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1857 and Ideas about Nationhood in Bengal

The events of 1857 have been represented in divergent ways. Most popular of such interpretations have been those that link 1857 with the emergence of nationalism in the country. This article draws on accounts, actual and fictional, written by the Bengali literati to explain the various discourses shaped by 1857. In the Bengali nationalist imagination an understanding of 1857 was derived via the conceptual category of the "samaj".

The Arts and 1857

1857 and Ideas about Nationhood in Bengal Nuances and Themes

The events of 1857 have been represented in divergent ways. Most popular of such interpretations have been those that link 1857 with the emergence of nationalism in the country. This article draws on accounts, actual and fictional, written by the Bengali literati to explain the various discourses shaped by 1857. In the Bengali nationalist imagination an understanding of 1857 was derived via the conceptual category of the “samaj”.


857 continues to have a mesmeric hold over the Indian imagination for a number of reasons. The reasons are connected to the divergent ways in which this iconic event has been portrayed in historiographies of modern India, and to the debates that have come to surround its nature and nomenclature. Viewed through multiple prisms, the interpretative spectrum encompasses “sepoy mutiny”, “civil rebellion”, “rural insurgency having an elitist character”, “feudal reaction”, “national war” and so on.1 On the 150th anniversary of this great event in Indian history, perhaps what captures popular imagination most is the link between 1857 and nationalism. It has been regarded as a unique moment in India’s history when the soul of the nation awoke from slumber to oppose alien rule. The state memorialisation of 1857 draws on such powerful representations. Voices of dissent, however, dispel the dream of annexing the events of 1857 to the meta-narrative of Indian nationalism.2 These events, they say, did not represent a single resistance/single past of one people. The story was of many pasts. In these pasts, ideological strands implicating diverse notions of identity and nationhood remained embedded. Expressions of the latter varied considerably across regions and temporal frames. This paper focuses on one set of expressions and ideas by finding out what happened in Bengal during this period.

I Nationhood, Resistance and Identity Defining the ‘National’ Element in 1857

Links between resistance movements/mutinies/rebellions concerned with opposition of alien authority on the one hand, and nationhood/identity on the other have been sought by historians and nationalist leaders across the world, at different phases of history. More often, such linkages and connections are written back into the narrative of resistance, which in retrospect becomes “national”, having an inspirational value for later-day uprisings. The Mutiny-Rebellion of 1857 was no exception. Though localised in that it did not include all regions or segments of people, the Revolt has been written into the history of Indian nationalism in a variety of ways. The theoretical stance can be related especially to Afro-Asian contexts of nationalism, where the “roots of the modern-educated elite and modern-style politics are shallowest”, making it possible to argue a historical connection between modern political activities and traditional resistance movements. One can even “assert the existence of a permanent, underlying ‘ur-nationalism’ which manifested its hostility to the European presence in a distinct series of historical forms”.3

Contemporaneous descriptions and later representations casting the Revolt in a nationalist mould continue to be valorised, re-interpreted and grafted into later narratives, glossing internal differences and fragmentations in ideological terrains. The purpose here is to mediate between the different strands of nationalist interpretation and then situate them in a critical and comparative analysis vis-a-vis Bengal. The ways in which the “national” element was perceived in the Revolt (by contemporary observers, and later historians) have varied. Contemporaneous descriptions of the Revolt as “a national revolt” (by Marx),4 and Disraeli’s famous interrogation as to whether it was a mere “military mutiny” or a “national revolt” fired the imagination of Indians. The strongest expression in this regard was Savarkar’s early 20th century depiction of the Revolt as “the Indian War of Independence of 1857”, founded on the twin principles of ‘swadharma’ and ‘swaraj’, aiming to achieve freedom through the help of a secret organisation.5

Turning from such extreme positions, I argue through a case study of Bengal that the “national” element in 1857 had subtler and more nuanced reflections. In doing so, I also demonstrate how “national” had different connotations in the actual Mutiny-Revolt that flared in north and central India (the “mentality of the mutiny” in a general, pan-Indian sense), and in more muted regional reactions and representations elsewhere in India, specifically in Bengal. Recent years have seen more nuanced appreciations of the “national” element embedded in the “mentality of the mutiny.” Rajat Kanta Ray has argued that it represented the inchoate social nationality of Hindustan, an embryonic nationhood that was very different from the idea of a political nation built on modern associational values, popularised by the Indian National Congress.6 It was a patriotic war waged for the protection of ‘deen’ (realm) and ‘dharma’ (faith). Though couched in a religious idiom, the remarkable point was that this battle against the ‘kafir’ (the infidel English) acquired a “national” character because it united the Hindus and Muslims through allegiance to the country, and participation in a common struggle.7 The use of religion as an idiom was underlined in earlier accounts too. Construing the Revolt as a social revolution that was the “source-spring of our national movement”, P C Joshi argued that the threat of conversion helped promote unity of feeling along religious lines.8 While Joshi emphasised the religious factor from the angle of conversion, and Ray underlined it in conjunction with Hindu-Muslim unity and attachment to land (Hindustan), Nandalal Chatterjee argued that the remarkable unity between Hindus and Muslims sustained this patriotic war containing seeds of political nationalism.9

This essay approaches the “national” question from a slightly different angle, assessing how in the Bengali literati’s discourse,10 expressions of “national” during 1857 and in the following period, came to be woven around the conceptual category of ‘samaj’ (social collectivity).11 By focusing on the literati’s deployment of samaj, I argue that though actual protest was muted, and armed opposition absent, the events and ideologies of 1857 influenced patterns and trajectories of response that could also be fitted into a “national” paradigm. The emphasis here is on the intertwining of ideas of nationhood and samaj in the wake of 1857, and in explaining how ideas about history of place, memorialisation and attachment to land, Hindu-Muslim unity, and crucially, patterns of conduct (a major criterion for inclusion in a wider samaj/a pan-Indian social universe) – were refracted and redefined through this conceptual conjunction.

II Problem of Terminologies and Labels: ‘Loyalist’/‘Rebel’

The question that leaps to mind is: how can we talk about nationhood and mentalities of dissent in a “loyalist” Bengal? The use of labels – “loyalist”/ “rebel” (in an implicit sense) dates back to British approaches to the Revolt as early as May 1857, and increased after its suppression when they were anxious to distinguish friend from foe. In May 1857, the Bengal Hurkaru implicitly distinguished between “traitor” and “loyalist”: “We judge by private letters received from the North West and from the people… the disaffection existing amongst the native troops seems to have spread far and wide… the British Government is powerful enough to put down traitors by a strong hand.”12

Problems of simplistic demarcation of “loyalist”/“rebel” were apparent even in so-called “loyalist” areas such as Bengal. The “loyalism” of the Bengali intelligentsia contained an internal dilemma. Though the western-educated middle classes remained aloof, and even condemned the sepoys, professing loyalty to the British because of their “material interests in the new order, and their ideological commitment to new ideas,”13 the polarisation of “loyalist”/“rebel” needs to be reviewed and qualified. As E I Brodkin has pointed out: “…while in some instances this terminology can serve a useful purpose, perhaps more often than not the simplistic categorisation of the Indian actors in the drama as loyal or rebel serves mainly to confuse.”14

The Revolt of 1857 was not a simple movement but a complex one. As said, its emotional and ideological ramifications and reactions varied across regions. Within regions too, there were internal shifts and variations. Even among the so-called “collaborators” there was no uncritical or unconditional acceptance of colonial rule. The Calcutta intelligentsia felt what the Hindoo Patriot described as “grievances inseparable from subjection to foreign rule.”15 Their loyalism sprang more from the head than the heart.16 Even “loyalists” such as Durgadas Bandyopadhyay who fought on the British side against the sepoys in Bareilly could not deny the unprecedented way in which spirit of the rebellion spread across India:

The Sepoy Revolt did not take place only in Bareilly. The fire of rebellion spread to different places in India – Bengal, Bihar, the North West, Ayodhya, Lucknow, Punjab and Central India. Everywhere, in the same way, at the same time, everyone voiced a common demand: “We do not want the British, destroy the British rajya [realm], whenever you see an Englishman, kill him.”17

Though Durgadas is perhaps wrong in saying that people in different places including “loyalist” areas such as Bengal and Punjab voiced their discontent in the same way, what is significant here is that a common feeling of discontent pervaded India. Its expressions were different – armed rebellion, veiled criticism, dilemmas within loyalism, and contradictory strands in the same personality.18

What is remarkable is that the literati were aware of the loyalist dilemma/ambivalence and its cause. Such awareness continued well into the associational phase of politics in Bengal, and was expressed succinctly in 1878: “This meeting [at the Town Hall of Calcutta] has furnished sufficient materials for coming to the conclusion that Bengalis can be loyal to the backbone but at the same time they can defend the rights and privileges… in a firm… way.”19 It is clear that they did not consider such loyalty as an impediment to the defence of rights and privileges. Rather, the discontent that lay at the heart of the loyalist dilemma was regarded as a harbinger of improvement and progress: a spur to quests for an empowered identity.

Whatever of moral or material progress India has been able to achieve under the British rule has been owing to discontent, itself the result of advanced thought and cultivated feeling. A nation, like an individual…acquires a sense of its duties only in experiencing adversity. Moments of sorrow…are the most precious moments of individual as well as national life.20

1857 was such a moment of adversity. It represented the culmination of a long process of subjugation and consequent unrest. As the impact of that subjugation, and of British rule in general, was differential (uneven over different regions), so reactions also varied. But they stemmed from a common discontent. Contemporaries in Bengal (in 1857) viewed the armed rebellion in north and central India and the situation in Bengal as two expressive facets and results of the same discontent. The forms were different, but connected by the ideological thread of an oppositional mentality. Opposition need not always be overt or armed: in Bengal, anti-British feeling found expression in a critical stance manifested in moves toward redefinitions of identity.21

While actual participation in the Revolt did not occur, 1857 acted as a catalyst/turning-point that helped earlier ideas about identity acquire new resonances. The two arenas: the events, antagonisms and mentalities of the Revolt that swept north and central India on the one hand, and reactions in Bengal on the other were interpenetrative domains because – (i) they expressed reactions that stemmed from a feeling of discontent; (ii) the events, ideologies and spirit of the Revolt influenced ideas about identity in Bengal. Before analysing the specific ways in which ideas about identity acquired new resonances from the spirit of 1857, I explore why and how the reaction to discontent was different in Bengal.

III 1857: A Link in a Chain of Social Transformation

In Bengal, the perception of discontent/adversity led to a heightened social awareness and an urge for recasting selfidentity. Ideas about the improvement and progress of samaj became the means of redefining and articulating the nationalist imagination by an intelligentsia torn by conflicting feelings of loyalty to the British on the one hand, and a deep and burning need for self-expression on the other. Viewed from this angle, the present essay is a meaningful intervention aiming to show how nationality enmeshed with ‘samajik’ identities and notions of progress in the wake of 1857, and followed a unique trajectory that did not clash with loyalist positions defined contextually. By the turn of the century, 1857 (in retrospect) had become a crucial link in a chain of social transformation, and attitudes were markedly anti-colonial. By then the cumulative effect of the Black Acts (1849), the Vernacular Press Act (1879) and the Ilbert Bill Controversy (1883) led to a rethinking of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. In the changed socio-cultural climate, 1857 acquired a new significance and was part of a sociallytransformative chain. As Shibnath Shastri remarked:

The period from 1856-1861 can be termed as a ‘mohendrakhhon’ [momentous phase of many opportunities and changes]. During this phase, widow remarriage agitation, the Indian Mutiny, Indigo Revolt, the emergence of Harish Chandra Mukherjee, the publication of Som Prakash… the emergence of Michael Madhusudan in the literary scene, Keshabchandra’s entry into the Brahmo Samaj

– all infused new life into society, and energised and deeply impacted the Bengali samaj. Therefore, it is important to study in detail, the history of each of these.22

The idea also found expression in Ajitkumar Chakrabarty’s biography of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore. The Revolt of 1857 sparked off a new phase in the socio-political history of Bengal: “When Debendranath descended from the Himalayas, the Sepoy Mutiny was going on. The fire of the Revolt died down, but it sowed a new seed in the soil of Bengal… the beginning of this new phase can be regarded as an outcome of the conflagration of 1857.”23

1857 opened up a space for the reconfiguration of nation, people and land. It speeded a search for identity that enmeshed with, and complemented efforts at ‘jatiya’ uplift through selfhelp (an idea present since 1839 in the deliberations of the Tattvabodhini Sabha) and the forging of unities between Bengalis and other Indians (concretely expressed in the Hindu Mela’s agenda). This signified social progress, which was a composite idea and movement (as seen in Shibnath’s links) containing many interactive currents. The orientation was different from that of the rebels of north and central India for it did not look back to a shattered past even while seeking to establish a new order. It recreated the past in the image of the present and the future. In fact, the notion of a nation was produced through a complex interaction between re-orientations of past unities and the circumstances of the modern (late colonial) period. ‘Jatipratishtha’ (bringing the collective self into existence) through social progress viewed the nation as a cultural unit24 historically rooted in the evolution of samaj, and prioritised a “new” history woven around samaj. As political history was ruptured due to the absence of reliable sources, there was a turn toward a history of culture and attachment (‘samajik itihas’), which could provide an imaginative unity to the past and bring the collective self into existence. The concern here is to show, how 1857 speeded and helped recast ideas about samajik history entwining with nationhood.

IV 1857 in History: An Unprecedented Event

History and identity were inextricably intertwined in the Bengali imagination, and gathered momentum especially through a quest for a “new” history that could effectively challenge colonial allegations of being a history-less people.25 The literati situated the Mutiny-Rebellion in history both as an unprecedented event, and as a link in a wider, socially-transformative process. History and identity being closely interlinked, the location of 1857 in history may be said to reflect the glimmerings of nationhood, rooted in the past.26 The events and spirit of 1857 were oriented to a wider agenda of recasting identity through a “new” samajik history, which gathered momentum from the cultural-nationalism of the Hindu Mela (1867), and was articulated powerfully in Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s classic essays in the Bangadarshan (during the 1880s).

Rajanikanta Gupta, even while professing loyalty to the British emphasised the cataclysmic nature of the Revolt, regarding it as an unprecedented event in history and comparing it to past struggles:

Since the fateful day when the unlucky Siraj-ud-daula was defeated due to the conspiracy of the enemy, and the authority of the British Company was established in Bengal through the cunning of Lord Clive…, there has been no such violent and cataclysmic occurrence as the Revolt. Never has the foundation of colonial authority been shaken to such an extent, nor have the British faced such great trouble, and witnessed at every moment the manifestation of such violent power. From Meerut to Delhi, and from Delhi to the northwest, there was…a wild conflagration.27

Rajanikanta situated 1857 within a historical frame of popular memory and past glory. The story of how the sepoys attacked Delhi was part of a wider description of a historic Delhi – a Delhi of past glory eternalised in popular memory. Through a fascinating oscillation between the past and the present, Rajanikanta, related the struggles of 1857 to past glory and instances of valour.

The ancient history of Delhi is a fascinating tale of many events. Even now, the remembrance of this wonderful past lingers in popular imagination and memory. Delhi was the favourite residence of the hero Prithviraj, the pleasure-arena of the illustrious Mughal emperor Akbar… During the 50 years preceding the outbreak of the Sepoy Mutiny, the Mughal emperor lost his power and possessions and came under the sway of the British Company. But the glory of his name, family, prestige and authority has not entirely faded. The power, glory and the wide realms of Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb were redrawn in the canvas of popular memory in 1857.28

The past was thus an inspiration for the present and also for the future. Harishchandra Mukherjee believed “history would see and evaluate the great Indian revolt in a manner wholly different from how contemporaries in 1857-1858 viewed it.”29 This belief was expressed even more eloquently towards the end of 1858, when an article in Hindoo Patriot reflected a unique interlocking of 1857 with history, nationhood and popular memory:

The events of the last few years… the repeated conquests and the still more frequent annexations, and last of all the mutinies and the rebellion, have familiarised the nation with ideas… minds are more impressionable… Such events as a rebellion… constitute a very remarkable chapter in any history, and make indelible impressions on the minds of any people. On the minds of the people of India in their present temper, their effect would be such as to last for generations to come.30

From this centrality of situating 1857 in history emanate several associated themes as enunciated below.

V History of Place and Memorialisation of Homelands

The “new” history of culture and attachment gathered momentum in the wake of the Revolt, and engaged with a history-led refinement of place and the land. 1857 was crucial in this regard in three main ways – (i) connection of place to its history;

(ii) connection of place to the people; and (iii) a complex concatenation of people, place/land and conduct, reflected in juxtapositions of Bengal to specific places within India.

Specific places in north and central India where battle raged between the sepoys and the British were situated in a historical grid. As expressed by Rajanikanta Gupta:

1000 miles from Calcutta, surrounded by hills – is Ambala, the ancient name of which is Ambalya. The history of this place goes back to the Pandava age. In ancient India Ambala was a place of glory, as it corresponded to Kurukshetra of epic fame, the site of eternal valour. This is also the place where Prithviraj and Samarsingha were defeated, signalling the beginning of dark days… in the ancient history of India, Ambala was well-known even at a time when Europe was savage… now, after many years, Ambala has become the site of conflict between the sepoys and the East India Company.31

The above description connects place and its geographical location to a history of glory and its eclipse. The lament for lost glory is expressed in a yearning to retreat through a nostalgic journey, to past triumphs. The yearning was also felt by Bengali writers who were in Delhi at the time of the Revolt. Jadunath Sarbadhikary, who toured India from 1853 to 1857, connected Delhi to its past, glorifying it as the seat of the Emperor, and memorialising it as a site of Hindu glory exemplified in the valour and prowess of Prithviraj.32 Like Rajanikanta, Jadunath reified places of combat (during 1857) through mythic/epic glory intersecting with history:

To the north-west of Kanpur, about 8 kros away is Bithoor. This corresponds to the forest abode of Valmiki. This is where Sita spent the years of her banishment and where Lav and Kush were born. Now… here stands a house of Baji Rao of Pune and Satara. Some soldiers occupy the place and it is the home of Nana Saheb, Baji Rao’s descendant.33

1857 was crucial in such historicisations of place and transformations of space to place, by endowing empty space with an emotive content. The history of place became an emotionallycharged ideological site of valour, leading to the memorialisation of homelands. What happened in 1857 in certain places, and local homelands were related to what had happened there earlier, connecting past instances of valour, glory and commitment to ideals of courage and independence to similar roles of present exemplars. This bonded place to the people and their past, who could then lay a claim to such valiant histories.

The land of the Marathas had long symbolised independence, courage and strength. Shivaji had shown immortal valour in battle… the people of Maharashtra, infused with the magic of his great mantra, left the imprint of their courage in every part of the country from Dakshinapatha to Aryavarta. This inspired Nana Saheb to great acts of courage, and he carried on the legacy of his lineage. To bow down before oppressors is not the mark of a courageous man. Nana Saheb did not… slide down from the high ideal of moral courage set by his forefathers. He performed the same birbroto [vow/commitment of the hero] as Peshwa Baji Rao, and others before him. The valour of Nana Saheb will always be lauded by history.34

Connections of people to place and to their past were further refined by emphasising an additional factor: conduct. Jadunath’s travel account demonstrated how the complex interconnections of place-history, place-people, people-conduct and unity among the people of specific places were reflected in mental configurations of region-nation.

There are many Bengali babus of good character with marked qualities of generosity in Ambala. They generally congregate around the Kalibari [the temple of the goddess Kali]… the inhabitants of Delhi are well-spoken, of good character; they are committed to duty and to righteousness or dharma… Before evening, all jatis [including Hindus and Muslims, and people of low classes] congregate in different parts of the city. 35

Bengal, Ambala and Delhi were linked to each other, and interlocked with notions of jati and conduct that underlay a deeper sense of belonging to a wider entity. The idea that Jadunath’s account was a pilgrim narrative, of the same type as the late 18th century Tirthamangal of Bijoyram Sen, in which there was no conception of the historical-national entity called India, is to miss the finer nuances of the work. Though different from late 19th century tracts on travel, it cannot be clubbed simplistically with the earlier pilgrim narratives. Jadunath’s descriptions of pilgrim sites were linked to ideas about ‘desh’ (country) and the samaj.36 It awakened a living sense of the samajs, local everyday life, customs and manners, conduct, histories and ‘itikatha’ [account of the past].37 This constituted the prelude to late-nineteenth and early 20th century travel writing and historical accounts which sought to reinforce the belief in Indian nationhood rooted in history. As Dharanikanta Lahiri Choudhury put it – the best way to understand the past and present of the Indian nation was to see historical places and observe the customs of specific places in India.38

Through such connections between place, people, conduct, and specifically between the people and regions of different parts of the country, Jadunath’s account anticipated the idea of India, otherwise called Bharatbarsha/Hindustan. The transmutation of mythic/epic Bharat and territorial Hindustan to modern India went through intermediate phases, and Jadunath may be said to represent a transitional genre. The quest for a history of place during and after 1857 reflected a mental transition from mythic to real India, perceived and actualised through history, myth and juxtapositions of region to country. The juxtapositions occurred in myriad ways. References to specific places (significant as sites of rebellion during 1857-58) related myth to sociological actualities in attempts to link Bengal and Bengalis to other parts of India as part of a wider samajik history. Jadunath eloquently captured this interconnection:

Kanpur is closely connected to Kanyakubja. This place is of great significance to Bengalis in past and present contexts. Six kros away from Bithoor is Kanyakubja. Here dwell the Kanauj brahmans… From Kanyakubja came five brahmans and kayasthas to Bengal. We are also among them. [We are their descendants].39

1857 helped redefine and reify India and places within it through a use of the past (common historical experience), as seen in Rajanikanta, as well as through a concatenation of people, place, land, conduct and sociological interconnections reflected in Jadunath’s ideas.

VI The Idea of India

The reification of place through history etched the conceptual outlines of India/Hindustan/Bharat. Though the idea of a historicgeographic entity called India crystallised only towards the end of the 19th century, the late 1850s witnessed its glimmerings. As mentioned, the idea of India moved through many connotative frames – mythic, historical-geographic, territorial and political (the last crystallising through the national movement of the late19th and the 20th century). The Revolt may be seen as a turningpoint in the evolution of the idea of India. This is because India was imagined through history, and 1857 was a watershed in India’s history. It marked a definite stage in the conceptualisation of India variously termed as ‘swadesh’, ‘matribhoomi’, ‘janmabhoomi’ and Bharatbarsha. History of place was linked to the agenda of imagining India, as the fate/misfortune of specific places during the Revolt was regarded as a betrayal of the whole country. Kasiprosad Ghosh lamented that the annexation and misfortune of Oudh symbolised a loss of the country’s liberty and independence.40

The Revolt was also contextualised with reference to the idea of an Aryan India which became a leitmotif in most Bengali texts on history from the mid-1870s. It idealised the land/country as a heroic site of valour (usually defined in Aryan terms).41Locating the theme of Aryan India in a temporal spiral of past glory and present decline, Rajanikanta argued that glorious eras waned when the ideals of Aryan courage and dharma were eclipsed. India was situated in a dominance-subjugation historical frame of which the Revolt was an integral part. The “descendants of those who were once renowned for their courage (such as Prithviraj, Samar and Pratap Singh) came under the yoke of domination”.42 They did not possess the Aryan qualities of courage and righteousness. With the revival of those ideals, glory would return. Shivaji had revived the golden age as he personified the Aryan ideals of courage and valour.43 Significantly, such courage was also exemplified in the acts and deeds of rebel leaders during 1857-58.

Lakshmibai was the truly courageous woman of 19th century India. When India was in the grip of imperial rule from the Himalayas to Kumarika…she challenged the British, and displaying superhuman courage…fought against great adversity…At the time of the Sepoy War in 1857, when Bharatbarsha was in the throes of a major upheaval, Bundelkhand was also caught up in turmoil like Kanpur, Meerut, Lucknow and Delhi. At that time, the brave Rani Lakshmibai strove to revive her lost pride.44

The above account apprehended the historic-geographic entity called India through Aryan ideals of moral courage and righteous conduct as exemplified in the Revolt of 1857.

1857 and its aftermath led to the expression of an embryonic nationhood through a religious idiom that connected people to swadesh. This occurred through a twin deification of heroes and the homeland. “His countrymen (swadeshigon) regarded Shivaji as an incarnation of God (avatar). He named his sword ‘Bhavani’. This sword is now in the possession of the King of Satara, and until today in the royal household at Satara, Bhavani is worshipped.”45The ideals of independence and swarajya (own realm) were personified in Bharat’s/India’s all-powerful goddess of endeavour and victory.46 The deification of the country was a fairly common theme in Bengal during the late 19th century, and occurred in different, (especially Hindu) contexts.47 The notion of nation as mother was deeply embedded in post-Mutiny historical works and travel accounts contemporaneous to the Revolt (such as that of Jadunath Sarbadhikary, whose Tirthabhraman was serialised in Janmabhoomi/Land of Birth).

Crucially, the Revolt of 1857 helped connect earlier ideas about India (pre-1857) to India in 1857 and in the following years. In the Bengali literati’s ideas about the role of 1857 in transforming ideas about India through history of place, valour, and deification, the narrative moved backward to deification of specific places such as Maharashtra (the home of a ‘mahajati’/great jati) and then connected Kanpur and Satara (during the revolt) to this historical chain. There was also an attempt to link and compare pre-1857 India to such imaginings. The accounts often swung back to Plassey, when Aryan ideals of courage, dharma and justice were trampled and insulted by the British and disregarded by the conspirators who sided with them.48This phase saw the defeat of the ideal Bharatbarsha of ancient times, and was also very different from India in 1857. In a sense 1857 corresponded to the ancient ideal India because the qualities of courage and dharma surfaced in the acts and deeds of the leaders. The account of a supposed “loyalist” (Rajanianata) glorifying 1857 as an exemplary phase in recreating an ideal India, is significant, and adds a new dimension to understandings of nationhood in Bengal. Two points are important. First, there was a connectivity in imaginings about India, reflected in the use and contextualisation of the term “Bharatbarsha” in bygone (days of Hindu glory), pre-Plassey and Plassey, as well as present (1857) times. Second, 1857 was a watershed not only in the recreation of a glorious India, but also in taking the country onwards toward new ideals of unity.

The multiple portrayals in terms of deification through a religious idiom, Aryan culture, history and progress that came in the wake of 1857 included, but moved beyond the concepts of mythic Bharat (the country of the sons of the King Bharat of the Mahabharata), and territorial Hindustan (which existed from the period of the Turkish Sultans through the Mughal and up to the modern period despite semantic shifts), and prioritised a higher and wider entity expressed through the descriptive term: Bharatbarsha. In fact, the earlier senses of India as mythic Bharat and territorial Hindustan blended and fused into Bharatbarsha through a unique interlocking of history and nationhood. The linkages and connotative continuities made the ‘puranic’ Bharat and medieval Hindustan very much a part of the nationalist imaginaire.49 Bharatbarsha was the India of the past, a heroic and historical India, and the homeland of the people. It included Hindustan, which signified north India and the different places where the mutineers fought with the British. Travel to these places helped juxtapose Bengalis to other Indians (including Hindustanis).50 In conjunction with an urge for regional and sub-regional histories of Bengal51 seen as emblematic of a people’s past, it forged meaningful linkages between the region and the nation. The inclusive and incorporating character of samaj explained the link between regional (Bengali) and Bharatbarshiya samajs. Adherence to a “proper” code of conduct implying qualities such as truthfulness, moral courage, generosity and righteousness was a chief criterion for inclusion.52 These qualities were deemed to be “Aryan” and were exemplified in the acts and deeds of the rebel leaders during the Revolt. This helped construct an inclusive Bharatbarshiya universe, albeit in high Hindu/Aryan terms.

Most significantly, to the literati, Bharatbarsha was the India of the future, because it contained within it, ideas about samaj and progress. The link between samaj, nation and progress was underscored in travel accounts, historical tracts, articles in periodicals and private papers during and after the Revolt. Shambhu Chandra Mukherjee, Bankimchandra Chattopadhayay and Bholanath Chunder – in various articles, correspondence and tracts – connected the country and the samaj to the nation, and both to the common aim of progress.53

VII Facets of Patriotism

The idea of India expressed as Bharatbarsha was based on the connection of the land and the people. But whose Bharatbarsha was being talked about/imagined? The basic issue of Indian-ness was fraught with divisions at various levels – (i) social strata/ class, (ii) caste, and (iii) community. The western-educated Bengali literati, writing travel-accounts and historical tracts during and after 1857 were keenly sensitive to how other Indians perceived them. Juxtapositions of Bengal/India and Bengalis/other Indians were shot through with the internal fragmentations mentioned above. While the Bengali literati travelling in parts of north and central India during the late 1850s could relate (at one level) to their educated/cultured counterparts from other parts of India, differences and antagonisms remained. Ordinary people of north and west India vilified and attacked Bengalis whom they regarded as agents/collaborators of the British during the Revolt. The twin facets of this otherness – the uncivilised and superstitious sepoy “traitor” and the western-educated, Anglicised Bengali babu (loyalist) found expression in many tracts.54 The crucial point here is how such divisions and fragmentations influenced the imagining of self-other relations. How far was 1857 an ideological rallying-point for reconsidering unities despite fragmentations? What were the contexts of assimilation? In other words, was it possible to move from fragments to an overarching Indian samaj (idea of nationhood)? The present section problematises the issue of patriotism in Bengal with reference to Hindu-Muslim unity/difference. In this connection I also compare the Bengali formulations of patriotism and representations of unity to the “mentality of the mutiny” in an all-India sense. Rajat Kanta Ray has argued that two main factors united the Hindus and Muslims during the Revolt: their opposition to the alien ‘kafirs’ (British) and their attachment to the country. They wished to bring back the old social order based on difference, but mutual coexistence of the two communities. This forged the inchoate social nationality: “the Hindus and Musalmans of Hindustan”, overlaid by the Weltanschauung of religion.55

The idea was echoed in specific ways in the Bengali literati’s works relating to the Revolt. Rajanikanta Gupta noted the degree of unity between Hindus and Muslims and considered the two communities to be an integral part of Bharatbarsha. The two factors mentioned by Ray – opposition to the British and attachment to the country underlay Rajanikanta’s ideas too: “From April 1857 the Governor General understood that those very Indians who had once helped the British to strengthen themselves...had turned against them. The Hindus and Musalmans of Bharatbarsha were united in their endeavour to harm the British.”56 What is significant is that Rajanikanta used the term “Bharatbarsha” instead of “Hindustan” in describing the attachment of the united group “Hindus and Musalmans” to the country. This added a new dimension to the idea of nationhood, which was further strengthened by linking the history of place, jati and dharma to the issue of Hindu-Muslim unity: “Ambala was the place of unity...of Hindus and Muslims…who dreamed of became a site of war where the pride of jati and the purity of dharma were trampled.”57 Similarly, Delhi was regarded as a historical site where the pride and self-respect of Hindus and Muslims had been once celebrated.58

Even conservative writers such as Panchkori Bandyopadhyay, deeply rooted to an Aryan/Hindu inherited tradition, emphasised Hindu-Muslim unity. Despite being separate units for so long, after Dalhousie’s annexations, the “Bharatbarshiya” Hindus and Muslims rose in revolt.59 This account, like Rajanikanta’s, forged the social collectivity: Hindus and Muslims of Bharatbarsha. Other works which regarded the revolt as a mere sepoy mutiny also admitted the unity of Hindus and Muslims.60

Such assertions of Hindu-Muslim unity in accounts of the Revolt anticipated certain aspects of a slightly later (1880s and 1890s) and wider discourse on a joint Indo-Islamic historical legacy. Although the leitmotif of an Aryan-Hindu India led to a general denigration of Muslim culture and history reflected in familiar clichés of “Muslim misrule”/ “medieval tyranny”, some voices stressed plurality, and sought to incorporate Muslims on Hindu terms. The flexibility of “culturally Aryan” afforded scope for including others (including Muslims) who adhered to a “proper” code of conduct,61 muting the polarity of “Hindu” and “non-Hindu” in a discourse that was in continual flux. Akshoykumar Moitreya underlined a joint Indo-Islamic historical legacy of pre-colonial Bengal62when Hindus and Muslims formed a common ruling elite. These perspectives were reflected in, and contextualised with reference to ideas about Hindu-Muslim unity during the Revolt of 1857. Rajanikanta recounted how Hindu-Muslim cooperation during the Mughal period had signified a common glory. The eclipse of this glory by the rise of the British and their victories during the Revolt had spelt doom for both communities:

During the Mughal period, Hindus and Muslims were engaged alike in political and military duties. The Hindus gave good advice to the Mughals in political matters, and were chieftains of Mughaloccupied provinces. Their power and pride were based on their sense of duty, devotion to values and good conduct… [Now] their sons realised that the power and precedence were declining because of the un-generous laws and practices of the British. It was an eclipse of glory, a glory remembered alike by the Hindu senapatis, rajasva mantris and subahdars [officials] as by the Muslims. The Mughal palace at Delhi…once the site and symbol of that common glory…was bereft.63

Such portrayals do not fit the mould of Muslim tyranny/misrule. The events of 1857 helped recast and occasionally even break such stereotypes.64 However, the theme of Hindu-Muslim unity during the Revolt (underlying the “mentality of the mutiny” in an all-India sense) was subtly transmuted in the Bengali literati’s discourse. While unity was highlighted (as seen above) in certain contexts, there were limitations in Bengali conceptualisations of an all-India patriotism based on Hindu-Muslim unity. An onthe-spot autobiographical account, Bidrohe Bangali pointed out that Hindus and the ordinary people of Rohilkhand were not elated at the re-establishment of the Nawab’s (Muslim) rule.65 In fiction too, the stereotypes of the “good” Hindu and the “bad” Muslim persisted.66 It is important to note that such portrayals were characteristic of overtly loyalist accounts. Durgadas Bandyopadhay, the author of Bidrohe Bangali actually fought on the British side against the sepoys, and Chittabinodini, the anti-Muslim fictional work was markedly loyalist in tone. Such viewpoints expressed convictions of the beneficence of British rule, viewing a “tyrannical” medieval as a dark foil offsetting modernity.

From the 1870s various works equated “Aryan” with “Hindu”, and linked Bengalis to a heroic Aryan identity.67 However, all works glorifying Aryanism did not exclude and denigrate (in all contexts) the Muslim “other”. As mentioned earlier, cultural Aryanism, linked to the inclusive concept of samaj left room for assimilation. What is significant is that the same individual could stress both Aryan glory and Hindu-Muslim unity in different contexts. Rajanikanta, who glorified Aryan achievements in Arya Kirti (1896) highlighted Hindu-Muslim unity in the context of the Revolt of 1857. The inclusive theme was definitely a major trajectory in conceptualisations of patriotism in Bengal during and after 1857. Just as in north India, the idea of the ‘qaum’ was applied in the context of Hindus too,68 in Bengal samaj was deployed as an inclusive conceptual category that could contextually include “others” including Muslims.


The conceptual conjunction of the themes explored in this article illuminates hitherto understated aspects of the Bengali literati’s ideas about nationhood as they came to be developed around 1857. It has drawn on contemporaneous on-the spot accounts, but more on the tracts and articles (related to 1857) which proliferated within about 17 years of the Revolt, and assessed how the changing socio-cultural milieu and historical circumstances shaped the ideological contours of the discourse. The latter represents one trajectory of response, and does not imply the denial of other discourses. It portrays the ideas of one section of the Bengali society: the western-educated, mainly high-caste, professional literati. Within this social segment too, there were internal variations, but this essay has tried to map areas of consensus and ideological rendezvous despite internal shifts.

The uniqueness of the Bengali (regional) representation of an iconic “national” event lay in the situation of 1857 within a wider discourse on nationhood by deploying the conceptual category of samaj. The specific ways in which 1857 figured in the Bengali nationalist imaginaire flowed from samaj, which implied both being and becoming a nation, and related past, indigenous to modern (19th century) unities. As inheritances were important to such grounding of nationhood, the location of 1857 in history was crucial. The elements of nationhood embedded in the (all-India) “mentality of the mutiny” were subtly transmuted. The urge for progress emphasised the inculcation of a “proper” code of conduct and self-improvement, which found expression in cultural nationalism and the agenda of ‘jatipratishtha’. Thus the national element in the literati’s discourse was couched in a samajik and not a religious rhetoric. The theme of social progress drew on a history of the social collectivity which reconfigured place and the country. The utopic and inclusive space of the continually-incorporating samaj moved beyond “Hindustan” toward “Bharatbarsha” thus transcending and marginalising the localised nature of the Revolt. Though there were inherent limitations (such as contextual dilution of the all-India Hindu-Muslim unity) in such conceptualisations, the discourse has left legacies for contemporary representations of 1857 as a symbol and wellspring of nationhood.




1 The standard colonial representation of the Revolt as a sepoy mutiny was echoed by Indian historians such as R C Majumdar and S N Sen. See Majumdar, The Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857, Calcutta, 1957; second edition, Calcutta, Firma K L Mukhopadhyay, 1963; and Sen, Eighteen Fifty-Seven, New Delhi, the Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1957. S B Chaudhuri analysed the nature of the civil rebellion in Civil Rebellion in the Indian Mutinies, 1857-58, The World Press, Calcutta, 1957. Eric Stokes has argued that the rural revolt in 1857 had an elitist character. See Stokes, The Peasant Armed: The Indian Revolt of 1857, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1986. According to Gautam Bhadra, all these viewpoints operated within an elitist paradigm, and did not capture the voice of the ordinary rebel. See Gautam Bhadra, ‘Four Rebels of Eighteen-Fifty-Seven’ in Ranajit Guha (ed), Subaltern Studies, Volume IV, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994, pp 229-75.

2 Shahid Amin, ‘Of Many Pasts’, The Telegraph, July 13, 2006.

3 Eric Stokes, ‘Traditional Resistance Movements and Afro-Asian Nationalism: The Context of the 1857 Mutiny Rebellion in India’, Past and Present, Oxford University Press, No 48, August 1970, p 100.

4 See Karl Marx and Frederic Engels, The First Indian War of Independence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1959. 5 Ainslee Embree, 1857 in India: Mutiny or War of Independence, Beacon Press, Boston, 1963, pp 43-44.

6 Rajat Kanta Ray, The Felt Community: Commonalty and Mentality before the Emergence of Indian Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2003, p 355.

7 Ray, The Felt Community, pp 355-57. 8 Embree, 1857 in India, pp 59-61. 9 Nandalal Chatterjee, quoted in Embree, 1857 in India, pp 62-63.

10 The Bengali literati encompassed a multilayered social group broadly signifying the middle class (madhyabitta). It intersected with categories such as “elite” and ‘bhadralok’. See John Mc Guire, The Making of the Colonial Mind, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1983, pp 2, 20, and S N Mukherjee, ‘Class, Caste and Politics in Calcutta’ in S N Mukherjee and E Leach (eds), Elites in South Asia, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1970, p 34.

11 Etymologically meaning to move together in a united manner, samaj could variously mean aggregate, union of castes and people of different regions. For details about how the Bengali literati deployed the conceptual category of samaj to forge connections between the modern nation and the historical community, see Swarupa Gupta, ‘Notions of Nationhood in Bengal: Perspectives on Samaj, 1867-1905’, Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, Vol 40, No 2, May 2006, pp 273-302.

12 The Bengal Hurkaru and India Gazette, Wednesday, May 6, 1857. Rare Book, National Library, Calcutta, emphasis mine.

13 Judith Brown, 1994: 90, quoted in Sekhar Bandyopadhyay, From Plassey to Partition, Orient Longman, Delhi, 2004, p 176.

14 See E I Brodkin, ‘The Struggle for Succession: Rebels and Loyalists in the Indian Mutiny of 1857’, Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, Vol 6, No 3, 1972, p 277.

15 Bandyopadhyay, From Plassey to Partition, p 177.

16 Hindoo Patriot, also mentioned by S B Chaudhuri, quoted in ibid, p 177.

17 Durgadas Bandyopadhyay, Bidrohe Bangali ba Amar Jibancharit, printed in Janmabhoomi, 1889-1891, p 171. Also see Harimohan Moitra, Bharat Itihas, 2nd edition, Calcutta, 1874, p 43.

18 Dakshinaranjan Mookherjee was portrayed as “loyalist” and ‘intriguer”/ “schemer”. See Thomas Edwards, Biography of Derozio, quoted in Sukumar Mitra, Atharasha Satanna O Bangla Desh, Calcutta, 1960, pp 15-16, 32. Attitudinal change was also reflected in Kaliprasanna Sinha. In Malatimadhava he praised Queen Victoria and disparaged the sepoys. In a later work, Hutom Pyanchar Naksha, Calcutta, 1862, he criticised and ridiculed the fear and alarm of the British during the revolt.

19 ‘The Town Hall Meeting’, Brahmo Public Opinion, Vol 1, No 6, Thursday, April 24, Calcutta, 1878, p 13. National Library Annex, Calcutta.

20 Brahmo Public Opinion, Vol 1, No 7, Thursday, May 2, Calcutta, 1878, p 55.

21 In fiction, such moves toward redefinition of identity took an extreme form. In the dream-arena of literature, the independence of swadesh could be achieved even through armed rebellion. In some late-colonial novels, drama and short stories, Bengalis actually helped rebel leaders during the Revolt of 1857. See Girish Chandra Ghosh, Chandra, Calcutta, 1884 and Upendra Chandra Mitra, Bharater Sukhasapna ba Nana Saheb, Calcutta, 1879.

22 Shibnath Shastri, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj, Calcutta, 1904, reprinted 1957, p 202.

23 Ajitkumar Chakrabarty, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, Volume II, Calcutta, undated, p 270. This has been mentioned in Sukumar Mitra, Atharasha Satanna, p 11.

24 The definition of the nation as a cultural entity involves a shift from Saidian perspectives that see the nation through a political prism, subject to the overwhelming sway of the state. For details see Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories in The Partha Chatterjee Omnibus, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999, p 112.

25 W W Hunter, Annals of Rural Bengal, London, 1897, p 87.

26 Nationhood is seen here in terms of rooted-ness in past societies, customs, struggles and common experiences of the people, not as a modern/ political artefact.

27 Rajanikanta Gupta, Shipahi Juddher Itihas, Part II, Calcutta, 1877, 2nd edition, Calcutta, 1885, pp 105-06.

28 Ibid, p 141.

29 Harishchandra Mukherjee’s comment printed in the Hindoo Patriot, May 6, 1858.

30 Hindoo Patriot, December 30, 1858, Rare Book, National Library, Calcutta.

31 Rajanikanta Gupta, Shipahi Juddher Itihas, Volume I, Part 2, pp 54-55.

32 Jadunath Sarbadhikary, Tirthabhraman (1853-1857), Nagendranath Basu (ed), Calcutta, 1915, pp 292, 381.

33 Ibid, p 49.

34 Ibid, p 79.

35 Ibid, pp 364, 369, 371.

36 Ibid, Introduction, p 2.

37 Ibid, Introduction, pp 2-3. While Kumkum Chatterjee has argued that the distinction between travel-as-pilgrimage and travel-as-nationalism was blurred in the late 19th and early 20th century travel writing, I have attempted to show that this overlap was present in earlier works too, such as Sarbadhikary’s Tirthabhraman. See Chatterjee, ‘Discovering India’ in Daud Ali (ed), Invoking the Past: The Uses of History in South Asia, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1999, pp 204-05.

38 See Dharanikanta Lahiri Choudhury, Bharat Bhraman, Calcutta, 1910, p 2, mentioned in ibid, p 203.

39 This is how the Adisur legend about the origin of Bengali society was linked to a history of place during 1857-58. See Sarbadhikary, Tirthabhraman, p 51.

40 Kasiprosad Ghosh, Mukherjee’s Magazine, Volume I, 1872, National Library Annex, Calcutta.

41 Situating the Revolt of 1857 in a wider discourse of an Aryan India was even more pronounced in Bengali literature of various genres (fiction) from the mid-1870s. See, for instance, Gobinda Chandra Ghosh, Chittobinodini; and Mitra, Bharater Sukhasapna.

42 Ibid, p 46. See also Rajanikanta’s other work, Bharatprasanga, Calcutta, 1880, reprinted 1887, pp 1-8.

43 Rajanikanta Gupta, Birmahima, Calcutta, 1885, pp 45-46.

44 Ibid, pp 25-31. Though the portrayal of rebel leaders such as the Rani of Jhansi or Nana Saheb did not follow a uniform pattern, the trajectory of valorisation became dominant from the late 19th century and helped shape notions of an Aryan India. See Chandicharan Sen, Jhansir Rani, 1888 and Mitra, Nana Saheb.

45 Rajanikanta Gupta, Birmahima, p 71.

46 Rajanikanta Gupta, Bharatprasanga, p 15.

47 Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Anandamath, Calcutta, 1881.

48 Rajanikanta Gupta, Bharatprasanga, pp 38-41.

49 The idea of a ‘puranic’ geography and the continuity of myth in imagining India were present in a number of tracts. See Nagendranath Basu, Banger Jatiya Itihas, Calcutta, 1900.

50 Such juxtapositions are reflected in the use and acceptance of the terms ‘Young Bengal’ vis-a-vis ‘Young Hindustani’. See Bholanath Chunder, Travels of a Hindoo, London, 1869, vol 1, pp 388-99; vol 2, pp 39294, mentioned by Chatterjee, ‘Discovering India’, p 214.

51 The urge for regional and sub-regional histories of Bengal was noted in an article, ‘Itihas Sangraha’ in Tattvabodhini Patrika, No 229, Bhadra, 1862, printed in Benoy Ghosh, Shamoyikpatre Sekaler Samajchitra, Calcutta, 1963, p 209.

52 The literati connected these criteria to cultural Aryanism implying adherence to the epics and the puranas, linguistic connections with Sanskrit and belief in a supreme Godhead. See Rajnarain Basu, Bridhha Hindur Asha, Calcutta, 1881, and Atmacharit, Calcutta, 1908, p 96. This has been mentioned in Indira Chowdhury-Sengupta, ‘Colonialism and Cultural Identity: The Making of a Hindu Discourse’, unpublished PhD thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1993, pp 43-45.

53 See Bholanath Chunder’s articles in Mukherjee’s Magazine from 1873 onwards. Also relevant are Shambhuchandra’s correspondence with Bholanath Chunder (e g, letter written on April 9, 1873) and Bankimchandra’s views as expressed to Shambhuchandra Mukherjee. See Sukumar Mitra, Atharasha Satanna, p 118. For linkages between ‘Bharatbarsha’ and history, samaj and progress, see Rabindranath Tagore, Bharatbarshiya Samaj, Bangadarshan, Sraban, 1901.

54 Bholanath Chunder, Travels of a Hindoo, Vol 1, pp 289, 344 (Bengalis regarded as a foreigners); Baradakanta Sengupta, Bharat Bhraman Part 2, Calcutta, undated, pp 15-16, 106-07; Prasannamoyee Devi, Aryavarta: Janaika Bangamahilar Bhraman Brittanta, Calcutta, 1889, p 20 (Bengalis regarded as Christians). These portrayals have been mentioned by Kumkum Chatterjee. See Chatterjee, ‘Discovering India’, p 219. For details relating to the plight of probasi (non-resident) Bengalis in north India, and their humiliation (those who supported the British were given the derogatory epithet of ‘Khoyer Khan’), see Duragadas Bandyopadhyay, Bidrohe Bangali, and Sarbadhikary, Tirthabhraman, p 474.

55 Ray, The Felt Community, pp 380-82.

56 Gupta, Shipahi Juddher Itihas, p 65.

57 Ibid, pp 54-57.

58 Ibid, p 143.

59 Panchkori Bandyopadhyay, Shipahi Bidroher Itihas (2 vols), quoted in Sukumar Mitra, Atharasha Satanna, pp 99, 105.

60 Upendranath Mukhopadhyay, commenting on Bhubanchandra Mukhopadhyay’s Shipahi Bidroho ba Mutiny, Calcutta, 1907, noted that in the revolt, both the communities joined against the British. See Sukumar Mitra, Atharasha Satanna, pp 93-94.

61 Examples of cultural inclusions albeit in certain specific contexts are to be found in Rajnarain Basu, Hindu Dharmer Sreshthattva and Bhudeb Mukhopadhyay, Saphal Sapna, Bhudeb Rachana Sambhar, Calcutta, 1957, p 268; and Pushpanjali, Calcutta, 1876.

62 Akhoykumar Moitreya, Gourer Katha, Calcutta, 1899-1900, reprinted 1985, p 39; and Sirajuddaula, Calcutta, 1895.

63 Gupta, Shipahi Juddher Itihas, pp 142-43, 235.

64 An article in Arya Darshan countered the myth of ‘Muslim misrule’ in Ayodhya and questioned the beneficial effect of the establishment of British power in Ayodhya after the sepoy mutiny. ‘Bharatiya Itihas’, Arya Darshan, Calcutta, 1876, p 384.

65 Durgadas Bandyopadhyay, Bidrohe Bangali, pp 173-75.

66 Gobinda Chandra Ghosh, Chittabinodini, p 37.

67 See Nandamohan Chattopadhyay, Adhunatana Samaj, Calcutta, 1877 and Nilmoni Mukhopadhyay, Bharatbarsher Itihas, Calcutta 1872.

68 Rajat Ray has pointed out that in the common parlance of the period of the Revolt, the Muslims were a qaum (people/race/community/nation), and in their eyes the Hindus were too. See Ray, The Felt Community, p 383. The interplay between the conceptual categories of qaum and samaj brings to light an interesting difference: while qaum signified separateness/difference of the Hindus and Muslims, samaj was a more inclusive rubric that could weld diverse groups and forge unity within the interstices of clan, caste, community and micro-region.

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