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6 Books on Nationalism that Drives Modern India

on Aug 15, 2022
6 Books on Nationalism that Drives Modern India

India’s nationalism began as a direct response to colonisation and oppression by the British Empire. Its roots lay in the first rebellion in 1857 when the concept of the Indian identity came forth. It rose over the years and was finally established by the Indian National Congress during the final struggle in the 1930s and 1940s. This was when India, a nation of cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity, was born. 

The following 6 books raised the idea of nationalism in India, and even today’s Indian politics and theocracy come from these books. 

Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru 

Written by the country’s very first PM when he was imprisoned between 1942 and 1946, the book traces India’s history from the Indus Valley Civilization to the establishment of the British Empire. This is the first book that really connected with Indians and brought our historic and cultural identity to light. This book played a crucial role in uniting the country regardless of their creed, caste, or religion and called everyone living in the subcontinent ‘Indian.’ Several documentaries and shows have been created to celebrate the most prominent leaders of our history, the people’s lifestyles, art, and epic, monumental creations. 

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

It is an account of Mano Majra, a small town bordering India-Pakistan during its partition. Instead of depicting the event as a whole, the story is more character-centric, providing a human dimension that brings to the event a sense of reality, horror, and believability, along with the Sikh and Muslim hostility that was primarily created through manipulative elements. The tale can be compared to Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl or Frank Zuzak’s Book Thief for depicting a personalised tale during a tumultuous time.

Anandamath by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

This story popularised ‘Bande Matram,’ which resonated with the freedom fighters so much that it became the country’s national song. No words describe how important this book was for riling up the people during the freedom struggle. The story is set during the Bengal famine of 1770, where a married couple, Mahendra and Kalyani, who are separated because of their affected village, are found by the sannyasis, a rebel group whose members are willing to sacrifice their lives in the fight against injustice and oppression. As Mahendra is tempted to join their cause, he is told that he must give up his wife and child and dedicate himself entirely to the service of Mother India. 

Waiting for the Mahatma by R. K. Narayan

It is the story of an unambitious young man and his journey from being aimless to becoming a stark nationalist in the fictional town of Malgudi. Witness how he becomes inspired by the country’s freedom struggle and uses Gandhian ideology as a critical tool to overthrow the British Raj. This story uses Gandhi as a character, not an ideal, humanising the Mahatma. The book also contrasts Gandhi’s revolutionary ideas and views with traditional views held by some more prominent villagers, including Sriram’s grandmother.

Kanthapura by Raja Rao

It is a story of the Indian freedom struggle, feminism, new thought, and anti-casteism. In this story, an educated man, influenced by Gandhian philosophy, unites his village against the British ‘Divide and Rule’ by dissolving hierarchical and discriminatory practices and uniting the people to form a national identity in a small village. Moorthy, a young Brahmin, leaves for the city to study, where he is influenced by Gandhian philosophy. When he returns to the village, speaks against the caste system, and is excommunicated by the village priest, his mother is heartbroken. She dies, after which he begins living with an educated widow, Rangamma, who is active in the Indian freedom struggle. 

Godan by Premchand

It is one of the most recognised works by the genius of Premchand. It portrays the story of a poor peasant affected by the Indian freedom struggle as many people used this as an opportunity for devious profits. The story revolves around exploiting a poor man with limited means and even more limited dreams. Premchand brings out the duality of class and nation and argues that replacing one oppressive system with another does not tantamount to freedom.


Through all these stories, we understand the reasoning and impact nationalism has had on the country. Many of these stories put down roots that are now found in our constitution. The words these authors wrote in these books all those years ago echo from the mouths of politicians and journalists in our nation today. The ideals they set resonate with us now. Finally, the cautions they talked about are manifesting and poisoning us now. Let’s learn from them once again and make sure we don’t repeat past mistakes because those who don’t learn from history are always doomed to repeat it.

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