[Solved] Examine the linkages between the nineteenth century’s ‘Indian Renaissance’ and emergence of national identity. (UPSC GS -1 mains 2019)

The social and religious reforms movement, popularly termed as Indian renaissance, which preceded the political struggles are considered a necessary precursor to origin Indian nationality. The linkages between the nineteenth century’s ‘Indian Renaissance’ and the emergence of national identity is discussed below

How renaissance facilitated the emergence of national identity

  • Rediscovery of India’s glorious past: The nineteenth century Indian Renaissance also created several avenues in the field of oriental studies.
  • Western scholars like Max Muller, Sir William Jones, Alexander Cunningham, etc. translated several ancient Sanskrit texts of this land and established before the people the glorious cultural heritage of India.
  • Inspired by them, the Indian scholars like R.D. Banerjee, R.G. Bhandarkar, Madan Mukhopadhyaya, Hari Prasad Astir, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, etc. rediscovered India’s past glory from the history of this land. This encouraged the people of India who felt that they were the ancestors of grand monarchs of this country and ruled by foreigners. This flared up the fire of nationalism.
  • National Identity is related to the sense of belongingness shared by Individuals to a Nation, represented as cohesion of tradition, culture, language and Politics.


  • The beginning of modernity was heralded by the onset of the social and religious reforms, which is popularly called the renaissance, following the European experience.
  • Its beginning is traced to the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in Bengal to ameliorate the conditions of the life of women and to reform religious practices.
  • In north India, it took root in the activities of Dayananda Saraswati and in Maharashtra in the Prarthana Samaj founded by M.G. Ranade and in Andhra Pradesh the movement initiated by Viresalingam.
  • A defining feature of all these movements was that they were all upper caste–class phenomena and catered to meet the social and spiritual demands of the newly emerging middle class.

Various factors like religious and social ills, depressing position of women, segregation and hierarchy in caste system and awareness among the enlightened Indians let to renaissance

 • Revivalist Movements: Under these movements, Indian culture and civilisation were proclaimed superior. Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekanand, etc. were the leaders of these movements.

• Reformists Movements of that time, such as Brahmo Samaj (led by Raja Ram Mohan Roy), etc. condemned existing untouchability and tried to abolish the caste system. Their ideas of equality and brotherhood attracted the lower castes towards nationalism. These reforms also focussed upon the emancipation of women.

They opposed the practice of sati, supported the re-marriage of widows, and also promoted the spread of education among women.

 All these helped women to join national movements. Conclusion: Apart from the progressive character of social religious reforms, the role of press, English education, result and reaction of colonial policies, etc. have also played a significant role in developing national identity in India.

Linking the Indian Renaissance movements and National Identity emergence:

▪ The Renaissance movements’ ideological unity wascentered around Rationalism, Religious

Universalism and Humanism.

These ideologies evaluated the contemporary socio-religious

practices from standpoint of social utility, which was important to repose faith among

Indians, in the way of National identity

• Examples: Swami Vivekananda’s legacy reflected the ideal of ‘Vasudaiva

Kutumbakam’ – meaning the whole world is one single family’ left a deep imprint of

unity among Indians

Raja Rammohun Roy’s consideration of different religions as national embodiments of

Universal theism, was a uniting factor among different religions in India

▪ The movements carried a new Humanitarian morality, which included the notion that

Humanity can progress, with a special emphasis on Individual rights; These Humanistic

ideals made people realize the equal worth of all individuals

• This movements linked to social ills like untouchability and gender-based inequality

derived legitimacy in the Humanitarian direction

Measures taken in the direction of Gender equality include :

• Efforts to Abolish Sati by RR Roy

• Preventing Female Infanticide

• Measures in favour of Untouchables

• The Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, the Theosophists, the Social Conference and individuals worked to spread education among the untouchables and remove restrictions imposed on them from entering temples or using ponds, tanks, etc.

• In Maharashtra, Jyotiba Phule, born in a low caste Mali family, led a movement against the brahminical domination of Hindu society, through Satyashodhak samaj

The Renaissance process focused on worldly existence and issues of Salvation/other worldliness; This was needed at a time to take Indians away from the grips of Ill social practices and to further undertake social actions, in direction of Social Integrity

• This was evident in the way the Brahmo Samaj, discarded faith in Divine Avataras and also denying that any scripture could enjoy the status of ultimate authority transcending human reason and conscience

▪ The movements took into consideration evolution of an alternative cultural-ideological system and the regeneration of traditional institutions, to arouse a sense of common belongingness in the flourishing past

• These manifested in form of attempts to construct traditional knowledge, the use and development of vernacular languages, creation of an alternative system of education, defence of religion, efforts to regenerate Indian art and literature, the emphasis on Indian dress and food, attempts to revitalize the Indian systems of medicine and to research the pre-colonial technology for its potential

 ▪ The later Socio-Religious movements penetrated the lower strata of society to revolutionalise and reconstruct social sphere; This was in the way of an effort to bridge the gap between different communities to fight for a common cause

 ▪ Renaissance also strived to bring together Indians to fight against common enemy, thereby imparting National Identity to them

• This was seen in efforts of ‘The Servants of India Society’, by Gopal Krishna Gokhale which aimed to train national missionaries for the service of India

These movements carried the common good for all, which brought different sections of people together in way of fighting common National Opposition. The rise of Renaissance can be attributed to the Intellectual and Cultural efflorescence, as it marked a period of transition in values, transformation in social sensibilities and rebirth in cultural creativity. These Social and Religious struggles, preceded the political struggles, which have been considered the necessary precursors to the coming of Nationalism. Hence, Nationalism is conceptualized as natural outcome of the renaissance.

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