Indigo Rebellion: Causes, Outcome, and Significance

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Indigo Rebellion

The Indigo Rebellion was also known as the Indigo Revolt. It was a significant event in India’s colonial history that arose in the year 1859. This rebellion was a response to the oppressive indigo cultivation practices imposed by British colonial landlords on Indian farmers. In this blog, we will dive into the causes, key players, and outcomes of the Indigo Rebellion.

What was the Indigo Rebellion?

The Indigo Rebellion was also called the Neel Bidroho, in the native language. It was a peasant uprising against British indigo planters in Bengal from 1859 to 1860. The demand for indigo, a natural dye used in the textile industry, increased in Europe in the 19th century.

Furthermore, this led to an increase in indigo cultivation in Bengal, and the planters became even more exploitative of the farmers because the dye was a major source of revenue for the British East India Company. The Indigo Rebellion was one of the largest and most effective peasant movements in India during the British colonial period.

A Bikaner dye factory in Bengal, 1867
A Bikaner dye factory in Bengal, 1867.

What were the Causes of the Indigo Rebellion?

Moreover, here are some of the major causes of the Indigo Rebellion: 

1. Forced Indigo Cultivation: The primary cause of the revolt was the forced cultivation of indigo by British landlords. They compelled Indian peasants to grow indigo instead of food crops, as indigo was a profitable cash crop used in dye production.

2. Exploitative System: The indigo system was exploitative, with farmers subjected to extremely harsh conditions. Additionally, they were forced to sell their crops to British landlords at very low prices, often leading to indebtedness.

3. High-Interest Rates: Since Indigo planters were forcing farmers to grow indigo on their land, the farmers were paid very low prices for their indigo. Consequently, they were often forced to take loans from the planters at high interest rates.

Also Read: Revolt of 1857: History, Causes, Effects, Summary & Fact

What were the Forms of Indigo Cultivation?

Additionally, Indigo in India was cultivated in two major forms which are:

What was the Ryoti System?

The Ryoti System was the most common type of indigo cultivation followed in Bengal.

  • Under this system, the Ryots followed the contract system for sowing the cash crop. 
  • Moreover, these contracts were generally made for a duration of one, three, five, and ten years (in some cases). 
  • During the initial stage of the contract, the Ryots were given advanced payments to manage the expenses related to cultivation. 
  • The only salient feature of the Ryoti System of indigo cultivation was that the Ryots had to use their land for cultivation.

What was the Nij-abad System?

In the Nij-abad system of cultivation, planters produced the cash crop on the land that was under their control.

  • These indigo planters borrowed unoccupied land from rich zamindars. In return, they were given the Zamindari rights or Taluqdari. 
  • On the other hand, in the Ryotwari system, the planter paid farmers to grow indigo on their land which ultimately established a contract. 

Also Read: Santhal Rebellion: Background, Causes and Significance

What was the Course of the Indigo Rebellion?

The Indigo Rebellion began in March 1859, when farmers in the Nadia district of Bengal refused to grow indigo. The rebellion quickly spread to other districts, and by the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of farmers were involved.

The farmers used a variety of tactics to protest against the indigo system, such as: 

  • They refused to grow indigo. 
  • They boycotted the planters’ markets. 
  • They also attacked the planters’ property. 

Consequently, the planters responded by calling in the police and the army. Moreover, they also evicted farmers from their land as well as struck at and imprisoned those who resisted.

Also Read: The Moplah Rebellion: History, Significance, Result

Commission on the Rebellion 

In June 1860, the British government appointed a commission to investigate the rebellion. The commission found that the indigo system was exploitative and that the planters had been guilty of harassing the farmers. Thus, the Commission recommended reforms, including the Abolition of the indigo contract system and the establishment of fair prices for indigo.

Who were the Key Leaders of the Indigo Rebellion?

The key leaders of the rebellion were many, some of the prominent people were: 

  • The Biswas brothers: Digambar Biswas and Bishnu Biswas were two peasant brothers from Nadia district who were among the first to lead the rebellion against the planters. Additionally, they were known for their courage and determination, and they quickly became symbols of the rebellion.
  • Rafiq Mondal: Rafiq Mondal was a farmer’s leader from Malda district who played a key role in spreading the rebellion to other parts of Bengal. Moreover, he was also a gifted orator and writer, and he used his skills to mobilise the peasants and raise awareness of their plight.

Also Read: The Vellore Mutiny of 1806

  • Kader Molla: Kader Molla was another such leader from the Pabna district who was known for his organizational skills and his ability to build alliances with other peasant groups. He played a key role in coordinating the rebellion across different districts.
  • Ramrattan Mullick: Ramrattan Mullick was a wealthy zamindar from Narail district who supported the revolt. In addition, he provided financial assistance to the rebels and used his influence to pressure the British government to reform the indigo industry.
  • Dinabandhu Mitra: A Bengali playwright, Dinabandhu Mitra, wrote a powerful play titled “Nil Darpan” (The Indigo Mirror), which vividly depicted the sufferings of indigo farmers and helped raise awareness about their plight.

In addition to these individual leaders, the rebellion was also supported by other groups, which included:

  • Bengali Intelligentsia
  • Christian Missionaries
  • Rural Artisans

Hence, the Indigo Rebellion was also a truly united movement, with Hindus and Muslims fighting side by side against their common oppressors.

Nil Darpan by Dinabandhu Mitra
Nil Darpan by Dinabandhu Mitra

What were the Outcomes of the Indigo Rebellion?

The Indigo Rebellion was a partial success. The British government implemented some of the reforms recommended by the commission, and the Indigo system was reformed. However, the planters continued to exploit the farmers, and the revolt did not lead to the end of peasant exploitation in India.

1. End of the Indigo System: The uprising had a significant impact on public opinion. The British government eventually recognized the unjust nature of the indigo system, leading to the gradual decline of indigo cultivation in India.

2. Awareness and Solidarity: The rebellion raised awareness about the exploitation of Indian farmers. It also promoted a sense of solidarity among peasants, empowering them to stand up against oppressive practices.

3. Historical Significance: The revolt is remembered as an early instance of Indian resistance against British colonialism. It contributed to the broader struggle for independence, which eventually led to India gaining freedom in 1947.

What was the Significance of the Indigo Rebellion?

The Indigo Rebellion was a significant event in the history of India. It was one of the first major peasant uprisings against British rule. Moreover, it also showed that the Indian people were capable of organizing and resisting British exploitation.

Hence, the Rebellion is considered to be a precursor to the Indian independence movement. This uprising against forced indigo cultivation not only put an end to a brutal system but also sowed the seeds of awareness and unity that would play a crucial role in India’s eventual fight for independence.

Also Read: Mangal Pandey: A Heroic Sepoy’s Journey

Violence Involved in the Revolt 

The level and intensity of violence involved in the Indigo Revolt have been a matter of discussion among historians.

  • Although the peasants followed Gandhi’s notions of non-violence and satyagraha, they were eventually subjected to cruelties and oppression imposed upon them. 
  • Moreover, they also had to face the ruthless suppression of rich zamindars and British forces.
  • There were numerous cases of kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, and beating of women and children.
  • In addition, houses were set on fire, public places demolished, and crops devastated among the hustle and bustle. 

Assessment of the Rebellion

The Indian Indigo Rebellion which took place from 1859 to 1862 served as a major example for Gandhi’s Non-violent Salt Rebellion of 1930.

  • The rebellion was caused as the aftermath of years-long oppression and cruelty to poor people at the hands of rich planters and government officials.
  • Additionally, this rebellious movement saw the coming together of different religious groups as well as zamindars who stood to support the cause of the farmers.


Who is the leader of the Indigo Revolt?

There were many leaders of the Indigo Revolt who contributed such as Digambar Biswas, Bishnu Biswas, Rafiq Mondal and Kader Molla.

Why did indigo cultivators start the Blue Rebellion?

Indigo cultivators started the Blue Rebellion as they were tired of being exploited at the hands of the British.

In which state did the Indigo Revolt spread?

The Indigo Revolt spread from the state of Bengal.



#1. When did the Indigo Rebellion take place?

#2. Where did the Indigo Rebellion take place?

#3. Who were the leaders of the Indigo Rebellion?


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