Indigo Revolt- Causes, Significance Of Indigo Rebellion in Bengal

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

The Indigo revolt was a peasant movement that took place in the colonial period by the indigo farmers against the indigo planters. During the summer of 1859, the farmers of Bengal refused to grow indigo for the planters. The Indigo revolt became one of the greatest peasant movements that shook the Colonial government. The Indigo revolt is also commonly known as the ‘Neel Bidroha’.

In 1858, Dinabandhu Mitra wrote a play named ‘Nil Darpan‘(The Mirror of Indigo), which displayed the atrocities and poor conditions of the indigo farmers. It reflected the misery of the farmers, who were paid very less for their hard labor. The Indigo revolt is one of the significant events that showed the undying resolve and anger of people around India. It is a very important topic that forms part of the History subject of the UPSC syllabus. The candidates preparing for the IAS examination must go through the “Indigo revolt” topic thoroughly, as questions are asked about this topic frequently.

Table of content

  • 1. What Was Indigo Rebellion? (more)
  • 2. History of Indigo Revolt (more)
  • 3. Spread of Indigo Revolt (more)
  • 4. Causes of Indigo Revolt (more)
  • 5. Indigo Revolt In Bengal (more)
  • 6. Two Major Forms of Indigo Cultivation (more)
  • 7. Significance of Indigo Revolt (more)
  • 8. Violence of Indigo Rebellion (more)
  • 9. Aftermath of Indigo Rebellion (more)
  • 10. Indigo Revolt UPSC Notes (more)

What Was Indigo Rebellion?

Certain events lead the way to the Indigo revolt in the Nadia district of Bengal. The indigo farmers protested to not grow indigo plantations. The policemen who tried to interfere were attacked by the indigo farmers. Out of anger, the planters increased the rents. The Barasat division of the districts Nadia and Pabna, in April 1860, had a series of protests and strikes arranged by farmers who were refusing to grow indigo. Some parts of Bengal also experienced these farmer strikes.

Indigo Revolt UPSC PDF

The protests were supported by the Biswas brothers of Nadia, Rafiq Mondal from Malda, and Kader Molla from Pabna. The Indigo revolt also involved zamindars like Ramrattan Mullick of Narail. The government tried to oppress the revolt by slaughtering farmers and zamindars. Courageously, many Bengali intelligentsia, missionaries, and Muslims actively supported the revolt. The rural population favoured the rebellion extensively. Journalism also stood for indigo farmers.

The “NilDarpan” play encouraged the Bengali intelligentsia to support the indigo farmers. A well-known writer – Michael Madhusudan Dutta worked on the translation of this plat into English upon the authority of W S Seton-Karr, who was the Secretary to the Governor of Bengal. This play reflected the ordeals created by the Indigo rebellion.

History of Indigo Revolt

The Indigo revolt was a famous revolt against British Officers. It led to peasant uprisings in numerous districts of the country. The multitude of planters, women and zamindars were a part of this rebellion. The women carried with their household utensils and other items as weapons. The history of the Indigo rebellion traces as follows-

  • In the 18th century amidst the Industrial Revolution, the cotton-textile industry surged, hence consequently the demand for indigo also surged for blue clothes.
  • Indigo cultivation was promoted by the Britishers in two regions majorly Bengal and Bihar.
  • The ryoti system of the Britishers promoted the growth of Indigo in India.
  • The farmers were compelled to grow Indigo instead of grains. They were also made to sign a contract for the cultivation of Indigo.

Spread of Indigo Revolt

The Indigo Revolt was widely extended towards the villages of Chanugacha and Gobindapur in Krishnanagar, Nadia District, under the leadership of Bishnucharan Biswas and Digambar Biswas in 1859.

Later, the Indigo revolt was popularised in the regions of Burdwan, Khulna, Birbhum, Pabna, Narail, and Murshidabad. In a public trial, some indigo planters were beheaded. The ryots used fire to destroy indigo depots. Many indigo planters hid for their life security. The Indigo rebellions’ ryots also targeted the zamindars.

Causes of Indigo Revolt

There were numerous events that lead to the surge in the Indigo revolt. The Indigo planters forced peasants to grow indigo instead of crops. The loans named dadon were offered to the peasants at exorbitant interest rates. If a farmer claimed this loan, he had to be in debt throughout his life. The peasants were paid a pittance of only 2.5 percent of the market price by the planters. The production of indigo was not at all beneficial to the farmers which became the cause of the Indigo revolt.

The poor farmers were forced and tortured to grow indigo unprotected from the indigo planters. If the peasants refused to do so, the indigo planters used to cease the property of the peasants. The planters were at ease because of the government policies that worked in their favour. The act of 1833 allowed a free hand in oppression to the indigo planters. Most of the zamindars also supported the indigo planters.

Indigo Revolt In Bengal

Generally, in October or November, advances of two rupees per beegah were made. The Contract expected that the land had to be cultivated with indigo and then delivered to the factories. During the end of the manufacturing season, i.e. in August or September, other accounts were made. The cultivation of indigo mainly exploited the peasants. In 1859, the Nada district, Bidroha, and many other districts of Bengal found peasant protests. Walk through the points highlighting the significant events in the indigo revolt in Bengal.

  • The peasants, in despair, attacked the factories with spears and swords in hand.
  • The planters were beaten for charging high rents.
  • Women were encouraged and supported the protest by throwing pots and pans at the planters.
  • The most violent side of the Indigo rebellion protest was seen in Pabna District (the ryots directly denied indigo cultivation). The Lieutenant Governor of Bengal named J.P. Grant found that the villagers gathered at the riverbank of the Kalinga and Kumar rivers.
  • They were praying and expecting an order or rule against indigo cultivation.
  • The social unrest led to the establishment of a commission in March 1860 to analyze the cons of this system.

Two Major Forms of Indigo Cultivation

This blue rebellion sprang up in the summer of 1859 in Bengal. Thousands of ryots (peasants) protested for not growing indigo for the European indigo planters. In India, it is the most popular movement conducted by peasants also called Neel Bidroha.

Since the 18th century, indigo cultivation has been seen. Indigo was cultivated in India in two major forms: Nij- Abad and Ryoti.

Nij-Abad System

In the Nij-Abad system, the planter produced indigo on the land that was directly controlled by him and the ryotwari system involved the cultivation of indigo on their land, establishing a contract with the planters. Land Rights were given to the planters. These indigo planters borrowed unoccupied lands from the zamindars on a permanent or temporary basis. They were granted Taluqdari or Zamindari rights. On the lands of the ryots who died with no heir or the ones who moved out of the village, upon such lands, indigo was cultivated.

Ryoti System

Predominantly, Ryoti was one of the well-known forms of indigo cultivation in Bengal. The Ryots followed the contract system for sowing the cash crop- indigo. The contracts were made for the period of one, three, five, and sometimes ten years. In the initial stage of the contract, the ryots were provided with advance payment to manage the expenses of cultivation. However, the ryot had to use his land for the cultivation of indigo.

Significance of Indigo Revolt

The Indigo revolt was one of the significant revolts that shook the colonial government. Owing to the Indigo rebellion, the government began planning various policies towards the upliftment of peasants, which marked the beginning of a new direction and approach toward the welfare of peasants. In 1860, the government had to set up the Indigo Commission. This commission looked after the hardships faced by the indigo farmers and helped them provide considerable relief.

The people who revolted became politically aroused and shrugged off their apathy. The Indigo revolt marked the inception of various wider political movements as it raised the tempo and motivated people to fight for their rights.

Violence of Indigo Rebellion

The intensity of violence associated with the Indigi rebellion has been debated numerous times. A few historians believe that the Indigo revolt was based on non-violent approaches and was associated with the non-violent ways suggested by Mahatma Gandhi. But violence was involved in suppressing the revolt by the police, zamindars. The planters also utilized forces through armed Lathiyals. They also resorted to kidnapping, violent attacks were led on women and children, looting etc.

Aftermath of Indigo Rebellion

The anger and dissatisfaction of the poor peasants had different forms of resistance. For instance, the revolt under Digambar and Bishnucharan was mainly an armed based conflict against the indigo planters. Most of the indigo-related riots were non-violent and passive. The Indigo revolt was impactful for the government as it set up the Indigo Commission in 1860. The rebellion against the British indigo planters in 1817 was led in the form of Champaran Satyagraha in Bihar.

Also Check-

Indigo Revolt UPSC Notes

The Indigo Revolt is one of the most important revolts that were carried out by the peasants against the oppressions of the Colonial government and European planters. The “Indigo rebellion” topic is highly essential for the UPSC exam as questions are frequently asked about this topic. Candidates appearing for the UPSC exams can take a look at the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to find out the different varieties of questions asked on this topic. The candidates can cover the UPSC syllabus comprehensively and get acquainted with the essential topics that cover the maximum weightage.

Indigo Revolt UPSC Sample Questions

Sample questions are very important for the candidates appearing for the UPSC exam as these questions provide insight to the candidates of which type of questions can come in the exams. The candidates can look into the Indigo revolt concept and the pattern of questions being asked from these topics. Get the complete details of the Indigo rebellion by solving the questions that have been presented here.

Q. When was the Indigo Commission set up?

  1. 1961
  2. 1958
  3. 1960
  4. 1965

Answer: 3 (1960)

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