British India and Freedom Struggle

The pictorial story of Company Rule and British Raj

Independence Day

Weekend Image Post – British India

On India’s 64th Independence Day, I bring you the pictorial story of British India (1757–1947), featuring Company Rule (1757–1858) and British Raj (1858–1947). The historical narration of this period is beyond the scope of this article, rather I am publishing a series of historical and rare pictures in chronological order to give you an idea of British India and freedom struggle. Besides detailed captions of each photo, I have written an introduction and some notes to highlight the major events during 200 years of British Iindia (1757–1947). My story would have been incomplete if I wouldn’t have included the tragic assasination of our beloved ‘Father of the Nation,’ Mahatma Gandhi within five months of free India.

Most of the photos and images are from various sources via Wikipedia, so individual credit is not given. If I have chosen a photo or image from any source other than Wikipedia, due credit is given beneath the photo. Notes are mainly based on more than a dozen articles I have referred to in Wikipedia, the best source of authentic information.

Note: Most of the images are now in the public domain because their term of copyright have expired.

Before I publish the pictures a brief introduction about the British India would be helpful.

British India

British India, may refer to:

  • Company Rule in India (1757-1858), and
  • British Raj (1858-1947)

But British colonial rule in India started way back in 1612 when the East India Company established its first permanent factory in Surat.

The East India Company first came to India as traders and seeked the permission of the emperor to carry on trade. It gradually took the advantage of weak political situations, fighting princes and instable rule to take over India and rule over it for over 200 years.

Company Rule in India (1757–1858)

Company Rule in India refers to the rule or dominion of the British East India Company on the Indian subcontinent. It effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey, lasted until 1858, when, following the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and under the Government of India Act 1858, the British Crown assumed direct administration of India in the new British Raj.

Robert Clive led company forces against Siraj Ud Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, resulting in the conquest of Bengal. Clive became the first British Governor of Bengal.

Battle of Plassey (1757)

Lord Robert Clive meeting with Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey.
Artist: Francis Hayman

Battle of Plassey

Company Sepoys

East India Company Sepoys (Indian infantrymen) in red coats outside Tipu Sultan's former summer palace inBangalore, 1804.

Indigo Dye Factory

Indigo dye factory in Bengal. Bengal was the world's largest producer of natural indigo in the 19th century.

Hindu College, Calcutta

Hindu College, Calcutta

A colored-in photograph (1851) of Hindu College, Calcutta, which had been founded in 1817 by a committee headed by Raja Ram Mohun Roy. In 1855, the Government of the Bengal Presidency renamed it Presidency College and opened it to all students.


Prohibition of Sati

Satī is a religious funeral practice among some Hindu communities in which a recently widowed Hindu woman either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. This practice is rare and has been outlawed in India since 1829.

Burning Hindu Widow

Ceremony of Burning a Hindu Widow with the Body of her Late Husband, from Pictorial History of China and India, 1851.

Sati Shrine

A shrine to wives of the Maharajas of Jodhpur that have committed sati. The palmprints are typical.

First Railways

Indian Railways

Photograph (1855) of the Dapoorie Viaduct, Bombay. The viaduct, shown with a train steaming across it, was completed in 1853 and linked Bombay Island with Thane on the mainland.

First Stamps

Indian Postal Service

Two four anna stamps issued in 1854. Stamps were issued for the first time for all of British India in 1854. The lowest denomination was ½ anna blue, followed by 1 anna red, and 4 annas blue and red. The stamps were printed from lithographic stones at the Surveyor-General’s Office in Calcutta.

Indian Rebellion of 1857

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 also known as India’s First War of Independence, began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company’s army on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon erupted into other mutinies and civilian rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India. The rebellion was contained only with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858.

The rebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858, and forced the British to reorganize the army, the financial system, and the administration in India. India was thereafter directly governed by the Crown in the new British Raj.

Charles Canning

Charles Canning, theGovernor-General of India during the rebellion.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal Emperor, crowned Emperor of India, by the Indian troops, he was deposed by the British, and died in exile in Burma.


Lakshmibai, The Rani of Jhansi, one of the principal leaders of the rebellion who earlier had lost her kingdom as a result of theDoctrine of Lapse.


Bahadur Shah Zafar

Capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar and his sons by William Hodson at Humayun's tomb on 20 September 1857.


The hanging of two participants in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1858.


Forced disarmament of cavalry of Berhampore.

Qaisar Bagh

British soldiers looting Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow, after its recapture (steel engraving, late 1850s).

Secundra Bagh

Secundra Bagh after the slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1858.

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Bahadur Shah Zafar (last mughal emperor) exiled in Rangoon. Photograph by Robert Tytler and Charles Shepherd, May 1858.

British Raj (1858–1947)

Queen Victoria

The British Raj is the name given to the period of British colonial rule in South Asia between 1858 and 1947. After 1876, the resulting political union was officially called the Indian Empire and issued passports under that name. Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and a member nation of the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936.

It lasted until 1947, when the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states: the Union of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the eastern half of which, still later, became the People’s Republic of Bangladesh). The province of Burma in the eastern region of the Indian Empire was made a separate colony in 1937 and became independent in 1948.

The Indian Empire was established on August 2, 1858 and disestablished on August 15, 1947. The capital of the Indian Empire was Calcutta (1858–1912), and later New Delhi (1912–1947).

An 1887 souvenir portrait of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, a full 30 years after the Great Uprising.

British Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, 1909.

Blowing from Guns

Blowing from Guns in British India (1884) by Vasily Vereshchagin.

Indian National Congress

Founded in 1885 by Allan Octavian Hume, Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Wacha, Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Monomohun Ghose, Mahadev Govind Ranade and William Wedderburn, the Indian National Congress became the leader of the Indian Independence Movement, with over 15 million members and over 70 million participants in its struggle against British rule in India.

It was not until the emergence of Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi that Indians re-gathered their momentum for home rule.

Indian National Congress

First session of Indian National Congress, Bombay, 28-31, December, 1885.

Partition of Bengal

The decision on the Partition of Bengal as announced on 19 July 1905 by then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The partition took effect on 16 October 1905. Due to the high level of political unrest generated by the partition, the eastern and western parts of Bengal were reunited because of Hindu pressure in 1911.

Lord Curzon

Lord Curzon and Lady Curzon arriving at the Delhi Durbar, 1903.

Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi in 1918, at the time of the Kheda and Champaran satyagrahas.

Gandhi Returns to India

Mohandas Gandhi first employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident Indian community’s struggle there for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he organised protests by peasants, farmers, and urban labourers concerning excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women’s rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi spent a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India.


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was named after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in the northern Indian city of Amritsar where, on April 13, 1919, fiftyBritish Indian Army soldiers, under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, opened fire on an unarmed gathering of innocent men, women and children without any warning. Official British Raj sources placed the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. Civil Surgeon Dr Smith indicated that there were 1,526 casualties.

Jallianwala Bagh

The Jallianwala Bagh couple of months after the April 1919 massacre which killed about 1,526 people.

Salt Satyagraha ( Dandi Salt March)

Gandhi launched a satyagraha against the tax on salt in March 1930. This was highlighted by the famous Salt March to Dandi from 12 March to 5 April, where he marched 388 kilometres (241 miles) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat to make salt himself. Thousands of Indians joined him on this march to the sea. This campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting British hold on India; Britain responded by imprisoning over 60,000 people.

Salt March

Gandhi on the Salt March.

Gandhi at Dandi

Gandhi at Dandi, April 5, 1930.

Bhagat Singh

Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, at the age of 21 in jail.

Martyrdom of Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh (27 September 1907 – 23 March 1931) was an Indian freedom fighter, considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh (the word shaheed means “martyr”). He was hanged for shooting a police officer in response to the killing of veteran freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai.


Quit India Movement (1942)

The Quit India Movement was a civil disobedience movement launched in India in August 1942 in response to Mohandas Gandhi’s call for immediate independence. Gandhi hoped to bring the British government to the negotiating table. Almost the entire Indian National Congress leadership, and not just at the national level, was put into confinement less than twenty-four hours after Gandhi’s speech, and the greater number of the Congress leaders were to spend the rest of World War II in jail.


Procession view at Bangalore.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Subhas Chandra Bose

Subhas Bose and Indian National Army

The Indian National Army (INA) or Azad Hind Fauj was an armed force formed by Indian nationalists in 1942 in Southeast Asia during World War II. It was active from August 1942 to September 1945.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in INA Uniform 1943 August 15. Picture Courtesy: National Archives

Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, the Provisional Government of Free India, or simply Azad Hind, was an Indian government in exile established in Singapore in 1943.


Cabinet members of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, 1943:
1st Row (L to R): Lt Col Chatterjee, Lt Col J K Bhonsle, Dr Lakshmi Swaminadhan, Subhas Chandra Bose, A. M. Sahay and S A Ayer
2nd Row (L to R): Lt Col Gulzara Singh, Lt Col Shah Nawaz Khan, Lt Col Aziz Ahmed, Lt Col M Z Kiani, Lt Col N S Bhagat, Lt Col Ehsan Qadir, Lt Col Loganathan.

Azad Hind

Partition of India

The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation, on 14 August 1947 and 15 August 1947, respectively, of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan and People’s Republic of Bangladesh) and the secular Union of India (later Republic of India).

An old Sikh man carrying his wife. Over 10 million people were uprooted from their homeland and travelled on foot, bullock carts and trains to their promised new home.

Partition of India

Freedom at Midnight

India is Partitioned. British Leave India. India becomes free from 200 years of British Rule. A major victory for Gandhian principles and non-violence in general.

Midnight of August 14, 1947
Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Jawaharlal Nehru Claiming Independence from British

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru being sworn in as Prime Minister.

Freedom at Midnight

Mahatma Gandhi Assassination

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948. On 30 January 1948, at 5:17 pm, Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic got close enough to Mahatma Gandhi at a prayer meeting at the Birla House and shot him three times in his chest at point-blank range.

A group photo of people accused in Gandhi’s murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge (Approver). Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare.

Murder Accused

The Light Has Gone Out
Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.

Speech by Jawaharlal Nehru broadcast to the Nation over All India Radio after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
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Admin/Author Admin/Author: Subrato Paul, owner of GoldenTwine Informatics founded in April 2003, lives in Kolkata, India. He is a freelance website designer, Internet marketer, social media enthusiast, and blogger. He writes in his blogs and as a guest writer about marketing and social media, eCommerce, website design and development, and his website.
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  1. Suhil
    | Permalink

    Well accounted events from the history of British India you’ve explained here that played an important role in the freedom struggle.. Thanks for posting.. Keep sharing more articles..

  2. Hello mates, how is everything, and what you wish for to
    say about this post, in my view its in fact awesome in support of me.

  3. Indians dedicate this day to all the heroes of the country who have laid down their lives, so
    that we can breathe in free India. On this day, the Jewish people both in Israel and outside of Israel, remember the people who worked
    hard to build its nation. re searching for is items of training
    and performance that will establish you apart from the

  4. I’m gone to convey my little brother, that he should also go to see this
    weblog on regular basis to take updated from most up-to-date

  5. Rituparna Banerjee
    | Permalink

    thanks a lot…

  6. helpmyresume
    | Permalink

    This is some good history. You must have spent hours doing this!

    • I thought writing this post would be the best way to celebrate Independence Day.

  7. These are pretty good collection of images. Salute your work Subrato !

    A post which is needed to be bookmarked 🙂

    • It took me two days to prepare the article. It took me one hour to publish the post, uploading so many pics one by one.

  8. Gracias!! Hi Subrato! ..I found you while surfing other expat blogs and how wonderful to see a post on . I like your blog post and i enjoy reading it. I hope i will come back to read more new update.Thank you!

    • You are most welcome to come back again, that is what we look forward to. Thanks for your visit.

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