The Swadeshi Movement had profound effects on Indian society that persist to the present day. The Swadeshi movement has its origins in Bengal in 1905 in response to the attempted partition of the area by the British. Literally translated as own country, the movement aimed to achieve Indian sovereignty over their social, cultural, economic and political institutions. It began as a boycott of British goods while encouraging domestic production of local goods. The theme of boycotting British goods and institutions gave rise to the development of local Indian institutions to replace them. This is the main theme, this necessity to replace British influence with Indian influence.
First, the boycott of British goods led to the development of local enterprise. The creation of textile mills, shops and other factories as well as local banks and insurance companies to facilitate these enterprises resulted from the British boycott. Secondly, the Swadeshi movement spread to the realm of education. The National Council of Education was created to build and run Indian schools and colleges. The curriculum was not based on British indoctrination and the education system would no longer be controlled by the British. Technical institutes were set up and original scientific research flourished.
In addition to educational and economic changes, the Swadeshi movement also had a profound effect on art and music. Indian art and music began to flourish during the movement and became a source of national pride. It was during this time that the movement spread from an economic boycott to encompass many facets of nationalism. Indians from different castes became involved, if not by working in newly created factories, then by creating beautiful Indian art or learning in these new schools and universities.
It is this inclusion of all Indians that is perhaps the greatest victory of the Swadeshi movement. It started as a campaign to end British colonialism, but it also sparked the regeneration of Indian culture and society that is still felt today. The Swadeshi movement returned control of the production and consumption of goods to Indians, it revived local art and music, and spurred educational development under Indian terms.
Gandhi's views on Swadeshi are not only articulate and enlightening, but serve to summarize the meaning and ideals of the movement. Below are just a few quotes taken from the book, Mind of Mahatma Ghandi:
Swadeshi is that spirit in us which restricts us to the use and service of our immediate surroundings to the exclusion of the more remote. Thus, as for religion, in order to satisfy the requirements of the definition, I must restrict myself to my ancestral religion. That is, the use of my immediate religious surrounding.
We have laboured under a terrible handicap owing to an almost fatal departure from the Swadeshi spirit. We, the educated classes, have received our education through a foreign tongue. We have, therefore, not reacted upon the masses. We want to represent the masses, but we fail. They recognize us not much more than they recognize the English officers. Their hearts are an open book to neither. Their aspirations are not ours.
Much of the deep poverty of the masses is due to the ruinous departure from Swadeshi in the economic and industrial life. If not an article of commerce had been brought from outside India, she would be today a land flowing with milk and honey.