LOKMANYA BAL GANGADHAR TILAK
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born on July 23, 1856 at Ratnagiri on the west coast of India. Tilak’s father was a school master who rose to become an inspector of primary schools. Tilak was married at 16, a few months before his father’s death. Tilak took his B.A, degree in 1877 with first class in Mathematics and two years later he became a Bachelor of Law.
On January 1, 1880 Tilak, Vishnushastri Chiplunkar and G.G. Agarkar inaugurated an English school named New English School. The school proved a great success and within four years, the number of its students crossed the four-figure mark. These young crusaders started two weeklies-The ‘Maratha” in English and ‘Kesari’ in Marathi in 1881. While the ‘Maratha’ kept in view “the more advanced portion of the community”, the ‘Kesari’ was considered to be an organ of the masses.
He had enlightened views on women’s education and his plea for reforming it so as to serve the best interests of the society, still holds good. He opposed child marriages. In 1889, tilak attended the Congress-session for the first time. Two other young men, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Lala Lajpat Rai also joined the Congress platform. Bipin Chandra Pal whose name was to complete the popular trio of the national leadership Lal-Bal-Pal-had joined the Congress three years earlier. In 1891, at the Congress session that was held at Nagpur, Tilak was given the honour of moving the resolution on the Arms Act. The resolution was passed unanimously and Tilak’s speech made a striking impression on the audience.
In 1893, Tilak inaugurated the ‘Ganpati Festival’ in Poona and did his best to popularize it all over Maharashtra by public lectures and articles in the ‘Kesari’. In 1896, he inaugurated the Shivaji festival in honour of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire.
In 1896, Maharashtra came in the grip of Famine-calamity. Tilak lost no time in ventilating the grievances of the peasantry, acquainting it with its rights under the ‘Famine Relief Code’, organizing relief and shaking officialdom out of its lethargy and inertial through the columns of the ‘Kesari’ and the ‘Maratha’. In 1897, Poona became a victim of bubonic plague. Tilak established a private hospital and opened a fund for relief. Unlike many other prominent people who left Poona in panic, he remained in the city actively helping the needy and the distressed.
On July 23, 1916, thousands of Tilak’s admirers decided to celebrate his 60th birthday with the presentation of an address and a purse of rupees one lakh. Tilak gave away the money to the trust meant for public work. He said, “God alone can help in our efforts to serve the motherland by trying to make it free. If not by us, it is certain that the fruit will be gathered by the next generation, “and his words proved true”.
On July 21, 1920 Tilak caught a chill which resulted into serious complications. Despite the efforts of a roster of Bombay’s most eminent doctors, Tilak breathed his last on Sunday, August 1, 1920.
Millions poured out to pay reverence to their beloved leader. Nehru and Gandhi along with several renowned leaders eulogized Tilak and paid handsome tributes to him.