In what ways were the novels in colonial India useful for both the colonizers as well as the nationalists?
For the colonizers, novels provided a good source of information about Indian culture and society. They could utilize that knowledge to have a better understanding about India.
● Colonial rulers found “vernacular” novels illuminating for the information they provided on native customs and life. As outsiders, the British knew little about life inside Indian households and the information provided in the novels proved useful for them in governing Indian society, with its large variety of communities and castes.
● The new novels in Indian languages often had description of domestic life. They showed how people dressed, performed religious worship, and so on. Some of these books were translated into English by British administrators or Christian missionaries.
For the nationalists, many novels provided tools to spread the idea of nationalism. They used the form of the novel to criticise colonial rule and install a sense of national pride and unity amongst the people. Many nationalist leaders themselves were highly motivated by some novels.
● Indian used the novel to criticize the defects in their society and to suggest remedies. Writers like Viresalingam used the novel mainly to propagate their ideas about society among a wider readership.
● Novels helped establishing a relationship with the past. Through glorified account of past, these novels helped in creating a sense of national pride among their Indian readers.
● Novels helped creating a sense of collective belonging on the basis of one’s language. The novels also made their readers familiar with the people in other parts speaking different languages. The way characters spoke in a novel began to indicate their region, class or caste.