Freedom Fighters of India

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Freedom Fighters of India-Image




GS-I: Modern History

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Prelims: History of India and Indian National Movement.

MainsModern Indian history from about the middle of the 18th century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues, The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country. 

Freedom Fighters of India: The Indian national movement, which sought to liberate the country from British colonial rule, was marked by the leadership of several freedom fighters of India who became the driving force behind the struggle for independence. Through their vision, courage, and determination, these freedom fighters played a pivotal role in galvanising the masses and shaping the course of India's history. Each leader brought a unique ideology and approach to the movement, contributing to its diversity and strength. 

Freedom fighters like Dadabhai Naoroji presented a powerful economic analysis of British colonialism and Mahatma Gandhi, the epitome of nonviolent resistance, led a transformative movement for India's freedom. Similarly, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, embodied a visionary nationalist approach.

Prominent Freedom Fighters of India

The Indian freedom movement against the British saw widespread participation from citizens across the country. Thousands of men and women fought together against the British Raj's atrocities from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Assam to Gujarat. While many selflessly gave their lives to protect their motherland's dignity, others were injured and accepted imprisonment.

List of Freedom Fighters of India: Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel, Sardar Udham Singh, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Dadabhai Naoroji, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Ashfaqulla Khan, Sukhdev, Mangal Pandey, V.D Savarkar, Annie Besant, Rani Lakshmi bai, Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, Madam Bhikaji Cama, Usha Mehta, Dr. B.R Ambedkar, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Chittaranjan Das, Prafulla Chaki.

Contribution of Famous Freedom Fighters of India

The Indian National Movement witnessed the emergence of several freedom fighters who challenged British colonial rule through revolutionary means. Leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Bhagat Singh used a wide range of intellectual strategies to force the British out of India. For a self-governing nation, their protests took various forms, ranging from diplomacy to armed struggle. 

Veer Savarkar (1883-1966)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an early exponent of Hindu nationalist ideology, underwent a transformation in his approach to nationalism and advocated for cultural unity. 

Early Influences and Ideological Development:

  • Savarkar was influenced by Italian nationalist Joseph Mazzini during the first phase of his life.
  • Initially, he supported the concept of composite Indian nationalism, which did not exclude any religious community. However, later on, he became a staunch supporter of Hindu Nationalism.

Formation of Mitra Mela and Abhinav Bharat Society:

  • Inspired by the sacrifice of the Chaphekar brothers, Savarkar founded the Mitra Mela in 1900, which later transformed into the Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904.

Shift Towards Hindu Nationalism:

  • Savarkar shifted towards Hindu nationalism, becoming a supporter of Hindu Mahasabha and serving as its President from 1938 to 1945.

Influences from Renaissance and Rationalist Philosophy:

  • Savarkar was a product of the Western Indian Renaissance and was influenced by Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, a rationalist philosopher.

Critique of Religious Scriptures and Otherworldly Philosophies:

  • Savarkar rejected the sanctity of religious scriptures, considering them man-made, and criticised the philosophies of Shankara and Ramanuja.

Critique of Caste System and Advocacy for Cultural Nationalism:

  • Savarkar criticised the caste system, considering it detrimental to the unity of Hindu society, and supported cultural nationalism, emphasising cultural, racial, and religious unity as essential elements in the formation of the nation.

Important works:

  • ‘The Indian War of Independence 1857' was written in 1909.
  • 'Hindutva' in 1924 to explain the basic principles of Hindu nationalism.

Chandra Shekhar Azad (1906-1931)

Chandra Shekhar Azad, driven by his early engagement in radical activities, led daring acts of resistance against British rule, earning him the title of a legendary revolutionary.

Early Life: 

  • Born on 23 July 1906 in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh, he engaged in radical activities from a young age.

Inspiration from Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement: 

  • Fascinated by Gandhi's non-violent, he participated in the Non-Cooperation Movement in Banaras in 1920-21 and actively opposed the sale of foreign goods.

Involvement in Revolutionary Activities:

  • Chandrashekhar joined the underground revolutionary party in Banaras after coming in contact with Manmath Nath Gupta and Pranavesh Chatterjee.
  • He took part in the Kakori Mail Robbery in 1925 under the leadership of Ram Prasad Bismil.

Formation of the HSRA and Leadership:

  • The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) came into existence during an all-India meeting of revolutionaries at Feroz Shah Kotla on 8th and 9th September 1928.
  • Although Chandrashekhar did not attend the meeting, he was unanimously accepted as the Commander-in-Chief of HSRA.

Activities as the Commander-in-Chief:

  • Chandrashekhar often used the pseudonym "Balraj'' when issuing pamphlets as the HSRA's commander-in-chief.
  • He played an active role in the killing of John Saunders on 17 December 1928 and was indirectly involved in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy's train in December 1929.


  • He was martyred at Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931.

Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh, a visionary socialist, infused the struggle with a strong ideological foundation, seeking a society free from exploitation and class domination.

Early Life and Joining the Freedom Struggle:

  • Bhagat Singh was born in Amritsar. 
  • His family background has played an important role in shaping his ideas.
  • As a soldier, he joined the 23rd Cavalry (Frontier Force) and later established the 'Naujawan Bharat Sabha' and joined the Hindustan Republican Association.

Plot to Avenge Lala Lajpat Rai's Death:

  • In December 1928, Bhagat Singh, along with Sukhdev and Rajguru, planned to avenge Lala Lajpat Rai's death by plotting to assassinate Superintendent of Police, James Scott, in Lahore.

Assembly Bombing and Death sentence:

  • On 8th April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeswar Dutt threw bombs inside the assembly, shouting the slogan 'Inquilab Zindabad!' and were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for this action. 
  • On 23rd March, 1931, Bhagat Singh along with Raj Guru and Sukhdev were hanged. They were given the death sentence in the Lahore conspiracy case.

Bhagat Singh's Vision of Socialism:

  • Bhagat Singh defined socialism scientifically as the abolition of capitalism and class domination.
  • He believed in a society where all individuals had equal rights and opportunities, free from exploitation and oppression.


  • ‘Why I am an Atheist’
  • “The Jail Notebook and Other Writings”.

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)

He was also known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’. He became the first Indian to hold a professorship at Elphinstone College in Bombay, teaching mathematics and natural philosophy. 

Economic Analysis and Drain Theory: 

  • Naoroji's significant contribution was his economic analysis of British colonialism in India, highlighted in his "The EconomicDrain Theory."
  • He argued that India's wealth was systematically drained to Britain through exploitative economic policies, a concept elaborated in his seminal work, "Poverty and Un-British Rule in India."

Political Activism and the Indian National Congress:

  • Dadabhai Naoroji founded the East India Association in 1866.
  • From 1892 to 1895, he served as a Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons, becoming the first Indian to achieve this position.
  • Actively engaged in political activism, Naoroji played a pivotal role in the formation of the Indian National Congress (INC) and elected as its President in 1886 Calcutta, 1893 Lahore, and 1906 Calcutta.

Literary work:

  • Poverty and Un-British Rule in India
  • The Wants and Means of India
  • Condition of India

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India, was an Indian lawyer, and political ethicist. He believed in the capacity of every individual for the highest possible development and emphasised the unity of end and means.

Concept of Swaraj:

  • He defined Swarajas self-rule, encompassing an integral revolution in all aspects of life, including self-assessment, self-purification, and self-reliance.

Satya and Satyagraha:

  • Truth (Satya) for Gandhi was the response of one's moral self and conscience.
  • Satyagraha, meaning "urge for truth," was the nonviolent and moral pursuit of truth, appealing to the reasoning of opponents.

The Gandhian Era of National Struggle:

  • The Gandhian movement began in 1919 and lasted until India gained independence in 1947.
  • Early movements like Champaran Satyagraha, Ahmedabad Mill Satyagraha, and Kheda Satyagraha strengthened Gandhi's nonviolent methods.
  • In 1920, Gandhi called for a non-cooperation movement, realising that British rule depended on Indian cooperation.
  • The INC, under Gandhi's leadership, adopted the goal of "Purna Swaraj" to intensify the freedom movement. 

Nationwide Campaigns and the Dandi Salt March:

  • As INC president in 1924, Gandhi led campaigns for poverty alleviation, women's rights, religious harmony, and the abolition of untouchability.
  • He popularised anti-colonial nationalism through the iconic Dandi Salt March in 1930.
  • The Civil Disobedience Movement began with this iconic Dandi March which attempted to paralyse the government by violating particular British laws.

Literary work:

  • In Yerawada jail, Gandhi wrote his famous autobiography, "The Story of My Experiments with Truth."
  • Translated "Songs from Prison," drawing from Sanskrit hymns and Upanishadic scriptures.
  • Hind Swaraj


  • Indian Opinion, Young India, Harijan, Navjivan

Subash Chandra Bose (1887-1945)

Born on January 23, 1887, in Cuttack, Subhash Chandra Bose passed I.C.S. examination in England but chose to resign to join the national freedom struggle.

Involvement in the National Freedom Struggle:

  • Upon returning to India in 1921, Bose met Mahatma Gandhi and actively participated in the non-cooperation movement.
  • Editor of the news daily 'Forward' initiated by C.R. Das's Swaraj Party.
  • Supported non-violent methods such as non-cooperation and civil disobedience to mobilise the masses for the cause of freedom.

Congress Leadership and Ideology:

  • Bose faced repeated incarcerations in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s for his often violent political actions against the British.
  • Congress president in 1938, winning the elections with leftists' backing. 
  • Differences with Gandhi led to his departure from the Congress, and he founded 'The Forward Bloc'.

Establishing the Azad Hind Government:

  • In Japan in 1943, he supported the establishment of the Indian National Army (INA) and the 'Azad Hind' or Free India provisional government.
  • In 1944, the INA and Japanese launched an invasion of India but faced defeat.

Militant Nationalism:

  • Subhash Chandra Bose advocated militant nationalism as crucial to rejuvenating Indians for freedom.

Adaptation of Socialism in India:

  • Bose urged the assimilation of socialist principles that suit Indian requirements, distinct from the Bolshevik Socialism of the Soviet Union, which he believed did not align with India's needs.

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

Jawaharlal Nehru was born in 1889 in Allahabad, he went to England for studies and returned to India in 1912. He immediately entered politics, attending the Bankipore Congress as a delegate in 1912 and becoming Secretary of the Home Rule League, Allahabad, in 1919.

Leadership and Contributions to the Independence Movement:

  • Nehru organised the first Kisan March in Uttar Pradesh's Pratapgarh District in 1920 and was imprisoned during the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920-22.
  • He played a crucial role in committing the INC to the goal of Independence at the Madras Congress in 1926 and was a signatory to the Nehru Report on Indian Constitutional Reform.
  • Nehru, along with Srinivasa Iyengar and Subhash Chandra Bose, founded the ‘Independence for India League in 1928, advocating complete severance of the British connection with India.

Presidency of the INC and Imprisonment:

  • In 1929, Nehru presided over the Lahore Session of the INC, where ‘Purna Swaraj’ for the country was adopted as the goal.
  • He faced multiple imprisonments during 1930-35, notably during the Salt Satyagraha, and completed his ‘Autobiography’ in Almora Jail in February 1935.

First Prime Minister of Independent India:

  • On 15 August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of independent India, holding the post until his death in 1964.

Nehru's Vision of Nationalism and Secularism:

  • Nehru was a great nationalist with a distinctive form of composite and living nationalism, appealing to the spirit of humanity.
  • He promoted secularism in India, fostering a sense of unity and freedom among people of diverse backgrounds.

Literary work:

  • The Discovery of India
  • Letters from a Father to His Daughter
  • Glimpses of World History

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950)

Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel was born in Nadiad, Gujarat, on October 31, 1875. In 1917, he was elected as the Sanitation Commissioner of Ahmedabad and played a crucial role in handling calamities like the plague and famine in 1917 and 1918.

Kheda Satyagraha:

  • Sardar Patel and a group of Mahatma Gandhi's supporters organised the Kheda Satyagraha, a major tax revolt where diverse communities rallied together in Kheda to oppose unjust taxation.

Flag Satyagraha (1923):

  • During Mahatma Gandhi's imprisonment, Sardar Patel led the Nagpur Flag Satyagraha, standing for the right to honour the national flag.

Municipal Leadership:

  • Sardar Patel secured a majority for Congress in the Ahmedabad Municipal body and became its President.

Bardoli Satyagraha (1928):

  • He led the Bardoli Satyagraha, opposing the colonial government's increased taxation of farmers in the Bombay Presidency. 
  • This movement demanded the cancellation of a 22% tax hike and earned Vallabhbhai Patel the title of "Sardar."

Borsad Satyagraha (1923):

  • Sardar Patel led the Borsad Satyagraha in Gujarat, which opposed the punitive tax imposed on villages in the Anand district, citing the need to protect them from dacoits.

Presidency of the Indian National Congress:

  • In March 1931, Vallabhbhai Patel presided over the 46th session of the INC, where the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was ratified.

Role in the Integration of Princely States:

  • Sardar Patel, India's deputy prime minister, was charged with integrating the Indian states.
  • He came up with numerous plans and persuaded the rulers to unite India by merging their states with it.

PYQs on Freedom Fighters of India

Q) Throw light on the significance of thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the present times. (UPSC Mains 2018)

Q) Highlight the difference in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom. (UPSC Mains 2016)

Q) How different would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss. (UPSC Mains 2015)

Q) Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate. (UPSC Mains 2015)

Q) Who among the following is associated with ‘Songs from Prison’, a translation of ancient India religious lyrics in English? (UPSC Prelims 2021)

a) Bal Gangadhar Tilak

b) Jawaharlal Nehru

c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

d) Sarojini Naidu

Answer: (c)

FAQs on Freedom Fighters of India

Who are some of the prominent freedom fighters in India?

Some prominent freedom fighters in India include Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Dadabhai Naoroji.

Which prominent freedom fighter is known as the Father of India?

Mahatma Gandhi is known as the Father of India.

Who was the correspondent of the Voice of India newspaper in South Africa?

Mahatma Gandhi was the South African correspondent of the Voice of India, a newspaper started by Dadabhai Naoroji.

What is the role of revolutionary freedom fighters in the freedom struggle of India?

The role of revolutionaries in the freedom struggle of India was to actively participate in armed and violent actions against British colonial rule to achieve independence.

Why did Gandhi not support Bhagat Singh?

Gandhi thought that Bhagat Singh was a 'misguided youth' who had gone wrong. Gandhi never wanted anyone to emulate the act of violence. He only admired the spirit behind their action.