Gopala Krishna Gokhale was one of the freedom fighters during the Indian Freedom Movement. He was one of the earlier leaders, who sought and fought to bring greater representation of Indians within the British administration. He was a political mentor to both Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Gopala Krishna Gokhale
Birth and Education
Gokhale was born on 9th May, 1866, in the Ratnagiri district of present day Maharashtra. Inspite of hailing from a poor family, Gokhale was able to pursue his education in English, with assistance from his family members. He went to complete his graduation from Elphinstone College.
Joining Indian National Congress
Gokhale joined the Indian National Congress in 1889, where he met the other contemporary leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Gokhale was moderate in his view and tried to convince the British about Indian right and capability to rule, through dialogue and discussion. Gokhale became the president of the Indian National Congress in 1905.
In the same year 1905, he founded the Servants of India Society, to further education in India, as he felt that education would promote human development, and economic progress, among Indians, which will eventually help throw the British out of India. This society also sought to fight social evils like poverty, untouchability, alcoholism and domestic abuse.
In Gokhale’s own words, “the Servants of Indian Society will train men prepared to devote their lives to the cause of the country in a religious spirit, and will seek to promote, by all constitutional means, the national interests of the Indian people.”
Today, it has its centers in many Indian states.
Servants of India Society Logo
Gokhale also gave many speeches among the Indian masses, to bring awareness among people, about the ground realities in the country, and as to how they could prosper.
Worked for Indian cause
Gokhale worked with the British, for the Indian cause, all through his life, and occupied various positions during his career. Some of them being,
- Elected to Bombay Legislative Council in 1889
- Elected to the Imperial Council of the Governor General of India in 1901
- A member representing Bombay Province in 1903
- Appointed Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in 1904
- A member of Imperial Legislative Council in 1909
Even while occupying such positions in the British administration, Gokhale worked for the Indian cause, by persuading the British to bring in necessary reforms for the welfare of Indians. He forced the British to accept the capabilities of Indians.
Mentor to Mahatma Gandhi
Gokhale guided Mahatma Gandhi in his early days of the freedom movement, on the issue facing the common Indians, and gave him an understanding of the political situation in the country.
Mahatma Gandhi with Gopala Krishna Gokhale
In those days, Gandhi was living in South Africa. Gokhale and Gandhi first met in 1896. The two again came together in 1901, at the Calcutta Congress, and spent more than two months together. It was here that Gokhale for the first time, persuaded Gandhi to return to India. But, Gandhi couldn’t return to India until 1915, when Gokhale was towards his end.
When Gandhiji eventually returned from South Africa on January 8th, 2015, Gokhale asked him to undertake an all India tour, to properly understand the situation in the country, and also to build a connect with the people. He also funded this tour for Gandhi.
In his autobiography, “My Experiments with Truth,” Gandhi refers to Gokhale as his political Guru. He describes Gokhale as being, “pure as a crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault, and the most perfect man in the political field.”
The role that he played in molding Gandhi has been brought out by Govind Talwalkar in his book, “Gopala Krishna Gokhale, Gandhi’s Mentor”.
Mentor of Jinnah
Gokhale was also the political mentor of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who in his own words wanted to be a “Muslim Gokhale”.
Gokhale passed away on 19th February, 1915. It was an end of an era. It was also the beginning of the Gandhian era, where Mahatma Gandhi would take up a more prominent role in the Freedom Movement on the footsteps of his political Guru, Gopala Krishna Gokhale.
Today Gokhale’s legacy finds expression in the many educational institutions in his name, in the country.
- The Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune
- Gokhale Memorial College in Kolkata
- Gokhale Hall in Chennai
- Gokhale Centenary College in Ankola
- Gopala Krishna Gokhale College in Kolhapur
- Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs in Bangalore
The Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune
The Gokhale Education Society today runs more than 50 educational institutions in Maharashtra.
A stamp has been issued in his name by the government of India.
A life truly lived for the cause of Indian Freedom. In Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s words, “This diamond of India, this jewel of Maharashtra, this prince of workers is taking eternal rest on funeral ground. Look at him and try to emulate him.”