Many people, such as Savarkar, have called the Mutiny of 1857 as the First Indian War of Independence
In my opinion the Mutiny was only an act of some disgruntled Indian soldiers, who joined hands with some feudal rulers of India, many of whom had been frightened by Lord Dalhousie's doctrine of lapse and other indications that their principalities may be annexed by the British. Some like Nana Saheb, who had been pensioned off to Bithoor, wanted to regain their kingdoms.
In May 1857 the mutineers from Meerut marched to Delhi, captured the fort and practically made the last Mughal Emperor their captive, insulting and jeering at him, while ostensibly proclaiming him Emperor of Hindustan. They looted the shops of Delhi and committed many acts of rape and abduction, behaving like vagabonds ( see Ghalib's letters to his friends in this connection ).
The Mutiny did not spread to south India, the Bombay Province, Bengal, etc. Many regions, e.g. the Punjab and Nepal, and many rulers e.g. of Gwalior, actively collaborated with the British.
The Rani of Jhansi had been pensioned off by the British authorities in March 1854 after the death of her husband, under the doctrine of lapse. Initially she wanted to side with the British, as her letters to the Commissioner of Saugor Division, Major Erskine and other British authorities indicate, hoping that thereby she may get back her throne, but when she realized by the British negative response that she could not, and Jhansi would remain annexed under the doctrine of lapse, rebelled, and indeed put up a gallant fight.