Sanyasi Revolt: Reasons, Objects and Failure of the Rebellion

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Sanyasi Revolt was a late-eighteenth-century rebellion in the Murshidabad and Baikunthpur forests of Jalpaiguri, Bengal. The Sanyasi Rebellion is also known as the name monk rebellion. The Sanyasi Revolt was led by Pandit Bhabani Charan Pathak. Pathak was an ascetic who lived in Murshidabad for a decade before the Sanyasi Revolt.

Sanyasi Revolt holds significant importance in the UPSC exam as it was a major rebellion against British colonial rule in India. Understanding the causes, events, and impact of the Sanyasi Revolt is crucial for comprehending the dynamics of India’s freedom struggle and its impact on shaping the course of history.

Sanyasi Revolt

Sanyasi Rebellion, also known as the monk revolt, was a significant revolt that took place in Bengal during the late 18th century. Led by sanyasis and sadhus in the dense jungles of Murshidabad and Baikunthapur in Jalpaiguri, this uprising aimed to challenge British rule and exploitation. Pandit Bhabani Charan Pathak, who emerged as a prominent leader during the Sanyasi Revolt.

Sanyasi Rebellion was a manifestation of the discontent and resistance among the sanyasis and sadhus against the oppressive British administration. These ascetics, belonging to the Hindu religious order, mobilized a considerable following and took up arms to confront the British authorities. This revolt became a symbol of resistance and set the stage for future anti-colonial movements in India.

Reason for Sanyasi Revolt

In February 1770, in the Bengal province of British India, a famine hit the rural areas. In the famine year, people migrated from their villages to cities, searching for food and employment. As a result of the severe famine of 1770 and the British government’s stringent economic policies, a handful of sanyasis in Eastern India were compelled to rebel against the British yoke.

  • The sanyasis were first peasants, some of whom had been forced off their land, but soon a sizeable proportion of evicted minor zamindars dismissed troops, and the rural poor joined them.
  • There are at least three different events that make up the Sanyasi Rebellion. One is a sizable number of Hindu sannyasis who journeyed to various Bengali districts from North India to visit shrines.
  • On their journey to the shrines, many of these sadhus would demand a religious donation from the zamindars and leaders of the surrounding area.
  • The zamindars and headmen were more inclined to assist while the economy was booming. This had now become difficult as the zamindars were bound to diwani to the British government.
  • The Sanyasis were denied entry to holy places because the British thought they were looters. In a revolution against the British, the Sanyasis rose up and pillaged English factories and government coffers.
  • The Sanyasi Rebellion marked the beginning of the anti-British uprising in India.

Importance of Sanyasi Rebellion

The British East India Company was blamed for the Bengal famine. The Company was seen as an intolerable oppressor who exploited the peasantry with its high taxes. The peasants took to arms against the Company and its collaborators to seek relief for their grievances.

In April 1770, a revolt broke out in Baikunthpur, known as the 1770 incident. It spread to Murshidabad, where more than thirty incidents (termed as ‘Sanyasi Revolt’) of Sanyasi Revolts during 1770-79 just in Bengal province alone.

Objectives of the Sanyasi Revolt

The Sanyasi Revolt, a significant uprising in Bengal during the 18th century, was driven by specific objectives and grievances against British rule. The revolt aimed to address grievances related to the mistreatment of peasants and the unjust policies of the British administration. Following are the objectives of the Sanyasi Revolt:

  • To protest against the Company and its collaborators, who were accused of exploiting and oppressing the peasantry.
  • To challenge the authority of British officers serving as district magistrates and demand the appointment of local magistrates.
  • The uprising influenced subsequent revolts such as the Santhal Revolt of 1855-56 and the Chuar Revolt of 1799.

Failure of the Sanyasi Revolt

One of the primary reasons for the failure of the Sanyasi Revolt was the caste discrimination in society which led to internal clashes. Pandit Bhabani Charan Pathak preached against the social evils that he perceived in his locality. He was tolerant of others. He also criticized the authority of the zamindars, whom he thought was corrupt.

Bhabani Charan Pathak’s revolt roots in the caste system, where upper castes supported the status quo. In contrast, there were conflicts among lower castes based on religious identity and political power. The higher castes wanted to preserve their privileges and dominance over non-Hindus; therefore, they used violence against them when they spoke out against the exploitation or mistreatment of Dalits.

Bhabani Pathak, a prominent figure in West Bengal’s oppressed society, served as the movement’s head. The British put him to death. Following the murder of Bhabani Pathak, Devi Chowdhurani led the Sanyasis.

Sanyasi Revolt UPSC

Sanyasi Revolt is one of the important revolts that paved the path for the struggle for India’s Independence. Candidates can study this topic in detail from the History Books for UPSC and the NCERT Books.

Candidates can also solve the UPSC Previous Year’s Question Paper that will help the candidate understand the exam pattern better. To gain a deeper understanding of India’s freedom struggle and the socio-political dynamics of the time, it is important to study the Sanyasi Revolt in detail.

Sanyasi Revolt UPSC Question

Sanyasi Revolt is a vital and important topic that is included in the UPSC prelims and mains exams. It is highly recommended for candidates to study this topic thoroughly as it holds relevance in the examination. To aid in preparation, experts have provided a list of sample questions for reference, which can be helpful in understanding the key aspects of the Sanyasi Revolt.

Question: Consider the following statements with reference to the ‘Sanyasi Rebellion’: (1) It took place around the Murshidabad and Baikunthupur forests of Jalpaiguri, (2) Sanyasis oppressed by the British policies retaliated by organizing raids on the company’s factories and state treasuries under the leadership of ‘Kena Sarkar’ and ‘Dirji Narayan’ in West Bengal and Bihar, (3) The book ‘Neel Darpan’ gives details about ‘Sanyasi Rebellion’.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (A) 1 and 3 only, (B) 1 and 3 only, (C) 2 only, (D) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: (C) 2 only

Question: During which period did the Sanyasi Revolt take place in India? (A) 17th century, (B) 18th century, (C) 19th century, (D) 20th century

Answer: (B) 18th century

Question for UPSC Mains: Discuss the causes and impact of the Sanyasi Revolt during the late 18th century. How did it challenge the authority of the British East India Company in India?

Question for UPSC Mains: Analyze the role of the Sanyasi Revolt in the context of the larger resistance movements against colonial rule in India. How did the revolt challenge the authority of the British East India Company and contribute to the broader struggle for independence?

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