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Photo Essay: British India

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Blowing from Guns | British Punish Sepoy "Mutineers"
Indian Revolt participants get blown apart with cannons, British Colonial India

"Blowing from Guns" in British India

Vasili Vereshchagin / Library of Congress Prints and Photos Collection

This disturbing painting by Vasili Vasilyevich Vereshchagin shows British soldiers executing participants in the Indian Revolt of 1857. Alleged rebels were tied to the muzzles of cannon, which would then be fired. This brutal method of execution made it nearly impossible for the sepoys' families to perform the proper Hindu or Muslim funeral rites.

Vereshchagin painted this scene in 1890, and the soldiers' uniforms reflect the style from his own era, rather than from the 1850s. Despite the anachronism, however, this image provides an evocative look at the harsh methods Britain employed to suppress the so-called "Sepoy Rebellion."

In the wake of the uprising, Britain's home government decided to disband the British East India Company and take direct control of India. Thus, the Indian Revolt of 1857 paved the way for Queen Victoria to become Empress of India.

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