Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the architects of our freedom. He taught people that Swarajya was their birth-right. His teachings had a great impact on the minds of the people because he practised what he preached. Like many of our political leaders Tilak started his public life as a teacher because he regarded education as a powerful instrument of moulding the impressionable minds of students and of bringing about a change in our society's outlook on life.
It is necessary to study how Tilak's mind was moulded and how and why later on he took this decision to become a teacher. During his childhood his father Gangadhar Shastri, made him recite Sanskrit and Marathi verses, which sharpened his memory. During his school days, he developed a special liking for Mathematics. His sharp intellect prompted him to study the basic principles of different subjects, instead of just preparing for examinations. After passing the Matriculation examination, Bal Gangadhar Tilak joined Deccan Collage in Pune. As he was staying in the college-hostel, he could take the advantage of the college library and read books by eminent writers and thinkers on different subjects. He was also greatly influenced by the teaching of Prof. Chhatre, who inspired him to study the fundamentals of Mathematics. He offered Mathematics as his principal subject for the B.A. examination. Tilak formed a close friendship with his classmate Gopal Ganesh Agarkar who was a student of philosophy. Tilak and Agarkar were idealist youths who were restless owing to the degenerate condition of their country. They were greatly impressed by the efforts made by Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade for enlightening the society through institutions like Vasant Vyakhyana Mala, and Sarvajanik Sabha. Tilak and Agarkar were also impressed by the writings of a young, powerful writer, Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar, who appealed to people to develop a sense of self-respect, instead of imitating the British rulers. Tilak and Agarkar had heated discussions about the future course of action in life. Unlike most of their contemporaries, these two young idealists decided not to join Government service and instead work for the uplift of their country. Tilak argued that it was necessary to start political work first, while Agarkar argued that they should first strive to bring about reforms in society, and then start political work. After long and heated discussions, these two young idealists took the decision to work on the common platform of education. Both of them realized that it was necessary to educate the people in general and the youths in particular before working for either social reforms or the political movement. After taking this bold decision, Tilak and Agarkar along with Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar decided to start a High School. Shri. Vaman Shivram Apte, an eminent Sanskrit Scholar, and V.B.Namjoshi - a young idealist who was also a realist, also joined the trio. Starting of the New English School was an event which shook the student world of Pune, and as the young teachers proved their ability, the response both of the students and their guardians became more and more enthusiastic.
The trio, Chiplunkar, Agarkar and Tilak were not content with just their work as teachers. They were searching fresh fields and new pastures. They decided to undertake the work of educating the people and launched two news-papers - `Kesari' in Marathi and `Mahratta' in English in January 1881. The editorials in Kesari were written in a direct and simple style and the editor never lost sight of the main purpose of educating public opinion. The profession of journalism has its trials. Tilak and Agarkar as editors championed the cause of the ruler of Kolhapur. They however wrote something which was challenged in the court and as the young editors could not produce evidence supporting their statements, they were sentenced to three months' imprisonment. Tilak and Agarkar boldly accepted the punishment and their prestige as editors rose, in society, During this period of imprisonment, Tilak and Agarkar picked up the thread of their discussions in college and realized that the gap between their views was widening. Tilak made a fervent plea for political activity while Agarkar was equally emphatic about the need for social reforms. After their release from prison, Tilak and Agarkar once again devoted themselves to educational work, while carrying out their responsibility as editors. The next step in the field of education was the founding of the Deccan Education Society in 1884. This gave an institutional base to the educational effort, the next step of which was the starting of Fergusson College in January, 1885. The statement made on the occasion of the establishment of the Deccan Education Society, throws light on the ideological position of Tilak, Agarkar, Apte and their colleagues. It reads as follows :
"We have undertaken this work of popular education, with the firmest conviction and belief that of all agents of human civilization, Education is the only one that brings about material, moral and religious regeneration of fallen countries, and raises them up to the level of the most advanced nations by slow and peaceful revolutions."
Prin. Apte gave evidence before the Education Commission presided over by William Wilson Hunter on 9th September 1882. His views were representative of the point of view of his colleagues in the Deccan Education Society. There was a strong plea for an indigenous agency for educational effort. It was also stated that greater opportunities for collegiate and university education should be given to the students coming from those sections of society which had a tradition of learning. The ground for this demand was that through this enlightened class education would percolate to other strata of society. This view was in sharp contrast with the view expressed by Jyotirao Phule, the great social reformer, that it was the primary responsibility of the Government to give education for seven years to students from all sections of society. He argued that the more intelligent students would then take advantage of the facilities for higher education. Phule made a fervent plea for equal opportunities for learning to all and said that the level of enlightenment of the entire society must be raised and education should not become the monopoly of the chosen few. Phule showed a progressive vision but his plea was not accepted by the Government.
It was evident that Apte and Tilak, who came from families with a tradition of learning, did not understand the aspirations of the masses and putforth the elitist point of view which perpetuated social inequality and gave special advantages to the so-called higher communities.
Due to differences among the Life-Members of DE Society Tilak resigned from the Deccan Education Society and Fergusson College, but he continued his vocation as a teacher. He started conducting Law Classes for the High Court Pleader's examination. Tilak had passed the LL.B. exam. with merit and owing to his analytical mind, he developed a rare insight in different branches of Law and particularly in Hindu Law. He elucidated the different topics in such a manner that the students, besides getting the necessary guidance for the examination, were stimulated to think in a novel and original manner.
After the parting of ways in the Deccan Education Society, Tilak took over the `Kesari' and the `Mahratta'. Tilak regarded the work of an Editor as a sacred vocation where it was his responsibility to educate the people and enlighten them. He felt that his sphere of activity as a teacher had widened. Tilak never lost sight of the principle that a Teacher has to remain a student for life time and that a person gets the moral right to educate others only when he has studied the subject which he is teaching or on which he is writing. He read extensively and carefully and only when he was convinced that he had fully grasped all the implications of the topic which he wanted to elucidate, that he expressed his point of view through the editorial. He first gave the information about the concerned subject, then analysed it and out of such delineation of facts, emerged his editorial comment. It was no wonder, therefore, that the readers, on most occasions, were persuaded to accept his point of view. Tilak, who was a keen student of mathematics, was always logical in his argument and was very disciplined in his exposition of ideas. Tilak did not like stylistic flourishes and always avoided rhetoric. His style of writing was simple and direct. He explained the subject but avoided superfluous expression. His style of writing was compressed and had a masculine dignity.
He mainly appealed to the intellect of his readers rather than striving to arouse their emotions. In 1886, there was a famine in Maharashtra. Tilak first carefully studied The Famine Relief Code, published by the Government after the famine in 1872. He immediately understood the significance and the implications of the Government's Resolution. In the Famine Relief code, the Government had committed itself to certain relief measures such as distributing food grains at a cheap rate, a concession in land-revenue etc. Tilak first published in Kesari, the summary of the Famine Relief Code in Marathi. He then explained to the readers that it was the moral responsibility of the Government to implement their own decision and it was the moral right of the people to demand the relief measures, incorporated by the Government in their own Famine Relief Code. Tilak then printed a small booklet which contained the important provision of the code and, with the help of the volunteers, of the Sarvajanik Sabha, distributed the copies of the booklet in the famine affected parts of Bombay Presidency. In the then Colaba district, when the Government prosecuted the volunteers, Tilak rushed to the Tehsil town Pen and in a hugely attended meeting of peasants, condemned the prosecution. He challenged the Government to prosecute him, because he had printed the booklet which contained a part of the G. R. - The Famine Relief Code - and that as the Secretary of the Sarvajanik Sabha, he had asked the volunteers to distribute it. The collector of Colaba district was present and he then withdrew the prosecution. Tilak thus repudiated the saying that `he who can does, he who cannot, teaches'. Tilak taught the people to become conscious of their rights; he also acted boldly and challenged the Government. He succeeded because his action was based on the knowledge of the contents and also the implications of the Famine Relief Code.
When Tilak was teaching in the New English School and later on in Pune, his students were not adults and the classrooms were enclosed with walls. When Tilak started his work as Editor and social-worker, he had undertaken the job of educating adult people. This was a public-school for grown up persons and this school had no walls. Through his writings he reached a wide section of society. Although Tilak did not appoint any deputies, many enthusiastic young people in different towns and villages in Maharashtra read out before a group of adult audience the Kesari and particularly the editorials of Tilak. Thus communication was established between Tilak and the people. The editor became educator.
Tilak wanted to extend his sphere of education through other methods. He had read the History of Greece in which there was a description of different cultural festivals. The Greek, enthusiastically participated in them and were thus involved in the affairs of the state. Tilak wanted to involve the generality of the people in social and political activities in a similar manner. He therefore thought of starting public festivals which would become instruments of public education. He then started the Ganapati festival as a social event and got a very enthusiastic response from the people in Pune and also in some other places. Traditionally, the worship of the idol of Ganapati was a domestic celebration. Tilak gave a new orientation to this practice and widened its significance to educate the people. He advocated that the Ganapati festival be celebrated publicly and besides the ritual of worship and Aarati, it should include lectures by eminent persons on different subjects, group singing and other cultural programmes by groups of youths. Tilak thus created a new public platform for educating the people. Tilak also launched the Shivaji Festival. He was quite explicit about its object which was the celebration of the glory and achievements of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Tilak told the people that Shivaji was a National Hero, and a perennial source of inspiration for patriotism. Tilak observed that in times when national qualities such as patriotism, sense of solidarity and brotherhood, and hatred of tyranny were absent, it was necessary to celebrate the achievements of the National Hero, Shivaji who was a symbol of all these noble national virtues. Tilak in his speech at Amravati said," On one day at least in a year, every person should think about his village or town, about his country. He should ask himself the question whether the condition of the country was in a flourishing state or had decayed. If it had decayed, he must try to find out the means for its improvement. It is with this end in view that the Shivaji festival is being celebrated." Tilak wrote that no other hero in Maratha History was so respected by all sections of the public as Shivaji Maharaj. Tilak drew the attention of the people to the fact that the forts standing in different parts of Sahyadri ranges in Maharashtra were a living testimony to Shivaji's prowess and a number of places were remembered for their association with the exploits of Shivaji Maharaj.
In an article in `Mahratta' Tilak wrote, "Hero-worship is a feeling deeply implanted in human nature and our political aspirations need all the strength which the worship of a swadeshi hero is likely to inspire into our minds. For this purpose Shivaji is the only hero to be found in Indian history. He was born at a time when the whole nation required relief from mis-rule and by his self-sacrifice and courage, he proved to the world that India was not a country forsaken by providence".
While launching the Shivaji festival and Ganapati festival Tilak was using the revivalist method in order to awaken the sense of hope and self-confidence among the people. He regarded these festivals as a means to national awakening and also as a means to giving an ethical basis to the political aspirations. Tilak wanted to revive the creative spirit of the old times and not the form of the old institutions or religion. He regarded the traditional way of life like a tree and wanted to graft on it, the new ideas such as nationalism. Tilak's criticism of liberal leaders like Ranade was, that they were trying to implant alien ideas in Indian soil. Tilak said that it was necessary to utilise the vitality of the indigenous way of life and give it a new orientation. He once said, "Love for one's country is a natural instinct. We have to give a new orientation to it and make people accept the ideology of nationalism". Thus, through the Shivaji Festival and Ganapati Festival, Tilak was playing a significant role as a teacher who wanted to mould public opinion and inculcate in people the spirit of patriotism.
In spite of his editorial responsibilities and in spite of his continuous efforts to give a momentum to the Shivaji Festival and Ganpati Festival, Tilak still found time to pursue his research on the chronology of Vedas with the help of astronomy. Tilak submitted a Paper to the Ninth Oriental Congress held in London in 1882. The Paper which was based on his research on the "antiquity of the Vedas" by giving astronomical evidence with the help of Vedanga Jyotisha put forth the theory that the Vedas were written during the period 4000-2500 B.C. Though there were different opinions about the proposition put forth by Tilak, it was accepted as a serious effort by Oriental scholars.
During this period, Tilak also wrote in Kesari detailed reviews of the new editions of the Mahabharat and Ramayana and stated his own theories about their dates, origin and several important and textual interpretative problems connected with them.
Apart from these, Tilak wrote extensive reviews of two important books of a political nature Dadabhai Naoroji's "Poverty and Un-British rule in India" and Digby's "Prosperous British India." Tilak wrote the reviews under the caption `Two Good Books'. As a conscientious teacher of his readers, he first gave a detailed summary of these books, and after stating clearly the main proposition in these two serious works, analysed their contents and made his own detailed comments on them. Dadabhai Naoroji, the great sage "Maharshi" of Indian politics, showed in a convincing manner that the British Empire had carried on a relentless economic exploitation of India, destroyed its agro-industrial pattern of life and reduced India to beggary. Both Dadabhai Naoroji and Digby had thrown light on the growing poverty in India caused by the British rule. Tilak's reviews were models of educative journalism. Tilak's obituary articles on some of his great contemporaries like Justice Ranade, Prin. Agarkar, Vivekanand, Max Mueller and Herbert Spencer, were also written with the same educative approach. In these articles he did not just pay tributes to these great men. He evaluated the significant contribution of these eminent persons, in the context of the social and political situation prevailing in India. In his article on "Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar", Tilak expressed his criticism of English education. He wrote :
"English education was responsible for destroying that essential bond of relationship between learning, ethics, religious faith and family life."
Tilak participated in the work of the Indian National Congress from its very inception and made a fervent plea that instead of following the moderate method of petition and prayer, the Congress should create a political sanction to support their demand for political rights. At the same time, Tilak always sought an opportunity to draw the attention of the people to the problems of education. In the seventeenth session of the Indian National Congress at Calucutta, Tilak seconded the resolution on the appointment of an Education Commission. In his speech Tilak made a comparison between the Japanese and Indian systems of education and said, "It was because of the independent system of education, with facilities for technical training that Japan had forged ahead. On the contrary, education in India had dwarfed the intellect of young men. You might point out a Jagadeesh Chandra Bose here or a Dr. R. P. Paranjpye there, but let me remind you that they are exceptions which prove the rule. Our ancient system of education cultivated a love for learning and produced men, whose intellectual attainments are still the wonder of the world. Education in India had been reduced to the position of a subordinate handmaid of administration and unless it is raised to a real position of the Goddess of learning, India could not be raised to the status of the civilised nations of the West."
It is argued by some people that politics and education go ill together. This observation can be valid only if politics is regard as a game for grabbing power and money. If on the other hand, politics means an effort of the people to fight against injustice and to end tyranny, education forms a major part of political action. Tilak as the leader of the movement launched against the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, made national education a major part of the four point progamme which developed in to a nationwide movement. Tilak always regarded education as a powerful instrument of social transformation and used it as a weapon not only in the movement against Bengal Partition but in the struggle for Swaraj. I think it is necessary to describe in some details the political situation in which national education emerged as an important programme.
In 1905 Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, announced his decision of the `partition' of the province of Bengal. The autocratic decision was an attack on the growing spirit of nationalism and the sense of solidarity among the people of Bengal. The sinister motives of Lord Curzon had become clear from his speeches in East Bengal wherein he made an effort to create enmity between the Hindus and the Muslims in pursuance of the imperialist policy of "Divide and Rule". However, Curzon's attempt to divide Bengal, made Bengal united. All sections in Bengal, rich and poor, landlords and tenants, young and old, moderates and extremists saw in the partition an insult to their honour and a threat to their solidarity. The Partition of Bengal and people's protest against it might have become only a local affair confined only to the people of Bengal. But the trio of India's political leaders - Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal - Lal, Bal and Pal - showed great political foresight and lifted the struggle of the people of Bengal to the national plane. These three leaders converted Curzon's onslaught into an opportunity for creating national solidarity. Protests against Bengal's partition were held all over India and the people of India demonstrated their solidarity against the tyranny of the British Empire. It is, however necessary to know the difference in the attitude of the leaders who represented three different trends of thought, three different currents in Indian politics, not merely at that juncture but through out India's freedom struggle. The first trend was that of moderate leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Pherozshah Mehta, who followed only constitutional methods. These liberal leaders rendered yeoman's service to the nation during the first phase by laying the foundation of our future political movement. But theirs was the politics of the elite, only of eminent personalities with a rare ability to represent the cause of India before the British Parliament.
At the other end, there were the revolutionaries, who believed that freedom could be won only through armed struggle. Some of them had become martyrs and their supreme sacrifice had kindled the flame of patriotism in the hearts of many Indian youths. However only extraordinarily brave persons who were prepared to lay down their lives at the altar of liberty could follow this path. The moderates and the revolutionaries were poles apart from each other in their methods. However, the common people could not follow either of these groups. There was the third group of leaders - the trio of Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Bipin Chandra Pal, who had realized that it was necessary to bring the common people of India in the freedom struggle. They therefore placed before the nation a constructive and combative programme which would develop into a mass movement. When Bengal was partitioned, moderate leaders like Gokhale expressed their protest only through circulars, memoranda, and speeches. Aurobindo Ghosh wanted to follow the path of armed revolution. But Tilak and his colleagues, Lajpat Rai and Pal, put forth the four point programme of Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education and Swaraj. This programme enabled these leaders to involve thousands of people in this apparently modest political action. Tilak firmly believed that such a constructive and combative programme alone would arouse the uncommon strength of the common man. It must be noted that national education formed an important part of the nation-wide agitation. Tilak expressed his views on National Education, through the editorials in Kesari and through many of his speeches. Tilak never did anything in a half-hearted manner. In the editorial on the programme of boycott of foreign goods Tilak described Boycott as "Yoga". He also regarded "National Education" as "Yoga" which implied highest level of concentration, resulting in rare skills -. He expected teachers to work with a missionary zeal. In one of his speeches Tilak said that he wanted "Graduate Ramdasis" (The followers of Saint Ramdas who aroused the sense of self-respect and patriotism in people) to carry on the movement for Swaraj. Tilak expected that teachers must have love for knowledge, love for students and the ability to develop the personalities of youth is by inculcating in them the spirit of patriotism. He expected the guardians to co-operate with this effort of moulding and sharpening the new generation by making their wards accept the discipline of the novel experiment in the field of education. Tilak expected the students to instil in themselves the virtues of courage, truthfulness, sacrifice and above all an attitude of self-reliance. He expected educationists like Prof. Vijapurkar to make bold experiments and evolve the pattern of National Education. Tilak, in one of his speeches said that learning and character must be blended so that instead of producing clerks required for the administration of British rule, National Education would train students in such a manner that in future life they would build India as a Nation.
Tilak wrote a number of editorials in Kesari on the subject of National Education and elucidated his ideas. Tilak made a fervent plea for making Marathi the medium of instruction in Maharashtra. He observed that education imparted through the mother-tongue stimulated the thought process of students. On the other hand, while learning through English, the students faltered because they were not familiar with that language and found it difficult to express whatever they know. As a result, many students were obsessed with the notion of fluency in English and their thinking process was dwarfed. In one of his editorials Tilak wrote, "If I had learnt through Marathi, the knowledge that I have accumulated at the age of fifty-two, would have easily been gained by me at the age of thirty."
In one of the editorials he developed the idea that knowledge was power, while in one of his speeches he developed the idea . That is knowledge which liberates the mind. Tilak said that because of the rule of the British many educated people had developed a sense of inferiority. If the right type of education i.e. national education was imparted to students, they would be mentally liberated and would boldly think in an independent manner. Tilak while elucidating his concept of National Education, always emphasised the need for removing the bifurcation of the life of the people and the education imparted to them. He said, "education must make people fearless, truthful and enable them to earn their livelihood with self-respect; but the purpose of the British rulers was to create a class which would help them carry on their administration by acting as a link between the rulers and the ruled. They expected from this class not just obedience but a servility of what was taught in schools and colleges was a means of conditioning the mind of students for promoting in them a slavish outlook. The purpose of national education is just the opposite. We want a new generation of youths who would respect our nation. our religion and language."
At Mandalay, Tilak used his imprisonment for the pursuit of knowledge in right earnest. He learnt two foreign languages, viz. French and German, in order to read the works of philosophers like Comte in the original French language. One is amazed at the long list of books read by Tilak during his incarceration in the Mandalay prison. Tilak once again felt that he would be able to play the role of a teacher of the people only if he would explain to them the message of the `Bhagwad Gita'. To Tilak, the Gita was a perennial source of inspiration. While passing through the trials and ordeals of his life, it intensified his faith. `Gita-Rahasya' was the quintessence of this life's message. Tilak had not just read about Karma-Yoga in Bhagwad-Gita, he had lived as a Karma Yogi through out his life. He felt that the message of Bhagwad-Gita would inspire the people to lead a life of action in order to realize their dream of swarajya. Tilak, who because of his sacrifice and suffering, had become Lokamanya was confident that if he would communicate to them the message of the Bhagwad-Gita, they would try to follow it and strive for Swaraj. Tilak was conscious of the fact that his efforts would not bear fruit in his life-time; but the ideal of "action without any expectation" as stated in Bhagwad Gita enabled him to carry on his effort vigorously, throughout his life. Lokamanya Tilak wrote `Gita Rahasya' and in doing this he was carrying on the tradition sages - Rishis - in ancient India, whose teachings transcended the limitations of time and distance. Through `Gita Rahasya', Tilak emerged as a teacher of teachers, and also as a guide and philosopher to many of his countrymen.
After his release from Mandalay jail in 1914, Lokamanya Tilak, who was the accredited leader of the whole India, directed his energies to the task of consolidating the political forces. His efforts were successful in the Lucknow Session of the Indian National Congress held in 1916. The last five years of his life were full of hectic political activities and he hardly had any time to give impetus to the effort of national education. He taught people the lesson that Swarajya was their birth-right and that they should strive to get it. In his speeches on the political ideal of Swarajya, he time and again referred to education as a powerful means of instilling the spirit of patriotism in youth. On 17th April 1917, Lokamanya Tilak delivered a speech at Chikodi, near Belgaum and the subject of his speech was `My ideal of Education'. In that speech he made a fervent plea for free and compulsory primary education. He told the people that through national education, they would become conscious of their right to get Swarajya and would also realize that it was their responsibility to strive for it.
Tilak made a fervent plea for the spread of education. However, owing to his traditional mental make-up, he did not advocate the cause of women's education. He was brought up in the society dominated by men and he, therefore, felt that the primary duty of women was to look after the family and bring up children. When a female High School was started in Pune, Tilak wrote against it. He was of the opinion that if at all education is to be given to girls in schools, it must be such as would make them good mothers and efficient house-wives. His views were diametrically opposite to those of Prin. Gopal Ganesh Agarkar who wrote in his journal `Sudharak' that there should be co-education and that education imparted to girls should not be different from the education given to boys. When there was a growing demand for women's education, Tilak said that time was not ripe for such a reform. He did not want to oppose the prevalent conservatism in Hindu society so far as women's education was concerned. When Prof. Dhondo Keshav Karve started a residential school where widows were given admission, Tilak did not write anything in support of that effort. In 1916, owing to the efforts of Prof. Karve, the first women's University was started in Pune, Tilak did not welcome that event, which had a great social significance.
When Lokamanya Tilak went to England in 1917, with the help of Barrister Baptista, he brought out an excellent pamphlet `Self Determination' which made a fervent plea for Home Rule in India. Tilak sent copies of this pamphlet to all the editors of newspapers in England and also to the members of British Parliament. When one of his followers asked him about this, Tilak said, "We have to educate the British people about the conditions in India and I am confident that owing to our pamphlet on self-determination, I would ensure the support of the Labour Party to our cause."
Tilak had sown the seeds of the ideal of national education. After Tilak's demise when Gandhiji emerged as the leader of the freedom struggle, he gave great emphasis on national education. After the non-co-operation movement of 1920, Gandhiji asked many of his followers to dedicate themselves to the work of national education. The Gujrat Vidyapeeth at Ahmedabad, The Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth in Pune and many Rashtriya Shalas were started in different parts of the India. In Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth at Pune, teachers like Acharya Bhagwat, Acharya Jawadekar and others, while delivering inspiring lectures on politics, history and literature, inculcated in students a national outlook. Almost all these students participated in the Satyagraha movement in 1930. Thus the seed sown by Tilak had grown into a huge banyan tree. Tilak titled as `Lokamanya' by the people of India, is regarded by all as one of the main architects of our freedom struggle. However, it is equally necessary for us to understand the significance of his efforts for giving a new orientation to education and developing it as an instrument of guarding our freedom.