From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Satnami Rebellion
Mains level : Peasants revolution in medieval ages
- In the history of revolts and rebellions, 1672 holds a special significance.
- In 1672, the Satnamis — a sect comprising peasants, artisans and untouchables — rebelled against the mighty Mughal Empire. It all began with a small quarrel.
- A Satnami youth, cultivating his field, got into a fight with a party of Mughal nobles, which resulted in his slaying by a Mughal pyada or a foot soldier.
- In retaliation, the foot soldier was killed by the Satnami community. This happened in what is today’s Mahendragarh district in Haryana.
- Following the two murders, the local Mughal official sent a troop of soldiers to arrest those who had killed the foot soldier. But the community drove them away.
- Emboldened, the Satnamis attacked Narnaul, the main township in the area and destroyed the Mughal garrison. They even set up their own administration.
An armed struggle
- The Satnamis marched towards Shahjahanabad (old Delhi), armed with the latest European-designed muskets that their leader had taught them to make.
- Though the Satnamis fought bravely, they lost the battle and 2,000 Satnamis were killed.
What triggered the Satnamis?
- The killing of the youth may have been the immediate trigger, the reasons for the revolt were to do with the growth of the Satnami sect.
- The entrenched caste structure of the era forced marginalized groups to join the fold and they protested against the high taxation policies.
- Their rise was seen as a threat by the supporters of the Mughal administration, the upper castes.
Why is the rebellion significant?
- Though the rebellion was crushed, its memory endures to this day.
- That a group of marginalized people fought the systemic oppression in society, established a new community and defended it.
Who were the Satnamis?
- Historians have called the Satnamis a monotheistic sect who followed neither Hinduism nor Islam and whose scriptures emphasised leading a life based on good conduct rather than on rituals and dogma.
- Many may find this hard to believe but the Mughals were actually protective of the caste system.
- As a result, the high castes continued to inflict the worst atrocities on the peasants, artisans, untouchables and tribals.
- They were the “invisibles” in Mughal India. Whether Brahmin, Rajput or Muslim, they were forbidden to be seen by any man other than their own.
- In contrast, the Satnami women dressed up like men, worked in farms and also joined men to fight the Mughal soldiers.