Bal Gangadhar Tilak: Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an Indian freedom fighter and social reformer who is considered one of the principal architects of modern India. He was a strong supporter of Swaraj, or self-rule for India, and his famous declaration “Swaraj is my birthright, and I will have it” inspired many future revolutionaries. Tilak was born on July 23, 1856 in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. His followers gave him the title of “Lokmanya”, which means “respected by the people.”
Tilak’s contribution to the Indian independence movement was many. He founded the extremist wing of the Indian National Congress, and was instrumental in the development of the Swadeshi movement, which promoted the use of Indian-made goods rather than British goods. Tilak also organized the Ganapati and Shivaji festivals, which became important rallying points for the Indian independence movement.
Tilak was arrested and jailed several times by the British for his political activities. However, he continued to fight for India’s independence till his death in 1920. He is considered one of the greatest Indian freedom fighters, and his legacy continues to inspire Indians today.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born in a cultured middle-class Brahmin family. He was brought up in a village along the Arabian Sea coast in the state of Maharashtra till the age of 10. Tilak’s father, Gangadhar Shastri was a renowned Sanskrit scholar and school teacher in Ratnagiri. His mother’s name was Parvati Bai Gangadhar. The entire family shifted to Poona (now Pune) due to his father’s transfer. In 1871, Tilak married Tapibai, who was later renamed as Satyabhamabai.
Young Tilak was educated at the Deccan College in Poona, where he graduated in 1876 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and Sanskrit. Tilak then studied law and obtained his degree in 1879 from Bombay University (now Mumbai). During that time Tilak decided to teach mathematics in a private school in Poona. The school became the base of his political career. After establishing the Deccan Education Society (1884), Tilak developed the institution into a university college. The purpose of University College was to educate the public, with a focus on the English language. Tilak and his associates saw English as a powerful force for the spread of liberal and democratic ideals.
Political life and struggle for independence
Bal Gangadhar Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890 and soon began to express his strong opposition to the party’s moderate views on self-rule. Tilak strongly supported the Swadeshi movement and boycott of British goods. His methods sparked bitter controversy within the Indian National Congress (INC) and the movement as well.
Tilak’s efforts as a freedom fighter were supported by fellow nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab. The trio came to be popularly called Lal-Bal-Pal. In the 1907 National Session of the Indian National Congress, large-scale unrest broke out between the moderate and extremist sections of the Indian National Congress party. Due to this the Congress got divided into two factions.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak also published two newspapers which focused on his nationalist goals. Those newspapers were ‘Maratha’ (English) and ‘Kesari’ (Marathi). Both these newspapers emphasized on making Indians aware of the glorious past and encouraged the public to become self-reliant. These newspapers actively propagated national independence.
Tilak also proposed grand celebrations on ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and ‘Shivaji Jayanti’. He envisioned these celebrations to instil a sense of unity among Indians and inspire nationalist sentiment. It is a great tragedy that because of his allegiance to militancy, Tilak and his contribution were not given the recognition they truly deserved.
Tilak was greatly disheartened by the brutal incident of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and due to this his health began to decline. Despite his illness, Tilak called upon Indians not to stop the movement. He was keen to lead the movement but his health did not allow it. Tilak was suffering from diabetes and had become very weak. His condition worsened in mid-July 1920 and one of the greatest Indian freedom fighters passed away on 1 August 1920.