Lala Lajpat Rai was a British Indian era author, lawyer, revolutionary, journalist and politician. Born into an Agarwal Jain family on January 28, 1865, Rai’s life transformed from an ordinary student, to an observer of the Indian independence struggle, a lawyer and later an active member of the Indian National Congress.
During his lifetime, Rai pioneered various freedom-fighting movements. That aside, being an education advocate, he founded and co-founded educational institutions for Indian students. By 1927, he had established a trust in his mother’s memory that would establish a tuberculosis hospital for women. In 1934, the Gulab Devi Chest Hospital was established in the name of Rai’s mother at the very place where she died.
As we celebrate the 157and birthday of Lala Lajpat Rai, here are 10 things about him that everyone should know and remember:
- He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari.
- He was one of the pioneers of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate advocating the Swadeshi movement during the anti-Partition agitation in Bengal in 1905.
- While studying law in Lahore in the late 1870s, he was influenced by the Hindu reform movement of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and became a member of Arya Samaj Lahore. He then took over as founder-editor of Arya Gazette, based in Lahore.
- In 1886, he became a founding member of the Hisar Bar Council and founded the Hisar District branch of the Indian National Congress.
- He also helped Mahatma Hansraj establish the nationalist Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) school in Lahore.
- He stopped practicing law in 1914 and devoted himself to the Indian Independence Struggle movement.
- In 1920, he was elected president of the Indian National Congress at the special session in Calcutta.
- In 1921, he founded Servants of the People Society, a nonprofit social service organization dedicated to enlisting and training national missionaries for service to the country.
- In 1928, he led a non-violent march to protest against the Simon Commission. On Sir John Simon’s orders, police lathi charged at the protesters and assaulted Rai. Despite serious injuries, Rai delivered his speech at the protest saying, “I declare that the blows dealt to me today will be the final nails in the coffin of British rule in India.” However, his injuries never fully recovered and he died on November 17, 1928.
- In 1929, a silent film titled Punjab Kesari was directed by Indian actor-director Homi Master. The Indian government’s film division has also made a documentary film about Lala Lajpat Rai.