Gopal Krishna Gokhale (9 May 1866 – 19 February 1915)
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was an Indian liberal political leader and social reformer during the Indian Independence Movement. He played an important part in the freedom movement against the British Empire. Gokhale was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and the founder of the Servants of India Society. The Servants of India Society trains men to devote their lives to the cause of the country. Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s contribution to the country’s independence and nation-building is invaluable.
Name: Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Birth: May 9, 1866
Birthplace: Kotluk village (Guhagar taluka, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra).
Father: Krishna Rao Gokhale.
Mother: Valubai Gokhale
Education: Passed BA (Mathematics) examination from Elphinstone College, Bombay in 1884.
Wife: Savitri Bai.
Children: Kashibai and Godubai
Died: February 19, 1915
Death Place: Mumbai, Maharashtra
Founder of: Servants of India Society
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born in Kotluk village of Guhagar taluka in Ratnagiri District, Maharastra on May 9, 1866. His Parents Krishna Rao and Valubai Gokhale were poor, even then his family members ensure that he received a good education. The untimely death of the father had made Gopal Krishna tolerant and hard-working since his childhood. Gokhale received his early education at Rajaram High School in Kolhapur and later, in 1884 moved to Bombay to receive higher education, which was funded by his elder brother. Gokhale reportedly was one of the first Indians to complete graduation in arts at the Elphinstone College, Bombay in 1884.
He had two marriages, the first marriage which happened to Savitribai in 1880, but Gokhale’s first wife suffered from an incurable disease, due to which Gokhale got married second in 1887. His wife gave birth to two daughters and in 1899 his second wife died. Gokhale did not marry after this. Gokhale’s daughters Kashibai and Godubai were raised by their relatives.
Gokhale joined as a professor of history and political economy at the Fergusson College, Poona. Higher education made Gokhale understand the importance of liberty, democracy, and the parliamentary system of the government. The year 1886 saw the entry of Gopal Krishna Gokhale into social life. At only 20 years of age, he delivered a public address concerning “India under the British Rule”.
Gokhale regularly wrote articles for Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s weekly magazine “Maratha”. Through his article, he tried to awaken the patriotism hidden within the people. Soon Gokhale was promoted as Secretary of the Deccan Education Society. There was a lot of similarity between Tilak Ji and Gokhale Ji and in view of their thinking and work, they were made joint secretaries of the National Congress.
Gokhale became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1889. Gokhale left Fergusson College in the year 1892. He became a member of the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi where he spoke for the benefit of the countrymen. Gokhale had a good understanding of the economic problems of our country which he presented very cleverly during the debate.
He regarded Mahadev Govinda Ranade as his “Guru“. Ranade helped Gokhale in establishing the “Servants of India Society” in 1905. The main objective of this society was to train Indians to raise their voices and serve their country. Gokhale came to devote all his spare time to the causes of the common man: famine, plague relief measures, local self-government, land reform, and communal harmony. Gopal Krishna Gokhale promoted the removal of British rule in India.
Servants of India Society believed the best way to bolster the people of India was to strengthen its peoples through education of history, hygiene, culture, patriotism, and fight the social evils of untouchability and discrimination, alcoholism, poverty, oppression of women, and domestic abuse. Gokhale along with a small group of educated Indians, as Natesh Appaji Dravid, Gopal Krishna Deodhar, and Anant Patwardhan wanted to promote social and human development and overthrow the British rule in India. Members trained for five years and were required to accept small salaries for their contribution.
Gokhale visited England and voiced his concerns relating to the unfair treatment of the Indian people by the British government. Gokhale maintained his moderate political views and worked out some reforms for the betterment of India. Gokhale pleaded for gradual reform to ultimately attain Swaraj, or self-government, in India. In a span of 49 days, he addressed 47 different gatherings and enchanted everyone. Gokhale advocated regular reforms to achieve Swaraj or self-government, basically in India. He was instrumental in the presentation of the ‘Morley Minto Reforms’ of 1909 which eventually became law.
Gokhale was famously a mentor to Mahatma Gandhi in his formative years. In 1912, Gokhale visited South Africa at Gandhi’s invitation. Gandhi calls Gokhale his “mentor and guide“. Gandhi also recognized Gokhale as an admirable leader and master politician, describing him as pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion, and noble to a fault and the most perfect man in the political field.
Gokhale was also the role model and mentor of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the future founder of Pakistan, who in 1912, aspired to become the “Muslim Gokhale“. Gokhale continued to be politically active through the last years of his life. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a patient with diabetes and asthma and excessive speaking adversely affected Gokhale’s health. He lived and worked under stress and strain due to which he died on 19 February 1915 at the early age of forty-nine. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, his lifelong political opponent, said at his funeral: “This diamond of India, this jewel of Maharashtra, this prince of workers is taking eternal rest on the funeral ground. Look at him and try to emulate him“.