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1857: First War of Independence

By : 1857: First War of Independence

December 17, 2021

1857: First War of Independence

The year 1857 witnessed the first war of independence, which is perhaps one of the defining moments of Indian freedom struggle. Scholars and historians ascribe many causes and among these causes one that triggered the chain of incidents was reaction of the Indian soldiers of the East India Company's army, to the grease of the new kind of cartridge they were compelled to use. Perhaps the more important causes were people's discontentment with the land taxes taken by the British government, the seizure of many kingdoms and princely states by the British, and above all, people's desire for freedom from foreign rule.

One of the early incidents of protest by soldiers took place in Barrackpur near Kolkata. Soon after in the month of May, 1857, Indian soldiers of the East India Company, called by the British "Native sepoys", revolted. On March 10 they marched to Delhi and declared the Moghul King Bahadurshah II, as the Emperor. The fire soon spread to Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Bareilly and many other parts of the Gangetic heartland, and the storm centers were spearheaded by Nana Saheb, Diwan Azimullah, Tantia Tope, Kunwar Singh and Rani Laxmi Bai. The big battles between the British and the rebels took place mainly in the region between the Narmada and the Ganga. But reverberations were felt in distant parts such as South Maratha country, some parts of South India, parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan and even in North East India in Khasi-Jaintia hills and Cuchar.

The significance of 1857 is that unlike many a battle against the British earlier, for the first time, simultaneously there were rebellions in many regions, imparting an all-India character to the uprising. 1857 was remarkable not only due to its unprecedented scale, covering almost half of India, but also due to its impact on popular mind everywhere. It was a source of inspiration for the freedom struggle that followed.

Moreover, the unity that was displayed between the different communities during the uprising was quite remarkable. Another significant aspect of 1857 was the unity under the Mughal Emperor. The allegiance to the emperor was accepted by almost every leader in the rebellion and thus it can be said that this loyalty brought about a measure of political unity among those who were in the struggle against foreign rule. For all these reasons 1857 and the stories of heroism and martyrdom and struggle for independence have a place in the hearts of the people of India.

The stamps and the miniature sheet artistically depict the two pitched battles at Kanpur and Lucknow focusing on unknown soldiers.

The First Day Cover depict the dawn of the new nationalism symbolized by the rising sun; the guns whose greased cartridges provided the immediate catalyst. The First Day Cover also depict a part of the constitution drafted by the sepoys.

The two maxim cards depict war scenes, adopted from murals and tribal paintings from Madhya Pradesh.

Department of Posts is honoured to issue a set of postage stamps commemorating 150 years of the First War of independence.

Source: Information Brochure of Commemorative Stamp issued by the Department of Posts in 2007. Based on material provided by ICHR.