The Great Revolt of 1857 was ignited by Mangal Pandey at Barrackpore, who refused to use the greased cartridge. He was arrested and hanged. On 10 May 1857 – Soldiers of 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Meerut rebelled. They seized arms and ammunitions from 'the bell of arms’. They rode off towards Delhi, where they met Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah, sought his blessings and declared him as the leader of the Revolt. Ordinary people joined sepoys. Soon, the mutiny transformed into civil rebellion. Leaders of the revolt included Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani Lakshmi and Nana Saheb. Due to British reform policies, English medium educational institutions and Christian missionaries, people felt that all that they cherished was either destroyed or replaced. Annexation of Awadh by Lord Dalhousie, on 13 February, 1856, aroused resentment among people. After annexation, taluqdars were disarmed and their forts destroyed. This disturbed the entire social order. For its army, British recruited peasants for infantry, who were paid less than European counterparts. Officials showed sense of superiority and treated sepoys as racial inferiors.

Proclamations of rebels show they came together to overthrow the British. Coexistence of different communities under the Mughal rulers was glorified. Proclamations rejected everything related to British (firangi) raj. Rebel leaders wanted to restore Mughal period of 18th CE. They also made plans to fight against the British. British occupied Delhi after four months. They recaptured Gangetic plain gradually. Numerous cartoons and pictures were published in the British press that sanctioned brutal repression and violent reprisal. For Indians, events of 1857 revolt inspired nationalists.

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