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The Sense of Collective Belonging

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  • Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation , when they discover some unity that binds them together.
  • This sense of collective belonging came partly through the experience of united struggles.
  • There were also a variety of cultural processes through which nationalism captured people’s imagination .
  •  History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols , all played a part in the making of nationalism.

Jawaharlal Nehru, a popular print - Teachoo.jpg

  • The identity of the nation is often symbolised in a figure or image .
  • In the twentieth century , with the growth of nationalism , the identity of India came to be visually associated with the image of Bharat Mata.
  • The image was first created by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay .
  • In the 1870s he wrote ‘Vande Mataram’ as a hymn to the motherland.
  • Later it was included in his novel Anandamath and widely sung during the Swadeshi movement in Bengal .
  • Moved by the Swadeshi movement, Abanindranath Tagore painted his famous image of Bharat Mata .
  • In this painting Bharat Mata is portrayed as an aesthetic figure ; she is calm , composed , divine and spiritual .
  • The image of Bharat Mata in subsequent years, acquired many different forms , as it circulated in popular prints , and was painted by different artists .

Bharat mata painting by Abanindranath Tagore - Teachoo.jpg

The mother figure here is shown as dispensing learning , food and clothing . The mala in one hand emphasises her ascetic quality. She is calm , composed , divine and spiritual .

                Bharat Mata - Teachoo.jpg

This figure of Bharat Mata is a contrast to the one painted by Abanindranath Tagore . Here she is shown with a trishul, standing beside a lion and an elephant - both symbols of power and authority.

Two contrasting pictures of Bharat Mata

  • Devotion to this mother figure came to be seen as evidence of one’s nationalism .
  • Ideas of nationalism also developed through a movement to revive Indian folklore .
  • In late-nineteenth-century India, nationalists began recording folk tales sung by bards and they toured villages to gather folk songs and legends.
  • These tales , they believed, gave a true picture of traditional culture that had been corrupted and damaged by outside forces
  • It was essential to preserve this folk tradition in order to discover one’s national identity and restore a sense of pride in one’s past.
  • In Bengal , Rabindranath Tagore himself began collecting ballads , nursery rhymes and myths , and led the movement for folk revival .
  • In Madras , Natesa Sastri published a massive four-volume collection of Tamil folk tales, The Folklore of Southern India .
  • He believed that folklore was national literature ; it was ‘the most trustworthy manifestation of people’s real thoughts and characteristics’ .

Natesa Sastri Folklore - Teachoo.jpg

  • As the national movement developed, nationalist leaders became more and more aware of such icons and symbols in unifying people and inspiring in them a feeling of nationalism.
  • During the Swadeshi movement in Bengal , a tricolor flag (red, green and yellow) was designed.
  • It had eight lotuses representing eight provinces of British India , and a crescent moon , representing Hindus and Muslims .

Tricolour Flag with eight lotuses and a crescent moon - Teachoo.jpg

  • By 1921 , Gandhiji had designed the Swaraj flag.
  • It was again a tricolour (red, green and white) and had a spinning wheel in the centre, representing the Gandhian ideal of self-help. 
  • Carrying the flag , holding it aloft, during marches became a symbol of defiance .

The swaraj flag - Teachoo.jpg

  • Another means of creating a feeling of nationalism was through reinterpretation of history
  • By the end of the nineteenth century many Indians began feeling that to instill a sense of pride in the nation, Indian history had to be thought about differently.
  • The British saw Indians as backward and primitive , incapable of governing themselves.
  • Indians began looking into the past to discover India’s great achievements .
  • They wrote about the glorious developments in ancient times when art and architecture , science and mathematics , religion and culture , law and philosophy, crafts and trade had flourished .
  • In their views, this glorious time was followed by a history of decline, when India was colonised.  
  • These nationalist histories urged the readers to take pride in India’s great achievements in the past and struggle to change the miserable conditions of life under British rule.

INDIAN CULTURE - Teachoo.jpg

INDIAN Architecture - Teachoo.jpg

Gandhiji delivered the famous speech - Teachoo.jpg

  • The failure of the Cripps Mission and the effects of World War II created widespread disappointment in India.
  • This made Gandhiji to launch a movement calling for a complete withdrawal of the British from India.
  • In its meeting in Wardha on 14 July 1942 , The Congress Working Committee , passed the historic ‘Quit India’ resolution .
  • Demanding the immediate power to Indians and quit India.
  • On 8 August 1942 in Bombay , the All India Congress Committee endorsed the resolution which called for a non-violent mass struggle on the widest possible scale throughout the country.
  • It was on this occasion that Gandhiji delivered the famous ‘DO or Die’ speech .
  • The call for ‘Quit India’ almost brought the state machinery to a standstill in large parts of the country as people voluntarily threw themselves into the thick of the movement.
  • Hartals were observed by people, and demonstrations and processions were accompanied by national songs and slogans .
  • It was truly a mass movement which brought into its ambit thousands of ordinary people, namely students , workers and peasants .
  • The mass movement also saw the active participation of leaders , namely, Jayprakash Narayan , Aruna Asaf Ali and Ram Manohar Lohia and many women such as Matangini Hazra in Bengal, Kanaklata Barua in Assam and Rama Devi in Odisha.
  • The British responded with much force , yet it took more than a year to suppress the movement .

women procession - teachoo.jpg

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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 13 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.