Madan Mohan Malaviya is today known more as the founder of the Banaras Hindu University rather than the multi-faceted personality he was. However, his first priority was to obtain India’s independence.
Malaviya joined the Indian National Congress in 1886 and was the only leader to be the Congress President for a record four times. He attended the second Round Table Conference in 1931 along with Mahatma Gandhi and others. He was a member of the Provincial Legislative Council during 1903-1918, the Central Council during 1910-1920, and was an elected member of the Indian Legislative Assembly during 1924-1930, not to mention a member of the Industrial Commission during 1916-1918.
During the freedom struggle, Malaviya was midway between the Liberals and the Nationalists, the Moderates and the Extremists, as the followers of Gokhale and Tilak were respectively called.
Malaviya brought dignity and honour to every task he undertook. He excelled as a teacher, a lawyer, a journalist, a freedom fighter, a social worker, a cultural giant, a dharmic proponent, the doyen of the movement for a national language for India, and as an educationist par excellence. But, in the words of K.M. Munshi, “he himself was greater than the greatest of his achievements”. Malaviya was born on December 25, 1861, at Prayag, in a family of Kathavachaks (narrator of stories from the Bhagwat Gita). After initial training in Sanskrit, he passed his BA from Muir Central College, Allahabad, in 1884.
Circumstances forced him to join the Government School as a teacher and he could pursue his education only from 1889, passing the LLB course in 1891. Initially, he practised in the district court and then in the High Court from 1893. He gave up his practice when he was 50 to serve the country.
Malaviya’s constant prayer was that Lord Vishwanath should give him darshan in the shape of a Kashi Hindu Vishva Vidyalaya. A few weeks before his death on November 12, 1946, Malaviya was not too well but did not want to miss the function in a village outside Kashi.
He was scheduled to address the religious gathering, when he told his friends that he should not be rushed to Kashi in case he became seriously ill on the way. The reason was that he did not wish to die in the holy town and attain moksha so early. He wanted to be reborn to complete his unfinished work at the university.
(Dharmapal Maini is Editor, Manav Moolya Vishwakosh, and Director, Institute of National Human Value, Gurgaon)