India Struggle for Independence 

Revision Notes or Short Notes



Resistance to British Rule in India

 Background (1757 – 1857):

  • The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny was a culmination of a century-long struggle against British rule.
  • British conquest of India was a gradual process (1757 onwards).
  • Colonial policies led to discontent, resentment, and resistance.

Forms of Resistance:

  • Civil Rebellions:
    • Occurred throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
    • Examples: [We will discuss details in a different chapter]
  • Tribal Uprisings:
    • Occurred throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
    • Examples: [We will discuss details in a different chapter]


Civil Rebellions Against British Rule in India (1757-1857)



  • Deposed rajas and nawabs or their descendants
  • Uprooted zamindars, landlords, and poligars
  • Ex-retainers and officials of conquered Indian states


  • Rack-rented peasants
  • Ruined artisans
  • Demobilized soldiers


  • Rapid social and economic changes:
    • Disruption of agrarian society
    • Increased land revenue demands
    • Exploitation by new landlords (government officials, merchants, moneylenders)
  • Loss of control over land:
    • Thousands of zamindars and poligars lost land due to colonial policies
    • Resentment towards replacement by outsiders
  • Peasant hardships:
    • Growing indebtedness
    • Rising rents
    • Evictions
    • Famines (1770-1857)
  • Corrupt administration:
    • Exploitation by lower officials (police, judiciary)
    • Flogging, torture, and jailing of peasants
  • Ruin of handicrafts:
    • Free trade policies
    • Discriminatory tariffs
    • Loss of traditional patronage
  • Discontent among intellectuals and clergy:
    • Loss of financial support from traditional elite
  • Humiliation of foreign rule

Examples of Rebellions:

  • Sanyasi Rebellion (1763-1800):Led by displaced peasants, demobilized soldiers, religious monks, and dispossessed zamindars (Bengal and Bihar)
  • Chuar Uprising (1766-1772 & 1795-1816):Five districts of Bengal and Bihar
  • Other Major Rebellions (Eastern India):
    • Rangpur and Dinajpur (1783)
    • Bishnupur and Birbhum (1799)
    • Orissa zamindars (1804-1817)
    • Sambalpur (1827-1840)


  • Almost every year saw armed opposition.
  • Major rebellions occurred every decade in some part of the country.
  • Over 40 major rebellions from 1763 to 1856 (excluding minor ones).


Civil Rebellions in South India (1757-1857)


Major Rebellions:

  • Raja of Vizianagram (1794)
  • Poligars of Tamil Nadu (1790s)
  • Poligars of Malabar and Andhra Coast (1800-1810)
  • Parlekamedi (1813-14)
  • Dewan Velu Thampi of Travancore (1805)
  • Mysore peasants (1830-31)
  • Visakhapatnam (1830-34)
  • Ganjam (1835)
  • Kurnool (1846-47)

Other Rebellions:

  • Chiefs of Saurashtra (1816-1832)
  • Kolis of Gujarat (1824-28, 1839, 1849)
  • Maharashtra (after defeat of Peshwa)
    • Bhil uprisings (1818-31)
    • Kittur uprising (1824)
    • Satara uprising (1841)
    • Revolt of the Gadkaris (1844)

Nature of Rebellions:

  • Localized and isolated
  • Driven by local grievances
  • Leaders: Semi-feudal, backward-looking
  • Aimed to restore old order, not create a new one

British Response:

  • Pacified rebel areas one by one
  • Offered concessions to some leaders
  • Brutally suppressed others (e.g., Velu Thampi)


  • Established tradition of resistance
  • Inspired later nationalist movements


Tribal Uprisings in India (19th Century)


  • Colonial administration disrupted tribal isolation
  • Introduced new land revenue system
  • Encouraged moneylenders and traders
  • Restricted access to forests and traditional practices
  • Oppression by officials and revenue farmers


  • Loss of tribal lands
  • Debt and exploitation
  • Reduced to agricultural laborers
  • Limited access to forest resources


  • Hundreds of uprisings throughout the 19th century
  • Broad-based participation (thousands of tribals)
  • Uprisings based on tribal identity
  • Solidarity among tribals
  • Often led by religious or charismatic leaders


  • Spontaneous attacks on outsiders
  • Armed resistance with primitive weapons
  • Belief in magical powers of leaders


  • Unequal warfare against British forces
  • Heavy casualties among tribals (lakhs died)



The Santhal Rebellion (1855)


Largest Tribal Uprising:

  • Santhals of Daman-i-koh (Bhagalpur-Rajmahal) revolted against British rule.

Causes of Rebellion:

  • Exploitation by Zamindars, moneylenders, police, and government officials.
    • High-interest loans (50-500%)
    • Theft, property damage, violence against Santhals
  • Desire to expel outsiders (“dikus”) and establish self-rule.

Planning and Mobilization (1854-1855):

  • Tribal leaders (majhis, parganites) discussed rebellion.
  • Santhals attacked moneylenders and zamindars.
  • Assembly of 6,000 Santhals from 400 villages at Bhaganidihi (June 30, 1855).

Goals of the Rebellion:

  • Drive out British and outsiders.
  • Establish “Salyug” (Reign of Truth and Justice).

Religious Inspiration:

  • Leaders claimed divine approval for rebellion (God communicated through Thakur).


  • Sido and Kanhu Murmu – main leaders.
  • Used large processions with drums and musicians to mobilize support.
  • Leaders rode on horses, elephants, and palkis.

Rebellion (1855):

  • Around 60,000 Santhals mobilized.
  • Attacked symbols of colonial rule:
    • Mahajans (moneylenders)
    • Zamindars (landlords)
    • Police stations
    • Railway construction sites
    • Post carriers
  • Supported by some non-tribal poor people (gwalas, lohars)

Government Response:

  • Major military campaign with tens of regiments.
  • Martial Law declared in affected areas.
  • Rewards offered for capturing leaders (up to Rs. 10,000).


  • Brutal suppression of the rebellion.
  • Over 15,000 Santhals killed.
  • Tens of villages destroyed.
  • Sido captured and killed (August 1855).
  • Kanhu arrested (February 1866).

Santhal Heroism:

  • Example: 45 Santhals fought from a mud hut against Sepoys, refusing to surrender.



Other Major Tribal Rebellions


  1. Kol Rebellion (1820-1837)

  • Location: Chhotanagpur
  • Cause: British oppression and massacres
  1. Rampa Rebellion (1879-1880)

  • Location: Coastal Andhra (Rampa)
  • Cause: Government regulations and exploitation by mansabdars
  • Force Used by British: Infantry regiments, cavalry, sappers, and miners
  • Outcome: Rebellion crushed by end of 1880
  1. Munda Rebellion (1899-1900)

  • Leader: Birsa Munda (1874-1900)
  • Cause: Loss of communal lands, exploitation by jagirdars, thikadars, moneylenders
  • Birsa Munda claimed divine mission and healing powers.
  • Promised a new golden age (“Saiyug”) and end to exploitation (“Kalyug”).
  • Rebellion aimed to establish Munda rule and drive out outsiders (“dikus”).
  • Force Gathered: 6,000 Mundas with traditional weapons.
  • Outcome: Birsa Munda captured in 1900, rebellion crushed. Birsa Munda became a legend.


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