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Biography of Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Why in News?

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has paid tribute to the illustrious freedom fighter and educationist Bal Gangadhar Tilak on his birth anniversary, which was observed on 23rd July.

Birth and Early Life

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, in July 1856. He was a freedom fighter and a lawyer, but he became more popularly known as Lokmanya(which means “accepted by the people as their leader”) Tilak, a title that reflected the immense respect he garnered among the people.

Educationist and Social Reformer

Tilak’s commitment to education led him to co-found the Deccan Education Society in 1884, along with his associate Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and others. Through this society, he played a key role in establishing the renowned Fergusson College in Pune in 1885. Tilak was the first leader of the Indian independence movement

Ideology and Slogan

Deeply rooted in his devout Hindu beliefs, Tilak drew inspiration from Hindu scriptures to awaken the spirit of resistance against oppression. He fervently advocated for self-rule or “swarajya” firmly believing that progress and prosperity could only be achieved through complete independence. His famous slogan “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it!” became a rallying cry for India’s freedom struggle.

Father of Indian Unrest

Tilak’s uncompromising nationalist views earned him the title “father of Indian unrest” as mentioned in the book “Indian Unrest,” authored by the English journalist Valentine Chirol. He emphasized the need for a cultural and religious revival to complement the political movements. Furthermore, he played a significant role in popularizing the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Maharashtra and advocated the celebration of Shiv Jayanti on the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the revered monarch.

Political Life and Surat Split

As one of the earliest and most vocal proponents of complete independence or “swarajya” , Tilak was a prominent figure in India’s political landscape. Alongside Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal, he formed the Lal-Bal-Pal trio of leaders with extremist outlooks. In 1890, he joined the Indian National Congress (INC), becoming a prominent member of the party.

The Surat Split in 1907 divided the INC into two groups – the Extremists and the Moderates. The Extremists, led by Tilak, Lal, Bal, and Pal, sought an end to British tyranny through protests, while the Moderates aimed for administrative and constitutional reforms. The split occurred when Rasbehari Ghose was announced as president instead of Tilak or Lajpat Rai, leading to violent confrontations.

Contribution to the Freedom Movement

Tilak’s Role in Propagating Swadeshi Movements

Tilak played a crucial role in propagating swadeshi movements and encouraging people to boycott foreign goods, promoting the use of indigenous products and self-reliance.

Indian Home Rule Movement and All India Home Rule League

In 1916, Tilak initiated the Indian Home Rule Movement, which drew parallels with the Irish Home Rule movement. This movement, led by Annie Besant and Tilak, laid the groundwork for India’s independence struggle, especially among the educated English-speaking upper-class Indians.

In April 1916, Tilak founded the All India Home Rule League in Belgaum. This organization worked actively in Maharashtra (except Bombay), the Central Provinces, Karnataka, and Berar, promoting the cause of self-rule and freedom.

Lucknow Pact and Jail Term

Tilak’s efforts to foster Hindu-Muslim unity in the nationalist struggle culminated in the Lucknow Pact of 1916, an agreement between the INC headed by Tilak and the All-India Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Between 1908 and 1914, Tilak endured a six-year prison term at Mandalay Prison for defending the actions of revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki. These two young revolutionaries had attempted to assassinate District Judge Mr. Kingsford by throwing bombs at his carriage.

Books written by Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Publication Description
“The Arctic Home in the Vedas”
  • Tilak proposed that the Vedas were composed in the Arctic region and brought south by Aryan bards after the last ice age.
  • He suggested a novel method to determine the exact time of the Vedas.
“The Orion”
  • Tilak attempted to calculate the Vedic period using the positions of different Nakshatras mentioned in the Vedas.
“Shrimadh Bhagvad Gita Rahasya”
  • While imprisoned in Mandalay, Tilak wrote this work, analyzing Karma Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita, considered a gift from the Vedas and Upanishads.

Legacy and Passing

Tilak’s influence extended beyond politics and education. He contributed significantly to India’s literary landscape through his newspapers, the Marathi weekly “Kesari” and the English weekly “Mahratta.” Moreover, his writings, such as “Gita Rhasya” and “Arctic Home of the Vedas,” continue to inspire generations.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak breathed his last on 1st August 1920, leaving behind an enduring legacy as a visionary freedom fighter and educationist, whose ideas and contributions continue to inspire the nation.

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