The Discovery of India

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The Discovery of India
Jawaharlal Nehru - The Discovery of India.jpg
The Discovery of India centenary ,edition cover.
Author Nehru, Jawaharlal
Country India
Language English
Subject Indian history, Indian culture, Politics of India, Religion in India, Indian philosophy
Publisher Oxford University Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 584 pp (centenary edition)
ISBN 978-0-19-562359-8
LC Class DS436 .N42 1989

The Discovery of India was written by India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during his imprisonment in 1942–46 at Ahmednagar fort in Maharashtra, India.The Discovery of India is an honour paid to the rich cultural heritage of India, its history and its philosophy as seen through the eyes of a patriot fighting for the independence of his country. The book is widely considered one of the finest modern works on Indian history.


Nehru’s love for this Indian legacy shines through the book’s curious mix of personal essays and reflections, philosophical surmises, and deep prose scattered among historical facts. It is not a book of historical evidence by its very nature, rather, it is the keen observations of a severely intelligent mortal that delves into the philosophical and altruistic aspect of a nation’s history and the groundwork it presents to build a strong future foothold.

The Discovery of India is the realization of a silver lining. At the peak of the nation’s fight against the colonial rule through the “Quit India Movement”, Jawaharlal Nehru was imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Fort from 1942 to 1946, to keep him away from the political limelight. Forced to this dreary lonesomeness, Nehru discovered time to re-live his creative passions. He rediscovered his love for gardening, prose, poetry, and badminton. Encouraged by this vastly stimulating environment and by his fellow inmates, Jawaharlal Nehru decided to pen down his thoughts and experiences living in the country he fiercely loved. He dedicated the book to the prisoners of Ahmednagar jail.

The journey in The Discovery of India begins from ancient history, leading up to the last years of the British Raj. He uses his knowledge of the Upanishads, Vedas, and textbooks on ancient history to introduce to the reader the development of India from the Indus Valley Civilization, through the changes in socio-political scenario every foreign invader brought, to the present day conditions. True to his multifaceted interests, the book is ripe with philosophy, art, social movements, economics, science, and religion.This journey of discovery of his beloved nation became the nation’s most magnificent historical treatise ever written. It was adapted into the Indian television series titled Bharat Ek Khoj, released in 1988 by director Shyam Benegal.

Nehru was jailed for his participation in the Quit India movement along with other Indian leaders, and he used this time to write down his thoughts and knowledge about India's history. The book is widely regarded as a classic in India since its first publication in 1946, and provides a broad view of Indian history, philosophy and culture, as viewed from the eyes of a liberal Indian fighting for the independence of his country.[1]

In The Discovery of India, Nehru argued that India was a historic nation with a right to sovereignty.[2]

In this book, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru tries to study the history of India starting from the Indus Valley Civilization, and then covers the country's history from the arrival of the Aryans to government under the British Empire. He says that India in the past was a country that lived in harmony and peace, but the evils of society corrupted the people. The effect of these various people on Indian culture and their incorporation into Indian society is examined.

This book also analyses in depth the philosophy of Indian life.

Other Contributors[edit]

Nehru attributes some of the content of the book to his fellow prisoners at Ahmednagar jail. He gives special mention to four of them namely, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Govind Ballabh Pant, Narendra Deva and Asaf Ali.[3] All his fellow prisoners (eleven of them) were political prisoners from various parts of the country , having deep knowledge about the various aspects of India which the book discusses. They also participated in proof reading Nehru's work and providing him with creative suggestions.[citation needed]


The book is presently published by the 'Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund' and the copyright for the book is held by his grand daughter in-law Sonia Gandhi.[citation needed]


The book became the basis of the 53-episode Indian television series Bharat Ek Khoj (1988), directed by Shyam Benegal, first broadcast in 1988 on state-run Doordarshan channel.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Das, Taraknath (June 1947). "India--Past, Present and the Future". Political Science Quarterly 62 (2): 295–304. doi:10.2307/2144210. JSTOR 2144210. 
  2. ^ Calhoun, Craig, Nations Matter: Culture, History and the Cosmopolitan Dream, Routledge, p. 63.
  3. ^ The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru (paper back, thirteenth edition), ISBN 0-19-562359-2 , Preface
  4. ^ "What makes Shyam special...". The Hindu. Jan 17, 2003. Retrieved June 6, 2013.