18th century India was an era of chaotic transitions. With rapid changes in the political, economic, and social scenario, the country was engulfed with the passion and confusion of stepping from one epoch to another. On one hand, the Mughal Empire was in shambles and on the other, the power of foreign invaders grew stronger.
East India Company’s reign in the late 18th century was filled with brutal laws to suppress the countrymen into total submission. Often the Sepoy Mutiny or the Indian Mutiny of 1857 is considered as the first act of rebellion against the British rule. However, the fading pages of the history beg to differ. Many historians debate that Fakir-Sannyasi Rebellion is actually the first voice of protest against the British rule.
What ignited the fire of rebellion?
In the spiritual land of India, it was unlikely that the saints or sages will get involved in a battle against the rulers. Besides being peace-loving people, they were also the ones respected by everyone. That scenario drastically shifted during British Rule.
For hundreds of years, Fakirs (saints following Islam) and Sanyasis (Saints following Hinduism) travelled to the land of Bengal to visit different holy shrines. During their journey, they collected alms from Zamindars or landlords and Kings to fulfill their daily needs. The failing economic condition of Bengal, brought by looting and Diwani (land tax) imposition by Britishers, further worsened during the Great Bengal Famine of 1770. It left the kings and landlords in a pitiful state in terms of power and money.
Seeing no other way, the Fakirs and Sanyasis begged for alms from the common people who started to help them. However, the British continued with their animosity towards the saints when they restricted their visit to the holy shrines and started beating those who tried. They were painted as “gypsies of Hindustan” by the foreign invaders.
When the restrictions and beating failed to stop them, then the British army decided to kill about 150 saints mercilessly. Bengal was left drenched in the blood of those who embraced spiritually as their way of life. With this incident, the saints decided to raise their voice not to tolerate the injustice anymore. They took the arms against the British regime and gave birth to “The Sanyasi Rebellion.” Translated, it literary means “The Revolt of the Saints.”
Soon this rebellion gained momentum with support from peasants, farmers, landlords, ex-soldiers of the company, and artisans. Several individual upraising sprouted across distinctive cities in India. Though a powerful rebellion, it was suppressed by the British with cruel and brutal steps. The company started torturing and killing not only the rebels but their family members too. The same was the fate of their supporters. Though it faded from the pages of mainstream recollection of history but stayed alive through the fictional work “Anandamath.” It’s written by one among the earliest modern Indian novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The song “Vande Mataram” (I bow to thee, Mother) was also a part of this book which was later declared as national song of the country.
This book ignited a flame of hunger for freedom in people when it was published in 1882. However, it was soon banned by the British government only to be published again after India’s independence.
Undoubtedly the story induces the feeling of patriotism and love for motherland, but hidden under the layers are golden words of inspiration for those who want to conquer the world of business. Especially the startups can find valuable lessons from the forgotten annals of history.
The unskilled army of fakirs and sannyasis were never a match for the huge British army in terms of numbers and weapons. Thus, they decided to identify their strengths and formulate a strategy around the same. Being nomads, they used their ability to be mobile, knowledge of countryside, and camouflage to fight the British while leading secret attacks.
Lesson: It’s always better to formulate your business path by identifying your strengths. Work with what you have now than waiting for achieving something that is impossible at-the-moment.
2. Engagement with community
The rebellion could never have grown without the support of the natives. The chain of networking of peasants and farmers brutalized by the British acted as the information hub for the rebellions.
Lesson: Staying connected with the customers humanizes your brand and lets you listen to what they want. The effective way of listening and communication worked then and will work now too.
3. Stick to what’s important
The saints who decided to stand up against the oppression had already shunned all materialistic desires. However, those who joined them in the rebellion also did the same to fight for one cause – freedom of motherland. From eating minimum food to giving up conjugal relations, they stopped everything that could deter them from their goal.
Lesson: The idea is to make sure that you are giving your maximum efforts towards the dream of establishing your business. Everyone has their own sacrifices to make, it’s you who can decide what shall be yours.
4. Interest of self should prevail
It’s true that this movement ignited the feeling of love for motherland for many. However, it never started out as a patriotic movement. It was simply a retaliation by the saints who wanted to sustain their survival.
Lesson: Driving personal profit is a truth that you cannot and should not ignore. However, the intensity or depth of the self-profit is for you to decide.
A bad leader gives order and a good one shows the way of following them. Over and over in history, this has proven to be true. The same can be said in case of the fakirs and sannyasis who had faith in their able leaders to launch a rebellion against the British rule.
Lesson: To build your business, you need to be a strong leader who can show and take everyone along the path of success.
During the time when kings were pawning their crowns to the British Empire for fear of persecution, few people whose whole life was bounded by spirituality rose up against the atrocity to claim what was their own. Above anything else, the Fakir-Sannyasi rebellion teaches about the spirit and passion to work for something you believe in.
What are your thoughts? Let’s know in the comments below.