Remembering Freedom fighters – Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya

via V.N. Gopalakrishnan published on June 12, 2011

Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya was a multifaceted personality. He was a freedom fighter, educationist, social reformer, journalist, lawyer, parliamentarian and above all an outstanding statesman. He was known for his abiding faith in Sanatan Dharma and his life epitomized the Idian values of patriotism, probity and religiosity. He was described as the “Spotless Pandit,” by a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Though orthodox in his personal habits, Malaviyaji stood for eradicating the disabilities of women and the depressed classes.

Among his achievements, the monumental one was the founding of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) under the chairmanship of Kashi Naresh. In April 1911, Annie Besant met him and they decided to work for a common Hindu University. Thus BHU was established in 1916, through an Act of Parliament and BHU became the ‘Capital of Knowledge’ across India and the world. It stands as a memorial to his foresight, educational ideals, and passion for Indian culture. He chose Banaras for the site as it had centuries-old tradition of learning, wisdom and spirituality. His vision was to blend the best of Indian education prevailed in the ancient centres of learning such as Takshashila and Nalanda with the best tradition of modern universities of the West. He worked hard for raising money for the University and his efforts earned him the epithets as “the prince of beggars”, “the greatest beggar of India”, etc. In 1939, he left the Vice-chancellorship of BHU and was succeeded by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who later became the President of India.

Malaviyaji’s association with the Indian National Congress started in 1886 when he was a youth and he attended the Congress sessions till 1936. He was elected President of the Indian National Congress for a record four times in 1909, 1918, 1932 and 1933. In his presidential address at the Lahore session, he declared the famous slogan “Satyameva Jayathe” (Truth alone will win). He was committed to the cause of Swaraj and Swadeshi movement. Malaviyaji was the Vice Chairman of the Allahabad Municipality and was an elected member of the representative bodies like the Provincial and Central Councils as well as the Central Legislative Assembly for most of his political life.

In 1928 he joined Lala Lajpat Rai, Jawaharlal Nehru and others in protesting against the Simon Commission. He also represented the whole of India with Mahatma Gandhi in the First Round Table Conference in London in 1931. He participated in the Non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi and was arrested on April 25, 1932, along with 450 other Congress volunteers in Delhi immediately after his appointment as President of the Indian National Congress.

Although he started his career as a teacher of English in the District High School, he found his true calling in the field of law. As a practicing lawyer of the Allahabad High Court, Malaviyaji was known for his honesty and impartiality. However, he left the Bar in 1913 and returned after ten years to plead the cause of the 156 accused in the Chauri Chaura case. His speeches opposing the Rowlett Bill, Punjab Marshal Law Bill, Tariff Bill and Indemnity Bill reflect his passionate love for his country. His eloquent oratory moved Justice Grimwood Myers so much that he rose from his chair on three separate occasions to bow before Malaviyaji.

Malaviyaji believed that journalism was a means of serving the society and the nation. He served as Chief Editor of ‘Hindustan’ for some time and it became the first Hindi daily to be published under the patronage of Raja Rampal Singh. He also served as Chief Editor of the English Daily ‘Indian Opinion’. He was the founder of the English daily ‘Leader’, Hindi weeklies ‘Abhyudaya’ and ‘Sanatan Dharma’ as well as Hindi fortnightly ‘Maryada’. He was also the Chairman of “Hindustan Times” from 1924 to 1940.

Malaviya’s admiration for Hindi led to the founding of “Hindi Uddharini Pratinidhi Sabha” in 1884 and later the ‘Kashi Nagari Pracharini Sabha’ in 1893. He was also instrumental in establishing ‘Hindi Sahitya Sammelan’ at Allahabad. He was the founder of  the Akhil Bharatiya Vikram Parishad’ at Kashi and its objective was to translate ancient Sanskrit texts into Hindi. His tireless efforts resulted in the adoption of Devnagari script in Indian courts and acceptance of Hindi as a medium in Competitive Examinations.

Malaviyaji worked for the eradication of untouchability and ‘Antyajodhar’ was a cause close to his heart. He gave ‘Mantradiksha’ to the so-called outcastes of Hindu society on the occasion of Mahashivratri in Kashi which was the first of its kind in the country despite opposition from orthodox Hindus. The Moplah revolt proved to be a turning point in the life of Malaviyaji. He decided to take the initiative to unite the fragmented Hindu society along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Swami Shradhanand and the ‘Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha’ was born out of these efforts. This was a significant step in the direction of reconciling the various factions of Hindu society with each other.

Malaviya was born at Allahabad on December 25, 1861 in an orthodox Brahmin family as the fifth son of Brijnath and Moona Devi. His ancestors, known for their Sanskrit scholarship, originally hailed from Malwa and hence they came to be known as ‘Malaviyas’. His father Pandit Brijnath was a scholar in Sanskrit scriptures. Malaviya’s education began at the age five in Sanskrit and later joined Allahabad District School where he started writing poems under the pen name Makarand which were published in journals and magazines. In 1878, he married Kundan Devi at the age of 16 as was the prevailing custom at that time. He matriculated in 1879 from the Muir Central College. With the monthly scholarship received from the Principal of Harrison College, he could graduate from the University of Calcutta in 1884. In 1878, at the age of 16, he married Kundan Devi.

Though Malaviyaji passed away in 1946, his spirit still lives on through the institution he built up. People will ever be grateful to this selfless patriot for his yeomen services to the country.

(Author is a freelance journalist and a social activist. He can be contacted on [email protected]).

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