UW Faith At this time: Rifles, Faith and Grease: India’s Nice Mutiny | Information


October 3, 2018

By Paul V.M. Flesher

The fashionable, democratic nation of India was born in 1947, following independence from Nice Britain. However this was not the primary time India had sought independence; that got here 90 years earlier in 1857.

On this riot, typically known as the First Indian Warfare of Independence, Indians tried to rid themselves of British management. As a substitute, defeat introduced upon them direct rule by London and incorporation into the British Empire.

The mutiny was set off by the introduction of a brand new rifle, the Sample 1853 Enfield, to the native troops serving the British in India. If this weapon was the spark, then the tinder that flamed into the riot was the non secular sensibilities of the Hindu and Muslim troopers, who disliked not the weapon, however the destructive impression on their non secular standing that utilizing it could convey.

Previous to 1857, a lot of India had been taken over by the aggressive ways of the British East India Buying and selling Firm. The British authorities had despatched a number of troops to India, ostensibly to guard the corporate however, in actuality, to help in subjugating India. These troops served primarily as officers for a military consisting of native Hindus and Muslims.

The Hindu troopers have been virtually solely high-caste Brahmins, whose non secular standing required them to take care of strict guidelines of formality purity. The Muslim troopers have been rajputs, an elite warrior class who had, over the centuries, served the Islamic Delhi Sultanates, the Mughal Empire and, lastly, the British.

The non secular standing of those two teams served the British nicely, for it offered robust unit cohesion and made them a coordinated combating power. However when friction appeared between them and their officers, that cohesion labored towards their commanders.

By the 1850s, that friction was mounting. Pay will increase have been falling nicely behind inflation, and bonus pay had dried up. Whereas in earlier many years the British had inspired the troopers’ non secular id as a method of securing the troops’ loyalty, now many Christian officers have been preaching Christianity to them and calling for conversion. This was seen as insulting and disrespectful, and triggered the troops to mistrust their officers’ motives.

The introduction of the Enfield 1853 rifled musket tipped the troopers into open riot. Like its predecessor, the Baker rifle, the Enfield was loaded by way of the gun’s muzzle. But it surely was fired by a percussion cap, which enabled it to be fired in all climate, even India’s monsoon rains.

The issue lay within the cartridges used to load it. The Enfield nonetheless used paper cartridges containing powder and the shot ball. To load it, the rifleman would chunk off the cartridge high, pour the powder down the muzzle, put within the paper after which the shot, tamping all of it all the way down to the underside.

In 1857, the barracks have been rife with rumors. Among the many Muslims, the rumor was that the cartridge was sealed with pig grease. Since Muslims have been forbidden to eat pork of any sort, the act of loading the weapon would trigger these elite troops, severe Muslims all, to transgress this necessary non secular regulation.

Among the many Hindu Brahmins, the rumor was that the cartridges have been sealed with tallow, grease comprised of the fats of cattle. Not solely have been cattle sacred to Hindus, however consuming their meat merchandise would render the Brahmin troopers ritually impure.

The British repeatedly denied the rumors, even suggesting that the troopers remake the cartridges with a impartial sealant resembling beeswax. Within the troopers’ minds, this proposal merely confirmed the rumors. They have been sure that the greased cartridges have been a British plot to render them impure and, thus, separate them from their households and communities. This might, the reasoning went, make them extra weak to Christian missionizing.

In the long run, the officers had little endurance with their troopers’ considerations. All they may see was a refusal to make use of the brand new weapons know-how. Once they pressured the matter, troops at a number of forts rebelled, firing on the officers and refusing to take orders. Because the mutiny unfold, it turned a basic riot. When it was lastly put down a yr later, the British Raj had come to remain.

Whereas the Nice Mutiny had a number of causes, British insensitivity to and disrespect of the religions practiced in India, each Hinduism and Islam, offered the spark that started the riot. The troopers objected to not the brand new gun itself, however to the non secular transgression that biting its paper cartridges would trigger. Mockingly, lower than 10 years later, the Sample Enfields have been transformed to Snider-Enfields, the Military’s first metal-cartridge rifle. Cartridge biting was not required.

Flesher is a professor in UW’s Division of Philosophy and Non secular Research. Previous columns and extra details about this system may be discovered on the net at www.uwyo.edu/RelStds. To touch upon this column, go to http://religion-today.blogspot.com.


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