Modern Indian Culture and Tradition


  • From 1450 onwards, three important developments had changed the shape of Europe: (i) the invention of printing press, (ii) the beginning and the spread of the Renaissance and the Reformation movements and (iii) the discovery of new trade routes.
  • Among these European countries, the Portuguese and then the Dutch, the French and finally, the British entered into a race to control the trade from India.
  • The British domination of India was built upon successive phases.
    • The first phase consisted of taking hold of the Indian trade.
    • In the second phase, the British took control of the production activities in a manner that would suit their export objectives.
    • The third phase was an intensified phase of British Imperialism and colonial exploitation when India was ruled by the British for fulfilling British economic interests.
  • The Britishers came to India for making profits through trade.
  • After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 A.D., they had become the real masters of Bengal.
  • Between 1793 and 1813, these British manufacturers launched a campaign against the company, its trade monopoly and the privileges it enjoyed.
  • Ultimately in 1813, they succeeded in abolishing the East India Company’s monopoly of Indian trade.
  • In 1853 that the first railway line running from Bombay to Thane was opened to public
  • In 1853 that Dalhousie opened the first telegraph line from Calcutta to Agra and also introduced the postal service in India


  • India’s cotton textiles were famous all over the world.
  • By the eighteenth-century European countries like France, England, Portugal and Spain were interested in trading with India.
  • Socially, there was no unity of pattern in the social and cultural life of the people.

Hindu-Muslim Relations

  • Hindus had faith in Muslim saints while many Muslims showed an equal respect for Hindu gods and saints.
  • Muslims had adopted the Indian style and culture so well that it was difficult to distinguish one from the other.


  • Polygamy was permitted
  • Women had no right to property or divorce
  • Perpetual widowhood was the injunction of the society, especially amongst the upper castes
  • Inter-caste marriages were not allowed


Ram Mohan Roy

  • known as the harbinger of the modern age in India
  • mastered several languages including Greek and Latin
  • took up cudgels against sati and ultimately got it banned.
  • founded the Brahmo Samaj, which carried his message of rationalism and the principle of social equality
  • followers believed in the worship of one supreme god (monotheism) and opposed idol worship, polytheism and ritualism
  • Debendra Nath Tagore (1817-1905) succeeded
  • Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884)
  • emphasis on individual freedom, national unity, solidarity, democratization of all social institutions and of social relations
  • first organized vehicle for the expression of national awakening

Prarthana Samaj and Ranade

  • Established in Bombay by Dr. Atma Ram Pandurang in 1867
  • Introduce social reforms like inter-caste dining, inter-caste marriage, widow remarriage and improvement of the lot of women and depressed classes
  • Believed in the unity of God and de-emphasized idol worship as well as caste system

Ramakrishna Paramhansa

  • Ramakrishan Mission was founded by Swami Vivekananda
  • disciple of Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya, later known as Ramakrishna Paramhansa
  • advocated liberty, free thinking and equality
  • emphasised oneness of all religions
  • promoted the vedanta philosophy, which he considered to be the most rational system of thought

Theosophical Society and Annie Besant

  • Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1837-91) and Colonel H.S. Olcott
  • Annie Besant promoted studies of ancient Indian religions, philosophies and doctrine and established the Central Hindu School to encourage education

Narayana Guru

  • came in contact with Chattambi Swamigal
  • goodwill and co-operation among the Nayar and the Ezhava communities

Muslim Reform Movement

  • Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
  • against religious intolerance, ignorance and irrationalism
  • denounced purdah, polygamy and easy divorce
  • started the Aligarh movement
  • established the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh

Social Reform

Two main objectives

  • emancipation of women and giving them equality with men
    • In 1930 the Sharda Act was passed fixing the minimum age for marriage for boys at 18 and girls at 14.
  • removal of caste rigidities, especially the abolition of untouchability and the upliftment of the depressed classes
    • Ramakrishn
      Mission and the Arya Samaj
    • Arya Samaj especially has contributed a lot towards it by their Shuddhi Movement
    • Champions of the backward classes were B.R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi.

Swami Dayanand

  • mastery over the Sanskrit language and the Vedas
  • challenged the Hindu society on the issues of idolatry and women education
  • In 1875, he founded the Arya Samaj
  • aim was to propagate the true knowledge of the Vedas and discard all evils that had crept into the Hindu society later in its name
  • opposed untouchability, polytheism, avataravada and ritualism
  • slogan was ‘go back to the Vedas’ whose authority he accepted
  • followers started a Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) School and College in Lahore (now in Pakistan) in 1886.

Jyotirao Govindrao Phule (1827-90)

  • only way to improve the lot of the lower castes and women was through education.
  • Satya Shodhak Samaj in 1873.
  • main aim was to seek social justice for the people belonging to the so-called untouchable and backward classes
  • Poona Municipality as a member.

Pandita Rama Bai (1858-1922)

  • women social reformers in Maharashtra
  • drawn to the Prarthana Samaj, a reformation society which was propagating the message of the Brahmo Samaj in Maharashtra
  • In 1890 she started Sharda Sadan, a home for widows


  • Bankim Chandra’s Anandamatha, Dinabandhu Mitra’s Neeldarpan, Bhartendu Harish Chandra’s Bharat Durdasha, Lakshminath Bezbarua’s works in Assamese, Subramaniam Bharti’s writing in Tamil and Altaf Hussain’s works in Urdu stirred the minds of the Indians.
  • Some important Newspapers
  • Bengal: The Hindoo Patriot (English), The Amrita Bazar Patrika (English)
  • Bombay Maharatha (English), Kesari (Marathi), Madras The Hindu (English), Swadeshmitran (Tamil), Punjab The Tribune (English), Kohinoor, Akhbar Am (Urdu)


Nationalist Movement—The Beginning

  • The racial arrogance and discrimination on the part of the British rulers in India, the agitation of the Britishers against the Ilbert Bill, Lord Lytton’s anti-India measures and the holding of the lavish British King’s Durbar in India when many Indians were dying due to famine —all led to the intensification of anti-British feelings among Indians.
  • Indian National Congress, started by A.O. Hume in 1885.
  • The formation of the Muslim League is considered to be the first fruit of the British master strategy of ‘Divide and Rule’.

The Home Rule Movement

  • Two Home Rule Leagues were set up during 1915-16. One was started by Tilak at Poona and the other by Annie Besant at Madras.
  • Aimed at the achievement of Swaraj or self-government

1905-1918 Period

  • Era of Extremists
  • criticised the Modertates on these grounds—failure to define India’s political goals, using mild and ineffective methods and failure to make the movement a mass movement.
  • Extremists believed in direct political action and in demanding Swaraj or self-rule instead of constitutional reforms.
  • Popular Figures: Lal, Bal, Pal i.e. Lala Laj Pat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal, Bankim Chandra, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda Saraswari and Aurobindo Ghosh
  • Lord Curzon’s repressive policies in India, which culminated in the partition of Bengal on communal lines in order to ‘Divide and Rule’
  • The ‘Boycott’ and ‘Swadeshi’ soon spread and became countrywide movements.

1919-1934 Period

  • Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms introduced Dyarchy in the provinces with the Government of Indian Act, 1919.
  • Moderates welcomed these reforms, while the Extremists rejected them.
  • The Rowlatt Act was also passed in 1919 to supress political violence.
  • Gandhi used the political weapon called Satyagraha (Truth force, or Love force, or Soul force). His first triumph in India was the Champaran Satyagraha.
  • The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place in Amritsar on April 13, 1919
  • The Khilafat Movement started in November, 1919. The aim was to pressurise the government to set right the wrongs done to the Muslims on the issue of Turkey.
  • The Khilafat Movement merged with the non-co-operation movement under Gandhi’s leadership.
  • A constructive programme included promotion of Swadeshi, removal of untouchability and promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity. R. Das and Motilal Nehru planned to break the system from within the councils under the banner of ‘Swaraj Party’.
  • Revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Bismil, Ashfaqullah. There were revolutionary communists like M.N. Roy, Dange, and Muzaffar.
  • The Simon Commission was constituted in 1919 and sent to India for reviewing the political situation. It had to face non-violence but bitter protest demonstrations everywhere it went, as no Indian was included in the Commission.
  • Nehru Report in 1928
  • Lahore Session of the Congress in 1929, the slogan of Purna Swaraj as the goal was adopted
  • 26th January, 1930 was celebrated as Independence Day
  • Gandhi undertook Salt Satyagraha, popularly known as Dandi March, on 6th April, 1930
  • Gandhi retired from the Congress in October 1934.
  • Harijans Sewak Sangh was established by Gandhi.

Achievement of Independence

  • In 1935, Government of India Act was passed. It evolved a concept of All India Federation.
  • Provincial Autonomy was introduced.
  • The Arya Samaj established by Swami Dayanand and the Shuddhi Movement under the auspices of the Samaj were important movements for strengthening and purifying the Hindu community.
  • Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS). The ‘Shakha’ technique was evolved for this purpose.
  • The Cripps Mission, in 1942 offered ‘Dominion Status’ to India at the end of the Second World War which was started in 1939.
  • The Quit India Movement for complete independence was launched by Gandhi and the Congress in August, 1942
  • Subhash Chandra Bose and Rash Behari Bose launched the Indian Independence League and the Indian National Army (INA), also called Azad Hind Fauj, at Singapore in 1943.
  • The Cabinet Mission came to India in March, 1946
  • Lord Moundbatten plan for partition of India.
  • India became free on 15th August, 1947 after partition. At the stroke of midnight (14th-15th August) transfer of power took place.

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