What was a revolt by Indian soldiers, or sepoys, against their British officers and rulers in 1857. One of the immediate causes was the issue of new cartridges. These were believed to contained the fat of cows, sacred to Hindus, and of pigs, which Moslems regarded as defiling. In May eighty-five sepoys at Meerut were court-martialled for refusing to use the cartridges. The sepoy garrison mutinied, captured and killed officers and marched on Delhi. There, too, the sepoys rose. Others joined them, and many Europeans were killed. The mutineers acclaimed a new ruler – a descendant of one of the Mogul emperors.
Rebellion spread like fire through the state of Oudh, with its capital Lucknow, and into Bengal and central India. But in northern India the Punjab was held firmly in the grip of its chief commissioner, John Lawrence. In September, Delhi was retaken. The garrison at Lucknow held out, and after British reinforcements had reached Calcutta, the rebel armies were finally defeated at Lucknow in March, and in central India in June 1858.
The East India Company (whose sepoys had helped to conquer India) was abolished. The number of British soldiers in India was increased, and British rule went on for another ninety years.