II Anglo-Sikh War: The First War of Independence in India?

The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in India was a war, alright, but it was certainly NOT the first such war of independence. I think calling the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny as the First War of Independence is not true to history.

Nine years before 1857, a major war for independence was fought in 1848 by the Sikhs, where the Bengal Army of the British battled against the Sikhs. This war is known surprisingly only as the Second Anglo Sikh War [1]; a war which was the first major war by an Indian princely state seeking to gain suzerainty over its lands lorded over by administrators of the East India Company. The war was fought from 18 April 1848 – 30 March 1849. The Sikhs lost this war and lost control forever to their kingdom.

The Battle of Gujrat (Gujrat is a city in Punjab, now in Pakistan) during the Second Anglo Sikh War was a decisive battle in this war, fought on 21 February 1849, between the forces of the East India Company, and a Sikh army led by Sher Singh Attari [2]in rebellion against the Company’s control of the Sikh Empire, represented by the Queen mother, Maharani Jindan and child Maharaja Duleep Singh who was in British custody in Lahore.

The Sikh army was defeated by the Bengal Army forces (comprising Mangal Pandey’s 34th Bengal Infantry) of the British East India Company.

Interesting points to ponder:

  1. In Background one must know that the Sikh kingdom had lost its complete sovereignty only two years earlier on 9th March 1846[3] . So it took just two years of British rule over Punjab for the Sikh kingdom to have a mutiny of sorts against the British, while it took almost hundred years since Battle of Plassey (held in 1747) for the Bengal Army to mutiny.
  2. British defeated the Sikh Mutineers in 1849 with the help of the UP/Bihar soldiers and then defeated the UP/Bihar mutineers in 1857 with the help of the Sikhs. They really played us against each other; and we havent learnt any lessons yet. Supposedly, in 1857, Sikhs sided with the British in revenge for a humiliating defeat in 1849.
  3. After the war the Punjab was annexed to the East India Company’s territories and Duleep Singh was deposed to Britain, where he again rebelled. Who knows about his rebellion? Anyone?


[1] Second Anglo-Sikh War – Wikipedia

[2] Sher Singh Attariwalla – Wikipedia

[3] First Anglo-Sikh War – Wikipedia


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