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Day 20: History - History (Day 13 to 23)

British Rule in India

Expansion of British Power in India

The Conquest of Mysore

  • The State of Mysore was ruled by Haider Ali, a brilliant general, an able administrator and a shrewd diplomat. While the Carnatic was plagued by wars and Bengal was passing through a period of political turmoil, Haider Ali steadily rose to power in Mysore. He extended his kingdom up to the Krishna River.
  • Mysore, under Haider Ali, became a source of danger to the rising British power in India. Between 1767 and 1799, the Company waged four wars to destroy the power of Mysore.

The First Mysore War

  • In 1769 A.D. Haider Ali defeated the British in the First Anglo-Mysore War and besieged Madras.
  • The English were forced to sign a treaty according to which they promised to come to Haider Ali’s help if he was attacked by another power in future.
  • This treaty undoubtedly raised the prestige of Haider Ali.

The Second Mysore War (1780-1784 A.D.)

  • In 1771 the Marathas attacked Haider Ali but the English did not help him in spite of their promise. Haider Ali waited for an opportunity to take revenge. When the English attacked and occupied the French port of Mahe, the only outlet for Mysore’s trade with Europe, Haider Ali declared war on them.
  • In the Second Anglo-Mysore War (A.D. 1780- 1784) the Nizam and the Marathas started as allies of Haider Ali but later on went over to The English side.
  • Yet Haider Ali swept through the Carnatic, captured Arcot and threatened Madras. But the British army under Eyre Coote defeated Haider Ali at Porto Navo and saved Madras. After Haider Ali’s death in 1782, the war was carried on by his son Tipu Sultan.
  • The war came to an end by the Treaty of Mangalore (1784 A.D.). The prisoners of war and the conquered territories were mutually returned.

The Third Mysore War (1790-1792 A.D.)

  • The Treaty of Mangalore had not resolved the conflict between Tipu and the English. Since both the English and Tipu Sultan were aiming at political supremacy over the Deccan, a renewal of hostilities between the two was inevitable.
  • The Third Anglo-Mysore War started (A.D. 1790-92) when Tipu attacked Travancore, an ally of the English and the only source of pepper for the East India Company.
  • The Nizam and the Marathas who were jealous of Tipu’s growing power joined the English. Lord Cornwallis defeated Tipu and forced him to sign the Treaty of Siringapatnam in 1792 A.D.

According to this treaty

  1. Tipu had to surrender half of his kingdom which was divided among the English and their allies i.e. the Maratha and the Nizam.
  2. Tipu also had to pay a huge war indemnity of 330 lakhs of rupees. Besides, Tipu had to hand over two of his sons to the English as hostages.
  • The Third Anglo-Mysore War destroyed Tipu’s dominant position in the south and firmly established English supremacy there. This war also revealed that the Indian powers were short­sighted enough to aid a foreign power against another Indian power for the sake of temporary gains.

Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799 A.D.)

  • A man like Tipu could not forget the humiliation of his defeat in the Third Anglo- Mysore War. He began preparations for a trial of strength with the English. He began to add to the fortification of his capital, improve his cavalry and discipline his infantry. He also tried to enlist the support of the French to oust the British from the south.
  • Lord Wellesley was determined to prevent French reentry into India. He asked Tipu Sultan to enter into a subsidiary alliance accepting British sovereignty. On Tipu’s spirited refusal, the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War started (A.D. 1799). The Nizam joined the English.
  • Tipu died fighting. Half of Tipu’s kingdom was annexed and divided between the English and the Nizam. The other half was given to a child of the old Hindu royal family which had been overthrown by Haider Ali. Tipu’s family was exiled to Vellore. The new ruler of Mysore became a subordinate ally of the British. British supremacy over southern India was established.
  • It had taken the English 32 years to subjugate Mysore. The threat of French revival in the Deccan was permanently eliminated.

The Collapse of the Marathas

  • The Marathas had established a powerful empire in south-western part of India. But after the defeat at Panipat in 1761, Maratha power was split into five different virtually independent centres of power. The Peshwa, the head of the Marathas, was stationed in Poona. Gaekwad (in Baroda), Bhonsle (in Nagpur), Holkar (in Indore) and Sindhia (in Gwalior) were the other four Maratha chiefs.
  • The Marathas had made a remarkable recovery after the Battle of Panipat. Hence, it became imperative to confront the growing power of the English who aspired to take over the whole of India. Four Anglo-Maratha wars were fought between 1775 and 1818.

The First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782 A.D.)


  • The First Anglo-Maratha War was a direct outcome of the involvement of the English in the internal politics of the Marathas with the motive of expanding their territories.
  • A bitter struggle for Peshwaship between Madhav Rao II (the infant son of the murdered Peshwa, Narayan Rao) and RaghunathRao (an uncle of Narayan Rao who had been responsible for his murder) prompted the East India Company to interfere in favour of the latter.


  • The Maratha chiefs were united under the leadership of Nana Fadnavis who supported the claim of the infant PeshwaMadhav Rao II.
  • The Maratha army defeated the British army sent from Bombay. Warren Hastings sent an army from Bengal. The war dragged on for 4 years. The Marathas won a decisive victory.


  • The long war with the Marathas came to an end by the Treaty of Salbai (1782). It provided for the mutual restitution of each other’s territories. Raghunath Rao was pensioned off. Madhav Rao II was recognised as the Peshwa. The British gained little out of this war except the island of Salsette.
  • However, the treaty inaugurated an era of 20 years of peace with the Marathas. The Company used this period to subjugate Mysore and strengthen their position in Bengal. But the Maratha chiefs frittered away their energy in bitter conflicts among themselves.

The Second Maratha War (1803 A.D. – 1805 A.D.)


  • After Madhav RaoII’ s death, Peshwa Baji Rao II succeeded him. He was a weak ruler. In spite of their internal conflicts, Mahadaji Sindhia and Nana Fadnavis had succeeded in keeping the Marathas united. But after their death, the various Maratha chiefs, blind to the real danger from the rapidly increasing British power, were engaged in bitter strife with one another to control the Peshwa. This power struggle among them proved to be their undoing.
  • In 1802, when Holkar defeated the combined armies of PeshwaBaji Rao II and Sindhia, Baji Rao fled to Bassein and sought British protection. He accepted the subsidiary alliance and was installed in Poona by the Company.


  • Alarmed by the growing power of the British, Sindhia and Bhonsle declared war against them. But their combined forces were defeated.


  • Both Sindhia and Bhonsle had to accept all the terms of the subsidiary alliance. They had also to surrender large tracts of valuable land. An English Resident was posted in their territories. Holkar, who had remained neutral in the second Anglo-Maratha War, took up arms against the English. He was subsequently defeated and his capital Indore was captured.
  • Wellesley’s policy of conquest was proving to be very expensive for the Company. So he was recalled from India. Wellesley’s successor George Barlow signed a peace treaty with Holkar in 1806. He restored his kingdom to Holkar. The defeat of the Marathas in the second Anglo-Maratha War was a severe blow to their power and prestige.

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817 A.D.-1818 A.D.)


  • After the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the Marathas made one last attempt to shake off the Company’s yoke. Peshwa Baji Rao II began to resent the control of the British Resident.
  • Further, Lord Hastings forced him to renounce the headship of the Maratha confederacy and surrender more territory to the Company.


  • The Third Anglo-Maratha War started in 1817 when the Peshwa, with the support of Bhonsle and Holkar, attacked and burnt down the British Residency in Kirkee near Pune. But the English decisively defeated them. Within a year the entire Maratha confederacy was subjugated.


  • PeshwaBaji Rao II was deposed and deported to Bithur. But he was granted a pension of Rs 8 lakh a year. His territories were annexed. The hereditary post of Peshwa was abolished. A small state, Satara, was created out of the Peshwa’s territories and a descendant of Shivaji was installed on the throne.
  • The Maratha leaders ceded large portions of their territories to the English. All of them accepted the system of subsidiary alliance. The Marathas were the only Indian powers who were capable of succeeding the Mughals. They had risen to power with the decline of the Mughal Empire, but were nearly wiped out by the British. Only the Punjab retained her independence.

Causes of Maratha Failure

  • The Maratha chiefs failed to unite even in times of crisis. The English took advantage of this disunity.
  • By the end of the 18th century the Marathas had lost some of their ablest leaders. But they failed to produce leaders like BajiRao I, MahadajiSindhia or Nana Fadnavis.
  • The Marathas lacked an efficient system of administration or a sound economic policy. The system of extorting chauth and sardesmukhi made them lose the loyalty of the conquered people.
  • The British were equipped with modern military techniques. With their outmoded methods of warfare, the Marathas were easily defeated by the English.

The Annexation of the Punjab

  • The loose confederation of the Sikhs of Punjab was unified into a compact powerful unit by Ranjit Singh. He expanded his empire through conquests.
  • To check his advance beyond the Sutlej the East India Company persuaded Ranjit Singh to sign the Treaty of Amritsar (1809). By this treaty he promised not to expand east of the Sutlej and confine his conquests to the north.

The First Sikh War


  • After Ranjit Singh’s death, the Punjab went through a period of chaos and confusion. Taking advantage of political instability in the area, the Khalsa army had become very powerful. The British watched these developments and increased their military forces at the borders, possibly anticipating future war.
  • In 1843, Ranjit Singh’s minor son, Dalip Singh, became the ruler with Rani Jindan as the Regent. To weaken the army and keep it engaged, Rani Jindan deliberately encouraged the army to cross the river Sutlej and attack the English. In December 1845 the Sikh army crossed the Sutlej and invaded the Company’s territories. This led to the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846).


  • The patriotic Sikh soldiers fought very bravely but they were completely defeated. The British army occupied Lahore.


  • By the Treaty of Lahore (1846) the Sikhs ceded the Jalandhar Doab, Kashmir and its dependencies to the English. A British Resident and a powerful British force were posted in Lahore. Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh, a Dogra chief.
  • By a supplementary treaty it was decided that the Sikh state was to be ruled by a Council under the control of the British Resident. Rani Jindan was removed from her post.

The Second Sikh War


  • British control over the Punjab aroused a lot of resentment among the Sikhs. In 1848 a number of revolts against the British broke out in the Punjab.
  • The Governor-General, Lord Dalhousie, declared war. The Sikh army which had been reduced by the Treaty of Lahore was completely crushed.
  • By a proclamation in 1849, Lord Dalhousie annexed the whole of the Punjab to the British Empire. Dalip Singh was pensioned off.


  • The Marathas, Mysore and the Punjab had challenged the British presence in the sub­continent. Each of them had been subjugated.
  • With the annexation of the Punjab the British conquest of India was almost complete. Only a few small states retained their independence or were turned into subsidiary allies.

Methods of Expansion

Apart from wars, several Governor Generals followed other methods to ensure the Company’s supremacy in India.

Subsidiary Alliance

  • Lord Wellesleyperfected the system of subsidiary alliance to subjugate Indian powers without going through actual warfare. Any Indian ruler whose security was threatened could enter into a subsidiary alliance with the British. The British promised to protect the ruler from external attack and internal revolt.
  • The ruler would have to accept the supremacy of the British in India. The ruler would have to keep and pay for the maintenance of certain number of British troops who would be permanently placed in the territory of the subsidiary ally. A British Resident would be posted in the court of the ruler. The Indian ruler was not allowed to employ any European in his service.
  • The ruler would not sign any treaty or form an alliance with any other power without the permission of the British Resident. States like Mysore, Hyderabad, Awadh, the Rajputs and Marathas were forced to accept this alliance after being defeated by the English.
  • The system of subsidiary alliance proved to be disastrous for the Indian rulers. They became virtual puppets in the hands of the British. The payment of huge amounts of money for the maintenance of British troops was a heavy drain on their resources. Indian states became impoverished while the British could maintain a portion of their army at the expense of Indian rulers.

Doctrine of Lapse

  • In 1848, Lord Dalhousiearrived in India as the Governor-General. Dalhousie was determined to extend British rule over India. His imperialist policy was based on three fundamental principles, namely:
    • the expansion of territories by war;
    • the occupation of Indian states through the application of the Doctrine of Lapse; and
    • the takeover of Indian states on grounds of maladministration.
  • Dalhousie occupied the Punjab and Sindhthrough war. He brought several subordinate states directly under the Company’s rule by annexing them on the basis of the Doctrine of Lapse. According to Indian tradition, a king adopted an heir to the throne if he did not have his own son. But by the Doctrine of Lapse, if the king of a subordinate state died without a natural male heir, then the kingdom would ‘lapse’ to the British i.e. it would automatically pass into the hands of the British. Satara, Sambalpur, Jhansi and Nagpur were annexed under this policy. The families of the former rulers would be pensioned off. However, Nana Saheb, the adopted son of PeshwaBaji Rao II, was not given pension.
  • On grounds of maladministration, Awadh was occupied in 1856. NawabWajid Ali was pensioned off and sent to Calcutta. By 1856, the East India Company had brought the whole of India under its control. After this no war was waged to expand the British Empire any further. Parts of the country that were under Indian rulers were effectively under British control.

Revolt of 1857

  • By the first half of the 19th century, the East India Company had brought major portions of India under its control.
  • One hundred years after the Battle of Plassey, anger against the unjust and oppressive British Government took the form of a revolt that shook the very foundations of British rule in India.
  • While British historians called it the Sepoy Mutiny, Indian historians named it the Revolt of 1857 or the First War of Indian Independence. The Revolt of 1857 had been preceded by a series of disturbances in different parts of the country from the late eighteenth century onwards.
  • The Sanyasi Rebellion in North Bengal and the Chunar rebellion in Bihar and Bengal broke out in the late eighteenth century. There were several peasant uprisings in the mid-nineteenth century, the most important of which were those by the Moplah peasants of the Malabar and the Faraizi movement by Muslim peasants in Bengal.
  • The first half of the nineteenth century also witnessed a number of tribal revolts. In this context, mention may be made of the rebellions of the Bhils of Madhya Pradesh, the Santhals of Bihar and the Gonds and Khonds of Orissa. However, all these disturbances were localized. Although serious and, in some cases, long-drawn, these did not pose any serious threat to the existence of the British Empire.

The Revolt of 1857:

The first expression of organised resistance was the Revolt of 1857. It began as a revolt of the sepoys of the Company’s army but eventually secured the participation of the masses. Its causes lay deeply embedded in the grievances that all sections of Indian society nurtured against the British rule.

Causes of the Revolt

Political Causes

  • The political causes of the revolt may be traced to the British policy of expansion through the Doctrine of Lapse and direct annexation. A large number of Indian rulers and chiefs were dislodged, thus arousing fear in the minds of other ruling families who apprehended a similar fate.
  • Rani Lakshmi Bai’s adopted son was not permitted to sit on the throne of Jhansi. Satara, Nagpur and Jhansi were annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse. Jaitpur, Sambalpur and Udaipur were also annexed. Other rulers feared that the annexation of their states was only a matter of time. The refusal to continue the pension of Nana Saheb, the adopted son of BajiRao II, created hostility among the ruling class.
  • Moreover, the sentiments of the people were hurt when it was declared that the descendants of the titular Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, would not be allowed to live in the Red Fort. The annexation of Awadh by Lord Dalhousie on the pretext of maladministration left thousands of nobles, officials, retainers and soldiers jobless. This measure converted Awadh, a loyal state, into a hotbed of discontent and intrigue.

Social and Religious Causes

  • A large section of the population was alarmed by the rapid spread of Western civilization in India. An Act in 1850 changed the Hindu law of inheritance enabling a Hindu who had converted into Christianity to inherit his ancestral properties. Besides, the missionaries were allowed to make conversions to Christianity all over India. The people were convinced that the Government was planning to convert Indians to Christianity.
  • The abolition of practices like sati and female infanticide, and the legislation legalizing widow remarriage, were threats to the established social structure.Even the introduction of the railways and telegraph was viewed with suspicion.

Economic Causes

  • In rural areas, peasants and zamindars resented the heavy taxes on land and the stringent methods of revenue collection followed by the Company. Many among these groups were unable to meet the heavy revenue demands and repay their loans to money lenders, eventually losing the lands that they had held for generations. Large numbers of sepoys were drawn from the peasantry and had family ties in villages, so the grievances of the peasants also affected them.
  • The economic exploitation by the British and the complete destruction of the traditional economic structure caused widespread resentment among all sections of the people. After the Industrial Revolution in England, there was an influx of British manufactured goods into India which ruined industries, particularly the textile industry, of India.
  • Indian handicraft industries had to compete with cheap machine-made goods from Britain. India was transformed into a supplier of raw materials and a consumer of goods manufactured in Britain. All those people who previously depended on royal patronage for their livelihoods were rendered unemployed. So they bore a deep- seated grievance against the British.

Military Causes

  • The Revolt of 1857 started as a sepoy mutiny. It was only later on that other elements of society joined the revolt.
  • Indian sepoys formed more than 87% of British troops in India. They were considered inferior to British soldiers. An Indian sepoy was paid less than a European sepoy of the same rank. Besides, an Indian sepoy could not rise to a rank higher than that of a Subedar.
  • The extension of the British Empire in India had adversely affected the service conditions of Indian sepoys. They were required to serve in areas far away from their homes. In 1856 Lord Canning issued the General Services Enlistment Act which required that the sepoys must be ready to serve even in British land across the sea.
  • The ‘Bengal Army’ was recruited from high caste communities in Awadh. They were not prepared to cross the ocean (Kalapani) which was forbidden as per Hindu religious beliefs. They developed the suspicion that the Government was trying to convert Indians to Christianity.After the annexation of Awadh the Nawab’s army was disbanded. These soldiers lost their means of livelihood. They became bitter enemies of the British.

Immediate Cause

  • The Revolt of 1857 eventually broke out over the incident of greased cartridges. A rumour spread that the cartridges of the new Enfield rifles were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. Before loading these rifles the sepoys had to bite off the paper on the cartridges. Both Hindu and Muslim sepoys refused to use them. Canning tried to make amends for the error and the offending cartridges were withdrawn, but by then the damage had been done. There was unrest in several places.
  • In March 1857, MangalPandey, a sepoy in Barrackpore, had refused to use the cartridge and attacked his senior officers. He was hanged to death on 8th April. On 9th May, 85 soldiers in Meerut refused to use the new rifle and were sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

Main events of the revolt

Soon there was a rebellion in the Meerut Cantonment. The Meerut Mutiny (May 9, 1857) marked the beginning of the Revolt of 1857. The Indian sepoys in Meerut murdered their British officers and broke open the jail. On May 10, they marched to Delhi.

Capture of Delhi

  • In Delhi the mutineers were joined by the Delhi sepoys and the city came under their control. Next day, on 11th May, the sepoys proclaimed the ageing Bahadur Shah Zafar the Emperor of Hindustan. But Bahadur Shah was old and he could not give able leadership to the sepoys. The occupation of Delhi was short-lived.

Fall of Delhi

  • The British finally attacked Delhi in September. For six days there was desperate fighting. But by September 1857, the British reoccupied Delhi. Thousands of innocent people were massacred and hundreds were hanged. The old king was captured and later deported to Rangoon where he died in 1862. His sons were shot dead. Thus ended the imperial dynasty of the Mughals.

Centres of the revolt

The revolt spread over the entire area from the neighborhood of Patna to the borders of Rajasthan. There were six main centres of revolt in these regions namely Kanpur, Lucknow, Bareilly, Jhansi, Gwalior and Arrah in Bihar.


  • Lucknow was the capital of Awadh. There the mutinous sepoys were joined by the disbanded soldiers from the old Awadh army. Begum HazratMahal, one of the begums of the ex-king of Awadh, took up the leadership of the revolt. Finally the British forces captured Lucknow. The queen escaped to Nepal.


  • In Kanpur the revolt was led by Nana Saheb, the adopted son of PeshwaBaji Rao II. He joined the revolt primarily because he was deprived of his pension by the British. He captured Kanpur and proclaimed himself the Peshwa. The victory was short- lived.
  • Kanpur was recaptured by the British after fresh reinforcements arrived. The revolt was suppressed with terrible vengeance. The rebels were either hanged or blown to pieces by canons. Nana Saheb escaped. But his brilliant commander Tantia Tope continued the struggle. Tantia Tope was finally defeated, arrested and hanged.


  • In Jhansi, the twenty-two-year-old Rani Lakshmi Bai led the rebels when the British refused to accept the claim of her adopted son to the throne of Jhansi. She fought gallantly against the British forces. But she was ultimately defeated by the English.
  • Rani Lakshmi Bai escaped. Later on, the Rani was joined by Tantia Tope and together they marched to Gwalior and captured it. Sindhia, a loyal ally of the British, was driven out. Fierce fighting followed. The Rani of Jhansi fought like a tigress. She died, fighting to the very end. Gwalior was recaptured by the British.


  • In Bihar the revolt was led by Kunwar Singh.

Suppression of the Revolt:

The Revolt of 1857 lasted for more than a year. It was suppressed by the middle of 1858. On July 8, 1858, fourteen months after the outbreak at Meerut, peace was finally proclaimed by Canning.

Causes of the failure of the revolt:

Limited Uprising:

  • Although the revolt was fairly widespread, a large part of the country remained unaffected by it. The revolt was mainly confined to the Doab region. Sind, Rajputana, Kashmir, most parts of Punjab. The southern provinces did not take part in it. It failed to have the character of an all-India struggle.Important rulers like Sindhia, Holkar, Rana of Jodhpur and others did not support the rebels.

No Effective Leaders:

  • The rebels lacked an effective leader. Nana Saheb, Tantia Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai were brave leaders, no doubt, but they could not offer effective leadership to the movement as a whole.

Limited Resources:

  • The rebels lacked resources in terms of men and money. The English, on the other hand, received a steady supply of men, money and arms in India.

No Participation of the Middle Class:

  • The English-educated middle class, the rich merchants, traders and zamindars of Bengal helped the British to suppress the revolt.

Results of the revolt

  • The great uprising of 1857 was an important landmark in the history of modern India. The revolt marked the end of the East India Company’s rule in India. India now came under the direct rule of the British Crown. This was announced by Lord Canning at a Durbar in Allahabad in aproclamation issued on 1 November 1858 in the name of the Queen. Thus, Indian administration was taken over by Queen Victoria, which, in effect, meant the British Parliament. The Governor General’s office was replaced by that of the Viceroy.
  • The Doctrine of Lapse was abolished. The right to adopt sons as legal heirs was accepted. The Revolt of 1857 paved the way for the future struggle for freedom in India.

Religious and Social Reform of India – The Indian Renaissance

  • The urgent need for social and religious reform that began to manifest itself from the early decades of the 19th century arose in response to the contact with Western culture and education.
  • The weakness and decay of Indian society was evident to educated Indians who started to work systematically for their removal.
  • They were no longer willing to accept the traditions, beliefs and practices of Hindu society simply because they had been observed for centuries.
  • The impact of Western ideas gave birth to new awakening. The change that took place in the Indian social scenario is popularly known as the Renaissance.

Raja Rammohan Roy

  • The central figure of this cultural awakening was Raja Rammohan Roy. Known as the “father of the Indian Renaissance”, Rammohan Roy was a great patriot, scholar and humanist. He was moved by deep love for the country and worked throughout his life for the social, religious, intellectual and political regeneration of the Indians.
  • Rammohan Roy was born in 1772 in Radhanagar, a small village in Bengal. As a young man he had studied Sanskrit literature and Hindu philosophy in Varanasi and Persian, Arabic and Koran in Patna. He was a great scholar Roy who mastered several languages including English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

Social Reforms

  • In 1814, Rammohan Roy settled in Calcutta and dedicated his life to the cause of social and religious reform. As a social reformer, Rammohan Roy fought relentlessly against social evils like sati, polygamy, child marriage, female infanticide and caste discrimination. He organised a movement against the inhuman custom of sati and helped William Bentinck to pass a law banning the practice (1829). It was the first successful social movement against an age-old social evil.
  • Rammohan Roy was one of the earliest propagators of modern Western education. He looked upon it as a major instrument for the spread of modern ideas in the country. He was associated with the foundation the Hindu College in Calcutta (which later came to be known as the Presidency College). He also maintained at his own cost an English school in Calcutta. In addition, he established a Vedanta College where both Indian learning and Western social and physical science courses were offered.
  • He sent petitions to the government to adopt a wider system of public education in English. He also recognised the importance of vernaculars for spreading new ideas. He compiled a Bengali grammar and developed an easy and modern style of Bengali prose.

Religious Reforms

  • Rammohan Roy struggled persistently against social evils. He argued that ancient Hindu texts the Vedas and the Upanishads upheld the doctrine of monotheism. To prove his point, he translated the Vedas and five Upanishads into Bengali.
  • In 1849 he wrote Gift to Monotheism in Persian. Rammohan Roy was a staunch believer in the philosophy of Vedanta (Upanishads) and vigorously defended the Hindu religion and Hindu philosophy from the attack of the missionaries. He only wanted to mould Hinduism into a new cast to suit the requirements of the age.
  • In 1829 Rammohan Roy founded a new religious society known as the AtmiyaSabha which later on came to be known as the BrahmoSamaj. This religious society was based on the twin pillars of rationalism and the philosophy of the Vedas. The BrahmoSamaj emphasised human dignity, criticised idolatry and denounced social evils like sati.
  • Rammohan Roy represented the first glimmerings of the rise of national consciousness in India. He opposed the rigidity of the caste system because it destroyed the unity of the country. The poet Rabindranath Tagore has rightly remarked: “Rammohan was the only person in his time, in the whole world of men, to realise completely the significance of the Modern Age.”

Henry Vivian Derozio and the young Bengal movement

  • The establishment of the Hindu College in 1817 was a major event in the history of Bengal. It played an important role in carrying forward the reformist movement that had already emerged in the province. A radical movement for the reform of Hindu Society, known as the Young Bengal Movement, started in the college.
  • Its leader was Henry Vivian Derozio, a teacher of the Hindu College. Derozio was born in 1809. He was of mixed parentage his father was Portuguese and his mother was Indian. In 1826, at the age of 17, he joined the Hindu College as a teacher and taught there till 1831.
  • Derozio was deeply influenced by the revolutionery ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. He was a brilliant teacher and within a short period of time, he drew around him a group of intelligent boys in the college.
  • He inspired his students to think rationally and freely, to question authority, to love liberty, equality and freedom and to worship truth. By organising an association for debates and discussions on literature, philosophy, history and science, he spread radical ideas.
  • The movement started by Derozio was called the Young Bengal Movement and his followers were known as the Derozians. They condemned religious rites and the rituals, and pleaded for eradication of social evils, female education and improvement in the condition of women.
  • Derozio was a poet, teacher, reformer and a fiery journalist. He was perhaps the first nationalist poet of modern India. He was removed from the Hindu College because of his radicalism and died soon after at the age of 22.
  • The Derozians could not lead a very successful movement because social conditions were not yet ripe for their ideas to flourish. Yet they carried forward Rammohan’s tradition of educating the people on social, economic and political questions.

Debendranath Tagore

  • Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore, was responsible for revitalising the BrahmoSamaj. Under him the first step was taken to convert the BrahmoSamaj into a separate religious and social community. He represented the best in traditional Indian learning and the new thought of the West.
  • In 1839, he founded the TatvabodhiniSabha to propagate Rammohan Roy’s ideas. He promoted a magazine to do a systematic study of India’s past in Bengali language. The Samaj actively Debendranath Tagore supported the movements for widow remarriage, the abolition of polygamy, women’s education and the improvement in the condition of the peasantry.

Keshab Chandra Sen

  • Keshab Chandra Sen carried on an intensive programme of social reform. He set up schools, organised famine relief and propagated widow remarriage. In 1872 the Government passed the Native (Civil) Marriages Act legalising marriages performed according to BrahmoSamaj rites.

Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar

  • Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, a towering personality of the mid- nineteenth century, was born in a poor Brahmin family of Bengal in 1820. He was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and became the Principal of the Sanskrit College in 1851. The Sanskrit College conferred on him the title of ‘Vidyasagar’ because of his profound knowledge of Sanskrit.
  • PanditIswar Chandra Vidyasagar was both a scholar and a reformer. He was a great humanist and had deep sympathy for the poor and the oppressed. He dedicated his entire life to the cause of social reform which he thought was necessary for modernising India. By admitting non-Brahmin students to the Sanskrit College, he dealt a severe blow to the prevalent caste system.
  • Vidyasagar was a staunch supporter of women’s education and helped Drinkwater Bethune to establish the Bethune School, the first Indian school for girls, in 1849. As Inspector of Schools, Vidyasagar opened a number of schools for girls in the districts under his charge.
  • Vidyasagar’s greatest contribution lies in the improvement of the condition of widows. Despite opposition, Vidyasagar openly advocated widow remarriage. Soon a powerful movement in favour of widow remarriage was started. At last, after prolonged struggle the Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856. Through his efforts, twenty-five widow remarriages took place. He also spoke vehemently against child marriage and polygamy.
  • Vidyasagar contributed enormously to the growth of the Bengali language and contributed to the evolution of the modern prose style in Bengali. He wrote a Bengali primer, ‘Varna Parichay’, which is used even today. Through his writings, Vidyasagar made the people aware of the social problems and thus helped the growth of nationalism in India.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa

  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was one of the greatest saints of modern India. Ramakrishna was born in a poor Brahmin family of Bengal. He showed a religious bent of mind from his childhood. He had no formal education but his discourses were full of wisdom. He was the chief priest of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar near Calcutta. People from all walks of life visited Dakshineswar to listen to his discourses.
  • Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was a man with a liberal outlook. He firmly believed that there was an underlying unity among all religions and that only the methods of worship were different. God could be approached by any form of worship as long as it was done with single- minded devotion.
  • Different religions were all different roads to reach the same God. He believed that service to man was service to God, for man was the embodiment of God on earth. As man was the creation of God, man-made divisions made no sense to him.
  • Ramakrishna Paramhamsa was a great teacher who could express complicated philosophical ideas in a simple language for everyone to understand. He believed that religious salvation could be attained through renunciation, meditation and devotion.

Swami Vivekananda

  • NarendraNathDutta, better known as Swami Vivekananda, was the most illustrious disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. He was born in Calcutta in January, 1863. He graduated from the Scottish Church College and was well-versed in Western philosophy. Vivekananda was a man of great intellect and possessed a critical and analytical mind. At the age of eighteen, Vivekananda met Sri Ramakrishna. This meeting transformed his life completely. After the death of Sri Ramakrishna, he became a ‘sanyasi’ and devoted his life to preaching and spreading Ramakrishna’s message to the people. His religious message was put in a form that would suit the needs of contemporary Indian society.
  • Vivekananda proclaimed the essential oneness of all religions. He condemned the caste- system, religious rituals, ceremonies and superstitions. He had a deep understanding of Hindu philosophy and travelled far and wide to spread its message. At the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago (1893), Vivekananda spoke about Hindu religion at length.
  • His brilliant speech on Hindu philosophy was well received. American newspapers described him as an ‘Orator by Divine Right’. He delivered a series of lectures in the U.S.A., England and in several other countries of Europe. Through his speeches, Vivekananda explained Hindu philosophy and clarified the wrong notions that prevailed in Western countries about the Hindu religion and Indian culture.
  • In India, however, Vivekananda’s main role was that of a social reformer rather than a religious leader. He propagated Ramakrishna’s message of peace and brotherhood and emphasized the need for religious tolerance which would lead to the establishment of peace and harmony in the country.
  • He believed that it was the social responsibility of the better placed people to take care of the downtrodden, or the ‘daridranarayan’. With his clarity of thought, deep understanding of the social problems of India, Vivekananda undoubtedly left a deep mark on the Indian intelligentsia as well as on the masses. At a time when the nation was in despair, he preached the gospel of strength and self-reliance. Vivekananda died at the age of 39.

The Ramakrishna Mission

  • In 1896, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission to propagate social welfare. It laid emphasis not on personal salvation but on social good and social service. The Ramakrishna Mission stood for religious and social reform based on the ancient culture of India. Emphasis was put on the essential spirit of Hinduism and not on rituals.
  • Rendering social service was the primary aim of the Ramakrishna Mission. It believed that serving a human being was the same as worshipping God. The Mission opened a chain of schools, hospitals, orphanages and libraries throughout the country. It provided relief during famines, earthquakes and epidemics. A math or monastery was established in Belur near Calcutta. The Belur Math took care of the religious developments of the people.

DayanandSaraswati and the AryaSamaj

  • Another organisation in northern India which aimed to strengthen Hinduism through reform was the AryaSamaj. Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the AryaSamaj in Rajkot, was born into a Brahmin family in Kathiawar, Gujarat, in 1824. At the early age of 14, he rebelled against the practice of idol worship. He ran away from home at the age of twenty. For the next fifteen years, he wandered all over India meditating and studying the ancient Hindu scriptures.
  • In 1863 Swami Dayanand started preaching his doctrine of one God. He questioned the meaningless rituals, decried polytheism and image worship and denounced the caste system. He wanted to purify Hinduism and attacked the evils that had crept into Hindu society.
  • Dayanand Saraswati believed that the Vedas contained the knowledge imparted to men by God, and hence its study alone could solve all social problems. So he propagated the motto “Back to the Vedas.” Asserting that the Vedas made no mention of untouchability, child marriage and the subjugation of women, Swami Dayanand attacked these practices vehemently.
  • Dayanand began the suddhi movement which enabled the Hindus who had accepted Islam or Christianity to return to Hinduism, their original faith. Dayanand published his religious commentaries in Hindi so as to make the common people understand his preachings. The SatyarthPrakash was his most important work.
  • The Swami worked actively for the regeneration of India. In 1875, Swami Dayanand founded the AryaSamaj in Bombay. The AryaSamaj made significant contributions to the fields of education and social and religious reforms. After his death, his followers had established the Dayanand Anglo Vedic Schools first in Lahore and then in other parts of India. Gurukuls were also established to propagate traditional ideals of education. A network of schools and colleges both for boys and girls were also established by the AryaSamaj.
  • The AryaSamaj influenced mostly the people of northern India, specially Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab. Although it was not a political organisation, the AryaSamaj played a positive role in creating a nationalist pride in Indian tradition and culture.

Reform movements in Western India


  • JyotiraoGovindraoPhule prominent role in bringing about, reforms in He fought for improving the condition of women, the poor and the untouchables. He started a school for the education of girls of the lower castes and founded an association called the SatyasodhakSamaj.
  • People from all castes and religions were allowed to join the association. He was opposed to the domination of the Brahmins and started the practice of conducting marriages without Brahmin priests.

The PrarthanaSamaj

  • In 1867, the PrarthanaSamaj was started in Maharashtra with the aim of reforming Hinduism and preaching the worship of one GodMahadevGovindRanade and G. Bhandarkar were the two great leaders of the Samaj. The PrarthanaSamaj did in Maharashtra what the BrahmoSamaj did in Bengal.
  • It attacked the caste system and the predominance of the Brahmins, campaigned against child marriage and the purdah system, preached widow remarriage and emphasised female education. In order to reform Hinduism, Ranade started the Widow Remarriage Association and the Deccan Education Society. In 1887, Ranade founded the National Social Conference with the aim of introducing social reforms throughout the country. Ranade was also one of the founders of the Indian National Congress.

Reform Movements in South India

The Theosophical Society and Annie Besant

  • Many Europeans were attracted towards Hindu philosophy. In 1875, a Russian spiritualist named Madame Blavatsky and an American called Colonel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in America. The society was greatly influenced by the Indian doctrine of karma. In 1886 they founded the Theosophical Society at Adyar near Madras.
  • Annie Besant, an Irish woman who came to India in 1893, helped the Theosophist movement to gain strength. She propagated Vedic philosophy and urged Indians to take pride in their culture. The Theosophists stood for the revival of the ancient Indian religion and universal brotherhood.
  • The uniqueness of the movement lay in the fact that it was spearheaded by foreigners who glorified Indian religious and philosophical traditions. Annie Besant was the founder of the Central Hindu College in Banaras, which later developed into the Banaras Hindu University. Annie Besant herself made India her permanent home and played a prominent role in Indian politics. In 1917, she was elected President of the Indian National Congress.

Reform movements among the Muslims

  • Movements for socio-religious reforms among the Muslims emerged late. Most Muslims feared that Western education would endanger their religion as it was un-Islamic in character. During the first half of the 19th century only a handful of Muslims had accepted English education.
  • The Muhammedan Literary Society, established by Nawab Abdul Latif in 1863, was one of the earliest institutions that attempted to spread modern education. Abdul Latif also tried to remove social abuses and promote Hindu- Muslim unity.

Syed Ahmad Khan

  • The most important socio-religious movement among the Muslims came to be known as the Aligarh Movement. It was organised by Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1899), a man described as the most outstanding figure among the Muslims.
  • Syed Ahmad Khan was born in 1817 into a Muslim noble family and had joined the service of the Company as a judicial officer. He realised that the Muslims had to adapt themselves to British rule. So Syed Ahmad advised Muslims to embrace Western education and take up government service.
  • In 1862, he founded the Scientific Society to translate English books on science and other subjects into Urdu. He also started an English- Urdu journal through which he spread the ideas of social reform. Through his initiative was established the Mohammedan Oriental College which later developed into the Aligarh Muslim University. It helped to develop a modern outlook among its students. This intellectual movement is called the Aligarh Movement.
  • As a social reformer, Syed Ahmad Khan campaigned against the purdah system, polygamy and the Muslim system of divorce. He emphasised the need for removing irrational social customs while retaining the essence of Islam and encouraging a rational interpretation of the Koran.
  • Syed Ahmad Khan believed that the interest of the Muslims would be best served through cooperation with the British Government. It was only through the guidance of the British that India could mature into a full-fledged nation. So he opposed the participation of the Muslims in the activities of the Indian National Congress.

Reform movements among the Parsis and the Sikhs

  • The Parsi Religious Reform Association was started in 1851. It campaigned against orthodoxy in religion. Religious and social movements among the Sikhs were undertaken by various gurus who tried to bring about positive changes in the Sikh religion. Baba Dayal Das propagated the nirankar (formless) idea of God. By the end of the 19th century a new reform movement called the Akali Movement was launched to reform the corrupt management of Gurdwaras.

Women Reformers


  • The British Government did not take substantial steps to educate women. Still, by the end of the 19th century, there were several women who had become aware of the need for social reform.
  • Pandita Rama bai had been educated in United States and in England. She wrote about the unequal treatment meted out to the women of India. She founded the AryaMahilaSabha in Pune and opened the SardaSadan for helping destitute widows.

Sarojini Naidu

  • Sarojini Naidu was a renowned poet and social worker. She inspired the masses with the spirit of nationalism through her patriotic poems. She stood for voting rights for women, and took an active interest in the political situation in the country. She also helped to set up the All India Women’s Conference.

Literature and the Press

  • Literature was used as a powerful weapon for spreading social awareness among the people. It was also used for promoting social reforms. The social reformers made valuable contributions to literature. Bharatendu Harish Chandra, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore spread the ideas of social reform and condemned social injustice in Hindi and Bengali.
  • Poets like Iqbal and SubramaniaBharati inspired the masses. Premchand wrote about the sufferings of the poor and thus made the people aware of social injustice. Rabindranath Tagore composed the National Anthem. Bankim Chandra and Iqbal composed two other national songs BandeMataram and SaareJahan Se Achchha.

Growth of the Press

  • Most reformers started journals of their own. Through these journals and newspapers, they put forward their demands for social, economic and political changes. Thus, the press acted as a vehicle for disseminating ideas of social transformation.

Characteristics of the Reform Movements

An analysis of the reform movements of the 19th century brings out several common features:

  1. All the reformers propagated the idea of one God and the basic unity of all religions. Thus, they tried to bridge the gulf between different religious beliefs.
  2. All the reformers attacked priesthood, rituals, idolatry and polytheism. The humanitarian aspect of these reform movements was expressed in their attack on the caste system and the custom of child marriage.
  3. The reformers attempted to improve the status of girls and women in society. They all emphasised the need for female education.
  4. By attacking the caste system and untouchability, the reformers helped to unify the people of India into one nation.
  5. The reform movements fostered feelings of self-respect, self-reliance and patriotism among the Indians.

Contribution of the reform movements:

Many reformers like Dayanand Saraswati and Vivekananda upheld Indian philosophy and culture. This instilled in Indians a sense of pride and faith in their own culture. Female education was promoted. Schools for girls were set up. Even medical colleges were established for women. This led to the development, though slow, of girls’ education. The cultural and ideological struggle taken up by the socio-religious movements helped to build up national consciousness. They, thus, paved the way for the growth of nationalism.

GK through MAP (Snippets)

Ancient History Sites of Utter Pradesh

Ancient History Sites of Utter Pradesh


90 Days Planner (Day 20 History- British Rule in India)

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