Lokmanya Tilak: a man who inspired a generation of Indian revolutionaries
“Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it!” (‘स्वराज्य हा माझा जन्मसिद्ध हक्क आहे आणि तो म।म’). These words reverberated throughout the country and rekindled patriotism in many souls who had given up under the tyrannical rule of the British. These highly evocative words were spoken by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak. the beloved leader of the people.
Born into a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family in a rural area of Ratnagiri district, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a prominent Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and journalist. He completed his undergraduate studies in Mathematics and Sanskrit at Deccan College and a law degree at the University of Bombay.
His three-point program for national awakening – Swaraj, Swadeshi and nationalist education – kindled the fire of self-pride in the heart of every Indian. He founded the Deccan Education Society (1884) to instill nationalistic thoughts in young minds and educate the masses about Indian culture.
He and his friends, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai (Lal-Bal-Pal) took the route of education, culture and media to reach people.
These three actions brought Bal Gangadhar Tilak closer to the people through social reform and mass mobilization.
Tilak is currently probably the most powerful man in India.
– Edwin Samuel Montagu, British Secretary of State for India between 1917 and 1922, in An Indian Diary
In 1881 he started the Marathi newspaper Kesari and the English newspaper Maratha which was a hit with the public.
In 1894, he started “Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav” celebrations in Mumbai to have cultural unity and foster a spirit of national unity among the masses. In 1895, he initiated the celebration of “Shiv Jayanti”, the birthday of Chhatrapati Shivaji. He was totally opposed to the “moderate” approach of Congress to gaining independence for India.
In 1905, along with other nationalists, he started the Swadeshi movement to boycott foreign goods and start using Indian goods and in 1914 he started the Home Rule League with the catchy slogan “Swarajya is my birthright and I will have it”.
The greatest Indian of the time… the indomitable Tilak, who would not bend even if he broke.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested three times by the British for sedition – first for inciting the murder of Pune Deputy Collector Mr Rand and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and then in 1908, to six years’ imprisonment of rigor in Mandalay in Burma and in 1916, for its conferences on autonomy. In 1915, he wrote the famous “Gita Rahasya” – it is the analysis of Karma yoga which finds its source in the Bhagavad Gita.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak breathed his last in Bombay. His funeral at Chowpatty Beach, at a guesthouse called Sardar Griha, was attended by over a million people.
No man of our time had the grip on the masses that Mr. Tilak had.
– Mahatma Gandhi, in his obituary for Lokmanya Tilak in Young India, August 4, 1920
On July 28, 1956, a portrait of Bal Gangadhar Tilak was placed in the central hall of Parliament.
From Chandrasekhar Azad to Veer Savarkar, Balgangadhar Tilak inspired a generation of freedom fighters to resist British rule.
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