Modernity in India- A brief research

India, that is Bharat, believes from the ancient times that in the past, there existed not only rusted pieces of iron, but also diamonds and pearls that should be protected and preserved. Based on this belief, modernity in India took its roots in the scientific order of transformation. The modernity did not and does not take place in all the nations of the world in the same order and method. It took place based on the history of the pre-modern, past, tradition, political and societal practices. India was under British rule and that was the history of the pre-modern. They ruled us for 190 years yet, India proved that India is India only, that is Bharat only, with its deep-rooted traditions and practices. Modernity in India took its roots around 1850, that is nearly a hundred years before our independence in 1947.

The salient concepts, features and characteristics of modernity are nationalism, secularism, egalitarian equality and humanity, deep desire for freedom, independence and democracy.

The people’s movements in India for these goals rose up like oceanic up rise and continued from 1850 to 1947 till we got freedom and independence with sacrifices, devotion and dedication. The movements began to create political and social awareness and consciousness amongst the people and make them participate actively in them. The people’s movement and revolutions nowhere in the world continued for a hundred years since they were around with violence whereas in India they were non-violent Satyagraha with people’s voluntary and active participation. The characteristics of modernity imbued with the people’s moments took roots around 1850 A.D. and grew along with the moments. The sepoy’s revolt of 1857 was regarded as the first Indian independence movement and as such there would be nothing wrong if 1857 taken as the dividing line between the pre-modern and moderinity in India.

This is the true history of modernity in India. But, the British wrote an untrue history in their vested interests. In Europe, the renaissance movement arose in 15th and 16th centuries with specific objectives of liberty from religious beliefs and practices, humanity and discovering new world’s to marketing their surplus productions. The movement brought out immense transformations in the people’s thoughts and living styles and standards for reforms. The modernity thus arose in Europe. The French revolution of 18th century new political concepts and thoughts as regards political states and nations came up and it led to political awareness and consciousness for freedom, independence, equality and enlightenment and thus the modernity took roots in Europe. The British made all efforts to bring about such form of modernity in India also in their vested interests. They setup business and marketing organizations, Christian missionaries, Anglo vernacular schools, industrialization, urbanization, use of the British goods and services and claimed that modernity in India took place because of their renaissance reforms. 

European and British modernity is different from Indian modernity. They cut-off the pre-modern and made a new and fresh beginning for modernity. They built modernity on the corpse of the past and it stumbled slowly into complete material world. It means that modernity means living in material world with all its facilities and comforts. The Indian modernity took its roots with firm belief that the pre-modern past had diamonds and pearls embedded in it that deserve to be protected and preserved as an inheritary past and ancient wealth invaluable and unmeasurable.

Some of the historical organizations, associations, people’s movements that fought for freedom and independence are mentioned for convenience of understanding. British Indian Associations (1851), first independence war (1857), Indian national congress (1885), Vande Mataram (1906-1907), movement against Minto-Marlo reforms, Home Rule (1916), movement against Rowlat act (1919), Bloodshed of Jalandhar (1919), Khilafat movement (1920), Khaddar movement (1921), movement against liquor (1921), communist party of India (1920), Simon, go back movement (1928), Salt Satyagraha movement (1930), Self-satyagrapha movement (1940), quit India-movement (1942)- roused political awareness and consciousness among the people for freedom and independence. From the soil, where the blood of Indians caused by the British flew and where nonviolence satyagraha emanated from Indian side, the modernity took its roots and grew shining along with the people’s movements.


The first and foremost characteristic of modernity is nationalism. The British sated- India was not a country… Indians were not a nation, but a conglomeration of people of diverse creeds and sects. The middle class intellectual class retaliated vehemently putting forth the historical facts. The Indian historian, R.K. Mukherjee in his book-The fundamental unity of India (1914)-proved that their statement was baseless, untrue and was made with intolerance and hatred. Mahatma Gandhi pointed out-we are one nation before the British came to India-with historical facts. [ The moral and political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi- Raghavan Iyer-OUP, New Delhi- 1986-p-43]. H.T. Mazumdar, the Indian historian condemned their statement proving the Hindu nation came into being in 1885 as a protest against British exploitation has given rise to political nationalism. [ H.T. Mazumdar- A grammer of sociology- pp-264-265]. Indian national congress was formed in 1885 giving rise to political nationalism. With such stone-age thoughts in their mind and heart how the British could give rise to modernity in India and in India

Freedom, independence and Equality:

The British devoured the freedom and independence of India and treated Indians as slaves. James Mill stated that the Hindus like the eunuchs excels in the qualities of a slave (R.C. Majumdar-Historiography in Modern India, p-13). “What is empire, but the predominance of race” Lord Rosebury, formerly prime minister of England commented (James Joll- Europe since 1870-p-104). Such rock age and cruel thoughts in their mind and heart how modernity could arise in India under the British rule? when there was no freedom, independence and equality how the question of modernity could arise for Indians. 

Secularism and rationalism:

The British made an act in 1830 allowing Christianity to spread in India. They began converting Hindus into Christians giving incentives in various ways and means and applied ill treatment to Hindus and Hinduism. They created intolerance and hatred amongst the people which ultimately led to sepyoys revolt in 1857. Then how modernity could arise for Indians under the British rule.

The British did not fulfill any characteristics or requirements for modernity in India. Further, the renaissance reforms introduced by them were in their vested interests for intensifying their looting and spread of Christianity in India. The historical facts prove that their claim that the British laid the foundation for modernity in India was baseless, untrue and absurd.

The 1830 act created agitation in the minds of the middle-class Indian intellectuals and they took up social reforms that grew as people’s movements to end blind belief and practices, to eradicate discriminations and untouchability, to open Indian English schools by the Indians to check conversions of Hindus into Christianity and many similar reforms. Raja Ram Mohan Roy stood at the forefront of the movements. He establish the “Arya Sabha” in 1815, Brahma Samaj in 1828, the modern concept of egalitarian equality-All are equal without any discriminations-was introduced. Hindu society was setup in 1848, Bombay association in 1852, and Madras Hindu literary society, Madras native association and many similar associations to awaken and develop Indian consciousness for true freedom and egalitarian equality. The modern concept-All are before the Act-was also introduced.

The most needed modern concepts of secularism – Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram Eeshwar Allah tere naam- and similarly – Ram Rahim Ek Ho- went deep in the mind and heart of the people and they became breath and blood of the Indian people. Mahatma Gandhi made it a standard of living for each and everyone in the nation, keeping in view the future of India and it was the historical contribution of Mahatma Gandhi.

The most historical modern concept of non-violence Satyagraha with which India got freedom and indepence from British became a tool and weapon for improving democracies in the world.

The resolutions of congress working committee made at Wardah on 14th July 1942, was most vast and widened modern democratic concept for universal peace. It was made in the context of quit-India movement. It demanded the British to quit India immediately to end fascism and racial discriminations for universal peace.

It is the true history of modernity in India it took its roots for and from the people’s movements for freedom and independence from the British on one hand and for social reforms and justice on the other and grew shining brightly moving along with the movements.

Books Consulted

1. The modern state- Maclver, RM
2. What is history- E.H. Carr
3. Indian: living with modernity- Alam Jaweed.
4. Modernity-In Indian social theory- A. Raghu Rama Raju
5. The fundamental unity of India- R.K. Mukherjee.
6. The moral and political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi- Raghavan Iyer.
7. Pragathi and Sampradayam in Indian philosophy- S.G. Sardesai.
8. A Nation in the making- Surendranath Banerjee
9. The renaissance in India- Sir Aurabindo
10. British para mountey and the Indian renaissance- Bharateeya Vidya Bhavan.
11. How Indian wrought for freedom- Annie Besant
12. The renaissance – Walter Pater
13. An introduction to the study of India history- D. D. Kosanbi.


More by :  Papa Rao Jayanthi

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