Childhood & Early Life
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born in a Chitpavan Brahmin family on May 9, 1866 in Kothluk village of Guhagar in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
Despite coming from a poor household, his family was adamant on providing young Gokhale with quality education. As such, he was one of the first few Indians who received university education. In 1884, he graduated from Elphinstone College. Same year, he gained membership at the Deccan Educational Society.
It was in his early years that he was exposed to western political thought which framed and influenced much of his later works and life. His education instilled in him the thought for liberty, democracy and parliamentary system and gave him an important status in the Indian intellectual society.
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Following his university education, in 1885, he moved to Pune and became one of the founding members of the Fergusson College. He started off as a professor of history and political economy and soon rose to become its principal.
Meanwhile, politically active, he took up the position of the secretary at the Sarvajanik Sabha, a leading political organization of Bombay and in 1889 became a member of the Indian National Congress.
Unlike other political cotemporaries, he was of moderate views and looked to obtain political representation and power for common Indian through dialogue and discussion. He believed that it was through conversation that he could instil respect for Indian rights in the Britishers.
He regularly contributed articles on nationalism and put forward the state of India under British Rule in Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s weekly publication ‘Maharatta’ to invoke the spirit of patriotism and nationalism in general public. In 1891, he served as the secretary of the Deccan Education Society.
In 1895, when the Indian Congress held its session in Pune, he was chosen as the Secretary to the Indian National Congress along with Tilak. The position gained him prominence in the Indian political circle. Same year, he was elected to the Senate of Bombay University.
Additionally, he served as the member of Poona Municipality from 1898 to 1906, during which for three years, from 1902 to 1905, he chaired the seat of the President. It was under his leadership that the functioning of the Municipality was reformed considerably.
In 1899, he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council where he spoke vehemently against the British government and stressed on the need for politically free India.
Ending his academic career in 1902, he became a member of the Imperial Legislative Council. His wealth of knowledge and infinite wisdom on legislation gained him prominence amongst the members of the council who were mighty impressed with his oratory and debating skills which he showcased during the annual budget.
Year 1905 marked the zenith of his political career as he was elected as the President in the Indian National Congress. The position brought with it greater responsibility which he fulfilled with �lan.
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Same year, he founded the ‘Servants of India Society in order to work towards one of his primary concerns and causes - expanding the reach of Indian education. He strongly believed in the fact that India would eventually move to a brighter future when the new generation would be educated enough to understand their civil and patriotic duties.
Servants of the India Society aimed at training men and women and developing a sense of national spirit in them. For the same, it started promoting education by establishing schools, mobile libraries, day and night classes and so on.
During his stint in the Imperial Legislative Council, Gokhale impressed Britishers with his knowledge and intellect. As a result, he was invited to London where he put forward India’s constitutional demand before the British government. He established a good rapport with Lord John Morley, which proved to be of great assistance during the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909.
In 1912, he visited South Africa where he first met Gandhi, who was working to uplift the condition of Indians working in the country. He served as a mentor to Gandhi, and apprised his of the common issues confronting Indians.
In addition to mentoring Gandhi, he also played as a role model for Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who later on became the founder of Pakistan. Such was his influence over Jinnah that he aspired to become ‘Muslim Gokhale’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Not much is known about his personal life except for the fact that he married twice. The first was to Savitribai in 1880. In 1887, he married a second time and had two daughters with his second wife.
He bequeathed his life for a better and improved nation. For the same, he multi-tasked and continued to make contributions in various sectors which took a toll on his health and he passed away on February 15, 1915.
Gokhale was one of the founding social and political members of the Indian Independence Movement against British Empire and his contribution is remembered till date.
The Servant of India Society which he formed in 1905, following his presidency in the Indian National Congress, to educate the Indian citizens continues to exist till date, though with minimal membership.
His insistence on education have led to the emergence of various institutions in India which bear his name in order to commemorate his philanthropic offerings such as Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economy, Gokhale Memorial Girl’s College, Gokhale Centenary College, Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs and so on.
A road in Bombay bears his name and is widely known as the Gokhale Road.