The Swadeshi movement was part of the Indian independence movement and contributed to the development of Indian nationalism. The movement, begun in 1906 by Indian nationals opposed to the Partition of Bengal, was one of the most successful movements against British rule. These movenets were the base of  India Freedom Struggle which is part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.


  • Details of Swadeshi Movement
  • Major Leaders


Launched in the early 20th century, the Swadeshi movement was a direct consequence of the British India government's decision to partition Bengal. The two main goals of this movement were the use of Swadeshi goods and the boycott of foreign-made goods.

Declaration of swaraj & beginning of swadeshi movement

  • The Swadeshi Movement had its genesis, in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to partition Bengal.
  • The Indian National Congress, meeting in 1905 under the presidency of Gokhale, resolved to
  • Condemn the partition of Bengal and the reactionary policies of Curzon
  • Support the anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement of Bengal

The militant nationalists led by Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh wanted the movement to be taken outside Bengal to other parts of the country and go beyond a boycott of foreign goods to become a full-fledged political mass struggle with the goal of attaining swaraj. But the Moderates, dominating the Congress at that time, were not willing to go that far.

  • However, aggressive nationalists forced Dadabhai Naoroji to speak of Swaraj (which was not a Moderate demand) in the Calcutta Session of Congress in 1906
  • The Extremist emboldened by Dadabhai Naoroji’s declaration gave a call for passive resistance in addition to swadeshi and boycott of foreign goods
  • This included boycott of government schools and colleges, government service, courts, legislative councils, municipalities, government titles, etc.

Characteristics of swadeshi movement (vandemataram movement)

  • It was both a political and economic movement
  • Involved programmes like the boycott of government service, courts, schools and colleges and of foreign goods
  • Promotion of Swadeshi goods
  • Promotion of National Education through the establishment of national schools and colleges
  • Landlords, Women and students actively participated & Students refused using books made of foreign paper


  • The cry of Bande Mataram was forbidden by government
  • Restriction on public meetings & suppression of freedom of the press
  • Schools & colleges were warned not to allow their students to take part in the movement or else their aid would be stopped
  • Students who were found guilty of participation were to be disqualified for government jobs or for government scholarships, and disciplinary action— fine, expulsion, arrest, beating, etc. —was to be taken against them.
  • Extremist leaders Lal, Bal, Pal & Aurobindo Ghosh were imprisoned and deported.

Important points

  • Some of the Muslims participated—Barrister Abdul Rasul, Liaqat Hussain, Guznavi, Maulana Azad
  • But most of the upper and middle class Muslims stayed away or, led by Nawab Salimullah of Dacca
  • They supported the partition on the plea that it would give them a Muslim-majority East Bengal
  • To further government interests, the All India Muslim League was propped up in 1907 as an anti-Congress front
  • Absence of participation of Peasants as well as industrialists

Decline of swadeshi movement

  • By 1908, the open phase (as different from the underground revolutionary phase) of the movement was almost over due to many reasons viz.
  • There was severe government repression.
  • The movement failed to create an effective organisation or a party structure.
  • The movement was rendered leaderless with most of the leaders either arrested or deported by 1908
  • Aurobindo-Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal retired from active politics.
  • Internal squabbles among leaders, magnified by the Surat split (1907), did much harm to the movement.
  • The movement aroused the people but did not know how to tap the newly released energy or how to find new forms to give expression to popular resentment.
  • The movement largely remained confined to the upper and middle classes and zamindars, and failed to reach the masses—especially the peasantry.
  • Non-cooperation and passive resistance remained mere ideas.
  • It was difficult to sustain a mass-based movement at a high pitch for too long.
  • Famous Extremist Leaders

Impact of swadeshi Movement

  • People from all walks of life participated in the movement with the greatest contribution coming from students and women.
  • It resulted in significant decline in the foreign imports during 1905-1908.
  • It led to building of self-reliance or Atma Shakti asserting on national dignity, honor and confidence.
  • The Swadeshi movement led the people to learn to challenge and disobey the British government explicitly without fearing the atrocities of the police and imprisonment.
  • Movement received wide coverage through newspapers and got attention at national level highlighting the true nature of british rule.
  • The movement however also set the undertones for communal disharmony by invoking religious sentiments, setting foundation for Muslim League.
  • Movement resulted in growth of extreme nationalism amongst youth which took to violence and wanted to bring an instant end to British dominance.
  • It forced British dispensation to offer some concession to Indians in forms of Morley-Minto reforms in 1909.
  • Most of all its concept of constructive swadeshi and boycott was actively used by Gandhi in later nationalist movements.


Bal Gangadhar Tilak

  • Titled as Lokmanya
  • Regarded as the real founder of the popular anti-British movement in India
  • Attacked the British through his weeklies The Mahratta and the Kesari
  • Collaborated with Agarkar, and set up institutions to give cheap education to people
  • Started Akharas, Lathi clubs and anti – cow killing societies to built his rapport
  • Was deported to Mandalay on the ground of sedition for 6 years in 1908
  • Set up the Home Rule League in 1916 at Poona and declared “Swaraj is my birth-right and I will have it.”
  • Build up anti-imperialist sentiments among the public through Ganapati festivals (started in 1893), Shivaji festivals (started in 1896)
  • Valentine Shirol described him as the ‘Father of Indian Unrest’
  • Famous books → The Arctic Home of Vedas & Gita Rahasya

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Lala Lajpat Rai         

  • Titled as Lion of Punjab
  • Founded the Indian Home Rule League in the US in 1916
  • Deported to Mandalay on the ground of sedition
  • Received fatal injuries while leading a procession against the Simon Commission and died on November 17, 1928

Bipin Chandra Pal    

  • Began his career as a moderate and turned an extremist.
  • Preached nationalism through the nook and corner of Indians by his powerful speeches and writings

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Aurobindo Ghosh    

  • Another extremist leader who actively participated in Swadeshi Movement & imprisoned.
  • After his release he settled in the French territory of Pondicherry and concentrated on spiritual activities


This explicit influence on self reliance gave a much needed stimulus to the cottage industries and also to large scale enterprises. Many textile mills, soap and match factories, handloom weaving concerns were founded. This improved the demand for Swadeshi goods and in turn gave a boost to the production.To read more articles on Modern India History click here