Growth of Nationalism in India

Mains Marks Booster     2nd August 2023        

Reasons of Growth of Nationalism in India:

Nationalism emerged in 19th-century British India both in emulation of and as a reaction against the consolidation of British rule and the spread of Western civilization.

Political reasons:

  • Political unification of the country under the banner of congress.
  • Modern means of transport and communication led to exchange of political ideas and mobilisation of public opinion on various issues.

Economic reasons:

  • Economic critique of colonialism as in Dadabhai Naoroji in his “Poverty and un British rule in India” and RC Dutt’s “Economic history of India”.
  • Economic integration of the country as economic fate of different regions got linked together.

Administrative reasons:

  • Codification of Indian laws under Lord Macaulay led to the legal uniformity in the subcontinent.
  • Introduction of All India services led to administrative uniformity in the country.

Western thought and education:

  • The middle-class intelligentsia got exposed to modern politics based on mass participation, and modern institutions provided leadership to the Indian political associations.
  • The English language helped nationalist leaders from varied linguistic backgrounds to effectively communicate with each other

Role of press and literature:

  • Newspapers and journals like "Bengal Gazette," "Amrita Bazar Patrika," raised awareness and fostering a sense of unity among Indians.
  • Literary works like “Geethanjali” of Rabindranath Tagore conveyed a deep appreciation for India's past glory.

Reactionary policies and racial arrogance of rulers:

  • Lytton’s reactionary policies such as reduction of age limit for ICS exam, Vernacular press act 1878, etc provoked opposition in the country.
  • Illbert Bill controversy exposed the racial superiority mindset of the British.

Pre-Congress Organization:

Before the formation of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885, several organizations and movements emerged in India that laid the foundation for the nationalist movement.  

  • Indian Association (1876): It was founded by Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose in Calcutta. It aimed to provide a platform for political discussions, promote national unity, and work towards political reforms. 
  • Madras Mahajan Sabha (1884): It, established by M. Veeraraghavachariar and G. Subramania Iyer, sought to address social and political issues and create awareness among the masses. It advocated for civil liberties, education, and representation in the government. 
  • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha (1870): It was a social and political organization founded by Mahadev Govind Ranade and others. It focused on social reforms, education, and improving the conditions of the lower castes. 
  • Bombay Presidency Association (1885): It, led by Pherozeshah Mehta, was formed to address political and economic grievances of the people in the Bombay Presidency. It emphasized constitutional methods and worked towards increasing Indian representation in governance. 
  • Anjuman-e-Islam (1874): Founded by Badruddin Tyabji, it was a Muslim organization that aimed to promote education and social welfare among the Muslim community. It later played an active role in the national movement. 

Formation of Indian National Congress:

Initiated by Allan Octavian Hume on December 28, 1885, the INC emerged as the first organized political platform that aimed to unite the diverse voices and aspirations of Indians under one banner.

Formation of Indian National Congress (1885): 

  • Founded by Allan Octavian Hume, a retired Civil Service Officer. 
  • Aimed to provide a safe, constitutional outlet for Indian political consciousness. 
  • Supported by Lord Dufferin and eminent Indians. 

Early Leadership and Objectives: 

  • Womesh Chandra Banerjee elected as the first President. 
  • Leaders had faith in British Government and its sense of justice. 
  • Believed in peacefully presenting grievances to the government. 
Aims of congress

Limited Social Base (1885-1905): 

  • Influence confined to urban educated Indians. 
  • Early aims focused on communication with the British government and voicing grievances. 
  • Referred to as the era of the Moderates.
limited social base

Rise of Radical Nationalists (1905-1918): 

  • Shift from Moderate Policies: Moderate policies of the Congress led to the emergence of passionate, radical nationalists known as the 'Garam Dal.' 
  • Critique of the Moderates: The radicals criticized the Moderates for their failure to define clear political goals and their mild and ineffective methods. 
  • Focus on Self-Governance: The radicals aimed to free India from foreign rule and advocated for self-governance.

Interesting Facts:

Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave slogan: "Freedom is our birthright, and we must have it."

Moderates and Extremist








1. Aimed at administrative and constitutional reforms.

2. Wanted greater autonomy and self-rule while still under the nominal rule of the British crown.

3. They were secular in their attitudes.

1. Aim of getting Swaraj

2. Wanted to end the tyranny rule of British.


1. Believed in the efficacy of constitutional agitation.

2. Had great faith in the British sense of justice and fair play.

3. They imbibed western ideas of liberalism, democracy, equity and freedom.

1. Radical in their approach. 

2. Ideological inspiration was Indian History, Cultural heritage,etc. Hence, they revived the Ganapati and Shivaji festivals.


1. They follow the principles of 3P: Petition, Prayer and Protest.

2. They believed in cooperation and reconciliation.

1.Guided by 4 principles Swarajya, Swadeshi, Boycott of foreign goods and National education to make Indians aware.

2. Believed in atmashakti as a weapon against domination.

Social support

Zamindars and Upper middle classes in towns.

Educated middle and lower middle classes in towns.


Surendra Nath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopalakrishna Gokhale

Lala Lajpat Rai, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose


1. Economic Critique of British Imperialism

2. Constitutional Reforms and Propaganda in Legislature

3. Campaign for General Administrative Reforms

4. Defence of Civil Rights

1. Demand of Swaraj

2. Mass movement

3. Spread of national education

4. Upliftment of downtrodden

5. Nationalism

6. Support to revolutionary movements

Some Important Personalities associated with Lower Class Movements:

       salient features
  • Jyotiba Phule: He challenged social inequalities and untouchability, founding Satyashodhak Samaj to promote education and fight caste discrimination. He opened schools for girls and lower castes, campaigned against child marriage and widow remarriage.
  • Narayana Guru: He was a social reformer from Kerala who fought against caste-based discrimination and promoted social equality. He emphasized the importance of education and worked to uplift the lower castes through spiritual and social reforms. He also advocated for the rights of the Dalits and fought against untouchability.
  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: He fought against caste discrimination and worked towards the empowerment of the Dalits. He also played a crucial role in drafting laws and provisions to protect the rights and welfare of the lower classes in the Indian Constitution.