Rise and Growth of Mass Nationalism in India

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India, is a country which had been invaded, looted and ravaged by many a tribes, nations since time immemorial. Historians , the- then political analysts have been in the process of discovering the reason behind these so many invasions. Some says, that India had always been
politically divided and there was no sense of nationalism and patriotism in the hearts of the-then Maharajas as well as the masses
of India. The masses of India had been ignorant to the happenings around them and they had always been treated as oppressed class .They
were least bothered about what happened to their Lords or even if their Lord was being killed or dethroned by any of the outsiders, the masses used to shift their loyalty to the new rulers. Another thing is that , India was divided into so many princely states and each and everyone of them used to think of their interests only and nothing else, This kind of ignorant attitudes had been inviting so many invasions on India—First Persians, followed by Greeks, then Kushans, Huns, Pushyamitras, Muslims attacked , and ravaged this country and in the
modern age the Europeans especially the English and the French came to India for the commercial purposes , but later when they discovered the lack of political unity amongst the Indian Maharajas, they saw that as an sinister opportunity to get the hold of the Indian territory, by several means be it in the form of the Divide and Rule policy or in the form of Force. But anyway, this Brits rule had benefited India in another way…. It has given and modified the sense of Indian nationalism and started the process of nationalisation of Indian masses. Question is how? I will discuss these things later, but first I am going to catagorise these context step by step for the facilitation of the understanding of the readers.

1) Mass Nationalism in the Ancient Age : Mass nationalism did not exist in the ancient age in true sense apparently, but careful and in-depth study have helped historians to discover that the nationalism had hit India before the Modern Age has arrived. The India has witnessed the rise of Imperialism under the leadership of Magadha which is in today’s Bihar . The Magadhan Kings had started the process of making Magadha as the leading power of India such as Bimbisar, Ajatshatru etc. Under the rule of the Nanda Kings , especially under the rule of the Great Nanda King , Dhana Nanda, the people of the Empire had been oppressed and the monarchical government put the pressure of paying taxes on the innocent people of Pataliputra. In case of the non-payment of taxes , they were being tortured.  People , being oppressed and frustrated with the tyrannical government’s policy , started longing for an new kind of monarchical government which would promote the idea of welfare for the people of the Empire. At this critical condition, the uprising was being orchestrated under the leadership of Chanakya and his disciple Chandragupta against this tyrant monarchical government. On the other hand, the India was under the attack by the Greeks under the leadership of the Alexander the Great. In this situation, Chanakya tried to unify the Indian princely states against the Greeks and promoted the idea of driving out them out of Indian territory in order to save the culture and heritage of India. The little tribal and republic states in the north-western fronts of India had given a tough fight to the Greeks and while crossing the Jhelum river, Greeks had to face the mighty king Puru. Despite having a large number of army, the King Puru had to bow down to the Greeks, though Puru had been received fair treatment from Alexander. But , after the Alexander and its Greek army had been driven out of the country, Chanakya defeated the rest of the Greek governers appointed by Aleander and unified India and brought the country under one rule- The Mauryan Rule. In his book Arthashastra , he talked about using the policy of Sam-Dan- Dand – Bhed for building Empire.

2) Mass Nationalism in the Middle Age :-  In the Middle age, the natue of mass nationalism was more radical when the comparison is being made between middle ages and ancient ages.I will be giving some of the examples for making my statement clear. The king of Mewar, Sangram Singh or Rana Sanga tried to unify the whole Indian princely states in order to drive the Afghan rulers out of the country and bring India under Hindu rule. All of the Maharajas of India had participated in this war with hope of driving Muslims out of the country and getting back to their old glorius days. But all their efforts went in vain when Rana Sanga was being defeated in the hands of Babur in the battle field of Khanwa.


Another example of mass nationalism can be seen in the freedom struggle of Rana Pratap Singh against Akbar, the Mughal. Rana Pratap is being regarded as the first freedom fighter who had left lavish lifestyle and commited to lead the life time war against the Mughal to free Rajputana from the shackles of the Mughal rule.

Rise of nationalism can be seen among Marathas who under the leadership of Shivaji fred themselves from the shackles of the tyranical rules of Adil Shahi Kings and waged a long term warfare against the tyrant Mughal Rulers of Delhi. After the brutal  execution of Sambhaji, this mass nationalims among Marathas took an extreme form.

It also can be seen be seen how the Sikh community had turned into fierce warlike militant community from peaceful religious community aftet the brual execution of Guru Teg Bahadur. Under the leadership of Guru Govind Singh ji , the whole the sense of nationalism was induced in their mind.

3)Mass Nationalism in the Modern Age :-  The mass nationalism in the modern age can be again catagorised into 4 parts. Lets discuss about it.

  • 1757-1857– It is the intial phase of mass nationalims and freedom struggle of India, when India has witnessed local mutinies, and war between princely states and the East India Company. It can be seen, how East India Compay by applying the Doctrine of Lapse and Wellesly’s policy took over various princely states like Avadh, Jhansi, etc and as a result the Great Rebellion of 1857 had begun. In this context, i would like to mention futile attempt of the Cambridge scholar of tagging this rebellion  as Sepoy mutiny. But this attempt of tagging this rebellion insignificat sepoy’s agitation did not work.
  • 1857-1885- After the rebellion of 1857, the East India Company lost its credibility to the parliament of England and The Crown of England had taken the responsibility of ruling India in the name of Queen Victoria. In this period, a new class was born who were  being regarded as New English Educated class . They came into contact with western culture by reading various books on Roursseau, Voltaire , Victor Hugo, etc. Apart from that, the contemporary happenings in Europe like July revolution , Irish Rebellion etc. had inspired them to think they could make it happen in India and these people started questioning the legacy of the Brit rule In India. Brits apprehended that another 1857 might occur in India if it was not being curbed in a proper way. The news papers started pr0pagating against the Brit empire.  Litton Act had already put a fire in the mind of the Indian middle educated class. As a result Brits started thinking of making an political organisaion who will be acting as a safety valve for the Brits Empire of India. As a result, the Congress Party was born in the year 1885 with the assistance from Alan Octavian Hume, an Brit beaurocrat.
  • 1885-1919- But the Congress party failed to live upto the expectations of the Indian common people, the congress party was divided into two fractions in the Surat Congress in the year 1907- the Moderate swho would like to stick to their founding principles of pray, and beg to the government, and the Extremists who advocated the idea of resorting to armed rebellion against the Brit empire. As a result, lots of movement had occured in this period, like Swadeshi movement, Gadar Movement etc. The success story of communists revoulution in Russia also inspired Indian revolutionaires and Indian mass. During the first world war, lots of Indians fought for the British empire with the hope of getting their economic and political demands fulfilled . But all their efforts in vain when they have realised that Brit had no intention of giving them either total independence or dominion status. Also the price of commodities  was hiked after the war. Apart from these, the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre brought staunch hatred and dissatisfaction in the minds of the common people of India. In the words of Gandhi,”On bended knees , I asked for bread, I got stone instead.”
  • 1919-1947–  In this period, mass nationalism took an extreme  form and during the Second World War,  when there were price hike of the commodities , and famine occured in Bengal, the masses enraged. Azad Hind Movement, 1942’s Quit India Movement , Royal Naval Mutiny had made the Birts rulers feel that their days in India would soon come to an end and as a result India had got its freedom from the yoke of the Brit colonialism.

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About Soham Roy 40 Articles
MBA in Human Resource Management, MA in Modern History with specialization in Modern Europe (1870-2000), HR Professional, Academic Writer