World War I in India:
The Great Divide
The outbreak of World War I formed for India a dividing line between the old and new worlds. It was a watershed of ideals and attitudes. Before 1914 the emphasis was upon past tradition. Despite new ideas like nationalism and new movements like the Congress, despite the intrusion of Western thought, language, and techniques, India's glory lay mainly in the past. The Hindu system still retained its social and religious hold over the vast majority of the population. Politically, the British raj was still largely regarded as an umbrella protecting the traditional ways of life from the scorching rays of change. Its pomp and panoply continued undimmed, its prestige was largely unimpaired. The new movements just described seemed so far to be eddies on the surface rather than deep-moving currents. They were subordinate to the general scene. After the war all this was changed. Though the old systems remained, though the political structure of the Indian empire survived unimpaired, India as a whole was looking forward rather than back. Both in the political and social fields people were concerned with the shape of things to come rather than the glories of the past. India was on the march. The war's most important effect on India was a mental revolution, after which independence became merely a question of when and how. So marked and sudden was it that Europeans who had been absent for only a year or two on war service found themselves out of date on their return, while others who had remained in the country were bewildered by the transformation of the scene before their eyes.
We may first note briefly the facts of the war as they affected India, and then the nature of mental revolution which they brought about and the political manifestations in which it expressed itself. India, being