(English: Sepoy, "Indian native soldier", derived from Urdu sipahi, from Persian sipah, "army")
The British term for the great uprising of 1857-1858 in Northern India against the British colonial rule, the Raj.
The uprising began as a mutiny on May 10, 1857, among the native soldiers of the British East India Company in Meerut, north of Delhi. The revolt had its roots in both religious, economic, social and political causes. The proximate cause was the circulation of a rumour claiming that a new issue of rifle cartridges was lubricated in grease made from the fat of cattle and swine. If this were true, then handling such cartridges would make both Hindus and Muslims ritually unclean.
Having pillaged the city of Meerut, the mutineers marched to Delhi, where they seized the last Mughal emperor, an 82-year-old man, and pressed him into service as titular head of what now was a full-scale rebellion against the colonial power of Britain in India. The revolt quickly spread to the greater Ganges river plain and adjacent regions, where aristocracy and peasantry alike united with the rebelling soldiers in their war on alien rule.
The proclamations issued by the mutineers often adressed the subject of the threat to local religion posed by the foreign rulers, and the need for Muslims and Hindus to stand together against the Christian domination and restore traditional order. Nevertheless, the rebellion was disorganised and fragmented. Local circumstances were usually decisive in determining whether a region joined the rebellion or remained loyal, not overall religious or traditional views. This lack of coördination allowed the British to put down the rebellion in fairly short order.
However, the Sepoy mutiny was to have far-reaching consequences for the British understanding of their rôle in India. Ultimately, it was to lead to India being taken out of the EIC's hands and made a crown possession, in 1858.