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Not only Mahatma Gandhi

Lokmanya Tilak

Bal Gandadhar Tilak (1856 - 1920) was born in Maharashtra. Tilak had many admirers and they named him Lokmanya (admired by the people) Tilak. He joined the Indian National Congress and was among its first militant leaders who attacked the British rule and demanded self-rule for India. He blamed the British that they were exploiting India for their economical gain while they completely neglected the basic needs of the Indians. He was the first Indian leader who moved the Indian independence cause from the closed rooms of the intellectuals to the ordinary people of India. Some of the main nationalist slogans used by Indians during their struggle for independence were slogans coined by him. One of his famous sentences was "Swaraj (self rule) is my birthright and I shall have it". Other of his important concepts utilized later on by Mahatma Gandhi were boycott of foreign goods and use of the term 'Swadeshi', meaning 'of our country' or 'self reliance'.

Tilak supported and introduced social and religious reforms in Indian society, but at the same time he was also a Hindu nationalist and proud about India's past. He tried different ways to gather the different Indian communities together and start unifying them. He started two festivals, which even today exist in India. In these festival patriotic songs were sung and a platform was establish for exhibition of Indian arts and cultures. One festival is of Lord Ganesh – the God with the elephant head - in which the idol of Ganesh is immersed in the sea. The other festival is Shivaji festival - Shiv Jayanti. Shivaji was a Hindu king who rebelled against Moghuls- Muslims who arrived to India from outside India (see India in the past). Tilak also established newspapers and schools. He succeeded in arousing major uprisings against the British and was titled by the western press in 1907 as the ‘father of Indian uprising’.

Tilak and his associates were considered by the British as dangerous and as the main cause for the violence against them and therefore they arrested and deported them. Tilak was deported to Burma in 1907. In Burma he wrote a new commentary on the holy Bhagwad Gita. He claimed that the main message of the Gita was action. With this commentary he tried to convince Indians to rise and fight for their rights. Tilak returned from his deportation in 1915 and became the leader of the Indian nationalism. He managed to bridge between the extremes and liberals in the Congress and also succeeded in signing a cooperation agreement with another nationalist organization in British India, Muslim League.

Lokmanya Tilak died in 1920 and was replaced by Mahatma Gandhi as the leader of India's freedom struggle.


Book

Lokamanya Tilak (National biography)


©Aharon Daniel

1999-2000

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