Inspiring nationalist Bal Gangadhar Tilak, first leader of the Indian freedom movement

India got her independence after a long struggle from the British. As India happened to be a cash cow there was desperation on the part the colonial ruler to hang on to  the Indian subcontinent as long as they could.  Further, their economy, to a large extent, depended on the vast revenue from India. Losing India meant, a big chunk of revenue to the British treasury would be axed. So, India's freedom was a far cry at that point of time.
Bal Gangadhar
Among the stalwarts of early freedom struggle like Gokale and others, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a highly respected political leader known for his political ideology and strict adherence to it. Hence he was called Lokamanya.  But the British Government considered  him as the "Father of Indian Unrest". A multifaceted  person, he was a nationalist, social reformer, teacher, newspaper publisher and writer. From 1892  patriot V. O. Chidambaram Pillai of Tamil Nadu became his disciple and responding to Swadeshi movements initiated by Tilak, he was the first Indian to run  Swadeshi Indian shipping services between Thuthukoodi and Colombo, Sri Lanka. Gangadhar Tilak helped VOC in this first venture and gave him moral support.

birth place of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, MH, tripsdvisor
Tilak was the one who daringly declared ''Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it''. His clarion call reverberated the whole of Indian subcontinent and appealed to the people's heart and soul. Being a  social reformer and nationalist and  a profound scholar, he believed that India' freedom  was the first priority for the well being of a nation.

Born in  a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak on 23 July 1856, his father, Gangadhar Tilak was a school teacher and a Sanskrit scholar. Tilak lost his father when he was just sixteen. His wife was Tapibai, later renamed as Satyabhamabai.

Giving importance to education, he received BA (in first class) in Mathematics from Deccan College of Pune in 1877 and LLB in 1879  from Government Law College. After a brief stint in teaching, he became a journalist. Driven by patriotic zeal and quite sour over the repressive British rule he dedicated his later life to the cause of freedom movements. As a strong advocate of Self-rule and 'unrest', his inspiring speeches drew the attention of other nationalists and the common people.
In all his speeches he gave much emphasis on the importance of getting freedom from the British yoke. To him 'serving humanity is one step closer to God'. Across the country people and other freedom fighters held him in great esteem and called him ‘Lokmanya’, meaning he who is revered by the people.

Before Gandhi, he was the most popular and joined the INC in 1890.He never failed to have close contact with other Indian National Congress  leaders such as  Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V O Chidambaram Pillai and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. across India. He differed from his fellow Maharashtrian contemporary leader Gokhale as he was  a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative. He was imprisoned on several occasions  for his political activities against the Raj. Once he spent long time in jail at Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar).
 In an abortive attempt on the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta Douglas Kingsford on 30 April 1908 by two Bengali youths (one committed suicide and the other was put to death by the British), Tilak, in his newspaper Kesari,  vociferously defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule. The British Government  action was swift and Tilak was charged with  seditionand sentenced to jail in Burma by the court for 6 years from 1908 to 1914. Tilak told the court...'' I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue.”  While in prison, he wrote 'Gita Rahasya' which became popular and sold well; he donated the money to the freedom struggle.  He also wrote many books on Indian culture, history and Hinduism and was a strong believer in Indian culture and tradition.
As a social reformer, he opposed to  child marriage prevalent in India then. He ran two newspapers Kesari (Marathi) and   Maratta (English) to propagate  the cause of freedom struggle among the people and to imbibe patriotism in them.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak,

There was much resentment among the nationalists across the country when Lord Curzon divided Bengal in 1905 into two provinces based on religion. This was done by the Raj to fizzle out the freedom movements. On the contrary, the partition of Bengal gave a fillip to freedom struggle. Tilak and other leaders like Gandhiji encouraged Swadeshi products and boycott of foreign goods imported from England. Tilak often said that the 'Swedeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin'.

Among the early political leaders, Tilak gave much importance to education and the learning of the English language He founded
Deccan Education Society in the 1880s with  his close associates. This was to train young Indians in nation building without compromising on Indian culture. The Society started  the new  English School for secondary education and Fergusson College (Pune) in 1885 for post-secondary studies. Tilak taught mathematics at Fergusson College. He began a mass movement towards independence by an emphasis on a religious and cultural revival.
The Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of April 1913 infuriated Indian leaders. Upon hearing this violent incident against the innocent people, Tilak was quite upset and advised other national leaders to keep the freedom movements going on a better footing. Being diabetic his condition worsened  in mid 19320 and he passed away on August 1, 1920 at the age of 64.
Fergusson College, Pune. Photo courtesy:

The Deccan Education Society is still managing the Ferguson College, Pune and the society carries on Tilak's legacy as of today. He popularized the Ganesh Chathurthi festival - 10 day religious festival that is held in Aug/Sept. annually as a national festival.