Forgotten page of History: Vellore mutiny (1806)


Do you know that 51 years before the 1857 Battle for Independence, Indian soldiers rose in revolt against the British East India Company stationed at Vellore fort? They killed around one hundred British soldiers inside the fort. Let us know about this forgotten rebellion from this article.

All of us know about the Great Revolt of 1857. Many historians call this rebellion as the First Battle for Independence. The Indian soldiers of the British East India Company started this revolt in 1857. Later kings and landlords of the country joined this revolt.

Fifty-one years before this revolt of 1857, there was another revolt by Indian soldiers. Indian soldiers of the East India Company stationed at Madras and Vellore fort started this rebellion in 1806. This revolt shook the British administration in London. However, most, unfortunately, we have almost forgotten this great revolt. Let us now know about Vellore mutiny.



Background of the mutiny

In 1805, the Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army General John Cradock started a reform programme of the Madras Army. The reform process included a new uniform for the soldiers and a new turban containing leather. Further, the soldiers were ordered to trim their beard and mustaches. Not only that, Hindu soldiers were forbidden to use their caste marks on their foreheads. Indian soldiers felt insulted. They thought that the East India Company was consciously trying to force Christianity on them. They started protesting.

Fuelling the protest

In the month of May, 1806, some protesting soldiers were sent to Chennai Fort (St. George's Fort). They were flogged in public and then dismissed from service. The soldiers were very angry. At the same time, the sons of Tipu Sultan, who were interned in Vellore Fort at that time, instigated the soldiers to rebel against the British East India Company.

A brief history of Vellore Fort

Vellore Fort was built by 1566 by the local rulers under Vijayanagara kingdom. After the fall of the powerful Vijayanagara kingdom, the fort changed hands regularly. Vellore fort was built from military point of view and had strategic significance. Ultimately, the fort fell in the hands of Nawab of Karnataka, Dost Ali. He handed it over to the British East India Company in 1760. The fort withstood the siege by Hyder Ali for two years. It was the base of British Army at the time of Fourth Anglo-Mysore War during 1798-99 between the British and Tipu Sultan. After the defeat of Tipu, the British kept the fort with it. The sons and daughters of Tipu Sultan were interned in this fort after the death of Tipu.

Actual mutiny started on 9th July, 1806

On 9th July, one of the daughters of Tipu Sultan was getting married. The Indian soldiers entered the fort on this excuse. They pulled down the British flag and announced Tipu's son Fateh Hyder as the new ruler. On 10th July, Indian soldiers attacked the British barracks inside the fort and killed around one hundred British soldiers.

Hearing the news, the British Garrison Commander of Arcot, Colonel Robert Gillespie arrived the scene with Madras Cavalry soldiers. After a bitter hand-to-hand fight, the rebellion was suppressed by afternoon. The rebel Indian soldiers were court-martialled and executed.



Outcome of the rebellion

As already stated, this rebellion shook the headquarter of the British East India Company in London. The family of Tipu Sultan was sent to Calcutta from the fort. The Governor William Bentick and the Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, John Cradock, were dismissed from service. The change in the dress code of Indian soldiers was not executed. Indian soldiers were allowed to wear the caste-mark on their foreheads.

Summing up

Even then, the event of 1857 proved that the British didn't learn their lessons properly even after the Vellore rebellion. However, the great rebellion of Vellore and the gallant Indian soldiers have been slowly forgotten by the Indians.


Article by Partha K.
“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” - George Gordon Byron

Follow Partha K. or read 274 articles authored by Partha K.

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