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9 books on Indian independence You Must Read

Updated: Aug 16

On 15th Aug 2023, India will complete its 76 years of independence, however, many people don't know the real story behind the independence struggle and how it was achieved, Hence As the calendar turns towards another Independence Day, it's the perfect time to reflect on the rich of India's history, culture, and struggle for freedom.

9 Books On Indian Independence You Must Read

Here are 9 books on Indian independence you should read if you wish more about India's struggle before and after independence Each book encapsulates a distinct facet of India's path to liberation and beyond, offering perspectives that are both enlightening and inspiring.

1) India's Struggle for Independence" by Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, and Sucheta Mahajan

India Struggle For Independence

This book covers the history of India's freedom struggle from its early stages to the achievement of independence in 1947.

This is the first and must-read book to read on independence day as It provides a detailed account of the political, social, and economic factors that shaped India's struggle against British colonial rule.

This book on Indian independence is divided into several sections, each exploring different aspects of the struggle for independence:

1. Early Resistance and Revolts: The authors begin by examining the initial signs of resistance against British rule, including the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. The book highlights how these early rebellions were crucial in shaping the subsequent course of the freedom movement.

2. The Indian National Congress and Moderate Phase: The narrative then shifts to the formation and evolution of the Indian National Congress (INC), which played a pivotal role in organizing the struggle for independence. This phase, characterized by moderate demands and constitutional means, laid the foundation for the more radical phases to come.

3. Swadeshi Movement and Extremist Phase: The authors detail the rise of extremism within the Indian National Congress, with leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Lala Lajpat Rai advocating for more direct and forceful methods of protest. The Swadeshi Movement, marked by the boycott of foreign goods and the promotion of indigenous products, gained momentum during this phase.

4. World War I and the Home Rule Movement: The book explores the impact of World War I on the Indian political landscape. It discusses how the war served as a catalyst for widespread discontent, leading to the emergence of the Home Rule Movement, spearheaded by Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

5. Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience: The authors explained in detailed Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent resistance and its adoption by the Indian masses. The Non-Cooperation Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement are discussed in detail, highlighting the role of satyagraha and mass mobilization.

6. Quit India Movement and Post-War Struggles: The book covers the Quit India Movement of 1942, one of the final phases of the freedom struggle. It also examines the challenges faced by the Indian National Congress after World War II, including the partition of the country and the communal tensions that accompanied it.

7. The Path to Independence: The authors conclude by detailing the events leading up to India's independence in 1947, including the negotiations with the British, the role of key leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, and the eventual partition into India and Pakistan.

Throughout the book, the authors provide a balanced and well-researched perspective, presenting the contributions and strategies of various leaders and groups within the broader context of the freedom movement. This is a perfect book to read on India's independence which will help you in analyzing the socio-political landscape, economic factors, and cultural influences that shaped the struggle for independence.


2) "The Discovery of India" by Jawaharlal Nehru -

The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru

Written by India's first Prime Minister, this book is both a personal reflection and a historical account of India's cultural heritage, its past, and its path to independence. Nehru offers an insightful and passionate perspective on the country's history and identity.

Nehru deep understanding and love for the country is visible throughout the pages, one should definitely read this book on independence as it helps us to understand India from very start to what it is today.

1. The Prehistoric Age: Nehru delves into the early history of India, discussing the Indus Valley Civilization, the Vedic period, and the development of early social and cultural practices.

2. The Vedic Age: Nehru explores the religious and philosophical ideas of the Vedic era, including the Upanishads, and how they influenced Indian thought.

3. The Age of Buddha: This section delves into the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha, examining the impact of Buddhism on Indian society and its eventual decline.

4. The Mauryan Period: Nehru discusses the rise of the Mauryan Empire, focusing on figures like Ashoka and the spread of Buddhism during this time.

8. The Struggle for Independence: The latter part of the book focuses on India's struggle against British colonial rule, intertwining historical events with Nehru's personal experiences and observations.

Throughout the book, Nehru weaves together historical accounts, philosophical reflections, and his own personal perspectives.

He presents India as a diverse and complex nation, where various cultural, religious, and social currents have interacted for centuries.

Nehru's narrative is not just a historical account; it's also a celebration of India's unity in diversity and its enduring spirit.


3) "Freedom at Midnight" by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre -

Freedom at Midnight  by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

This gripping narrative provides a detailed account of the final year of India's struggle for independence, leading up to the momentous midnight when India gained its freedom. The book covers the events, personalities, and negotiations that shaped the partition and independence of India.

This book on India's independence meticulously dissects the pivotal years leading to India's independence:

1. Historical Context: The book begins by providing historical context, explaining the intricate relationship between India and Britain and the underlying factors that fueled the demand for independence. It also introduces key political leaders.

2. World War II and its Aftermath: The authors explore the impact of World War II on India and the decisive role it played in hastening the end of British colonial rule. The economic strain caused by the war created an environment ripe for political mobilization.

3. Nonviolent Struggle and Civil Disobedience: The narrative delves into Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent resistance and the widespread civil disobedience movements that swept across India. It highlights the power of mass protests and passive resistance in compelling the British to engage with Indian leaders.

4. Negotiations and Diplomacy: The book delves into the intricate negotiations between the Indian National Congress, led by Gandhi and Nehru, and the British government, represented by Lord Mountbatten. The complexities of finding common ground and addressing communal tensions are explored.

5. The Partition and Communal Violence: A significant portion of the book is dedicated to detailing the tragic partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, resulting in massive displacement, violence, and loss of life. The authors portray the horrors of communal clashes and the human toll of partition.

6. Midnight's Hour of Freedom: The book culminates in the historic midnight of August 15, 1947, when India finally gained its independence. The atmosphere of anticipation, jubilation, and optimism is vividly portrayed.

7. Legacy and Reflections: The authors conclude by reflecting on the immediate aftermath of independence and the challenges that both India and Pakistan faced in establishing themselves as sovereign nations. The lasting impact of partition and the complex relationship between the two nations are also discussed.

Freedom at Midnight is known for its engaging narrative style, blending historical analysis with personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions. The authors draw on extensive research and interviews with various individuals who played pivotal roles in India's struggle for independence. This creates a multi-dimensional portrayal of the events, emotions, and individuals that shaped this critical period in history.

Overall, the book stands as a poignant testament to the sacrifices made, the struggles endured, and the triumph achieved as India embarked on its journey toward self-governance. It captures the essence of a nation's unwavering determination to attain freedom and provides readers with a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges associated with the birth of a new era in South Asia.


4) "The Great Indian Novel" by Shashi Tharoor -

The Great Indian Novel By Shashi Tharoor

This unique and satirical work is a blend of Indian mythology and the freedom struggle, cleverly using characters and events from the ancient Indian epic, Mahabharata, to draw parallels with India's political history and the fight for independence.

This book on Indian independence is structured around the characters and events of the Mahabharata, reimagined to mirror key figures and incidents in modern Indian history:

1. Pandavas and Kauravas: The central characters of the Mahabharata are reinterpreted as various political leaders and factions in post-independence India. The virtuous Pandavas represent leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and his followers, while the Kauravas symbolize corrupt and power-hungry politicians.

2. Draupadi: Draupadi, traditionally depicted as the wife of the Pandavas, becomes a metaphor for India herself. Her plight and struggles reflect the nation's tumultuous journey through independence, partition, and subsequent challenges.

3. Gandhi and the Freedom Struggle: The novel reimagines Mahatma Gandhi as Dhritarashtra, the blind king who symbolizes the state's blindness to its own faults. The author critiques Gandhi's ideals and limitations in effectively addressing India's social and political issues.

4. Nehru and the Early Years: Jawaharlal Nehru is portrayed as Yudhishthira, the eldest Pandava, who attempts to uphold dharma (righteousness) in a changing world. The novel explores Nehru's efforts to establish India as a democratic nation and his struggles in navigating complex foreign policy challenges.

5. Indira Gandhi and the Emergency: Indira Gandhi is paralleled with Duryodhana, a controversial figure known for his authoritarian tendencies. The novel delves into the Emergency period, during which civil liberties were curtailed, drawing a connection between historical tyranny and contemporary political actions.

6. Corruption and Power Struggles: The novel addresses issues of corruption, power struggles, and societal inequities, drawing on the Mahabharata's themes of intrigue and manipulation. Characters like Karna and Shakuni mirror these themes in modern India.

7. The Mythical and the Real: Throughout the book, the boundaries between mythology and reality blur, highlighting the ways in which history and epic narratives intertwine to shape a nation's identity.

Shashi Tharoor's novel is a brilliant literary exploration that challenges us to consider the complexities of Indian society and politics through a familiar yet unconventional lens.

The intricate interplay between the Mahabharata's characters and contemporary Indian figures invites readers to critically engage with both history and the present. Tharoor's prose is witty, insightful, and thought-provoking, making the book a compelling commentary on the ongoing evolution of India's social and political landscape.


5 "My Experiments with Truth An Autobiography" by MK Gandhi

My Experiments with Truth by MK Gandhi

When it comes to independence any discussion will be not completed without Mahatma Gandhi's name coming in, hence here is one of the books you should definitely read on 76th India independence

The Story of My Experiments with Truth" by Mahatma Gandhi - While not exclusively about the struggle for independence, Gandhi's autobiography offers a deeply personal account of his life, beliefs, and nonviolent resistance, which played a crucial role in India's independence movement.

The autobiography is divided into several parts, each representing a distinct phase of Gandhi's life and his evolving understanding of truth and nonviolence:

1. Childhood and Early Influences: Gandhi reflects on his childhood, family, and the formative influences that shaped his character and values. He describes his experiences in India and England and his early struggles to find his identity.

2. Life in South Africa: Gandhi's time in South Africa becomes a turning point in his life. He discusses his encounters with racism, his efforts to fight for the rights of Indians in South Africa, and his introduction to the concept of passive resistance.

3. The Birth of Satyagraha: Gandhi introduces the concept of satyagraha (truth force) and outlines his experiments with nonviolent resistance in various campaigns against injustice and discrimination.

4. Return to India: The autobiography explores Gandhi's return to India, his involvement in various social and political movements, and his advocacy for self-sufficiency and noncooperation with British authorities.

5. Salt March and Civil Disobedience: Gandhi narrates his participation in the Salt March, a pivotal event in the Indian independence movement, where he led a group of protesters in a symbolic act of defying British salt taxes.

6. Struggle for India's Independence: Gandhi reflects on his role in various campaigns, including the Quit India Movement, and his commitment to nonviolence even in the face of severe challenges and opposition.

7. Personal Challenges and Reflections: Gandhi candidly discusses his personal struggles, including his experiments with celibacy and his commitment to living a simple, austere life. He also reflects on his interactions with other leaders and his efforts to bridge communal divides.

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8. Legacy and Vision: The autobiography concludes with Gandhi's thoughts on his life's purpose, his unwavering faith in truth and nonviolence, and his hopes for India's future.

Throughout the autobiography, Gandhi's writing is marked by his honesty, humility, and dedication to self-improvement. He narrates his experiences, focusing on his inner journey, sharing his successes and failures, doubts and convictions, and his unwavering commitment to his principles.

"Gandhi: An Autobiography" stands as a testament to Gandhi's remarkable life and his philosophy of satyagraha, offering readers a profound insight into his motivations and beliefs.

It is a must-read book on independence if you want to understand how India achieved its independence.


6) "In the Shadow of Freedom: Three Lives in Hitler's Berlin and Gandhi's India" by Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul

In the Shadow of Freedom by  Laxmi Dhaul

This is a captivating narrative that weaves together the lives of three individuals against the backdrop of two contrasting yet interconnected historical contexts: the rise of Hitler's Berlin and the struggle for independence led by Gandhi in India.

The book follows the intertwined journeys of Ernst, Mona, and Shanti – each hailing from diverse backgrounds but united by their personal quests for freedom, identity, and purpose. Ernst, a German scientist, finds himself grappling with moral dilemmas as he navigates the turbulent political climate of Nazi Germany.

His internal struggle mirrors the external turmoil of a nation under the shadow of a dictator's ambitions.

Mona, a Jewish violinist, provides an intimate lens into the persecution faced by Jews during the Holocaust. Her determination to preserve her artistic passion amidst adversity showcases the resilience of the human spirit and the power of art to transcend the darkest moments in history.

In India, Shanti's narrative unfolds within the folds of Gandhi's nonviolent movement. As an ardent follower of Gandhi's principles, Shanti becomes a symbol of hope and determination.

Her journey reflects the sacrifices made by ordinary individuals who believed in the possibility of a brighter future for their nation.

Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul skillfully navigates between these diverse perspectives, interweaving the stories of Ernst, Mona, and Shanti in a way that highlights the universality of human experiences, even across vastly different cultures and times.

Through vivid prose and meticulous research, the author captures the emotional turmoil, courage, and personal growth of each character.

The book masterfully explores themes of identity, resistance, and the quest for meaning in times of upheaval. It presents a poignant juxtaposition of two historical eras, inviting readers to reflect on the parallels between the struggles faced by individuals in Nazi Germany and colonial India.

"In The Shadow Of Freedom" is not just a historical narrative; it is a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the choices individuals make when faced with life-altering circumstances. Dhaul's storytelling skillfully transports readers to the heart of two pivotal moments in history, leaving them with a deeper understanding of the complexities of human nature and the resilience that arises in the face of oppression.

Ultimately, "In The Shadow Of Freedom" is a compelling and thought-provoking read that underscores the shared threads of humanity that transcend geographical boundaries and historical epochs.

Laxmi's writing style combines historical accuracy with empathetic storytelling, allowing readers to engage with the characters' emotions and dilemmas. Through their intertwined narratives, the book is a perfect read on this independence day.


7) India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha

India after Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha

India After Gandhi" by Ramachandra Guha is an authoritative and comprehensive account of India's history from the period immediately after gaining independence in 1947 to the turn of the 21st century.

The book is divided into several sections, each delving into different aspects of India's post-independence history:

1. Partition and Integration: Guha begins by examining the partition of India and the accompanying violence and displacement. He delves into the challenges faced by the newly independent nation, including the integration of princely states and the formation of a democratic government.

2. Nehruvian Era: The book covers the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. It explores his approach to nation-building, economic policies, foreign relations, and efforts to uphold secularism and democracy.

3. Economic Reforms and Political Changes: Guha discusses the economic policies implemented over the years and their impact on India's development. He also examines political changes, including the rise of regional parties and the challenges of coalition politics.

4. Communal Tensions and Regional Conflicts: The book addresses the communal tensions that arose from time to time, including the Babri Masjid demolition and subsequent riots. It also analyzes regional conflicts, such as the Punjab insurgency and the challenges in Kashmir.

5. Socio-Cultural Changes: Guha reflects on the evolving social and cultural landscape of India, including changes in caste dynamics, the women's movement, and the role of media in shaping public discourse.

6. Rise of Identity Politics and Globalization: The author explores the emergence of identity politics based on religion, caste, and ethnicity, and its implications for Indian society and politics. He also discusses India's increasing engagement with the global economy.

7. Towards the 21st Century: The book concludes with a reflection on India's journey up to the early 2000s, discussing the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for the nation.

Ramachandra Guha presents a well-researched and balanced narrative, drawing from a wide range of sources including historical records, personal accounts, and interviews. His writing style is both engaging and insightful, making complex political and social developments accessible to a wide readership.

"India After Gandhi" stands as the best work, shedding light on the multifaceted dynamics that have shaped India's post-independence trajectory.

It provides readers with a deep understanding of the nation's challenges, achievements, and ongoing struggles as it navigates the complexities of a diverse and rapidly changing society.

This book should definitely be in your tbr list for this independence day.


8) Ambedkar's India

Ambedkar India

This is an audiobook available on Audible. This includes three speeches by BR Ambedkar.

First, include the "Grammar of Anarchy" This was last speech given by BR Ambedkar on the day of the adoption of the Constitution in the parliament.

Second, include the "Annihilation of Caste" This speech was never delivered but is considered to be an important aspect of Ambedkar's journey where he examined the origin of caste and its impact on society.

The last one is "Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development - Dr. Br Ambedkar read the following paper in an anthropological seminar at Columbia University

This is Books on Indian independence that will help you in understanding Babasaheb's view on the future of Indian independence and democracy.


9 ) Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie

Mdinight's Children by Salman Rushdie

"Midnight's Children" is a novel by Salman Rushdie, published in 1981 that you should definitely read on Indian independence.

It is a blend of magical realism, historical fiction, and political allegory, and it follows the life of Saleem Sinai, who is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the exact moment of India's independence from British rule.

The novel shows the personal and national histories of Saleem and his fellow "midnight's children," all of whom possess extraordinary powers and are connected to the country's fate.

Plot Overview: The novel is narrated by Saleem Sinai himself, who claims to have telepathic powers that allow him to communicate with other Midnight's children. Saleem's life parallels the history of India, as he grows up in Bombay (now Mumbai), witnesses key historical events, and becomes entangled with the nation's post-independence struggles.

As the children's powers fade, Saleem's life takes unexpected turns. He learns of Shiva, another midnight child with opposing powers, and their fates become intertwined. Saleem's life becomes emblematic of the broader challenges India faces: identity crises, political turmoil, and the difficulty of reconciling cultural and religious diversity.

Themes and Symbolism: "Midnight's Children" explores themes of identity, destiny, and the influence of history on individuals. The novel uses magical realism to blur the lines between reality and fantasy, reflecting the complexity of India's history and its interplay with personal experiences.

Political Allegory: Rushdie uses the novel as a critique of post-independence India, addressing themes of corruption, authoritarianism, and the challenges of nation-building. The characters and events symbolize political figures and historical moments, offering a multifaceted commentary on the country's trajectory.

Language and Narrative Style: Rushdie's writing is characterized by its rich prose, intricate wordplay, and vivid descriptions. The narrative is fragmented, jumping between different time periods and characters, reflecting the chaotic nature of India's history and the nonlinear structure of memory.

In summary, "Midnight's Children" is a complex and multifaceted novel that explores the intertwined destinies of individuals and nations, blending magical realism with historical commentary. It's a profound exploration of India's post-independence journey and the challenges of creating a cohesive identity within a diverse and rapidly changing society.

Why read these books on Indian independence

Reading the books on Indian independence is not just a choice, but a powerful and enriching experience that offers invaluable insights into a pivotal chapter of history.

Through the pages of these books, you'll get to know the remarkable leaders, visionaries, and everyday heroes who played vital roles in India's journey to independence

In essence, reading these books isn't just about learning history; it's about embracing the wisdom, courage, and ideals that fueled a nation's fight for self-determination.

So if you are a history enthusiast, literature lover, or someone who wishes to learn about Indian independence in a detailed way, then these books are a must-read for you.

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