Bharat Ratna – Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya

When I returned to my Country, I first went to Lokamanya Tilak. He appeared tall like the Himalayas. I thought it was not possible for me to scale the heights and returned. Then I went to Deshbandhu Gokhale. He appeared deep, like the ocean. I saw that it was not possible for me to gauge the depth and returned. Finally, I went to Mahamana Malaviya and he appeared like the pure flow of Ganga. I saw it was possible to take bath in the sacred flow.” 
                                                                                                 – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Madan Mohan was born on December 25, 1861 in Prayag to Brajnath and Moona Devi, an orthodox brahmin couple.

Brajnath was scholar of Sanskrit and a deeply religious man. Learned in the ancient scriptures, he started reciting Shri Bhagvad Geeta in early childhood. Recitations soon came to be accompanied by discourses. The common people were fond of his style of reciting the Gita. His name spread far and wide in the region. A proud man Brajnath never accepted donations from anyone. He was content with whatever little was given at the end of the Bhagvata Katha. As a result his family found it difficult to make both ends meet.

Madan Mohan had five brothers and two sisters. He was the fifth child. He spent his childhood in affectionate care of grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters. Moona Devi was an innocent, religious woman. She inculcated in her children simplicity and a sense of tradition and culture.

madan Mohan’s early education was under his father and grandfather. He was then admitted to Shrimadakshara Pathshala. When he completed his primary education, madan Mohan was put in another school run by Vidya Vardhini Sabha. Madan Mohan was keen to attend an English school though it was beyond his father’s means. Even so, he was admitted to Allahabad Zila School. He completed his studies with great difficulties because of the circumstances at home.

mal1Madan Mohan was richly talented in music. He learnt to play the Sitar at a very young age. Gifted with a melodious voice he sang the devotional songs of Meera and Soordas. Madan Mohan was turning into a budding poet; his sensibilities and fine intellect showed themselves quite early. As time went on, he wrote poetry in the pseudonym of Makarand; his poems were published in journals and magazines. He also wrote articles and essays on many inspiring subjects.

After passing out of the Zila School, Madan Mohan joined the Muir Central College, Allahabad.

By this time the financial condition of the family deteriorated further and his father could not handle the burden of his children’s education any more. But his mother was determined. She mortgaged her jewelry to educated Madan Mohan. Harison, the Principal of Muir College started giving monthly scholarship to Madan Mohan.

While in college Madan Mohan also took keen interest in dramatics and would also play female roles with rare accomplishments. In the play ‘Merchant of Venice’ he played Portia, and Shakuntala in ‘Shakuntalam’ and enthralled his audience.

At the age of sixteen he was married to Kundan Devi. Her father was a middle class brahmin from Mirzapur. Kundan Devi had not known any hardship and, in fact, had been quite pampered in the family. After her marriage she had to make do things in a family with meager means but she faced all the problems with patience and courage. Madan Mohan and Kundan Devi had five sons and five daughters out of which four sons and two daughters only survived.

Teaching and Law:

In 1884, Madan Mohan passed the B.A. examination. He wanted to do M.A. in Sanskrit and like his father, take up the recitation of Bhagvatam as profession. Since the family was in such dire straits, he thought it was wise to suppress the wish and he joined as a teacher in the local government school in which he had studied on a monthly salary of Rs. 40.

Madan Mohan’s family name changed from ‘Mallai’ to ‘Malaviya’, hence Madan Mohan Malaviya. As a teacher Malviya ji was admired for his determination, good behaviour and discipline. The fearless man would not take any injustice and neither would tolerate any indiscipline and impertinence in students.

Malaviyaji, A.O.Hume, Weddenburn and Raja Rampal Singh at Congress Session, 1886.
Malaviyaji, A.O.Hume, Weddenburn and Raja Rampal Singh at Congress Session, 1886.

Malviya ji attended the second session of Congress held in Calcutta in 1886 presided by Dadabhai Naoroji. There he got the opportunity to to speak on the subject of “establishing representative institutions”. He said: “For the development of a civilized society, it is essential to have a representative government. Thus it is the duty of the British to found representative institutions. The right of representation is the basic right which we should get.” The chairman, Dadabhai Naoroji said: “this young man has given a voice to the Bharatmata“.

Here he came to the notice of Raja Rampal Singh of Kalakankar. The Raja had started a Hindi weekly Hindusthan to spread the message of freedom. He wanted to convert it to a daily and was in the lookout for the right person to edit it and the job was offered to Malviya ji.

Malviyaji resigned his job of a teacher in 1887 and began editing the Hindusthan, a post that he held for two and a half years. Raja Rampal Singh agreed to let him go on the condition that he would studay law and also agreed to bear all costs.

On his return to Prayag from Kalakankar, was offered the co-editorship of the English daily, The Indian Opinion. He also continued studying law and passed the examination in 1891 and two years later, joined the Allahabad High Court.

Malviya ji was a fine intellect and a good orator. His practice flourished and became a renowned lawyer. The financial condition of the family improved. Tej Bahadur Sapru, whom Malviya Ji brought ot Allahabad for starting off a legal career wrote, “Malviya became a leading civil lawyer, he prepared his cases meticulously, presented them powerfully and argued dispassionately.

Along with success in his law practice, Malviya’s most important achievement during this period was the acceptance of Devnadgri script by the Government. Before this the Persian script was used in Courts. Madan Mohan Malviya, Maharaja Pratap Narayan Singh of Ayodhya, Raja Ram Prasad Singh of Manda, Pandit Sunder Lal and some others met Antonny Macdonnell, the Governor of the province in March, 1898 and the petition was handed. An order was passed and from April, 14 Devnagri was accepted to be used in used.

If Malviya Ji had continued to practice Law, he could have amassed much wealth, but services to the nation was of far greater importance and he contemplated giving up his practice. At that very time his son Radhakant volunteered to take care of the family and urged Malviyaji to go ahead and pursue his nationalistic activities.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale once said: “Malaviya really made strange sacrifices. He was born in a poor family and most of the times had to face difficulties. Then on his abilities and hard work became a renowned lawyer and earned thousands of rupees. But when the call for the motherland came, he gave up everything and became a poor man again.

Public Work:

Malviyaji’s articles on religion and social subjects were published in many magazines. In 1887, in Hardwar Pandit Deen dayalu Sharma organized a meeting of people who followed ‘Sanatan Dharma“. Scholars from all over the country were present. The Bharat Dharma Mahamandal was established to propagate the basic values of Hinduism. Malviya Ji was part of this group for 15 years.

In November 1989, owing to the efforts of Pandit Balkrishna Bhatt and some enthusiastic young men a library in the name of Bharti Bhavan was started near malviya Ji’s residence with huge collection of Hindi and Sanskrit books. Malviya ji was made the chairman of Board of Trustees, a position that he held all life.

When Allahabad University was formed, accommodation became a problem. Malviyaji decided to build a hostel for the Hindu students of the university. He collected funds and the hostel was completed by 1903 and named after Governor Antony Macdonnell.

In 1906 in Haridwar, Rishikul Brahmacharya Ashram was founded with Malviya Ji as its trustee.

Malviya Ji called an assembly of followers of ‘Sanathan Dharma’ in 1906 on the occasion of Kumbh Mela at Prayag. The conference adopted a resolution to establish a Hindu university at Benaras. It was also decided that the Rishikul Brahmacharya Ashram would educate the children on the lines of ancient gurukuls.

The formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the British government’s creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 was a catalyst for Hindu leaders coming together to create an organisation to protect the rights of the Hindu communityIn 1909, Arya Samaj leaders Lala Lajpat Rai, Lal Chand and Shadi Lal established the Punjab Hindu Sabha. Malviyaji presided over the Sabha’s first session at Lahore. in October 1909.

Under Malaviya, the Hindu Mahasabha campaigned for Hindu political unity, for the education and economic development of Hindus as well as for the re-conversion of Muslims to Hinduism. In the late 1920s, the Mahasabha came under the influence of leaders like Balakrishna Shivram Moonje and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

A group photo taken in Shimoga in 1944 when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar came to address the State-level Hindu Mahasabha conference.
A group photo taken in Shimoga in 1944 when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar came to address the State-level Hindu Mahasabha conference.

In 1910, a thought came to Malviya Ji’s mind that a pillar ought to be erected at Prayag on the banks of river Yamuna, where the Governor General read the Charter of Queen Victoria. It would be historic if the park were made there too. Many leaders were upset. Gopal Krishna Gokhale said: “for such a big show we need a lot of money and we hardly have time to collect it. We will get a bad name“.

Malviyaji assured him not to worry. He then wrote letters and collected more than one lakh thirty two thousands rupee in no time. That was the power of his personality and writing skill. On November 9, 2010 the pillar was inaugurated by Lord Minto and park was named, Minto Park.

Then he formed a Seva Dal. It’s organized form came into existence as Swayam Sevak Dal in 1912. It looked after the comfort of pilgrims. A seva samiti was organized in 1913 for assisting people in fairs and festivals under the guidance of Shriram Vajpayee, known for his work for the Scout Movement in India. All Seva Samiti volunteers were invited to work for the Kumbh Mela. But Malviya Ji was impressed by Shriram Vajpayee’s Scouts. Then All India Seva Samiti Boy Scout Association was founded in Prayag in the year 1918.

For the development of the country and employment of thr Indians, Malviya ji wanted and worked for traditional cottage industries to be encouraged and people be trained in different skill sets and advocated for practical knowledge that would enable youth to get jobs.


Malaviyaji during Journalistic Career, 1887.
Malaviyaji during Journalistic Career, 1887.

Malaviya Ji’s heart and soul was into journalism and he was a dedicated journalist. His ability to analyze situation and events – social, economic and political with objectivity and clarity made the Hindusthan held in high regards both by people and the govt. Hindusthan flowered under Malviya’s editorship.

To propagate the idea of a Hindu University, Malviya Ji founded a Hindi Weekly Abhyudaya in 1907. On his appointment as member of State Council, Purushottam Das Tandan took the editorship. In 1915, that became a daily.

As the spirit of nationalism reached the peak, after partition of Bengal, the need arose for an English Daily to give voice to the Indian Patriots. Thus came ‘The Leader’ in October, 1909 that covered political, social and literary events.

Malviya Ji was a firm believer that religious education from early age must be imparted so that all that is good in the Hindu religion can be passed on to the next generation. With this in view, Malviya Ji started a weekly, Sanatan Dharma, in 1933.

Banaras Hindu University:

Madan Mohan Malviya’s contribution in the field of education is invaluable, immortalizing him in the annals of our country’s history.

Malviya ji considered primary education to be the duty of the state and wanted govt. to pay special attention to this cause and make primary education free. Malviyaji lent powerful support to girl’s education. He wished for a university in the United Provinces where scholars of high calibre could inspire students with their teachings and research.

Both Annie Besant and Malviya had been deliberating over higher education in the country and had come to the conclusion that quality education with due regard of their own culture along with learning science and technology.

A plan for establishing a Hindu University was put forward in 1904 at a meeting in Benaras under the Presidentship of Maharaja of Benaras. The plan was accepted. Malviyaji had given up his law practice to devote all his time to this mega project. On 1st January 1906, during the annual session of Congress held in Banaras the establishment of Hindu University was announced.

Malaviyaji giving speech during the laying of the foundation stone of BHU, 1916.
Malaviyaji giving speech during the laying of the foundation stone of BHU, 1916.

In 1911, Annie Besant’s Central Hindu College, the Sanatan Dharma University was launched by Bharat Dharma Mahamandal and the Hindu University were merged into it. Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy agreed to establish a residential University at Banaras and the Banaras Hindu University act was passed on 1st October, 1915 and the foundation stone was laid by the Viceroy on 4th February 1916.

A leading advocate from Allahabad, Pandit Sundar Lal was appointed it’s first Vice Chancellor. Malviyaji took up the post on November 29, 1919 and remained its’ Vice Chancellor till 1938 and was succeeded by S. Radhakrishnan, who later became the President of India.

Malviya had to grapple with many a crisis during his tenure as VC. Nevertheless, with the courage of his convictions and optimism he was able to uphold the principles on which the University was established.

“It (The university) will not promote narrow sectarianism but a proud liberation of mind and a religious spirit which will promote brotherly feeling between man and man…. I believe that instruction in truth of religion, whether be it Hindu or Mussalman, whether it be imparted to the students of Banaras Hindu University or Aligarh Muslim University, will.. produce men, who, if they are true to religion, will be true to their God, their kind their country…I look forward to the time when the students, who pass out of such universities, will meet each other in closer embrace as the sons of the same motherland than they do at present.”

Banaras Hindu University Entrance
Banaras Hindu University Entrance


Malviya ji was an active member of the Congress and all life did political work. He protested against the Government’s policy of suppression. He demanded that Indians be given higher responsibilities in defense and administration and continuously advocated for people’s representation in governance.

He also demanded that the examination for the Indian Civil Services be held in India and Indians who qualify should be appointed in administrative posts. His advocacy was the other way round. He said that those Britishers who want to serve in India should appear in an exam in India and prove their ability. He also wrote inspiring articles for the cause of farmers. He protested against the drain of India’s money to England in the form of salaries and pensions to Britishers.

In 1896 during famine he said: “if the govt. had encouraged art, craft and industry, and had used capable Indians in the administration, then our country today would not have been in such a miserable condition, and it would not have been difficult to tackle the problems of famine.”

Malviya and other leaders wanted the tyrannical British rule to be replaced by a people’s representative Govt. to which all the Governor Generals, Lord Lansdowne to Lord Curzon opposed.

On Bengal’s division in 1905, a wave of indignation spread all over the country. Congress pleaded but were unsuccessful to convince the British. The younger congress members concluded that expecting justice from British would be futile and the force would have to be countered effectively and only radical means could bring freedom. The congress was then divided into two, the moderates and the extremists. But with the efforts of madan Mohan malviya and Lala lajpat Rai, there was no formal split in Congress.

Malviya ji advocated the ‘Swadeshi’ movement with great zeal. Malviya defined the Swadeshi Movement as: “Its motto is to improve the financial condition of the masses. This can only be done when goods made in the country find a market here and the required goods are manufactured here. Industry and business are in the infant stage in the country and we will have to tend them very carefully and give up our selfishness in doing so.

Malviya said that the boycott should be ended only in the event of reversal of Bengal’s partition. In 1906, the situation became serious. The British Govt resorted to all kinds of repressive measures. Lord Minto gave it a communal color and made the situation even worse. Malviya strongly opposed the introduction of communal electorates policy. He also held that the main reason for communalism is not religion but dogmatism, and orthodoxy. He advocated that “with unity comes nationalism and with nationalism the country progresses.”

Malviya ji was of the opinion that to improve the economic condition of the country it was essential that the British armed forces be withdrawn. India should have its own military which should include men of every caste and religion. It was as a result of his effort that the Govt. set up a military academy at Dehradun.

Congress President:

Malviya ji was elected President of annual Congress session of 1909, held in Lahore. The Manchester Guardian described the new President as “politician of high standing and notable ability, .. a self made man, a moderate .. there is no other orator in congress who is admired as much as Mr. Malviya

Malaviyaji Punjab Visit after Jaliawalan Bagh Massacre.
Malaviyaji Punjab Visit after Jaliawalan Bagh Massacre.

After 1909, the cry for independence grew much strongly. Malviya strongly opposed the notorious Rowlatt Bill. The Act was passed in 1919. The entire nation protested against this injustice and Gandhiji called for a nationwide Hartaal. After the Jaliyanwala Bagh massacre, when the Indemnity bill was brought to save the British Officers, Malviya ji thrashed the British Govt with his four and a half hour oratory of highest standard.

A member of the treasury benches said: “Hon’ble Pandit Malviya has chastised the British Government so severely but in such a placid manner as even Edmund Burke had not done while impeaching Warren Hastings.

The slogan “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth alone will triumph) is also a legacy given to the nation by Pandit Malaviya as the President of the Indian National Congress in its session of 1918 at Delhi, by saying that this slogan from the Mundakopanishad should be the slogan for the nation.

Malviya’s vivid description, at the Congress working committee at bardoli in 1922, of the Chauri Chaura incident where a mob set fire at police station, convinced Gandhiji that the people were yet to understand the true spirit of non-cooperation.

Having said that, after the Chauri Chaura in 1922, British decided to hang 170 Indians. Madan Mohan Malviya fought for them. 155 got released & 15 life sentences! Malviya’s advocacy was so perfect that he didn’t let even one get the death sentence for Chauri Chaura. Even Judge Mairs stood thrice & clapped! Gandhiji was also a famous and successful lawyer by the way.

Lokmanya Tilak died a year ago. The nation was in ferment. Gandhiji was marching to Dandi breaking the Salt Act on April 6, 1930. Martial Law was clamped throughout the country. Malviya and several other leaders including Vallabh Bhai Patel were arrested in Bombay while offering Satyagraha. Impact of his arrest was such that the students of Banaras Hindu University left for Bombay to support their leader.

After release, Malviya attended a meeting of Congress working committee, which had been declared illegal, in Delhi. All those present were imprisoned for six months. Malviya ji fell severely ill there and was later transferred to Govt hospital.

In 1931, at the age of 70, along with Gandhiji, he attended the Round Table Conference in London where he delivered a highly significant speech on army and its maintenance. He also gave several other speeches there on Hinduism.

Malaviyaji, Gandhiji and Sarojini Naidu attending Round Table Conference in London, 1931.
Malaviyaji, Gandhiji and Sarojini Naidu attending Round Table Conference in London, 1931.

On his return in January 1932, he found that many Indian leaders are in prison. Despite being banned by the Govt., paying no heed, the Congress session under presidentship of Malviya ji in Delhi was announced. But Malviyaji was once again arrested before the session for three days and could not attend the session.

Freedom in Sight:

The ‘Quit India’ resolution of 1942 saw all the top Congress leaders behind bars. BHU was a hub of nationalist activities. A special British force entered the campus. The ageing malviya challenged this but to no avail.

Events both national and international moved rapidly. The resurgence in India, the end of war in Europe and Asia, the national euphoria raised following the stories of the INA’s war of liberation and the Red Fort trial of its offenders, and the revolt in the Naval ranks in Bombay, led to the eventual handing over of power by British to India.

But the unfortunate events at Noakhalli and the atrocities perpetrated in many parts on the Hindus dealt a severe blow on Malviya.

On November 12, 1946 ended the life of an eminent personality devoted to noble cause knowing that the freedom for Indians for which he struggled all life, was at hand.


Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Malviya Mission

Remembering our Leaders – Vol 9


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