of the Indian economy continued, and even accelerated.
Essentially, the Sepoy Rebellion was caused by British insensitivity to the growing dismay amongst the Indian Sepoys, or soldiers, being used to enhance British aims of expansionism and colonialism, the Sepoy soldiers developed a sense of resentment about how British companies were gaining wealth at the hands of the Indians. Mistreatment of Indians and the Sepoys who were being used as British tools in order to advance an agenda which was contrary to the indigenous people led to a sense of fomenting resistance. The previous post's discussion of the issue of animal grease/ fat almost served as the breaking point in a continual pattern of disrespect and disregard. The Sepoy Rebellion was seen as the first Indian action of Independence, but also helped to highlight how inhumane the British were, as Indians began to see in very stark terms the cruelty of Imperialism and the lack of control it features for its victims.
The immediate cause of the rebellion was rumors that were spreading among the Indian soldiers regarding the new cartridges they had been issued. The rumors said that they cartridges were made with either pork or beef fat (depending on whether the soldiers were Muslim or Hindu). This would have made the soldiers violate their religious laws when they bit the cartridges.
The underlying reason, however, was basic dissatisfaction over the fact that the British were ruling India. If the Indians had fully accepted British rule, the mutiny would not have happened.
In my opinion, the main legacy of this rebellion was greater mistrust between the British and their Indian subjects.