Born in a well-cultured Brahim family on July 23, 1856 in Ratangari, Maharashtra, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a multifacet personality. He is considered to be the ‘Father of Indian Unrest’. He was a scholar of Indian history, Sanskrit, mathematics, astronomy and Hinduism.
He had imbibed values, cultures and intelligence from his father Gangadhar Ramchandra Tilak who was a Sanskrit scholar and a famous teacher. At the age of 10, Bal Gangadhar went to Pune with his family as his father was transferred. In Pune, he was educated in an Anglo-Vernacular school.
After some years he lost his mother and at the age of 16 his father too he got married to a 10-year-old girl named Satyabhama while he was studying in Matriculation. In 1877, Tilak completed his studies and continued with studying Law.
With an aim to impart teachings about Indian culture and national ideals to India’s youth, Tilak along with Agarkar and Vishnushstry founded the ‘Deccan Education Society’. Soon after that Tilak started two weeklies, ‘Kesari’ and ‘Marathi’ to highlight plight of Indians.
He also started the celebrations of Ganapati Festival and Shivaji Jayanti to bring people close together and join the nationalist movement against British.
In fighting for people’s cause, twice he was sentenced to imprisonment. He launched Swadeshi Movenment and believed that ‘Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it’. This quote inspired millions of Indians to join the freedom struggle. With the goal of Swaraj, he also built ‘Home Rule League’. Tilak constantly traveled across the country to inspire and convince people to believe in Swaraj and fight for freedom.
He was constantly fighting against injustice and one sad day on August 1, 1920, he died.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the prime architects of modern India and is still living in the hearts of millions of India.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a man of an indomitable energy and a new vision, was born in Maharashtra in 1856, of the caste of Chitpavan Brahmins, who had ruled over Shivaji’s empire. He was born thirty-eight years after the final British conquest of Maratha power. He was a scholar of the first rank, educator, journalist and first among the leaders of new India. Tilak learned of the values of Bharatdharma as a child in his home at Ratnagiri. His father was an educator and he carefully tutored the boy in Sanskrit and Mathematics, and his mother helped to mould his firm character and to teach him the values of his classical heritage. From both parents he learned a healthy veneration for spiritual values, and he learned that he shared the history of the Marathas, that he was heir to a glorious martial tradition.
His religious or spiritual orientation, the product of his family’s devoutness, was apparent in his later writings, as when he wrote, ‘The greatest virtue of man is to be filled with wonder and devotion by anything in the animate and inanimate creation that suggests inherent divinity.1 He also made continuous reference to the great Shivaji and the history of his Maratha people, the fiery tradition of their independence, their war against the Mogul Empire to restore Swaraj and to save the Dharma. The Maratha people had not forgotten that they had been free, that Swaraj had been their birth-right. From his childhood, he inherited a vision of a new India arising, firmly based on the spirit and traditions of her civilization and her past.
Tilak had an English education, but he was far less denationalised than most students of his generation, for he specialized in Mathematics and Sanskrit, and, if anything, his education brought him closer to the sources of his heritage. When he studied law, he concentrated on classical Indian Law, reading nearly all the great books of law and legal commentaries in Sanskrit. His study of Sanskrit was a life-long occupation and he was recognised as one of India’s leading Sanskrit scholars. Relying upon his knowledge of this ancient language and his mathematical training, he wrote Orion, Studies in the Antiquity of the Vedas, in which he explored the thesis that the Rig Veda was composed as early as 4500 B. C., basing his evidence on astronomical calculations from the Sanskrit texts.
This work gained him recognition in the Western world for his scholarship in Oriental studies. His second great book was again on the Vedas, The Arctic Home of the Vedas, in which, relying upon astronomical and geological data, he argued that the Aryans probably originally lived in the far northern reaches of the Asiatic continent. This book is credited as being one of the most original and unusual works in Sanskrit scholarship. The Vedic Chronology was a posthumously published volume of his notes and further researches. His greatest work was the Gita-Rahasya, a philosophical inquiry into the secret of the teaching of the Gita, the holiest book of Aryadharma. In this volume he reinterpreted the Gita in its classical sense, restoring the proper emphasis to the philosophy of action, Karma-Yoga, and his is considered one of the outstanding studies of the Gita in modern Indian literature.
The Gita-Rahasya assured Tilak’s place among the greatest of India’s scholars and philosophers. His classical studies enabled him to recapture the spirit of India’s classical philosophy of life. In his heart of hearts he always remained a humble student of India’s greatness. Even after he had become the foremost political leader of India, he often said that he wished he could devote his life to teaching Mathematics, and pursuing his scholarly researches into the wisdom of India’s ancient civilization.
Soon after the completion of his university education, Tilak embarked upon his mission in life. As he was deeply interested in education and public service from his young age, he resolved to dedicate his life to the cause of reorientation of Indian education and drastic social and political reforms. In these ventures he was joined by his best friends, G. G. Agarkar and Chiplunkar. All of them wanted, as N. C. Kelkar has written, ‘the nation to know itself and its past glories, so that it may have….confidence in its own strength, and capacity to adapt itself wisely and well to the new surroundings, without losing its individuality’. 2 Hence, Tilak, assisted by his friends, started the New English School in 1880.
The institution was such an immediate success that they founded the Deccan Education Society in Poona, and the next year started the famous Fergusson College. Simultaneously, they began editing and publishing two newspapers, the Kesari, a Marathi-language Weekly, and The Mahratta, its English-language counterpart. All these young men dedicated themselves, their lives and their fortunes to popular education through their schools and through their newspapers.
But soon a sharp difference arose between Tilak and his friends over the question of social reform. As a result, Tilak could not remain for long associated with the Deccan Education Society, and he, ultimately parted with his co-workers. It was finally decided at the end of 1890 that Tilak should purchase the Kesari and The Mahratta and devote himself to journalism, while Agarkar and other social workers would have a free hand in the Deccan Education Society.
As an editor, Tilak was unsurpassed. The Kesari and The Mahratta, under his guidance, were always tremendously influential and came to be financially successful. His sincerity and unflinching sense of dedication led him to champion the causes of his people against any and all who would be unjust, autocratic or opportunistic. As editor of the Kesari, Tilak became the awakener of India, the Lion of Maharashtra, the most influential Indian newspaper editor of his day. It was as editor that Tilak began his three great battles–against the Westernizing social reformers, against the inert spirit of orthodoxy, and against the British Raj. It was as editor that he became a leader of the new forces in the Indian National Congress and the Indian nation.
Tilak’s first reaction was to the Western civilization’s system of values. He rejected the ideology of those intellectuals who based their programme of social and political action almost entirely on the philosophy of life of nineteenth century Europe. These intellectuals were truly more the products of Western civilization than Indian. Tilak, unlike them, was not prepared to reject India’s own philosophy of life in order to imitate the philosophy of the British. He recognised that the social order in India needed a drastic reform, but instead of judging Indian social practices by the standards of the West, he interpreted them and looked for their reform from Indian standards. Aurobindo Ghose exemplified this new approach in writing, ‘Change of forms there may and will be, but the novel formation must be a new self-expression, a self-creation developed from within; it must be characteristic of the spirit and not servilely borrowed from the embodiments of an alien nature’.
3 Tilak knew that there must be change, but also he knew that a philosophy must guide the remaking of India, and that the crucial question for India’s future was whether that guide, that philosophy, would be Western or Indian in inspiration, He wrote, ‘It is difficult to see the way in darkness without light or in a thick jungle without a guide’. And he rejected the rationalism and scepticism of Western philosophy, when he remarked that ‘mere common sense without faith in religion is of no avail in searching for the truth’. In the era of the religious and philosophical renaissance of Bharatdharma, Tilak sought the guidance of India’s own philosophy. Undoubtedly, his initial motive was not to rediscover a theory of social and political action but rather to find a satisfying personal philosophy of life. In his private life, he attempted to rediscover and reapply the Indian philosophy of life. And his achievements in private and public life gave him a basis for building up a new theory of political action, obligation and ordering.
His first task was to look behind the atrophied forms of religious orthodoxy and custom, to find the values that had built the Indian civilization. Tilak recognised that ‘the edifice of Hindu religion was not based on a fragile ground like custom. Had it been so, it would have been levelled to the ground very long ago. It has lasted so long because it is founded on everlasting Truth, and eternal and pure doctrines relating to the Supreme Being’. 4 This truth was not recognised by the Westernized intellectuals, in their obsession with the remaking of India according to their own image. But, on the contrary, Tilak started with a faith in the spiritual purpose of human life, which the ancient Indian philosophy taught. And he regarded spiritual good as the basis of social good. He wrote: ‘The structure of faith collapses with and the collapse of faith in the existence of the soul. The doctrine of soul-lessness removed the need for faith.
But when faith thus ceased to be an organic force binding society together, society was bound to be disrupted and individuals living in a community were sure to find their own different paths to happiness. The ties which bind society in one harmonious organization would be snapped, and no other binding principle would take their place. Moral ties would loosen, and people would fall from good moral standards.5 His personal life was based on this ‘structure of faith’ and the moral purposefulness provided by this foundation remained with him throughout his life. No creed that doubted the existence of the soul or the spiritual purpose of human life could inspire Tilak or his people; thus the rediscovery of faith as the ‘organic binding force’ was the first principle in his emerging philosophy.
From the idea of spiritual rediscovery Tilak, like Aurobindo Ghose and others, developed a personal philosophy of life, firmly based on the knowledge that ‘the individual and the Supreme Soul are one’, and that the ‘ultimate goal of the soul is liberation’. He explored the wisdom of the Real and the relative worlds, the meaning of creation, and the moral working out of the cosmic evolution towards liberation. From this foundation he understood the purpose of life, to live in accord with dharma, the integrating principle of the cosmic order. As Aurobindo Ghose wrote of the Indian philosophy of life, ‘The idea of dharma is, next to the idea of the Infinite, its major chord; dharma, next to spirit, is its foundation of life’.
Once these principles were accepted, Western rationalism and scepticism, materialism and utilitarianism could hold little appeal. It was from this basic understanding that he began his criticism of the Westernizers who would destroy this wisdom and these values. It taught them to love and respect, not the forms of atrophied orthodoxy, but rather the spirit of the total Indian philosophy, the way of life and wisdom of life of the Indian civilization.
India’s civilization and her history provided Tilak the new insight for his theory of social and political action. He felt that there was no reason for India to feel ashamed of her civilization when campared with the West. On the contrary, India should feel great pride. Indian values were different from but not inferior to Western values. The Westernized intellectuals, who abhorred India’s value system and who wanted to change and remake India in an alien faith, were quite wrong, for as Tilak reminded them, ‘How can a man be proud of the greatness of his own nation if he feels no pride in his own religion?’ It was Bharatdharma that provided an understanding of the moral purposefulness of the universe, which is the necessary basis of a philosophy of life, and it provided them with a guide to concrete action in personal, social and political matters.
It was with this perspective and this inspiration that Tilak and other genuine nationalists began their battles for the creation of a new India. Relying on a realistic appraisal of the world as Tilak found it, he set about not to remake India in the image of an alien system of values, but to recreate India on the foundations of her own greatness. From an Indian philosophy of life he began to construct an Indian philosophy of social reform and of politics that was to become the political theory of the Indian Independence Movement.
Tilak believed in Aryadharma, but he was never a blind follower of orthodoxy. He did not ignore the obvious evils of the atrophied social system which were repellent to the social reformers and instigated them to take action. But he became the foremost of those in India who opposed the extremist measures of these social reformers. But the very fact that he was educated and that he refrained from joining the reformers indicted him as a defender of orthodoxy in the eyes of the extremists. He was condemned by the extremists as a reactionary, as the spokesman for backwardness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He earnestly hoped to see of the evils of the Indian social system removed, the entire system reformed, and to this end he brought forward his own concrete proposals for improving social conditions.
He was a staunch advocate of progress. At the same time, he relentlessly fought against the grandiose schemes of the Westernizing reformers. Instead of schemes he wanted concrete programmes for the he alleviation of real and pressing needs of the people. His reform work was direct, as in the case of the famine relief programme, the textile workers’ assistance, the plague prevention work. Tilak was not an arm-chair reformer; he was a worker with and for the people.
His objection to the social reformism of men like Mr. Justice Ranade and his disciple, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Professor Bhandarkar, Byramji Malbari, Agarkar and the others, was two fold. First, without a full appreciation of the values that had been preserved and transmitted by the social system, these men were willing to discard virtually everything, to remake India almost totally in the image of the West, and to base Indian social forms on the values they had learned from their Western education. To Tilak, it was folly, it was criminal, to banish everything created by India’s civilization because Indian values and Indian religion did not coincide with the nineteenth century European notions of materialism, rationalism and utilitarianism. He knew their obsession was contrary to common sense and good practice. He once wrote: ‘….a number of our educated men began to accept uncritically the materialistic doctrines of the Westerners. Thus we have the pathetic situation of the new generation making on their minds a carbon copy of the gross materialism of the West’. 7
And he went on to remind the social reformers that ‘our present downfall is due not to Hindu religion but to the fact that we have absolutely forsaken religion.’ Second, since the reformers could not inspire mass popular support for their imitative social reform programme, they sought to enforce reform through administrative fiat, to rely upon the coercive power of the state, the alien state of the British rule, to effect social change. From Tilak’s viewpoint, to remake India in the image of the West would mean to destroy her greatness; and to use the force of an alien rule to impose any kind of reform would be to make that reform itself immoral.
Reforms, to Tilak’s mind, must grow from within the people. Since he accepted this proposition as true, it logically followed that attempts to coerce the community to accept them were absurd. Reform, according to him, would have to be based upon the value system of the people and not on the values taught to the Westernized few in an alien system of education. The answer lay, he believed, in popular education which must be initiated with an understanding of the classical values and must proceed to recreate the vitality of those values in the forms of social order. Since the classical values were thoroughly intermixed with popular religion, he believed that ‘religious education will first and foremost engage our attention.’
In this way a new spirit will be born in India. India need not copy from some other civilization when the can rely on the spirit of her past greatness. As D. V. Athalye has written ‘The difference was this, that while Ranade was prepared, if convenient, to coquette with religious sanction to social order, Tilak insisted that there should be no divorce between the two’. 8 proceeded to take action in accordance with his conviction.
Because he wanted genuine reform and not simple imitation of Western life and manners, and because he believed that such reform must come from the people themselves and not from a foreign government, Tilak was led to advocate two causes which were to become his life’s work. First, he fought to reawaken India to her past and to base her future greatness on her past glories. Second, knowing well that real progress can only be made by a self-governing people, knowing that moral progress can only be made through moral and democratic decisions, knowing, therefore, that Swaraj or self-rule was the prerequisite of real social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual progress, Tilak began to think in terms of the restoration of Swaraj. The social reformers were prepared to criticise almost everything Indian, to imitate the West in the name of improvement, and to rely upon the power of a foreign government to bring about this improvement.
They were convinced that only by social reform would they earn political reform; that, therefore, social reform must precede political reform. Tilak argued just the contrary way, that political reform must precede social reform; for it is only popular self-government that is moral government, that it is only moral government that can create moral social change; and, therefore, self-rule is necessary, and the first object which must be pursued is the awakening of the people to their heritage of self-rule.
Tilak’s approach being more realistic and founded on solid moral values, he could perceive more clearly the root causes of the Indian social evils than did his social reform opponents. He felt that it was not simply the forms and practices of Indian society which had to be changed if meaningful social reforms were to be brought about. He sensed that abusive social practices were the direct outgrowth of the ‘spirit of orthodoxy’ which filled the forms of social order and inertly resisted change. This spirit had resulted from a thousand years of instability, defeat, foreign overlordship, defensiveness and inflexibility. Therefore, effective reform, Tilak believed, must ultimately depend upon a reawakening of the true, vital, life-affirming spirit of the Indian people and civilization.
Instead of criticising social form as the great evil, he began his battle with the atrophied spirit of orthodoxy while still engaged in his battle with the Westernized reformers. He wrote: ‘…..just as old and orthodox opinions (and their holders the Pandits etc.,) are one-sided, so the new English educated reformers’ are also and dogmatic. The old Sastries and Pandits do not know the new circumstances whereas the newly educated class of reformers are ignorant of the traditions and the traditional philosophy of Hinduism. Therefore, a proper knowledge of the old traditions and philosophies must be imparted to the newly educated classes, and the Pandits and Sastries must be given information about the newly changed and changing circumstances.’
His battle was not characterized by abhorrence for the old spirit because he understood it and the role it had played. The spirit was locked up in forms, rituals, and customs, that had become virtually dead things. The orthodox spirit had served its purpose because it has transmitted classical values to a new generation who could understand them and bring about the necessary rebirth and reapplication of those values.
The degraded aspects of the spirit of orthodoxy were lethargy, indolence, exclusiveness and inaction. They had fed on disunity and divisiveness, born of defensiveness and rigidity, and from this had arisen casteism in all its worst manifestations, defeatism and fatalism, the loss of the ideal of harmonious social cooperation, of courage and of self-respect–in a word, the dynamics of the classical philosophy of life had been perverted into negation and passivity. This spirit, Tilak believed, was harmful to India’s progress, and it was with this spirit that he did battle. Atrophied orthodoxy had no religious justification. Its spirit was in part the perversion and negation of the world and of the classical concept of the fulfilment of the purpose of life, the union of man with his Creator.
But Tilak also realized that mere philosophical disputation was not enough for the re-awakening of India, and it required change in the hearts of people and not, as the reformers believed, change in the forms of institutions. As an editor who had always dedicated himself to popular education, he first reached the people. As his chief colleague, N. C. Kelkar, wrote, ‘Through his paper, the Kesari, he exercised an immense influence over the masses, and it is this influence that is mainly responsible for the infusion of a new spirit among the people’. 10 He was a sincere, forceful speaker, and he taught from both the classroom and the public platform his new message of awakening India. Perhaps, the most effective way in which he reached the people was through the celebration of national festivals. He was instrumental in popularizing two great festivals, one to Ganapati, the Hindu deity of learning and propitiousness, and the other, a festival to revive the memory and glory of Shivaji, the liberator of Maharashtra, and the restorer of Swaraj through his fight with the Mogul Empire. He especially emphasised the dynamic spirit of Shivaji.
He wrote, ‘It is the spirit which actuated Shivaji in his doings that is held forth as the proper ideal to be kept constantly in the view of the rising generation’. To keep this spirit in constant view, Tilak worked ceaselessly to reach the people and to educate them through the festivals. Throughout Maharashtra, he carried his doctrine, he waged his battle. Education through religion and history, through the association in the popular mind with gods and heroes, through recreating an appreciation of the heritage of the past as a guide to the future–this was the way he conducted his battle. He soon became the first articulate spokesman for the no-longer silent, tradition-directed, masses of India. He became the defender and the awakener of India’s philosophy of life.
He taught first the dharma of action. This philosophy of action he drew from the Gita. He reminded the people that India had not become a great nation through negativism and indolence, but rather through a dynamic willingness to meet the problems of the day and to solve them morally. This was the greatest need of the present day. He often said such things as, ‘No one can expect Providence to protect one who sits with folded arms and throws his burden on others. God does not help the indolent. You must be doing all that you can to lift yourself up, and then only you may rely on the Almighty to help you’.
Along with the dharma of action, Tilak taught the dharma of unity to the people of India. The unity of India, the unity of the Indian civilization, is Bharatdharma, the spiritually-based and spiritually-dedicated way of life. The spirit of orthodoxy had done injustice to that way of life. It had compartmentalised society, it had placed men in segregated and exclusive caste communities that were inimical to the feeling of common heritage and common cause. The true spirit of Varnashrama-dharma was harmony and cooperation and unity, and this spirit Tilak sought to reawaken through religious education. He wrote, ‘It is possible to unite the followers of Hinduism by the revival and growth of the Hindu religion’, for ‘the Hindu religion does not lie in caste, eating and drinking’.
The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals served the purpose of bringing people together. People who worship a common deity, people who recognise a common historical tradition will, in his mind, be able to stand together, to overcome the disunity of social form and to work together for the common good. Tilak envisaged a unity of all the people of India, united among themselves and united with their traditions, united to face the future by the common ideals they held. In this way, through common, united effort, social evils could be corrected by the people themselves, and, moreover, the spirit of national revival, the restoration of national self-respect, essential for gaining self-rule, depended upon the restoration of national unity and mutual respect.
Thus through his messages of action and unity and as editor of the Kesari and The Mahratta, Tilak became the acknowledged ‘awakener of India’. As editor of his newspapers, he also became active in political affairs. After he left the Deccan Education Society in 1889, he joined the Indian National Congress, hoping that it would be instrumental in further uniting the nation and in securing political reforms. He held a post in the Congress as early as 1892, as secretary of the Bombay Provincial Conference. At the same time, he actively participated in public affairs, holding public office on several occasions. In 1894, he was elected a Fellow of the Bombay University, and next year he held a post in the Poona Municipality. For two years he was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council, but, he called the completely circumscribed powers and the work of this body a ‘huge joke’.
He did not seek public office because he desired a political or governmental career but rather because it was one means, among several, which he chose to utilize to further the causes in which he strongly believed. But he soon realized that holding public office was one of the least effective ways of promoting his ends, and, more important, he Soon realized public office under the alien raj was self-defeating. About this time he also began to become disillusioned with the programme and policies of the Moderate-dominated Congress. His fighting spirit was antagonised by the predominant Congress attitude of pleading for reform and passing mild resolutions of protest against the abuses of the administration. The Congress was not coming to grips with the real problems of the people. In 1896, he publicly announced his disagreement with the policies of the Congress in writing, ‘For the last twelve years we have been shouting hoarse, desiring that the government should hear us.
But our shouting has no more affected the government than the sound of a gnat. Our rulers disbelieve our statements, or profess to do so. Let us now try to force our grievances into their ears by strong constitutional means. We must give the best political education possible to the ignorant villagers. We must meet them on terms of equality, teach them their rights and show how to fight constitutionally. Then only will the government realize that to despise the Congress is to despise the Indian Nation. Then only will the efforts of the Congress leaders be crowned with success. Such a work will require a large body of able and single-minded workers, to whom politics would not mean some holiday recreation but an every-day duty to be performed with the strictest regularity and utmost capacity.’
As he had relied on democratic social action through religious education, Tilak now relied on political education to rally the people behind the cause of political reform. He, therefore, began, through the pages of the Kesari and through an organisation of volunteer famine relief workers, to inform the poverty stricken peasants of their legal rights. He urged the people to protest against governmental inaction. He sent out volunteers to collect detailed information on the devastation in rural areas which he then forwarded to the government to support his case. He printed and distributed a leaflet explaining the provisions of the Famine Relief Code to the people and urged them to take their case to the government. His efforts informed and aroused the people and alienated the bureaucracy. On the heels of the famine Poona was stricken by an epidemic of plague. The city was in a panic. Tragically, many of the educated, many of the leading social reformers, fled the city; Tilak did not.
He offered his services to the government and went through the plague infested districts of the city with the Government Sanitation Teams. He opened and managed a hospital for plague victims when government facilities proved inadequate. He established a free kitchen, and did everything within his power to alleviate the tragic condition of the people. If social reform meant anything, it meant tireless work on behalf of the people in the time of their greatest need. His famine and plague work marked Tilak as the greatest social reformer and national hero of the country. He was acclaimed the Lokmanya, the honoured and respected of the people.
The British bureaucracy and the Anglo-Indian press recognised that Tilak was an emerging leader of the people and of a new spirit in India. Those who lacked foresight began to fear him. When, in the tense atmosphere of famine and plague-racked Poona, a young man assassinated Rand, the British official in charge of plague relief, many of those who feared him were quick to blame Tilak for the death, although he had no knowledge of the incident. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. This was not to be Tilak’s last imprisonment. For two decades he was persecuted by the British Indian Government because they saw in him the greatest challenge to their rule over the Indian Empire.
But Tilak was not an ordinary man who could be cowed down by such threats and persecutions. He remained undaunted throughout. He had fought against injustice, he had argued against the placating policies of the Moderates, and he now began to put forward a positive political programme centred round the concept of Swaraj, self-rule for India. As early as 1895, he had begun to preach the necessity for Swaraj. He came to realize that self-rule must precede meaningful social reform, that the only enduring basis for national unity and national self-respect must be national self-rule, In 1895, he had reminded the people that Shivaji had recreated Swaraj as the necessary foundation of social and political freedom and progress and morality.
His historical and philosophic frame of reference is clearly set out in his writing, ‘One who is a wee bit introduced to history knows what is Swarajya (people’s own government) and Swadharma (people’s own religion), knows the extraordinary qualities that are needed for the founder to establish Swarajya and Swadharma when both of them are in a state of ruin for hundreds of years, knows the valour, courage, guts and brains of Shivaji Maharaj by the dint of which he saved the whole nation from bitter ruin’.
His insistence on Swaraj was completely consistent with his personal, social and political philosophy. He approached all issues as a realist. He had the example of his own Maharashtrian history and the categorical imperative of his nation’s philosophy. As Aurobindo Ghose has written, ‘To found the greatness of the future on the greatness of the past, to infuse Indian politics with Indian religious fervour and spirituality, are the indispensable conditions for a great and powerful political awakening in India. Others, writers, thinkers, spiritual leaders, had seen this truth. Mr. Tilak was the first to bring it into the actual field of practical politics’.14
Tilak examined the political problems of his day in the light of ‘the God-given Inspiration’ of India’s civilization. And with the urgency of the situation arising out of the partition of Bengal and the need for an effective programme of political action, he joined the group of the Nationalists and presented a programme and a line of action to the nation.
The Nationalists initiated mass political education in terms understandable to the people. Tilak sounded the keynote in saying, ‘To spread our dharma in our people is one of the aspects of the national form of our religion’, because, in his opinion, ‘Politics cannot be separated from religion’. Exactly the same opinion was expressed later on by Mahatma Gandhi. The reason for political education and political action was not merely the injustice of foreign rule, not merely the arbitrary partitioning of Bengal. Self-rule was a moral necessity, the achievement of self-rule was the dharma of all self-respecting men. As he later wrote in the Gita-rahasya, ‘The blessed Lord had to show the importance and the necessity of performing at all costs the duties enjoined by one’s dharma while life lasts’.
And, for Tilak and the Nationalists, ‘Swaraj is our dharma’. Political action would alone accomplish the national dharma. In order that India solve her own destiny, the first essential, as in the case of the awakening of India, was the call for action, for a new spirit of courage and self-sacrifice. Only a pride in history and the values of India’s own civilization could inspire men to the task ahead. Tilak movingly wrote, ‘To succeed in any business with full self-control and determination, does not generally happen in spite of our valour, unless a firm conviction is engendered in our minds, that we are doing good work and God is helping us and that the religious instinct and the blessings of the saints are at our back’.15 It was with this firm conviction that Tilak and the Nationalists set out to arouse the nation to political action for the creation of its own destiny.
Tilak and the Nationalists presented the nation with a three-fold programme for effective, practical, political action. The three principles were boycott, Swadeshi and national education. Originally, they were designed for use in Bengal, as the most effective way to bring the British administrators to their senses over the issue of the partition. But it was soon decided, however, that the entire nation could well cooperate with Bengal in following this threefold programme and thus increase tremendously the pressure on the British. And it was further taught that the great wrong, the significant evil, was not alone that an alien raj had partitioned the province of Bengal, but actually that Bengal was only a symbol, that an alien raj ruled autocratically over the whole nation of India, and that it was to alleviate this wrong that the programme was to be employed.
Boycott initially involved the refusal of the people to purchase British-manufactured goods. It was started as a measure designed to bring economic pressure on the British business interests both in India and abroad. If British business could be moved, then the business could be counted on to move the British raj. But soon the boycott movement took on far more significant aspects than merely economic pressure. The Nationalists saw that the whole superstructure of the British Indian administration, that the British system of rule over India, was based upon the willing, or at least unthinking, cooperation of the Indian people. Tilak was one of the first to discern this, and he realized that boycott could be expanded to the point of jeopardizing the foundation of the whole British administrative machinery in India.
In a speech at Poona, as early as 1902, he urged, ‘You must realize that you are a great factor in the power with which the administration in India is conducted. You are yourselves the useful lubricants which enable the gigantic machinery to work so smoothly. Though downtrodden and neglected, you must be conscious of your power of making the administration impossible if you but choose to make it so. It is you who manage the railroad and the telegraph, it is you who make settlements and collect revenues, it is in fact you who do everything for the administration though in a subordinate capacity. You must consider whether you cannot turn your hand to better use for your nation than drudging on in this fashion.
Boycott gradually moved from the economic into the political sphere; it moved from the arena of Bengal to all-India. Boycott as an all-India political weapon was the first principle of the programme of Tilak and the Nationalist leaders. Boycott fore-shadowed non-cooperation.
Swadeshi initially began as a primary economic counterpart to the programme of economic boycott. Swadeshi meant self-help, to rely upon Indian-made goods rather than to patronize the retail outlets of the manufactured produce of Birmingham and Manchester. Beginning in Bengal, bonfires of European clothing lit the night sky, and the people turned to local Indian production of Swadeshi goods. Swadeshi was the first great impetus to industrial development in India.
Local Indian production was given the stimulus for its natural growth. But like boycott, Swadeshi soon came to mean a great deal more than simple economic self-sufficiency. If there could be self-help in the economic sphere, then there most certainly could be self-help in all spheres of life. The dharma of action had taught self-respect and self-reliance, and Swadeshi extended self-reliance to self-help in all things. Swadeshi was a tangible way in which to demonstrate the new spirit, Tilak and the Nationalists had been teaching the people.
The Swadeshi movement quickly became a movement of national regeneration. Swadeshi was a practical application of love of country. As Tilak said, ‘To recognise the land of the Aryans as mother-earth is the Swadeshi movement’. It was an economic, political and spiritual weapon. Swadeshi was Vande Mataram in action.
The third element in the threefold programme for effective political action was national education. Tilak had long before realized that the Western education started by Lord Macaulay and pursued in all the Government-supported schools was ruinous to the future health and well-being of the nation. The younger generations were being educated away from not only their families and the great majority of the Indian people, but also away from the value system of India’s civilization. Government-supported Western education uprooted the youths from their ties to the past and made them Indians in name only.
Hence such a system of Western education was repulsive to Tilak and the Nationalists. They pleaded for the establishment of national schools and colleges throughout the country to provide inexpensive and wholesome education emphasising the new spirit of self-help and self-reliance which young people could not expect to receive in the Government-supported institutions. And national education became an integral part of the nationalist programme for the India of the twentieth century.
This threefold programme of boycott, Swadehsi and national education was presented to the country by Tilak and the Nationalists and was also presented to the Indian National Congress for its approval and adoption. The programme began primarily as an economic weapon but quickly its political importance was realized and became predominant. The impetus behind the programme was initially a reaction to the partitioning of Bengal, but it soon developed an all-India momentum. The first reason for its use was to induce the government to reunify Bengal, but it soon became a programme for national reawakening and national liberation–Swaraj. Thus, an economic programme became a political programme; a locally centred agitation became a national issue; the cause of altering a specific British policy evolved into the cause of gaining India’s self-determination.
Swaraj became the reason and justification for the entire programme and movement led by Tilak and the Nationalists. Tilak realized that Swaraj, the goal of all efforts, was a moral national necessity. He held that the attainment of Swaraj would be a great victory for Indian nationalism. He gave to Indians the mantra: Swaraj is the birth-right of Indians (at the Lucknow Congress of 1916). He defined Swaraj as ‘people’s rule instead of that of bureaucracy’. This was the essence of Tilak’s argument with the social reformers when they sought to have the British Government legislate and enforce social reform measures. Tilak held that unless the people supported the reforms, in effect, unless the people exercised self-rule to legislate and enforce the reforms, the reforms were not only meaningless but also undemocratic and without moral significance.
And for pushing his ideal of Swaraj forward, he started Home Rule Leagues in 1916 with the cooperation of Mrs. Annie Besant, which soon became so popular that the Government had to adopt severe repressive measures. But he went on undeterred with the propaganda of Home Rule throughout the country. He intended that a bill should be introduced in the British Parliament for Indian Home Rule, by the good offices of the Labour leaders, although he could not be successful in the attempt. However, the fact that Tilak began his Home Rule agitation in the year 1916 is an eloquent testimony to his keen perception of political realities.
Tilak contemplated a federal type of political structure under Swaraj. He referred to the example of the American Congress and said that the Government of India should keep in its hands similar powers to exercise them through an impartial council. Although in his speeches and writings Tilak mostly stated that Swaraj did not imply the negation and severance of ultimate British sovereignty, we have every reason to believe that in his heart of hearts he always wanted complete independence. He once said that ‘there could be no such thing as partial Swaraj’. Self-rule under Dharmarajya either existed fully or did not exist at all. Partial Swaraj was a contradiction in terms.
Only the Westernized few who could not understand this could talk in such contradictory terms, could agree to settle for administrative reforms, could not see that ‘Swaraj is India’s birth-right’. Through Swaraj, the revolutionary change in the theory of government, and through Swaraj; alone, could the destiny of India be fulfilled! This is Tilak’s real meaning when he wrote, ‘Swaraj is our dharma’. Before the people of the nation he set this goal. Next he set about to make it a political reality, to implement the programme to bring about the goal.
For the correct implementation of his programme, Tilak urged the method of non-violent passive resistance. Here it must be made clear that many foreign critics regard Tilak as a revolutionary. Chirol, 16 John S. Hoyland17, and several others, think that Tilak believed in armed revolution, that he was responsible for many political murders and that his speeches and articles contained “a covert threat of mutiny.” But it is not true. Undoubtedly, he supported the action of Shivaji in killing Afzal Khan. He appreciated the daring and skill of Chafekar, as also the patriotic fervour of the Bengal revolutionaries. But, as a moralist he put the highest premium on the purification of intentions. The external action could never be regarded as the criterion of moral worth. Hence if Arjuna or Shivaji or any other ardent patriot did commit or would commit some violent action, being impelled by higher altruistic motives, Tilak would not condemn such persons. But in spite of his metaphysical defence of altruistic violence, Tilak never preached political murder; nor did he ever incite anybody to commit murder as a political means.
A realist in politics though he was, he never taught the omnicompetence of force as Machiavelli or Treitschke did. His realism taught him to act in the political universe in such a way, that his opponents could not take advantage of him. Only by passive resistance and democratic means, he taught, could the united action of the people prove powerful enough to bring about the non-violent revolution that was Swaraj. Boycott and Swadeshi were, in effect, the precursors of the later non-cooperation movement. The passive resistance taught by him and the Nationalists was the precursor to non-violent civil disobedience.
Tilak clearly foresaw that violence would be wasteful, and that it would ultimately be ineffectual. Being a realist, he recognised that ‘the military strength of the Government is enormous and a single machinegun showering hundreds of bullets per minute will quite suffice for our largest public meetings’.18 Action must be direct, but, realistically appraising the power of the Government, he urged that it be passive as well. He continually taught, ‘As our fight is going to be constitutional and legal, our death also must, as of necessity, be constitutional and legal. We have not to use any violence’. 19
Thus Tilak’s method of action was democratic and constitutional. He had stirred the popular imagination and taught the people the necessity for united action. He had constructed a practical programme for the achievement of his political objective. He had defined for all time the purpose of the Indian movement for self-rule–Swaraj–and he had begun to develop the techniques that would be used in the popular movement to realize that goal effectively.
Tilak left a monumental legacy to the independence movement. Gandhiji and those who came after Tilak could build upon the work and the victories which he had won. In his battles against orthodoxy, lethargy and bureaucracy he was largely successful. The independence movement, largely through his work, had been victorious, over stagnation, the spirit of orthodoxy that was negative, that compartmentalised rather than unified, and that could not rise to accept the challenges of the twentieth century. Tilak freed the nation from lethargy and stagnation, and in awakening the people, inspired them with a promise of awakening India, an India united, strong and capable of action, self-reliant and on the road to victory.
A very happy Independence day to my honorable Chief Guest, my respectable teachers & parents and all my lovely brothers and sisters. As You all Know Today we have gathered here for celebrating the 68th Independence day of our country. The day when India got freedom against the British Rule after so many years of struggle. On this day we pay tribute to our great freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sarojini Naidu and many others who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country. It is on this day in 1947 that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the constituent assembly at the Parliament, delivering his famed, eloquent speech, Tryst with Destiny announcing India’s freedom at midnight. This announcement brought about a rise in spirits all over the country, for India was finally realizing a dream to be a free nation, free from oppression and domination under the British rule. It was a historic day as India finally shook off the shackles of British Rule and became free. It was a night of celebration all over the country.
This year in 2014, India will complete 67 years of Independence from the colonial Rule and will celebrate it’s 68th Independence day. This day is started with Flag Hoisting ceremonies, Parades and whole day different types of cultural programs & events are organized in India in schools, colleges and offices. The President and PM of India give ‘messages to the country’ . After hoisti the National Flag at the Red fort, the PM give a speech on some past achievements, some moral issues of present time and calls for the further developments. The PM also salutes and remember to the oblation of the legender patriots of our country in his speech. Despite these the people of India celebrate this day through display the flag at shop, accessories, Car/bicycle and they also watching patriot movies and listening patriot songs and many other things.
Every Indians ‘s important duty is that to give full respect the Independence day & National Flag and also understand the importance of this day. But in this modern age, the peoples are enjoying their life as much that they are not giving so importance of this day. We request to that people that at list one time remember to our legender patriot on this day. In this present time in our country there increases a lots of evils issues like Terrorism, Corruption, Women oppression etc All these evils really destroy our culture very badly. We shoul all take pledge to make our country safe and worth living for each and every individual of the society. So, I request all of you to sing with me national anthem ‘Jan-Gan-Man………………’ . Vande Mataram. Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
Thank you everyone & JAI HIND.
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A very happy Independence day to my honorable Chief Guest, Head Mistress and my respectable teachers & parents and all my lovely brothers and sisters As You all Know Today we have gathered here for celebrating the 68th Independence day of our country. The day when India got freedom against the British Rule after so many years of struggle. On this day we pay tribute to our great freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sarojini Naidu and many others who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country. Today I am going to tell you few words about Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a man of an spirited energy and a new vision, was born in Maharashtra in 1856. He is considered to be the ‘Father of Indian Unrest’ He was a scholar of Indian history, Sanskrit, mathematics, astronomy and Hinduism With an aim to impart teachings about Indian culture and national ideals to India’s youth, Tilak along with Agarkar and Vishnushstry founded the ‘Deccan Education Society’. Soon after that Tilak started two weeklies, ‘Kesari’ and ‘Marathi’ to highlight plight of Indians. He also started the celebrations of Ganapati Festival and Shivaji Jayanti to bring people close together and join the nationalist movement against British.
In fighting for people’s cause, twice he was sentenced to imprisonment. He launched Swadeshi Movement and believed that ‘Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it’. This quote inspired millions of Indians to join the freedom struggle. With the goal of Swaraj, he also built ‘Home Rule League’. Tilak constantly traveled across the country to inspire and convince people to believe in Swaraj and fight for freedom. He was constantly fighting against injustice and one sad day on August 1, 1920, he died.