Bal Gangadhar Tilak - Encyclopedia

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"BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (1856-1920), Indian nationalist leader and orientalist, was born July 23 1856, at Ratnagiri, where his father, a Chitpavan Brahman, was an educational officer. At the Deccan College, Poona, he graduated in arts with honours in 1876, and took the LL.B. degree in 1879. In the following year he took the lead in providing secondary and higher education in Poona under Indian direction by founding an English school and the famous Eergusson College. Tilak conducted law classes till 1890, by which time he had become the sole proprietor as well as the editor of the two weekly papers, the Mahratta (in English) and the Kesari (" Lion " in Mahratti) which he and his friends had founded in 1880. These were the chief printed media of his anti-Government propaganda; but he took every advantage of public activities, such as membership of the local municipality and the organizing of Shivaji and Ganpati celebrations, to work upon the prejudices and passions both of the masses and of the educated minority. Identifying himself with Brahmanical orthodoxy he bitterly opposed social reforms. His violent condemnation in 1897 of the plague prevention regulations was followed by the assassination of the local plague commissioner (Mr. Rand) and a young British officer driving with him at the time. Convicted of sedition, he was sentenced to 18 months' rigorous imprisonment, but he was released within a year under pledges of good behaviour. In prison he pursued the Vedic studies which had already given him a place in oriental scholarship. His elaborate paper on " The Orion, or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas," read at the International Congress of Orientalists, London 1892 (published at Poona, 1893), was followed in 1903 by his " Arctic Home in the Vedas " - expounding a theory of extremely remote Aryan origins which has failed to secure the acceptance of other scholars. Tilak was twice elected to the Bombay Legislature for triennial terms. Again indicted for sedition in June 1908, he was sentenced by a Parsi judge (Mr. Justice Davar) to six years' transportation, afterwards commuted on account of age and health to simple imprisonment at Mandalay. On release in 1914 he actively promoted the home-rule campaign, and at last succeeded, after the death in 1915 of G. K. Gokhale, in his prolonged struggle to secure for his party control of the Indian National Congress.

A libel suit he instituted in London against Sir Valentine Chirol for statements made in Indian Unrest (1910) ended in a verdict for the defendant with costs (Feb. 21 1919). On returning to India he refrained from definite association with the non-cooperation cult. His death in Bombay, Aug. 1 1920, was followed by demonstrations of mourning throughout India, showing his remarkable hold on the popular mind.

Tilak's formative part in the cult of Indian unrest is shown in the Report of the Rowlatt Sedition Committee, 1918. His speeches are collected with an appreciation by Aurobinda Ghose in Lokamanaya B. G. Tilak, Madras, 2nd edition, 1920. (F. H. BR.)

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