The political and economic centralisation of India achieved by the British for the better exploitation and control of India inevitably led to the growth of national consciousness and the birth of the national movement. The history of nationalism in India begins with the campaigns and struggles for social reforms in the nineteenth century followed by the Westerneducated Indians’ prayers and petitions for political liberties. With the return of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from South Africa in 1915, and his leadership of the Indian nationalist movement in 1919 Indian nationalism entered a mass phase.
Prior to Gandhi, prominent leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and others took the early initiative to educate the Indians about their national identity and colonial exploitation. In this chapter, while tracing the origin and growth of Indian Nationalism, we focus on the contribution of these leaders who are known as the early nationalists.
Broadly, nationalism means loyalty and devotion to a nation. It is a consciousness or tendency to exalt and place one nation above all others, emphasising promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations.