Modern Indian Political Thought: Phases of Modern Indian Political Thought

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  • It is Marked as an experience and result of Colonial encounter.
  • Social consciousness.
  • Rise of concerns such as- how did a huge country like India become subjugated.
  • Colonialism contributed in the inculcation of modern values for which it is credited as “Instrument of Modernization.”

Phases of Modern Indian Political Thought

Two Phases of Modern Indian Political Thought

  • 1st phase: phase of social reforms
  • 19th century.
  • Internal regeneration of indigenous society.
  • Referred to as “Bengal Renaissance.”
  • Nationalist historians referred it to as “The Indian Renaissance.”
  • 2nd phase: Nationalist phase Late 19th and early 20th century. More complex and textured phase. Concerns shifted to the question of politics and power.
  • Rising concern for freedom from Colonial rule.
  • Nationalist phase is just a shorthand expression.
  • Many more Tendencies and currents like Muslim and Dalit were also Phenomenal.

1st Phase

Social Reforms and the Hindu Renaissance

  • Intellectual explosion throughout 19th century particularly in Bengal and Western India.
  • Bengal- Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chand Vidya Sagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Swami Vivekananda.
  • Western India- Bal shastri Jambhekar, Jyoti Rao Phule, Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
  • Launched most vigorous critique of their own society.
  • Abolition of Sati, Widow Remarriage and the Education for Women were central issues.
  • Establishment of Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj.
  • Removal of caste differences and untouchability was also a major concern.
Intellectual Moves of the Reformers
  • Revival vs Reform: Acceptance and revival of best practices and Reform in the irrational practices.
  • Thought of change and progress.
  • Individual as the centre of all themes.
  • Attack on the caste system.
  • Rational reasoning in the support of their modern ideas.
Modes of Reformist Thought
  • 1st: use and help of Scriptures to validate their points and arguments i.e.. , Vidya Sagar relied on the Parashara Smriti whereas Ram Mohan Roy invoked the Upanishads.
  • 2nd: Invoked Sadharan Dharma: universal principles of morality.
  • 3rd: Appealed to the idea of Yugadharma: principles which are necessary and useful in the prevailing Yug or Epoch.
  • 4th: invoked the idea of Loksangrah: protection and well-being of entire world.

2nd Phase

The Arrival of Nationalism
  • Appearance in the later stage of nineteenth century.
  • “Freedom of the Nation” as a major concern.
  • Irreconcilable Hostility towards Colonial rule.
  • Parallel moves for Political struggle to override social struggle.
  • Inner and outer domains: inner domain refers to the spirituality and outer domain refers to the Materialism.
  • Indians were regarded as spirituality superior to the Britishers.
Concerns of the Nationalists
  • Struggle for the Modern and reorganized Indian society.
  • Statecraft, Political Autonomy, Political realism, will power, courage were the main Concerns.
  • Inclination towards Scientific and Technological advancements.
  • Admiration for the Western Scientific and Philosophical achievements.
Rise and Emergence of Muslim Thought
  • Opposition to the Modernity and Modern Principles.
  • Staying away from English Education and the Science.
Reform Initiative
  • Sir Syed Ahmed Khan: Harbinger of Liberalism and Modernity in Muslim Society.
  • Propagated Modern Scientific Knowledge: Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, 1875 (now Aligarh Muslim University) .
  • Started publishing a journal “Tehzeeb-ul-Akhlaq.”
  • Muhammad Iqbal: One of the great modernisers of Islam, who infused a sense of action and celebration of Individual freedom.
The Revolt of Lower Order Castes and Classes
  • Jyotirao Phule, E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker also known as Periyar and Bhim Rao Ambedkar are amongst the great activists and leaders who fought for the cause of lower order castes and classes.
  • Attacked social evils like Untouchability and Discrimination.
  • Stood against social divisions and castes.
  • Totally against Brahmanism and Casteism.


  • There are complex layers to what we refer as “Modern Indian Political Thought.”
  • Neither a single body of thoughts nor a single set of themes.
  • A sharp critique of the existing state of Hindu or Muslim Society.
  • An effort to inculcate the scientific and philosophical tempo.
  • An attempt to eradicate the social evils like Sati, Widowhood, Discrimination, Untouchability.
  • Step to bring a more cohesive, modern and advance society.

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