The revolt of 1857 was first organized attempt of Indians to get rid of the British. It was a civil rebellion led by the Sepoys.
The revolt of 1857 began on religious note. The Indian soldiers were forced to work where their religious beliefs were antagonistic. This suppressed discontent bursted out with the use of greased cartridges in the Enfield Rifles. They revolted against the British on the news that they had to tear off the cover of cartridges made of cow and pig fats by mouth which would be a toll on their religion. Once they rebelled, their age old demands and discontents joined their rebellion. Spread of the revolt brought many areas within its ambit and diverse discontent among the people. The motive became to ousts the British and bring independence.
The revolt soon spread to Kanpur, Allahabad, Avadh, Benaras, Ara, Jhansi and other areas. The symbols of British dominance were decimated. They fought to get rid of alien government. But their motive was to restore the old order. The first and foremost example was restoration of Behadur Shah Zafar as the sovereign of India. He represented the medieval Mughal dynasty. The kings deposed, re-established themselves. Zamindars fought to get back their rights from the British. Thus every where the battle was waged to get back to the pre-British Rule, not for the concept of nationhood.
Thus, the 1857 efforts was more anti-British than pro-nationalist. It was the first mass scale struggle to wipe out the alien dominance. But the motive was to restore back the old order, for there is not the slightest doubt that the rebels wanted to get rid of alien government and restore the old order.