What caused the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857?

It was not for the first time that the sepoys mutinied against the Company in 1857. There were several instances of discontented sepoys refusing to take orders from their superiors. It was the grievances of the Sepoys that ultimately became the root cause of the 1857 revolt.

In 1764 a section of the sepoys demanded greater rewards in the campaign against Mir Kasim. Hector Munro suppressed it with brutal efficiency. Thereafter localized mutiny of the sepoys occurred in regular frequency in different parts of the Company’s territories.

There was a mutiny at Vellore in 1806, of the Bengal army in Java in 1815, Barrackpore in 1824, Gwalior in 1834, Afghanistan during 1839-42 and Burma in 1824 and 1852.

The specific provocations varied from one situation to another, but there were some causes common to all the situations. The grievances of Sepoy mutiny that lead to the the Great Revolt of 1857 were:

1. The sepoys were aggrieved with their low salary. It remained fixed at rupees 7.00 a month from 1796 to 1857.

2. Compared to their European counterparts, they had practically no scope for promotion and other privileges.

3. Certain policies and practices followed in the army affected caste and religious feelings of the sepoys. The sepoys of the Bengal army in particular consisted largely of Brahmins and Rajputs, drawn from western Bihar, U.P. and Rohilkhand. Although they served the Company, they were extremely concerned about purity and pollution rules governing their castes. Whenever their religious sentiments were ruffled, they became restive.