The Vellore Mutiny was the first instance of a large-scale and violent rebellion by the Indian sepoys against the British East India Company. It took place in Vellore city (now in Tamil Nadu, Southern India) on 10 July 1806 during the tenure of Governor-General George Barlow. The sepoys revolted against the interference by the Britishers in their social and religious practices. V. D. Savarkar called the ‘Vellore Mutiny of 1806’ the prelude to the First War of Indian Independence 1857 (Revolt of 1857).
The immediate reason for the rebellion was the sepoys’ resentment towards changes in the dress code, introduced in November 1805. Sir John Craddock, the Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army, issued orders prohibiting soldiers from wearing religious marks on their foreheads and also to shave their beards & trim their moustaches. These measures offended the sensibilities of both Hindu and Muslim sepoys.
In May 1806, military General Agnew introduced a new turban (known as Agnew’s turban) and forced the soldiers to wear them instead of the traditional headgear. It was a round hat, which resembled the then European hat with a cross badge on it. Both Hindu and Muslim soldiers opposed it. They felt that the Company was conspiring to convert them to Christianity. Some sepoys who protested the new rules were sent to Fort Saint George (Madras) and punished severely.
In addition to the military grievances, Tipu Sultan’s sons also instigated the rebellion. After Tipu Sultan died in 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the British handed over his kingdom to the Hindu Wodeyar kings of Mysore. The British excited Tipu’s surviving sons & daughters and their respective families to the Vellore fort. They lived in a palace within the large complex comprising Vellore Fort. The people hated the way the British treated the erstwhile ruler’s son.
All these causes paved the way for the first sepoy mutiny in 1806 in Vellore.
On 9 July 1806, one of the Tipu Sultan’s daughters was to be married, and the plotters of the revolt gathered at the fort under the pretext of attending the wedding. The usual practice for the sepoys with their families in Vellore was to live in individual huts outside the walls. However, due to the scheduling of a field day for the Madras units on 10 July, most of the sepoys had to spend that night within the fort so that they could be assembled quickly on parade before dawn.
At midnight on 10 July, the sepoys attacked the barracks of the British soldiers within the fort and killed 14 British officers and 115 men of the 69th Regiment. Among those killed was the Commander of the fort, Colonel St. John Fancourt. By the dawn of 10 July, the rebels seized control and raised the flag of the Mysore Sultanate over the Fort. They also proclaimed Tipu’s eldest son Fateh Hyder as their ruler.
However, a British officer, Major Coopes, was outside the walls of the fort that night and was able to alert the garrison in Arcot. On receiving the news, the British commander, Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, rushed with the Madras Cavalry.
Arriving at Vellore, Gillespie found the surviving Europeans of the 69ty regiment. The British troops led by Gillespie then charged through gates attacking the Indian sepoys. They sabred any sepoy who stood in their way. About 100 sepoys who had sought refuge inside the palace were brought out, placed against a wall and shot dead. In all, the British killed nearly 350 rebels. Surviving sepoys scattered across the countryside outside the fort, but local police captured most of them and returned to Vellore for court-martial.
As a result of the mutiny, the British set up a court of inquiry, which decided to shift Tipu Sultan’s family to Calcutta in isolation, so they could be as far away from Vellore as possible.
The three Madras battalions involved in the rebellion were all disbanded. The British government also cancelled the objectionable orders related to the dress code and new turbans (round hats) that triggered the mutiny.
The news of the mutiny shook up England so much that Lord William Bentinck, the then governor of Madras and Sir John Cradock, the Commander-in-Chief of Madras army, were both dismissed from their positions and recalled back.
Who was the Governor-General of Bengal during the Vellore Mutiny?
Sir George Barlow was the Governor-General of Bengal when the Vellore Mutiny of 1806 occurred.
Who was the Governor of Madras when the Vellore Mutiny took place?
Lord William Bentinck was the Governor of Madras in 1806 when the Vellore Mutiny took place.
What was the reason for Vellore Mutiny?
The main reason for the Vellore Mutiny was the introduction of a new sepoy dress code for Indian sepoys in November 1805, forbidding the Hindu soldiers from wearing any religious marks (tilaks) on their forehead and Muslims to shave their beards and trim their moustaches.
Another cause was the British disrespect towards Tipu Sultan’s Family after his death.
Who suppressed the Vellore Mutiny?
The Madras cavalry and artillery from Arcot, led by Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie, suppressed the Vellore Mutiny. The British troops entered the Vellore fort and counter-attacked the Indian sepoys. Around 350 Indian sepoys died in this Mutiny.