Bal Gangadhar Tilak

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For other people named Bal Gangadhar Tilak, see Bal Gangadhar Tilak (disambiguation).
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal G. Tilak.jpg
Born (1856-07-23)23 July 1856
Ratnagiri, British India (present-day Maharashtra, India)
Died 1 August 1920(1920-08-01) (aged 64)
Mumbai, British India (present-day India)
Nationality Indian
Organization Indian National Congress
Movement Indian Independence Movement

Bal Gangadhar Tilak (or Lokmanya Tilak, About this sound pronunciation ; (1856-07-23)23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920(1920-08-01)), born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, journalist, teacher, social reformer, lawyer and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "Father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the honorary title of "Lokmanya", which literally means "accepted by the people (as their leader)".[1]

Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of "Swaraj" (self-rule) and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote, "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it!" in India. He formed a close alliance with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, later the founder of Pakistan, during the Indian Home Rule Movement.

Early life[edit]

Tilak was born in a Chitpavan Brahmin family in Ratnagiri,[2] headquarters of the eponymous district of present day Maharashtra (then British India) on 23 July 1856.[3] His father, Gangadhar Tilak was a school teacher and a Sanskrit scholar who died when Tilak was sixteen. Tilak graduated from Deccan College, Pune in 1877. Tilak was amongst one of the first generation of Indians to receive a college education.[citation needed] In 1871 Tilak was married to Tapibai (a women belonging to Bal family) when he was sixteen before few months of his father's death. After marriage, her name was changed to Satyabhamabai. In 1873, he entered Deccan College and in 1877 he passed his Bachelor of Arts in first class in Mathematics. In 1879 he passed his LL.B degree from Government Law College of University of Mumbai.[4] Despite two attempts he did not succeed in qualifying in his M. A.

After graduating, Tilak started teaching mathematics at a private school in Pune. Later due to ideological differences with the colleagues in the new school, he withdrew and became a journalist later. Tilak actively participated in public affairs.[5] He stated:

"Religion and practical life are not different. To take Sanyasa (renunciation) is not to abandon life. The real spirit is to make the country your family work together instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God."

He organised the Deccan Education Society with a few of his college friends, including Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Mahadev Ballal Namjoshi and Vishnushastri Chiplunkar. Their goal was to improve the quality of education for India's youth. The Deccan Education Society was set up to create a new system that taught young Indians nationalist ideas through an emphasis on Indian culture.[6] The Society established the New English School for secondary education and Fergusson College in 1885 for post-secondary studies. Tilak taught mathematics at Fergusson College. He began a mass movement towards independence by an emphasis on a religious and cultural revival.[7]

Political career[edit]

Indian National Congress[edit]

Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. He opposed its moderate attitude, especially towards the fight for self-government. He was one of the most-eminent radicals at the time.[citation needed] Despite being personally opposed to early marriage, Tilak was against the 1891 Age of Consent bill, seeing it as interference with Hinduism and a dangerous precedent. The act raised the age at which a girl could get married from 10 to 12 years. During late 1896, a Bubonic plague spread from Bombay to Pune, and by January 1897, it reached epidemic proportions. British troops were brought in to deal with the emergency and harsh measures were employed including forced entry into private houses, examination of occupants, evacuation to hospitals and segregation camps, removing and destroying personal possessions, and preventing patients from entering or leaving the city. By the end of May, the epidemic was under control.

Even if though the British authorities' measures were well-meant, they were widely regarded as acts of tyranny and oppression. Tilak took up this issue by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari was written in Marathi, and Maratha was written in English), quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 22 June 1897, Commissioner Rand and another British officer, Lt. Ayerst were shot and killed by the Chapekar brothers and their other associates. According to Barbara and Thomas R. Metcalf, Tilak "almost surely concealed the identities of the perpetrators".[8]:154 Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. When he emerged from prison in present-day Mumbai, he was revered as a martyr and a national hero. He adopted a new slogan coined by his associate Kaka Baptista,[9] "Swaraj (self-rule) is my birthright and I shall have it."

Following the Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement.[10] The movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of natively produced goods. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Tilak said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin.

Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and was supported by fellow Indian nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the "Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate". In 1907, the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat, Gujarat. Trouble broke out over the selection of the new president of the Congress between the moderate and the radical sections of the party . The party split into the "Jahal matavadi" ("Hot Faction" or radicals), led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the "Maval matavadi" ("Soft Faction" or moderates). Nationalists like Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai were Tilak supporters.[11]

Imprisonment in Mandalay[edit]

On 30 April 1908, two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur, to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of Calcutta fame, but erroneously killed two women travelling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was hanged. Tilak, in his paper Kesari, defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule. The Government swiftly arrested him for sedition. But a special jury convicted him, and the judge Dinshaw D. Davar[12] gave him the controversial sentence of six years' transportation and a fine of Rs 1,000. The jury by a majority of 7:2 convicted him. On being asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Tilak said:

All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue.

In passing sentence, the judge indulged in some scathing strictures against Tilak's conduct. He threw off the judicial restraint which, to some extent, was observable in his charge to the jury. He condemned the articles as "seething with sedition", as preaching violence, speaking of murders with approval. "You hail the advent of the bomb in India as if something had come to India for its good. I say, such journalism is a curse to the country". Tilak was sent to Mandalay, Burma from 1908 to 1914.[13] While imprisoned, he continued to read and write, further developing his ideas on the Indian nationalist movement. While in the prison he wrote the Gita Rahasya. Many copies of which were sold, and the money was donated for the Indian Independence movement.

Life after prison[edit]

Tilak had mellowed after his release on 16 June 1914, because of having diabetes and also the ordeals faced in Mandalay prison. When World War I started in August, Tilak cabled the King-Emperor in Britain of his support and turned his oratory to find new recruits for war efforts. He welcomed The Indian Councils Act, popularly known as Minto-Morley Reforms, which had been passed by British Parliament in May 1909, terming it as "a marked increase of confidence between the Rulers and the Ruled". Acts of violence actually retarded, than hastened, the pace of political reforms, he felt. He was eager for reconciliation with Congress and had abandoned his demand for direct action and settled for agitations "strictly by constitutional means" – a line advocated by his rival Gokhale.

Tilak tried to convince Mohandas Gandhi to leave the idea of Total non-violence ("Total Ahimsa") and try to get Selfrule ("Swarajya") by all means. Gandhi, though respected him as his guru, did not change his mind.[citation needed]

All India Home Rule League[edit]

Later, Tilak re-united with his fellow nationalists and re-joined the Indian National Congress in 1916. He also helped found the All India Home Rule League in 1916–18, with G. S. Khaparde and Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Annie Besant. After years of trying to reunite the moderate and radical factions, he gave up and focused on the Home Rule League, which sought self-rule. Tilak travelled from village to village for support from farmers and locals to join the movement towards self-rule.[13] Tilak was impressed by the Russian Revolution, and expressed his admiration for Vladimir Lenin.[14] There were total of 1400 members in April 1916 and in 1917 there were approximately of about 32,000 members in the league. Tilak started his Home Rule League in Maharashtra, Central Provinces, and Karnataka and Berar region. Besant's League was active in the rest part of India.[15]

Tilak, who started his political life as a Maratha propagandist, progressed into a prominent nationalist after his close association with Indian nationalists following the partition of Bengal. When asked in Calcutta whether he envisioned a Maratha-type of government for independent India, Tilak replied that the Maratha-dominated governments of 17th and 18th centuries were outmoded in the 20th century, and he wanted a genuine federal system for Free India where every religion and race was an equal partner.[citation needed] He added that only such a form of government would be able to safeguard India's freedom. He was the first Congress leader to suggest that Hindi written in the Devanagari script be accepted as the sole national language of India.[16]

Social contributions and legacy[edit]

Tilak started two weeklies, Kesari ("The Lion") in Marathi and Mahratta in English[17] in 1880–81 with Gopal Ganesh Agarkar as the first editor. By this he was recognized as 'awakener of India'. As Kesari later became a daily and continues publication to this day. Swami Vivekananda reached Pune by train during September 1892. Tilak happened to be his fellow passenger. Vivekananda stayed in his house "Vinchurkar Wada" in Pune.[18][better source needed]

In 1894, Tilak transformed the household worshipping of Ganesha into a grand public event (Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav) in that house. The celebrations consisted of several days of processions, music and food. They were organized by the means of subscriptions by neighbourhood, caste, or occupation. Students often would celebrate Hindu and national glory and address political issues; including patronage of Swadeshi goods.[8]:152 In 1895, Tilak founded the Shri Shivaji Fund Committee for celebration of "Shiv Jayanti", the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of 17th century Maratha Empire. The project also had the objective of funding the reconstruction of the tomb (Samadhi) of Shivaji at Raigad Fort. For this second objective, Tilak established the Shri Shivaji Raigad Smarak Mandal along with Senapati Khanderao Dabhade II of Talegaon Dabhade, who became the founder President of the Mandal. Tilak said, "I regard India as my Motherland and my Goddess, the people in India are my kith and kin, and loyal and steadfast work for their political and social emancipation is my highest religion and duty".[19]

The events like the Ganapati festival were used by Tilak to build a national spirit beyond the circle of educated elite in opposition to colonial rule. But it also exacerbated Hindu-Muslim differences. The festival organizers would urge Hindus to protect cows and boycott the Muharram celebrations organized by Shi'a Muslims, in which Hindus had formerly often participated. In 1895 Tilak inaugurated a second annual festival, in honour of Shivaji, a Maratha ruler who killed a Muslim commander of the Adil Shahi dynasty Afzal Khan with a concealed weapon. This historical reconstruction was meant as a way to oppose colonial rule, but it also contributed to religious tensions.[8]:152

Contemporary Marathi Hindu nationalist parties like the Shivsena took up his reverence for Shivaji. The Deccan Education Society that Tilak founded with others in the 1880s still runs Institutions in Pune like the Fergusson College. The Swadeshi movement started by Tilak at the beginning of the 20th century became part of the Independence movement until that goal was achieved in 1947. One can even say Swadeshi remained part of Indian Government policy until the 1990s when the Congress Government liberalised the economy.[citation needed] Tilak Smarak Ranga Mandir, a theatre auditorium in Pune was dedicated to him. In 2007, the Government of India released a coin to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Tilak.[20][21]

Books[edit]

  • In 1903, he wrote the book The Arctic Home in the Vedas. In it, he argued that the Vedas could only have been composed in the Arctics, and the Aryan bards brought them south after the onset of the last ice age. He proposed a new way to determine the exact time of the Vedas.[22] He tried to calculate the time of Vedas by using the position of different Nakshatras. Positions of Nakshtras were described in different Vedas.
  • Tilak authored "Shrimadh Bhagvad Gita Rahasya" in prison at Mandalay – the analysis of 'Karma Yoga' in the Bhagavad Gita, which is known to be gift of the Vedas and the Upanishads.
  • Being a devotee of Gajanan Maharaj of Shegaon, many reference texts of his are available in the epic.

References[edit]

  1. ^ D. V. Tahmankar (1956). Lokamany Tilak: Father of Indian Unrest and Maker of Modern India. John Murray; 1St Edition edition (1956). Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Cashman, Richard I (1975). The myth of the Lokamanya: Tilak and mass politics in Maharashtra – 1975. Berkeley, Los Angeles , London: University of California. p. 223. ISBN 0520-02407-9. 
  3. ^ "EMINENT PERSONALITIES". Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  4. ^ Political Thought and Leadership of Lokmanya Tilak - N R. Inamdar
  5. ^ "The Political Thought of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak", By K. S. Bharathi, page 38
  6. ^ D. D. Karve, "The Deccan Education Society" The Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 20, no. 2 (Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 1961), 206–207.
  7. ^ Michael Edwardes, A History of India (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1961), 322.
  8. ^ a b c Barbara D. Metcalf; Thomas R. Metcalf (2006). A Concise History of India (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521682251. 
  9. ^ "Kaka Baptista". East Indian Community. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Ranbir Vohra, The Making of India: A Historical Survey (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc, 1997), 120
  11. ^ Stanley A. Wolpert, Tilak and Gokhale: revolution and reform in the making of modern India (1962) p 67
  12. ^ "Remove portrait of judge who sentenced Bal Gangadhar Tilak". Mumbai: Indian Express. 17 August 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Asian History. "Tilak, Bal Gangadhar" (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons and Macmillian Publishing Company, 1988), 98.
  14. ^ M.V.S. Koteswara Rao. Communist Parties and United Front – Experience in Kerala and West Bengal. Hyderabad: Prajasakti Book House, 2003. p. 82
  15. ^ Mohammad Tarique. Modern Indian History. Tata McGraw Hill.
  16. ^ Prof R.P. Chaturvedi. "Great Personalities" , Upkar's, p. 144R
  17. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  18. ^ http://www.rkmpune.org/rkm_pune/history.html
  19. ^ Minor Robert (1986). Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita. State University of NY press. ISBN 0-88706-298-9
  20. ^ "Tilak family awaits 3 lakh coins". Pune: Indian Express. 5 August 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "Flawed 'Tilak coin' upsets many". Pune: Zee News. 2 August 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  22. ^ Bal Gangadhar Thilak, "Orion, or Researches into the Antiquities of the Vedas", 1893

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]