What are the main causes of the First War of Indian Independence? Please provide points and explanations.
The First War of Indian Independence was an unsuccessful attempt by Indian soldiers (sepoys) to fight against British rule through the East India Company. The sepoys staged a major mutiny that led to engagement by civilians in the conflict with some fighting for the East India Company and others against it. The rebellion, however, ended in defeat for the rebels and ushered a British controlled government in India.
The major issue pointing to the onset of the rebellion was cultural and religious challenges posed by the sepoys. Caste issues presented a major challenge to how the British could constitute or administrate the soldiers. Higher caste soldiers could not mingle with the lower caste colleagues, and for that reason, they could not serve overseas.
The Higher caste soldiers expected more pay and higher positions within the army. However, the higher positions were mostly filled by British soldiers. Rumors about animal fats (cows and pigs) being used as grease for their ammunition also led to growing suspicion between the soldiers and their European superiors because contact with the grease was against their cultural and religious doctrines.
These challenges spiraled out of control with soldiers refusing to use the cartridges and rebelling against their commanding officers. Subsequent sentences against some of the sepoys only agitated the situation further, leading to an all out war.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857, which was also known as the Sepoy Rebellion, was caused by a number of different factors. The rebellion began within the ranks of the Sepoys, an Indian arm of the British army which outnumbered their British counterparts 4 to 1. Many of the Sepoy’s were recruited from the upper classes of Indian society, and were given special privileges for religious reasons, such as separate dining and bathing facilities. These privileges were slowly curtailed, which led to disquiet within the Sepoy ranks. The Sepoy were also angered by the British’s decisions to grease their gun cartridge with beef fat, which was a gross violation of Hinduism, which treats cattle as scared creatures.
Many of the people involved in the rebellion were members of the landed class or old aristocracy who were tired of seeing their power slowly chipped away, so they were more than willing to help fund, lead and organize the rebellion once it had broken out.
The actual spark occurred in March of 1857 when a private in the Indian army, Mangal Pandey, threatened to rebel over the before mentioned changes. He was eventually court-marshaled and shot for striking his superior, which led to a much wider protest rebellion in the ranks.