(Last Updated on : 30/08/2012)
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) was a well known Indian nationalist. In the early part of the 20th century when the trend of Indian independence was mostly guided by Extremism, Tilak became the uncrowned king. Tilak was one of the first and strongest proponents of Swaraj and he was also considered as the father of Hindu Nationalism
. Tilak was credited to be the first nationalist leader who sought close contact with the masses. In this respect he was the precursor of Mahatma Gandhi
Early Life of Tilak
Tilak was born in a Maratha Brahmin
family at Ratnagiri. He was one of the first generation of India having college education. After graduation in the year 1879, Tilak started teaching in a private school in Pune
and went on to become a journalist. He was very vocal in criticising the Western education system and set up the Deccan Education Society to educate India`s youth. He participated in radical politics. Tilak in association with Agarkar planned to establish institutions in order to provide cheap education to the people. In January 1890 the Poona New English School was founded. He was also associated with the formation of the Deccan Educational society and the foundation of the Fergusson College
. He was a scholar in true sense of history of India, Sanskrit, mathematics, astronomy and Hinduism
Tilak`s Political Career
After education Tilak decided to devote himself for the larger cause of national awakening. The first stage commenced about 1879-80. In this stage, extending over some ten years, were moulded Tilak`s radical political views and his world outlook, in general. At this time to propagate his views Tilak started two weekly newspapers, the Mahratta and the Kesari in English and Hindi accordingly. This stage ended in 1890 when, due to differences with his colleagues on questions of principle, Tilak withdrew from the Deccan Education Society which had inclined towards moderate liberalism. In this year Tilak joined Indian National Congress
In the years, 1891-97, the differences between Tilak and the Maharashtra
Moderate Nationalists grew more acute. These increasing controversies unfolded particularly in the Sarvajanik Sabha, an extremely influential society of Maharashtra led by such eminent Moderates of Western India as Mahadev Govind Ranade
and Gopal Krishna Gokhale
. In 1895. In 1895 there occurred a sharp and sudden breaking asunder in the native political society of the Deccan, which resulted in the organisational formation of the Maharashtra Nationalists` radical wing and, subsequently, in 1897, with the aggravation of the political situation in Western India, culminated in Tilak`s arrest and his being sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.
This ushered in the third stage of Tilak`s career. In the period of the 1905-1908 revolutionary upsurge Tilak became, the real symbol of the new age. He was the chief leader of the democratic wing of the national movement not only of Maharashtra but of the whole of India
Indian National Congress
As a Congress leader his liberal attitude towards the fight of self government or Swaraj was opposed by the moderate leaders strongly. In 1891 Tilak opposed the Age of Consent bill introduced after the death of a child bride from sexual injuries. The act rose the marriageable age of a child bride from 10 to 12 which was already 16 in Britain since 1885. This was one of the first significant reforms introduced by the British since Indian rebellion of 1857. The Congress and other liberals whole-heartedly supported it but Tilak raised a battle-cry terming it as `Interference in Hindu Religion`. Since then he was considered as a hard-core Hindu nationalist. According to Mrs. Annie Besant
, it was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who brought a radical transformation in the trend of Indians struggle for independence.The British authorities arrested Tilak and he was imprisoned from 1908 to 1914 in Mandalay, Burma. He re-joined the Indian National Congress in 1916 and helped to found the All India Home Rule League
in 1916-18. Tilak was not satisfied with the Government of India Act 1919
Tilak as a Social Reformer
To awake a sense of unity he introduced the Shivaji
festival and the Ganapati festival in order to inculcate the spirit of nationalism and service to the nation. Tilak proposed various social reforms, such as a minimum age for marriage. He was the first Congress leader to suggest that Hindi written in the Devanagari script should be accepted as the sole national language of India. Bal Gangadhar Tilak says education was the only way to bring a rapid reformation and transformation in the society. The books like "Geeta Rahasya" and "The Arctic Home of the Vedas
", revealed his exceptional talent.
One of the stalwarts of India`s freedom struggle, Bal Gangadhar Tilak is still living in the hearts of every Indian.