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Bengal perhaps has the most significant space when one recollects about reforms, revolutions, cultural upheavals and most importantly the English influenced architectural galore with native sensibilities. The conspicuously comprehensible rationale to this was the foundation that was laid on this fertile land to form the British Empire in India.

Mir Jafar (on the left) army chief was instrumental in the plot against Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah ( on the right)

Battle of Plassey, one of the decisive victories of the British was conspired to topple the last Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah. That is when, the British laid their foundation & formed the British Empire. Few learneds & the Nawab’s confidant Mir Jafar aided British to penetrate not only in Bengal Subah but also helped them encompass a substantial part of the Indian sub-continent. The ulterior motive was to amass enormous wealth from this naturally resourceful country. That era enabled the learneds amass wealth as well through their association with East India Company. The Rajbaris or the mansions built in Northen Calcutta & other parts of Bengal were the outcome of that association.

As the title of the blog states ” The era of revolt,” there ought to be few soar thumbs (metaphorical) in a country of such dynamism. They stood to revolt for the poor & the under privileged, whose exploitation by the Indian wealthy & the British was unfathomable. Swadeshi movement & Indigo revolt were prominent amidst many other movements.

Spinning of cotton yarn using Charkha- Swadeshi Movement

Khadi or cotton originated from the fertile Ganges Delta in the eastern belt of the country. Having said which, Bengal became one of the major contributors of this hand woven natural fabric. This breathable fabric was accepted very well by the people in Britain which led to mass production of cotton. In order to cater to the English demand, cotton crops were grown enormously instead of food crops. The starved peasants were exploited & paid miserly in return. With the advent of Industrial revolution, transition from hand production to machine production took place. This dented the livelihood of the Indian peasants enormously. Cotton was produced in India at a low cost, exported to Britain for spinning the yarn & developing the fabric with the help of machines. This meant higher production at a lower cost. The cotton fabric was then re imported back to India and sold at a premium. Swadeshi movement by Mahatma Gandhi was a revolt to stop re-import of cotton fabric & encourage hand spun yarn using the Charkha (the spinning wheel)

Neel Virodh- Indigo Revolt

Similar to this is the story behind the cultivation of Indigo crops for producing the blue dye. The indigo plantation was introduced to Indians by a French man named Louis Bonnard. The cultivation of this crop turned out to be very lucrative due to the demand in Europe. Planters persuaded the poor peasants to grow this crop instead of food crops. Loans where shoved down their throat at a very high interest rates for a small piece of land to cultivate the indigo crop. They remained indebted forever. “Although the Indigo revolt was power pact & left a considerable impact, the zamindars & the British suppressed the movement ruthlessly. One could call it as The Indigo holocaust. Peasants & leaders who supported this revolt were slaughtered to death. The revolt was a non violent passive resistance movement. This accelerated the formation of the Indigo commission, bringing the repression to a total halt.

Although the act of suppression & savagery did stun the people in England about their country men, India was left upside down in aspects like disoriented conditioning, communal disparity, decelerating growth and the list is endless. As I write this, it feels like the axis of the Indian core was shifted. The East India Company managed “to have the cake & eat it too.”

Content: Travel, Books & Google.

Picture courtesy: Google images