Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it

These were the fiery words of Tilak which roused a sleeping nation to action, making Indian people aware of their political plight under a foreign rule…………


In my early days, I was fascinated by the way Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated across the country with such a zeal & enthusiasm. I was captivated when Hindus & Muslims of my city came together to celebrate this festival with grandeaur year after year . It meant a lot to me specially after I witnessed communal violence in the early ninetees when Ayodhya & Mumbai were under fire. That day I thanked the person who had a vision to celebrate festivities this way which was instrumental in bringing people together culturally - irrespective of their caste and creed & and I was told it was Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak way back in 1894.

Post 1857, Tilak was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement
. Militant nationalism emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century and prominent among the revolutionaries was the trio Lal Bal Pal (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal). Bal Gangadhar Tilak is considered as Father of Indian National Movement. He was a social reformer, freedom fighter, national leader, and a scholar of Indian history, sanskrit, hinduism, mathematics and astronomy. People loved him and accepted him as their leaders and so he was called 'Lokmanya Tilak'

Birth & Childhood

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born on July 23, 1856 in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. His father Gangadhar Ramachandra Tilak was a Sanskrit scholar and a famous teacher. Tilak was a brilliant student and he was very good in mathematics. Since childhood Tilak had an intolerant attitude towards injustice and he was truthful and straightforward in nature. While Tilak was studying in Matriculation he was married to a 10-year-old girl called Satyabhama. After passing the Matriculation Examination Tilak joined the Deccan College from where he graduated (B.A. degree with a first class in mathematics) in 1877. He continued his studies and got the LL.B. degree too. He was among India's first generation of youth to receive a modern, college education.


Tilak did not question the British Sovereignty nor his demands were rebellious or revolutionary. All he was asking was favorable conditions in India, to enable people to learn to govern themselves. May be all over the world, the separatist forces should follow his vision and define freedom as ability to govern one's land. But the handful rulers who ruled India's millions thought otherwise. They thought that Tilak was whipping a rebellion and he was imprisoned twice; two years for the first and six during the second


Tilak, in his early days had realised that good citizens can be molded only through good education. He believed that every Indian had to be taught about Indian culture and national ideals. Along with his classmate Agarkar and great social reformer Vishnushastry Chiplunkar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak founded “Deccan Education Society” to impart quality education to India's youth in 1880.

The very next year after the Deccan Education Society was founded, Tilak started two weeklies, 'Kesari' (which is a very popular weekly till date) and 'Mahratta'. 'Kesari' means ‘Lion’ and was a Marathi weekly while 'Mahratta' was in English . Soon both the newspapers became very popular. In his newspapers, Tilak highlighted the plight of Indians. He gave a vivid picture of the people's sufferings and of actual happenings. Tilak called upon every Indian to fight for his right.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. He was a member of the Municipal Council of Pune, Bombay Legislature, and an elected 'Fellow' of the Bombay University. Tilak was a great social reformer. He issued a call for the banning of child marriage and welcomed widow remarriage.

After his first conviction, Tilak was released in 1898. Following the partition of Bengal in 1905, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged a boycott, regarded as the Swadeshi Movement. He spread the message to each and every village in Maharashtra.

He was convicted and imprisoned for the second time from 1908 to 1914 in the Mandalay Prison, Burma. While imprisoned, he continued to read and write, further developing his ideas on the Indian Nationalist movement. At 52, a diabetic and ailing Tilak wrote his famous commentary on Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred book of Hindus. By the time Tilak completed his six year prison term, he was the unquestioned leader of the Indians - the uncrowned king. He was known as the 'Tilak Maharaj'. He was released on June 8, 1914

Later Years and Death

After his second release, Bal Gangadhar Tilak tried to bring the two factions of Congress together. But his efforts did not bear much fruit. In 1916, he decided to build a separate organization called the 'Home Rule League'. Its goal was Swaraj. Tilak went from village to village, and explained the aim of his league to the farmers and won their hearts. He traveled constantly in order to organize the people. While fighting for people’s cause Bal Gangadhar Tilak died on August 1, 1920.


Tilak gave India the concepts of Civil resistance, Swaraj, and Nationalism Tilak's suffering did not go in vain. A band of leaders, full of zeal for nationalism and self-sacrifice had come up in India. National schools were coming up in all corners of India. He paved the way for Khadi, picketing against foreign goods and alcoholism.

When Tilak was convicted for the second time, he gave the famous statement :

" All I wish to say is that in spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain my innocence. There are higher powers that rule the destiny of men and nations. It may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may prosper by suffering than by remaining free" . These words now can be seen imprinted on the wall of Room. No. 46 at Bombay High Court

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