Deccan Uprising 1875 and Agrarian revolt


British rule expanded from Bengal to other parts of India, new systems of revenue were imposed. The Permanent Settlement was rarely extended to any region beyond Bengal. Since the revenue demand was fixed under the Permanent Settlement, the colonial state could not claim any share of this enhanced income. Keen on expanding its financial resources, the colonial government had to think of ways to maximise its land revenue. So in territories annexed in the nineteenth century, temporary revenue settlements were made. The revenue system that was introduced in the Bombay Deccan came to be known as the ryotwari settlement. Unlike the Bengal system, the revenue was directly settled with the riot. The average income from different types of soil was estimated, the revenue-paying capacity of the riot was assessed and a proportion of it fixed as the share of the state.

First revenue settlement in 1820

The first revenue settlement in the Bombay Deccan was made in the 1820s. The revenue that was demanded was so high that in many places peasants deserted their villages and migrated to new regions. In areas of poor soil and fluctuating rainfall the problem was particularly acute. When rains failed and harvests were poor, peasants found it impossible to pay the revenue. By the 1830s the problem became more severe. Prices of agricultural products fell sharply after 1832 and did not recover for over a decade and a half. This meant a further decline in peasants’ income. At the same time the countryside was devastated by a famine that struck in the years 1832-34. One third of the cattle of the Deccan were killed, and half the human population died. Those who survived had no agricultural stocks to see them through the crisis.

Cotton Boom

Before the 1860s, three-fourths of raw cotton imports into Britain came from America. British cotton manufacturers had for long been worried about this dependence on American supplies. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, a wave of panic spread through cotton circles in Britain. Raw cotton imports from America fell to less than three per cent of the normal. Frantic messages were sent to India and elsewhere to increase cotton exports to Britain. In Bombay, cotton merchants visited the cotton districts to assess supplies and encourage cultivation. As cotton prices soared, export merchants in Bombay were keen to secure as much cotton as possible to meet the British demand. So they gave advances to urban sahukars who in turn extended credit to those rural moneylenders who promised to secure the produce. The riots in the Deccan villages suddenly found access to seemingly limitless credit. They were being given Rs 100 as advance for every acre they planted with cotton. Sahukars were more than willing to extend long-term loans. Between 1860 and 1864 cotton acreage doubled. By 1862 over 90 per cent of cotton imports into Britain were coming from India.

Deccan uprising

As already said present rings have been due to various reasons and one of these was the high-handedness and excessive explosions of these poor people by the wealthy and powerful money lenders. The rising which spread in Ahmad Nagar and Poona by Marwari money lenders of the peasants of the area. The risings are commonly known as Deccan Risings,

The Marwari money lenders had been very badly looting and exploiting the peasants of Poona. They used to keep their land in mortgage for petty sums which were advanced to them. Since the peasants were very poor therefore, once the land was kept in mortgage that never went back to the peasants. This process of land transfer from the peasants to the money lenders was an o going process and a great eye sore for the helpless peasants who reconciling themselves to the situations some how

 But these Marwari money lenders were not satisfied with the economic exploitation of these poor people. Quite often they compelled them for the alienation of their land to the sahukars or money lenders.

The riots were suppressed but had their own significance and importance

  1. These riots proved beyond  any doubt that the peasants in India were awakening.
  2. That there was some dire need to check ever increasing poverty of the peasants.
  3. That rural indebtedness could lead to riots at any time.
  4. That the government should seriously think about consequences of arbitrary increase in land revenue
  5. That the tyranny of sahukars could no longer be tolerated.

It was a market centre where many shopkeepers and moneylenders lived. In 1875, riots from surrounding rural areas gathered and attacked the shopkeepers, demanding their account books and debt bonds. They burnt account books, looted grain shops, and in some cases set fire to the houses of sahukars (persons who acted as both a moneylender and a trader). From Poona the revolt spread to Ahmednagar. Then over the next two months it spread even further, over an area of 6,500 square km. More than thirty villages were affected.

As the revolt spread, British officials saw the spectre of 1857. Police posts were established in villages to frighten rebellious peasants into submission. Troops were quickly called in and many convicted. But it took several months to bring the countryside under control.


When the revolt spread in the Deccan, the Government of Bombay was initially unwilling to see it as anything serious. But the Government of India, worried by the memory of 1857, pressurised the Government of Bombay to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate into the causes of the riots. The commission produced a report that was presented to the British Parliament in 1878.