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Swadeshi movement

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Poster of Gandhi sitting at a spinning wheel
Popular 1930s poster depicting Gandhi using a charkha to spin cotton and weave cloth, captioned "Concentrate on Charkha and Swadeshi".

The Swadeshi movement was a self-sufficiency movement that was part of the Indian independence movement and contributed to the development of Indian nationalism.[1] Before the BML Government's decision for the partition of Bengal was made public in December 1903, there was a lot of growing discontentment among the Indians. In response the Swadeshi movement was formally started from Town Hall at Calcutta on 7 August 1905 to curb foreign goods by relying on domestic production.[2] Mahatma Gandhi described it as the soul of swaraj (self-rule). The movement took its vast size and shape after rich Indians donated money and land dedicated to Khadi and Gramodyog societies which started cloth production in every household. It also included other village industries so as to make village self-sufficient and self-reliant.[3] The Indian National Congress used this movement as arsenal for its freedom struggle and ultimately on 15 August 1947, a hand-spun Khadi tricolor Ashoka Chakra Indian flag was unfurled at Princess Park near India Gate, New Delhi by Jawaharlal Nehru.[4]

The government's decision to partition Bengal was made in December 1903. The official reason was that Bengal, with a population of 78 million, was too large to be administered; the real reason, however, was that it was the center of the revolt, and British officials could not control the protests, which they thought would spread throughout India. Reappointed George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston Viceroy of India (1899–1905), in August 1904, he presided over the 1905 partition of Bengal.

In ‘Lion and the Tiger : The Rise and Fall of the British Raj, 1600-1947’, Denis Judd wrote: “Curzon had hoped… to bind India permanently to the Raj. Ironically, his partition of Bengal, and the bitter controversy that followed, did much to revitalize Congress. Curzon, typically, had dismissed the Congress in 1900 as ‘tottering to its fall’. But he left India with Congress more active and effective than at any time in its history.”[5]

Bengal was divided by religion: the western half would be primarily Hindu, and the eastern half would be primarily Muslim. This divide-and-conquer strategy sparked the Swadeshi movement. The British reunited Bengal in 1911 and shifted their capital to New Delhi. The Swadeshi movement took on a new meaning after the reunification of Bengal.


Swadeshi is a conjunction (sandhi) of two Sanskrit words: swa ("self" or "own") and desh ("country"). Swadeshi is an adjective that means "of one's own country".[6]


Bharat Mata, 1905 painting by Abanindranath Tagore, one of the earliest visualizations of Bharat Mata, or "Mother India."

Swadeshi Movement has been characterized as cloth production in India.

Indians started ditching British goods for Indian products, even though they were costlier. The impact was strong with British seeing 20% fall in its product sales. The trio of Lal-Bal-Pal organized several samitis, Bal Gangadhar Tilak led Ganesh Utsav as a means to popularize use and consumption of indigenous products from soil to sweets. Another notable figure in Swadeshi movement is V. O. Chidambaram Pillai in Tuticorin, who took over British India Steam Navigation Company and converted it into Indian-owned shipping company and named it Swadeshi Shipping Company in October 1906.[14]


  • Swadeshi movement forms the backdrop of the novel Ghare Baire (The Home and the World), published in 1916, by Rabindranath Tagore. The novel, besides many other complex themes, shows the pitfalls of fervent nationalism. The 1984 film Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) by Satyajit Ray is based on the novel.
  • In 1982 the movie Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, Indians vow on the bonfire of English cloths to wear swadeshi khadi after Gandhi's speech at Elphinstone Fort, Mumbai.
  • According to a 1999 article, E. F. Schumacher (author of Small Is Beautiful) was influenced by Gandhi's concept of Swadeshi.[15]
  • On 7 August 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commemorated the first annual National Handloom Day in India to promote indigenous handloom and khadi products. The date was chosen because on 7 August 1905, the Swadeshi movement was proclaimed to avoid foreign goods and use only Indian-made products.[16]
  • In 2019 the movie Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (film) by Kangana Ranaut on the Queen, who fought valiantly against English in 1857, extensively used khadi (hand spun fabrics) made of cotton, brocade and paithani to mark the spirit of swadeshi. Prior to becoming the Queen, the historical figure learned how to made the fabric.[17]
  • In July 2020 Tooter is a new social media platform that was launched which is a cross-over between Facebook and Twitter. The social media platform has now garnered attention for calling itself the Swadeshi Andolan 2.0.[18]
  • On 18 August 2020 IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday announced Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge with award money of Rs 4.3 crore to key challenges after ban on Chinese investments.[19]
  • On 17 July 2021 at the 18th Investiture Ceremony of the Border Security Force (BSF), Home Minister Amit Shah said that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other agencies are working on an anti-drone swadeshi technology to deal with this danger of "Smuggling of drugs, arms, and explosives by drones has become a major challenge".[20]
  • On 25 July 2021 Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation through the 79th episode of his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ encouraging the people to buy Indian arts and crafts and attributed the increase in sales of khadi to its Indian patrons. "To buy khadi is to serve the people and the country #myhandloommypride should be used when you buy and post it online." He also reminded the celebration of National Handloom Day on 7 August "When the Swadeshi movement was launched years ago, many of our artisans were associated with it."[21]
  • On 28 July 2021 Bangalore based GoCoop, India's first online marketplace for artisans and weavers is hosting Go Swadeshi, an exhibition showcasing handcrafted weaves from 30,000+ artisans, 12,000+ woman showcasing their largest collection of handmade textiles from India with over 70,000 products across sarees, apparel, accessories, home furnishings and fabrics. In 2015, GoCoop was the winner of India's first National Award for Handlooms marketing (eCommerce) 2015.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ L. M. Bhole, Essays on Gandhian Socio-Economics, Shipra Publications, Delhi, 2000. Chapter 14: "Savadesi: Meaning and Contemporary Relevance".
  2. ^ "Swadeshi Movement: Timeline and Important facts that you must know". India Today. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Jamnalal Bajaj, the Gandhian capitalist who was called the Mahatma's 'Merchant Prince'". The Print. Archived from the original on 17 September 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  4. ^ "No, Nehru didn't hoist India's first tricolour at Red Fort. And British flag wasn't lowered". The Print. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  5. ^ Judd, Dennis (2004). Lion and Tiger:The Rise and fall of British Empire 1600 to 1947. ISBN 0192803581. Archived from the original on 7 July 2023. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Swadeshi". Metta Center. 3 May 2009. Archived from the original on 25 September 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b "History of Swadeshi Movement : Causes & Effects". Cultural India. 19 July 2018. Archived from the original on 23 July 2020. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  8. ^ Anjan, Tara; Rattan, Saldi (2016). Satguru Ram Singh and the Kuka Movement. New Delhi: Publications Division Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. ISBN 9788123022581.
  9. ^ McLeod, W. H.; French, Louis (2014). Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 261. ISBN 9781442236011.
  10. ^ Kaur, Manmohan (1985). Women in India's freedom struggle. Sterling. p. 76.
  11. ^ Clarke, Peter (2004). Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. Oxon: Routledge. p. 425. ISBN 9781134499700.
  12. ^ "RobinAge: History - Gandhiji's Days in Mumbai". www.robinage.com. Archived from the original on 17 April 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  13. ^ "History of Khadi – A Symbol of Indian Freedom Struggle". Khadivastram. 14 May 2020. Archived from the original on 24 September 2021. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Why India needs Swadeshi 2.0". Archived from the original on 23 September 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  15. ^ Weber, Thomas (May 1999). "Gandhi, Deep Ecology, Peace Research and Buddhist Economics". Journal of Peace Research. 36 (3): 349–361. doi:10.1177/0022343399036003007. S2CID 145534577.
  16. ^ "Explained: Why is August 7 called National Handloom Day". The Indian Express. 7 August 2020. Archived from the original on 9 August 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  17. ^ "Kangana Ranaut to promote Khadi fabric through Manikarnika". Cinestaan. Archived from the original on 1 February 2022. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Tooter – New Kid on the Block – India's 'Swadeshi Andolan 2.0'?". Archived from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Startups Called For INR 4.3 Cr 'Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge'". Archived from the original on 20 August 2020. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  20. ^ "'Swadeshi tech' to counter drone threat: Amit Shah". Hans News. Archived from the original on 17 July 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Country proud of its athletes, says PM Modi on Mann Ki Baat". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 25 July 2021. Retrieved 25 July 2021.
  22. ^ "Go Swadeshi by GoCoop from 28th July to 1st August 2021 at Jayanagar". Retrieved 26 July 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar. From Plassey to Partition - A History of Modern India (2004) pp 248–62
  • Das, M. N. India Under Morley and Minto: Politics Behind Revolution, Revolution, and Reform (1964)
  • Gonsalves, Peter. Clothing for Liberation, A Communication Analysis of Gandhi's Swadeshi Revolution, SAGE, (2010)
  • Gonsalves, Peter. Khadi: Gandhi's Mega Symbol of Subversion, SAGE, (2012)
  • Trivedi, Lisa. "Clothing Gandhi's Nation: Homespun and Modern India", Indiana University Press, (2007)
  • Trivedi, Lisa N. (February 2003). "Visually Mapping the 'Nation': Swadeshi Politics in Nationalist India, 1920-1930". The Journal of Asian Studies. 62 (1). Association for Asian Studies: 11–41. doi:10.2307/3096134. JSTOR 3096134.

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