Early Life of Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born on 23rd July 1856 as ‘Keshav Gangadhar Tilak’ 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, he 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. Bal Gangadhar Tilak along with Gopal Ganesh 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, Pune. He was a scholar in true sense of History of India, Sanskrit, Mathematics, Astronomy and Hinduism.
Political Career of Bal Gangadhar Tilak
After education, Bal Gangadhar Tilak decided to devote himself for the larger cause of national awakening. The first stage in 1879, 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 Bal Gangadhar 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 eminent Moderates of Western India like Mahadev Govind Ranade and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. 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 imprisonment for 18 months.
This ushered in the third stage of Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s career. In the period of the 1905-1908 revolutionary upsurges, 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.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Indian National Congress
As a Congress leader, Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s liberal attitude towards the fight of self government or Swaraj was strongly opposed by the moderate leaders. According to Mrs. Annie Besant, it was Bal Gangadhar Tilak who brought a radical transformation in the trend of India’s struggle for independence. The British authorities again 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.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak as a Social Reformer
To awake a sense of unity Bal Gangadhar Tilak introduced the Shivaji festival and the Ganapati festival in order to inculcate the spirit of nationalism and service to the nation. In 1891, he 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 10-12 which was already 16 in Britain since 1885. He was the first Congress leader to suggest that Hindi should be accepted as the National Language of India.
According to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, education was the only way to bring a rapid reformation and transformation in the society. One of the stalwarts of India’s freedom struggle, Bal Gangadhar Tilak is still living in the hearts of every Indian.