ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Vellore 1806

A Dress Rehearsal for the 1857 Revolt?

Foreshadowing the Great Rebellion: The Vellore Revolt, 1806 by K A Manikumar, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2021; pp 288, `695.

On 13 March 1806, the commander-in-chief of the Madras army issued a general order in which the new standing regulations were published. The new regulations of the Madras army emphatically prohibited native soldiers (or sepoys as they were called) from sporting caste marks on their faces, or for that matter, flaunt earrings or whiskers on parade. Though the regulations had been in vogue for a while, they had not been uniformly followed across the length and breadth of the Madras army, and each regiment was left to its own devices as far as coping with these regulations was concerned. The new order, though, removed all ambiguity on this score and strove to enforce uniformity.

The new order initially led to general discontent among native troops stationed at Vellore fort cutting across barriers of caste and religion. Matters were compounded by the introduction of new turbans, which had leather as a building material, thus affecting the sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims as leather was considered polluting by both communities. Moreover, the sepoys claimed that the new headgear resembled the one worn by the avowedly “lowly” and “half-caste” drummers in the regiments. Discontent now assumed an overt form, though not violent in tenor. On 6 May 1806, the sepoys of the second battalion 4th regiment refused to wear the new turbans. The tension had burst forth into the open and the air was now rife with rumours of fakirs roaming around and staging puppet shows that exhorted the sepoys to kill their European officers. Things were now poised on a razor’s edge and finally on 10 July 1806, an open mutiny broke out with a large number of native sepoys and officers attacking the European troops and their officers stationed in the fort. Reinforcements, though, arrived from nearby Arcot around 9 am and quelled the mutiny by the native troops, thus setting an end to the first major mutiny in the company armies, namely the Vellore Mutiny of 1806.

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Updated On : 8th Mar, 2023
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