The Civil Uprisings Prior To 1857

The Civil Uprisings Prior To 1857


Whatever is unrelated to the military or the defense industry is referred to as "civil." Before 1857, uprisings were commonly led by overthrown kings or their heirs, uprooted and destitute zamindars, landowners, and poligars (landed military magnates in South India), as well as former retainers and representatives of vanquished Indian States. The demobilized troops, insolvent artisans, and rack-rented peasants made up the rebels' core, giving them a broad base and decisive power. 

Social Foundations of Uprisings

•    The East India Company's political clout increased after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and by the end of the eighteenth century, the British had established themselves as India's dominating force.
•    It became important to develop and put into effect policies for land tax, law and order, and administration as the Company advanced politically.
•    Such rules' application caused turmoil in Indian society and forced changes.
•    The Company's main objective was to leverage India's wealth to further England's prosperity.
•    These upheavals affected the sociocultural, economic, and political lives of people.
•    A rebellion started to spread across the nation as a result of the instability.
•    The insurrection of 1857 was the culmination of a series of rebellions that occurred throughout the British Empire, not just in its closing years.
•    Two key factors that contributed to these revolutions were the demise of old institutions of authority and increased economic pressure.
•    Traditional segments of society rebelled at a time when the newly formed elite of urban intellectuals was enjoying the benefits of British rule because their livelihoods had been almost utterly transformed for the worse.
•    Political-religious movements like the Faqir and Sanyasi revolutions were led by religious mendicants, whose religious ceremonies were challenging for the British to understand. 

Civil Uprisings' Characteristics

•    Even though they took place at various dates and locations, these revolutions largely mirrored common conditions.
•    The semi-feudal leaders of civil uprisings had a conventional outlook and were regressive in thought.
•    Their principal objective was to reinstate the old systems of social and political organization.
•    These revolutions had similarly regional effects because they were sparked by regional issues and grievances.
Civil Uprisings  Prior To 1857

Major Factors

•    During the Company's rule, there were quick changes to the administration, land revenue system, and economy, all of which were bad for the populace.
•    Many zamindars and poligars harbored personal animosities towards the new rulers since they had been deprived of their control over their properties and income by the colonial government.
•    When they were degraded in stature by government officials and a new class of merchants and moneylenders developed, the egos of traditional zamindars and poligars were wounded.
•    Colonial policies that devastated India's handcraft industries left millions of artisans penniless.
•    The loss of their traditional patrons and customers princes, chieftains, and zamindars made their plight worse.
•    The traditional landed and bureaucratic elite supported the religious orators, priests, pundits, maulvis, and others, the priestly classes encouraged enmity and opposition to foreign rule.
•    The overthrow of zamindars and feudal lords had an immediate effect on the priestly class.
•    The native population's pride was damaged by the British rulers' foreign nature, which was always strange to this area, and their contemptuous behavior towards them.

Important Civil Uprisings

­Civil Uprisings


Time Period



Sanyasi Revolt




  • The Sanyasi revolt was a late-eighteenth-century rebellion in Bengal, India, in the Murshidabad and Baikunthpur forests of Jalpaiguri under the leadership of Pandit Bhabani Charan Pathak.
  • In the 18th century, the Sanyasis who rose against the English were not always individuals who had given up the world.
  • The uprisings were marked by equal participation by Hindus and Muslims.

Revolt in Midnapore and Dhalbhum




  • In cases of dispute between the ryots and the English revenue collecting authorities, the zamindars of Midnapore sided with the ryots.
  • By the 1800s, the zamindars of Dhalbhum, Manbhum, Raipur, Panchet, Jhatibuni, Karnagarh, and Bagri, who lived in the huge Jungle Mahals of west and north-west Midnapore, had lost their zamindaries.
  • Damodar Singh and Jagannath Dhal were key figures in the uprisings.

Revolt of Moamarias




  • The Moamaria insurrection of 1769 was a powerful threat to the authority of Assam's Ahom monarchs.
  • The Moamarias were low-caste peasants who followed Aniruddhadeva's (1553–1624) teachings, and their growth paralleled that of other North Indian low-caste communities.
  • Their uprisings weakened the Ahoms and allowed others to assault the territory.
  • Despite the fact that the Ahom kingdom survived the uprising, it was devastated by a Burmese invasion and eventually fell under British authority.

Civil Uprisings in Gorakhpur, Basti, and Bahraich




  • In order to pay for the war against the Marathas and Mysore, Warren Hastings devised a scheme to employ English officers as ijaradars (revenue farmers) in Awadh.
  • In 1781, the zamindars and farmers revolted against the oppressive taxes, and within weeks, all of Hannay's subordinates were either slain or besieged by zamindari guerrilla troops.

Revolt of Raja of Vizianagaram




  • The English and Ananda Gajapatiraju, the monarch of Vizianagaram, signed a deal in 1758 to jointly expel the French from the Northern Circars.
  • The raja rose up in revolt, backed by his subjects.
  • In 1793, the English captured the raja and sentenced him to exile with a pension. The raja was adamant in his refusal.
  • In 1794, the raja was killed in a fight at Padmanabham (now in the Andhra Pradesh district of Visakhapatnam). The Company took control of Vizianagaram.

Civil Rebellion in Awadh




  • In Benares, Wazir Ali Khan was given a pension. However, in January 1799, he assassinated George Frederick Cherry, a British citizen who had invited him to lunch.
  • Wazir Ali's soldiers also killed two other Europeans and assaulted the Benares Magistrate.
  • The entire episode became known as the Benares Massacre.
  • Wazir Ali was able to raise a force of many thousand soldiers, but General Erskine was able to beat them.

Kutch or Cutch Rebellion




  • The British meddled in the Kutch's internal feuds, prompting Raja Bharmal II to gather Arab and African forces in 1819 with the goal of driving the British out of his realm.
  • In favor of his newborn son, the British defeated and removed Kutch monarch Rao Bharamal.
  • The regency council's administrative innovations, along with excessive land valuation, sparked significant dissatisfaction.

Parlakimidi Outbreak




  • The zamindars and rajas of Parlakimedi, on the western frontier of Ganjam district (now in Odisha), put up a fight.
  • Narayan Deo was the ruler of Parlakimidi when the Company conquered Ganjam, and his resistance led the British to dispatch an army under Colonel Peach.
  • In 1768, Peach conquered Narayan Deo and appointed Gajapathi Deo (Narayan's son) a zamindar. But Narayan Deo, with the help of his son and siblings, revolted once more.
  • In 1832, the Presidency of Madras nominated George Russell as the region's commissioner when the opposition failed to abate.

Rising at Bareilly




  • When Mufti Muhammad Aiwaz, a revered old man, petitioned the town magistrate in March 1816, the dispute became religious.
  • The scenario became even worse when a lady was hurt by police while collecting taxes.
  • The Mufti's supporters and the police got into a brutal brawl as a result of this incident.
  • Within two days following the incident, armed Muslims from Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, and Rampur rose up in revolt to defend the faith and the Mufti.
  • The revolt could only be put down with the strong deployment of military troops, which resulted in the deaths of over 300 insurgents, as well as the wounding and imprisonment of many more.

Paika Rebellion




  • The Paiks of Odisha were the traditional landed militia (meaning "foot soldiers") who had hereditary land tenures in exchange for their military duty and policing tasks.
  • Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar was the military commander of the Raja of Khurda's army.
  • The Company took away Jagabandhu's ancestral estate of Killa Rorang in 1814, leaving him destitute.
  • The entry of a group of Khonds from Gumsur into Khurda territory in March 1817 lit the fuse.
  • Paika Bidroh was the name given to the insurrection (rebellion).
  • For a time, the rebels' early success galvanized the whole province of Odisha against the British administration.
  • The Paika Rebellion was successful in obtaining huge remissions of arrears, reductions in assessments, a moratorium on the sale of defaulters' properties at will, a new settlement on permanent tenures, and other liberal governance adjuncts.

Upsurge in Hathras




  • Dayaram, a talukdar of numerous villages in Aligarh's district, maintained a stronghold at the Hathras fort.
  • The English had completed the Hathras estate settlement by appointing Dayaram as a farmer.
  • In February 1817, the Company assaulted Hathras with a huge force. Dayaram battled valiantly for almost 15 days and emerged unscathed.
  • However, he was eventually forced to return on the condition of submission and settle down with a pension.
  • Fearing that his fort would be dismantled, another notable rebel, Bhagwant Singh, Raja of Mursan, surrendered to the authorities.

Waghera Rising




  • The Waghera leaders of Okha Mandal were forced to take up arms due to resentment of the alien authority, as well as the demands of the Gaekwad of Baroda, who were backed by the British administration.
  • During the years 1818–1819, the Wagheras made incursions into British territory.
  • In November 1820, a peace deal was concluded.

Ahom Revolt




  • After the First Burma War (1824–26), the British promised to leave Assam.
  • Instead of leaving after the conflict, the British tried to absorb the Ahoms' regions under the Company's rule.
  • This triggered a revolt in 1828, led by Gomdhar Konwar, an Ahom prince, and his countrymen, including Dhanjay Borgohain and Jairam Khargharia Phukan.
  • The rebels formally installed Gomdhar Konwar as king at Jorhat.
  • Finally, the Company adopted a conciliatory stance and gave up Upper Assam to Maharaja Purandar Singh Narendra, reuniting the Assamese ruler with a portion of his realm.

Surat Salt Agitations




  • In 1844, a strong anti-British feeling led to attacks against Europeans by the local Surat populace over the government's decision to raise the salt levy from 50 paise to one rupee.
  • The administration dropped the extra salt fee in response to public outcry.
  • In 1848, the government was compelled to cancel its plan to implement Bengal Standard Weights and Measures in the face of a persistent campaign of boycotting and passive resistance by the people.

Wahabi Movement




  • Syed Ahmed of Rai Bareilly, influenced by the teachings of Saudi Arabia's Abdul Wahab (1703–87) and Delhi's Shah Waliullah, formed the Wahhabi Movement, which was primarily an Islamic revivalist movement.
  • Syed Ahmed denounced Western influence on Islam and called for a restoration to genuine Islam and society as it was in the Arabia of the Prophet's day.

Kuka Movement




  • Baba Ram Singh emerged as a key figure in the movement. (The Namdhari Sikh sect was created by him.)
  • Its primary ideas were the eradication of caste and other forms of discrimination among Sikhs, the prohibition of meat, alcohol, and narcotics, the acceptance of intermarriages, widow remarriage, and the encouragement of women to come out of seclusion.
  • On a political level, the Kukas called for the removal of the British and the restoration of Sikh control over Punjab, as well as the wearing of handwoven clothing and a boycott of English laws, education, and products.
  • Thus, the Kukas promoted the principles of Swadeshi and non-cooperation even before they were involved in the Indian national movement in the early twentieth century.

Civil Uprisings  Prior To 1857

Meaning of The Uprisings

•    The rebels' behavior shows that they were aware of their goals and foes.
•    Numerous times, local issues could have been what ignited the insurrection. But as time went on, the movement's goals grew increasingly broad.
•    Although a movement may have begun as a response to local landowner persecution, it soon evolved into a demonstration against the British Raj.
•    Rebels frequently drew inspiration from their own idealized pasts in order to reclaim those pasts.
•    For earlier rebels, the past stood for liberation from exploitation and unjust treatment.
•    The ruling class made an effort to portray the uprisings as a problem with law and order and a criminal offence.
•    The peasants' awareness of their problems and right to demonstrate is being completely denied by this.
•    It's important to comprehend peasant and tribal activity in its own right since the rebels, on the other hand, lacked a long-term objective beyond restoring the status quo.
•    Despite having constrained objectives and a narrow worldview, the rebels were successful in demonstrating how unpopular colonial rule was.


•    Despite being localized and taking place at various times and locations, these revolutions attracted a significant crowd.
•    They usually developed as a result of local residents' objections.
•    The opposition had a semi-feudal history, a conventional worldview, and there were no workable alternatives to the current social system.
•    Many of these uprisings appeared to share a desire to overthrow foreign power, but this was not because of any 'national' urge or planned effort rather, it was because they were all battling against the same problems.
•    In terms of both form and ideological/cultural content, these uprisings spanned centuries.
•    The administration's concessions appeased those who weren't as challenging or obstructionist.
•    The soldiers' abilities and equipment were essentially outmoded throughout these revolutions in comparison to the tactics, strategy, deception, and chicanery employed by their adversaries.


In pre-colonial India, protests by the populace against the rulers and their officials were common. The State's high land revenue demands, corrupt practices, and harsh attitude of the authorities were among the motivating factors. On the other hand, the development of colonial power and its policies had a much bigger annihilative impact on Indians as a whole. The colonial legal system and judicial system served to defend the government and its allies, including the landlords, merchants, and moneylenders. As a result, individuals who had no other choice but to pick up guns decided to do so in order to defend themselves.

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