Terminalia bellirica (TB) has been used in traditional Indian medical system, Ayurveda. However, the mechanism underlying the efficacy of the TB extract against oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is yet to be explored. The present study established a connecting link between the TB extract induced apoptosis and autophagy in relation to reactive oxygen species (ROS). Our study revealed, that gallic acid in the TB extract possess a strong free radical scavenging capacity contributing towards the selective anti-proliferative activity. Furthermore, TB extract markedly enhanced the accumulation of ROS that facilitated mitochondrial apoptosis through DNA damage, indicating ROS as the vital component in regulation of apoptosis. This effect was effectively reversed by the use of a ROS scavenger, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). Moreover, it was observed to induce autophagy; however, it attenuated the autophagosome-lysosome fusion in Cal33 cells without altering the lysosomal activity. Pharmacological inhibitors of autophagy, namely, 3-methyladenine and chloroquine, were demonstarated to regulate the stage-specific progression of autophagy post treatment with the TB extract, favouring subsequent activation of apoptosis. These findings revealed, presence of gallic acid in TB extract below NOAEL value causes oxidative upset in oral cancer cells and promote programmed cell death which has a potential therapeutic value against oral squamous cell carcinoma.