IGNOU HISTORY Study Notes for IAS, UPSC Exams

 Modern India 1857-1964


9.0 Objectives
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Milieu
9.2.1 The New Leaders
9.2.2 Art and Literature
9.2.3 Newspapers and Journals
9.3 Political Associations Before 1885
9.4 Imperial Response
9.4.1 Lytton
9.4.2 Ripon
9.5 The Role of the Educated Indians ,
9.6 Foundation of the Congress
9.6.1 First Meeting
9.6.2 Presidential Speech
9.6.3 Participation
9.6.4 Proceedings and Resolutions
9.7 Controversies Relating to its Origin
9.7.1 Official Conspiracy Theory
9.7.2 Ambitions and Rivalries of Indian Elites
9.7.3 Need for an All India Body
9.8 Let Us Sum Up
9.9 Key Words
9.10Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises


In the previous Unit you have seen how the formulation and spread of modem ideas led to an intellectual awakening in India in the 19th century. One of its major consequence was the formation of the Indian National Congress, which has played a very important role in the history of modem India. This unit deals with its background and focus on the factors responsible for its formation. After reading this Unit you will:

  • get an idea of the milieu in which the Indian National Congress was founded,
  • understand the role played by the educated Indians in its formation,
  • get some details about the fiist congress meeting, and
  • became familiar with some of the controversies surrounding its origin.


On Monday, 28 December 1885 seventy-two persons met in the hall of Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay. They were attending the inaugural session of the Indian National Congress. Since then this body went on to play a pivotal role in India's struggle for liberation from British rule.

You have already been told about the establishment of the colonial state in irlciia and'also about the factors responsible for the rise and growth of national consciousness in India. This unit follows logically from the earlier Units you have read and deals with the formation of I the Indian National Congress, as the political


As the British extended their sway over India, a sullen feeling of a resentment grew amongst the people. It was based on their perception that the new rulers were responsible for their economic hardships. They also felt that they were being looked down upon in their own country and their way of life was being threatened. The opportunities available to them for advancement were insufficient. The lower strata of social and economic hierarchy expressed their resentment by sporadic uprisings. These were often directed against immediate exploiters-the zamindars, moneylenders and tax collectors. But, broadly speaking, these were protests against the system built by the British. The intensity of discontent against foreign rule became visible through these uprisings. The great Revolt of 1857 itself, in a way sprang up as an outburst of accumulated discontent of masses in different parts of the country.

9.2.1 The New Leaders

The failure of this Revolt revealed the inadequacy of the traditional method of protest. It also showed that the old aristocratic'classes could not be the saviours of Indian society. The English educated middle class seemed to be the hope of the future. The agitation carried on by this class was of a completely different character. As you can see from the details given in Unit 3, this class was conscious of the benefits India had derived from the British connection. It was also familiar with European liberal ideas of that period. At the same time it had a sense of pride in the country's glorious past and gradually developed the conviction that foreign domination was inherently opposed to the fulfilment of legitimate hopes and , aap~rations of the Indian people. A perception of identity in the interests of people inhabiting different parts of the Indian sub-continent was also growing. The educated indians believed for some time that their gtievances would be redressed by the benevolent rulers if they could draw their attention to them. Therefore, in the beginning, the middle class agitation was confined to ventilation of some specific political and economic grievances and demands. This stage was, however, to be left behind after some time.

9.2.2 Art and Literature

 During this period, ideas of nationalism and patriotism were given popular form in songs, poems and plays. Many of the songs were composed for the Hindu Mela which was organised for some years from 1867 onwards by a group of Bengali leaders. The purpose was to spread nationalist ideas and promote indigenous arts and crafts. In the process British policies were blamed for deteriorating the economic conditions of the people. The need to use swadeshi goods was also emphasised. These ideas found expression in some drama performances also. In a play that became popular around 1860s entitled Nee1 Darpan (see Unit 7 Section 7.5. l), atrocities committed by indigo planters were highlighted. The most important rnme in this context is that of Bankim Chandra Chatterji who wrote historical nove!s highlighting the tyranny of the rulers. His most well known work is Anandmath (1882) which also contains his immortal song 'Bande Matram' composed a few years earlier (1875). Similar patriotic feelings can be found in the literature in other languages. Bhartendu Harishchandra, who is regarded as the father of modem Hindi, in his plays, poems ad journalistic writings, put forward a plea for using swadeshi things. Similar trends can be seen in Marathi literature also where there was tremendous increase in the number of publications-from three between 1818- 1827 to 3,284-between 1885- 1896. 

9.2.3 Newspapers and Journals

The newspapers and journals played a creditable role in building up public opinion in favour of Indian national interests and against the excesses and inequities of the colonial administration. Some well-known English language papers of this period were Amrita Bazar Patrika, Hindoo Patriot and Sorn Prakash, published from Calcutta, Indu Prakash and Native Opinion from Bombay and The Hindu from Madras. Some important papers published in Hindi were Hindustan, Bharat Mitra and Jagat Mitra. Jam-e-Jahan Numa and Khushdil Akhhar were well known Urdu newspapers. Signs of growing political awakening and feeling of oneness were obvious to perceptwe contemporary British Observers.  Within the 20 years of my own recollection, a feeling of nationality, which formerly Indian h'atiunal Congress : had no existence, or was but faintly felt, has grown up .... Now .... we are beginning to Forn~atioo find ourselves face to face, not with the population of individual provinces, but with 200 millions of people united by sympathies and intercourse which we have ourselves created and fostered. This seems to me to be the great political fact of the day."

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