In the years just prior to the mutiny many factors combined to create a climate of social and political unrest in India. The political expansion of the East India Company at the expense of native princes and of the Mughal court aroused Hindu and Muslim alike, and the harsh land policies, carried out by Governor-General Dalhousie and his successor, Lord Canning, as well as the rapid introduction of European civilization, threatened traditional India. In 1853, Nana Sahib, leader of the Marathas, was denied his titles and pension by the British, and the aged Bahadur Shah II, last of the Mughal emperors, was informed that the dynasty would end with his death.
The Indian soldiers were dissatisfied with their pay as well as with certain changes in regulations, which they interpreted as part of a plot to force them to adopt Christianity. This belief was strengthened when the British furnished the soldiers with cartridges coated with grease made from the fat of cows (sacred to Hindus) and of pigs (anathema to Muslims). The British replaced the cartridges when the mistake was realized; but suspicion persisted, and in Feb., 1857, began a series of incidents in which sepoys refused to use the cartridges.
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