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Indian nationalism refers to the many underlying forces that molded the Indian independence movement, and strongly continue to influence the politics of India, as well as being the heart of many contrasting ideologies that have caused ethnic and religious conflict in Indian society. Indian nationalism often imbibes the consciousness of Indians that prior to 1947, India embodied the broader Indian subcontinent and influenced a part of Asia, known as Greater India.

National consciousness in India

India has been unified under many emperors and governments in history. Ancient texts mention India under emperor Bharata and Akhand Bharat, these regions roughly form the entities of modern day greater India. Mauryan Empire was the first to unite all of Indiamarker, South Asia, and much of Persiamarker. In addition, India has also been unified under a central government by empires, such as the Pala Empire, Mughal Empire and the Indian Empire.

Conception of Pan-South Asianism

India's concept of nationhood is based not merely on territorial extent of its sovereignty. Nationalistic sentiments and expression encompass that India's ancient history, as the birthplace of the Indus Valley Civilization and Vedic Civilization, as well as four major world religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Indian nationalists see India stretching along these lines across the Indian Subcontinent.

Ages of war and invasion

India today celebrates many kings and queens for combating foreign invasion and domination, such as Shivaji of the Maratha Empire, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansimarker, Kittur Chennamma, Maharana Pratap of Rajputana, Prithviraj Chauhan, who combated the Mahmud of Ghazni and Tipu Sultan who fought the British. The kings of Ancient India, such as Chandragupta Maurya and Emperor Ashoka the Great of the Magadha Empire, are also remembered for their military genius, incredible conquests and remarkable religious tolerance.

Muslim kings are also a part of Indian pride. Akbar the Great was a powerful Mughal emperor who sought to resolve religious differences, and was known to have a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church as well as with his subjects - Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. He forged familial and political bonds with Hindu Rajput kings. Although previous Sultans had been more or less tolerant, Akbar took religious intermingling to new level of exploration. He developed for the first time in Islamic India an environment of complete religious freedom. Akbar undid most forms of religious discrimination, and invited the participation of wise Hindu ministers and kings, and even religious scholars to debate in his court.


Main Articles: Indian Independence Movement, Indian rebellion of 1857, Indian National Congress - Freedom Era
In the Indian rebellion of 1857, Indian soldiers and regional kings fought the forces allied with the British Empire in different parts of India. This event laid the foundation not only for a nationwide expression, but also future nationalism and conflict on religious and ethnic terms.

The Indian desire for complete freedom, or Swaraj, was born with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, whose followers were the first to express the desire for complete independence, an idea that did not catch on until after World War I. When the Amritsar Massacre of hundreds of unarmed and innocent civilians by British forces took place in the same year, the Indian public was outraged and most of India's political leaders turned against the British.

The Gandhian era

Mohandas Gandhi pioneered the art of Satyagraha, typified with a strict adherence to ahimsa (non-violence), and civil disobedience. This permitted common individuals to engage the British in revolution, without employing violence or other distasteful means. Gandhi's equally strict adherence to democracy, religious and ethnic equality and brotherhood, as well as activist rejection of caste-based discrimination and untouchability united people across these demographic lines for the first time in India's history. The masses could participate in India's freedom struggle for the first time, and the membership of the Congress grew over tens of millions by the 1930s. In addition, Gandhi's victories in the Champaran and Kheda Satyagraha in 1918-19, gave confidence to a rising younger generation of Indians that the British hegemony could be defeated. National leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, Mohandas Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad and Badshah Khan brought together generations of Indians across regions and demographics, and provided a strong leadership base giving the country political direction.

More than just "Indian"

See Also: Demographics of India

Indian nationalism is as much a diverse blend of nationalistic sentiments as its people are ethnically and religiously diverse. Thus the most influential undercurrents are more than just Indian in nature. The most controversial and emotionally-charged fiber in the fabric of Indian nationalism is religion. Religion forms a major, and in many cases, the central element of Indian life. Ethnic communities are diverse in terms of linguistics, social traditions and history across India.

Hindu Rashtra

Ancient Hindu flag with two pennants.

An important influence upon Hindu consciousness arises from the time of Islamic empires in India, during which many Hindu temples were destroyed and Hindus forcibly converted to Islam, and millions of Hindus killed by Muslim invaders. Entering the 20th century, Hindus formed over 75% of the population and thus unsurprisingly the backbone and platform of the nationalist movement. Modern Hindu thinking desired to unite Hindu society across the boundaries of caste, lingustic groups and ethnicity. In 1925, K.B. Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Nagpurmarker, Maharashtramarker, which grew into the largest civil organization in the country, and more potent, mainstream base of Hindu nationalism.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar coined the term Hindutva for his ideology that described India as a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu nation. This ideology has become the cornerstone of the political and religious agendas of modern Hindu nationalist bodies like the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Hindutva political demands include revoking Article 370 of the Constitution that grants a special semi-autonomous status to the Muslim-majority state of Kashmirmarker, adopting a uniform civil code, thus ending a special legal framework for Muslims. These particular demands are based upon ending laws that Hindu nationalists consider as offering special treatment to Muslims. Demands like banning cow slaughter and building a Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhyamarker.

The Qaum

In 1906-1907, the All India Muslim League was founded, created due to the suspicion of Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders with the Indian National Congress, which was perceived as dominated by Hindu membership and opinions. However, Mahatma Gandhi's leadership attracted a wide array of Muslims to the freedom struggle and the Congress Party. The Aligarh Muslim University and the Jamia Millia Islamia stand apart - the former was averse to the freedom struggle, while the JMI was founded to promote Muslim education and consciousness upon nationalistic and Gandhian values and thought.

While prominent Muslims like Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah embraced the notion that Hindus and Muslims were distinct nations, other major leaders like Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Maulana Azad, Badshah Khan, Hakim Ajmal Khan strongly backed the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian freedom struggle, opposing any notion of Muslim separatism. This school of Muslim nationalism did not enjoy much support in the provinces of Punjab, Sindhmarker, Baluchistanmarker and Bengalmarker, where the Muslim League enjoyed extensive political power, and where Pakistan was ultimately formed. Zakir Hussain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam were all Muslims, and holders of the Presidency of the Republic. Actors Shah Rukh Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, music legends Zakir Hussain, Amjad Ali Khan and cricketers Syed Kirmani, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Mushtaq Ali and Mohammad Azharuddin are icons to the Indian public.

Nationalism and politics

The political identity of the Indian National Congress, India's largest political party and one which controlled government for over 45 years, is reliant on the connection to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Nehru-Gandhi family which has controlled the Congress since independence. The Congress Party's fortunes up till the 1970s were single-handedly propelled by its legacy as the flagship of India's Independence Movement, and the core platform of the party today evokes that past strongly, considering itself to be the guardian of India's freedom, democracy and unity. Muslims have remained loyal voters of the Congress Party, seen as defender of Nehruvian secularism. In contrast, the Bharatiya Janata Party employs a more aggressively nationalistic expression. The BJP seeks to defend the culture and heritage of India and the majority of its people, the Hindu population. It ties nationalism with the aggressive defence of India's borders and interests against archrivals Chinamarker and Pakistanmarker, with the defence of the majority's right to be a majority.

Religious nationalist parties include the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is closely identified with the creation of a Sikh-majority state in Punjabmarker and includes many Sikh religious leaders in its organization. In Maharashtramarker, the Shiv Sena uses the legacy of the independent Maratha kingdom under heroes like Shivaji to stir up support, and has adopted Hindutva as well. In Assammarker, the Asom Gana Parishad is a more state-focused party, arising after the frustration of the ULFA as a benevolent expression of Assamese nationalism. In Tamil Nadumarker came the first of such parties, the DK. Today the DK stands for a collection of parties, with the DMK, the AIADMK, the PMK and the MDMK. Caste-based politics invite the participation of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the party of Laloo Prasad Yadav, who build upon the support of poor low-caste and dalit Hindus in the northern, and most populated states of India like Uttar Pradeshmarker and Biharmarker. Almost every Indian state has a regional party devoted solely to the culture of the native people of that state.

Nationalism and military conflicts

Military history, both past and present, serves as a source of nationalist sentiment in India. The first reference to armies is found in the Vedas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha. There were many powerful dynasties in India such as the Maha Janapadas, Shishunaga Empire, Gangaridai Empire, Nanda Empire, Maurya Empire, Sunga Empire, Kharavela Empire, Kuninda Kingdom, Chola Empire, Chera Kingdom, Pandyan Kingdom, Satavahana Empire, Western Satrap Empire, Kushan Empire, Vakataka Empire, Kalabhras Kingdom, Gupta Empire, Pallava Kingdom, Kadamba Empire, Western Ganga Kingdom, Vishnukundina Empire, Chalukya Empire, Harsha Empire, Shahi Kingdom, Eastern Chalukya Kingdom, Pratihara Empire, Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire, Paramara Kingdom, Yadava Empire, Solanki Kingdom, Western Chalukya Empire, Hoysala Empire, Sena Empire, Eastern Ganga Empire, Kakatiya Kingdom, Kalachuri Empire, Delhi Sultanate, Deccan Sultanates, Ahom Kingdom, Vijayanagar Empire, Mysore Kingdom, Mughal Empire, Maratha Empire, Sikh Empire etc.

The modern Army of India was raised under the British Raj in the 19th century. Today the Republic of Indiamarker maintains the world's third largest armed forces with over a million troops strong. The official defense budget stands at $32.35 billion but the actual spending on the armed forces is estimated to be much higher. The army is undergoing rapid expansion and modernization with plans to have an active military space program, missile defense shield, and nuclear triad capability.

See also


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