The Indian national movement or the liberation struggle against the British colonial rule was a multi-class popular movement of the Indian people. This more-than-a-century-long struggle led to a 'national revolution' overthrowing the mightiest colonial empire, and setting an example to the rest of the world. The movement was essentially 'national' in the sense that it cut across class, caste, religion, gender, and age. Seldom has a revolution in any country attracted the finest of its people from such diverse spheres. Social and religious reformers, poets, writers, musicians, philosophers, traders, industrialists, political thinkers, statesmen, all joined hands with the common people, gave direction to and learnt from their initiative to bring about one of the biggest mass movements in human history.
This movement was spearheaded by the Indian National Congress which operated as the platform representing all shades of nationalist opinion. The Congress since its establishment in December 1885 in Bombay, has retained this all-inclusive, open-ended character. In fact, its very formation marked the coming together of numerous strands of anti-colonial protest which had been evident since the early 19th century.
Various factors were responsible for the advent of modern nationalism in India. The most important in this regard was the colonial economic exploitation of India and its people. Foreign domination and the policies followed by the British government affected almost all sections of the Indian society. Suffering at the hands of the colonial government united different sections like peasants, artisans, intelligentsia and capitalists against the imperialist rule. Besides, British rule introduced changes like administrative and economic unification of the country and the railway network. This allowed people from different parts of the country to communicate with each other.
Modern education introduced Indians to ideas of liberty and equality. They came to realise that the colonial government was teaching Indians only the English language without providing access to the benefits of modern and scientific education. Further, the advent of vernacular press served as a vehicle for putting forward and popularizing new ideas. People from different parts of the country were able to discuss various national issues—a process through which a vigorous nationalist literature soon emerged. Another factor contributing to the development of a nationalist consciousness was the British officials' denigration of all Indian things. The Christian missionaries also criticized Indian society as being primitive with its caste rigidity and superstitions.