Malaviyaji’s birthday is an auspicious day for our country. Especially for us, who live in this city of Prayag. Today, the past days flash across my eyes, particularly those days when I had returned to Allahabad after some studies. In a way, from my early childhood, I do not remember exactly from when, I have been seeing Malaviyaji from a distance, just as children look at the elders. He used to love me and I respected him. Then I was out of my country for a long period. When I was back, I got involved in many things, politics as well. That was the time of fire and enthusiasm of youth. I remember that in those days, I would often go to Bharati Bhavan to visit him. I had my doubts and was baffled why nothing happens here and why people become lazy and laid back. I would ask him and he would explain; something I would understand and still I would remain confused. The confusion was a general one. The condition of Hindustan was not good at all. Particularly, I remember those days in the beginning when I used to go to him; sometimes alone and sometimes with others. I would try to understand from him the political situation here. And then I myself plunged into this realm and got many opportunities to meet him. Those were the days of the First World War. Our political activities were dampened because the World War was going on. Attention was diverted to what would happen to the world. With the turn of events, few new thoughts came up and gradually the winds of change led to Hindustan’s step forward. Probably, people may still remember that period when Lokmanya Tilak started a ‘Home Rule League’ and another one by Annie Besant. Our organization Congress, whose oldest and tallest leader was Malaviyaji, too had started waking up.
The War ended and other events followed. In a few days, Punjab massacre took place. Malaviyaji had a great role to play during the period of Marshal Law and its fall out, the shame, the enquiry and the relief work for help. It was then that I got an opportunity to work well with him in Lahore, in Punjab, in Amritsar and in Shimla, where at that time the old Imperial Council held its meetings. I had known Malaviyaji since a long time from a distance and now I got an opportunity to know him better from nearby. He always explained and clarified things to me with love and affection. Sometimes, I would take liberty to argue with him; even then he tried to explain with love. Sometimes it was not possible to fully agree with him, but the method of his explanation was soft. His method itself was sweet and loving. That would leave profound impressions whether any one agreed with his views or not. After that the Non-Cooperation movement started and there were different views. Gandhiji entered the field. Even during this period also his influence was not merely in Allahabad, but it was very powerful in the politics of the entire country.
Despite our fondness for him, we would, as young men of those days, at times complained to him. The complaint according to us was that he was slow. This was, what I should say, our youthful anguish to think that any one not fully agreeing with our views was slow. Let that be. Ever since Congress was started, he had been a unique symbol of our political movements. Malaviyaji had a big role in its inception, in its making and its growth. There is no doubt that with the moving tides of time, Malaviyaji was not only in the forefront but also was a link to unite – to unite the radicals and the moderates in Congress. It was not his nature to oppose vehemently. A remarkable part of his personality was while standing firm on his conviction, he remained with others and tried to bring them together.
Then came a period when I had to meet him frequently. Today, such pictures come in front of me and I see what a big role he had in shaping up the Indian politics in all these years. This was as far as politics is concerned, which itself was great indeed. Another remarkable point was his special inclination towards our ancient culture. He was always trying to enrich it and you can find his impressions everywhere. The position during those days was something like this. The opinions he expressed were right in my way of thinking, but there were arguments which continue even today about language and sometimes about some other subject. However, Malaviyaji was never an opponent of any language. He wanted that Hindi and Sanskrit should prosper in the country and he was right. Education and arts are the true wealth, which make us grow in stature and the more you have them the better it is.
The political leaders of that period were different; our country then had many stalwarts. It was a unique era when great people were born in many parts of the country. Many of them were drawn towards Congress. Many types of people were there, different in views and dissimilar in interests.
And among those great leaders of the time, Malaviyaji paid the most intense attention on ancient culture, our rich heritage. In the conditions at that time, it was very good because the nation was groping in the dark; it had already gone wayward. The first point is that among our people, every one big and small, a new English speaking elite caste was establishing itself. While politically we were opposing the English rule, the English culture, the culture of Angreziat was influencing the leaders of that time. This was not surprising; it was to happen that way only; it happened in other countries also. Not only English, a new wave had enveloped entire Europe; and on its back was a new era of industries, factories and science. And the result was a good one and we were attempting to make it ours also. But apart from this, there are other things. A few great people were looking at the larger vision. Malaviyaji put his entire stress on Hindustaniyat, on Bharatiyata and to balance the views to some extent. That time also there were many people, many learned ones, cultured and erudite scholars; but as per my understanding Malaviyaji was probably far ahead in this matter among the political leaders, the big leaders. He was stopping the flood of Angreziat not through opposition but by doing his work; by his thoughts he was trying to enrich our culture. In this connection his great work was the establishment of Hindu Vishwavidyalay (Banaras Hindu University). That was great indeed. The goal of the university, its object, was to blend today’s science and its off-springs like technology, industry etc with our ancient Indian culture. In a way it was a great work for India. Even now it is, because it is not a work of a day or two. On one side is our ancient culture which we have to understand well. We have been moulded in it for hundreds-thousands of years. It was very valuable for the country and to forget it is a sort of forgetting ourselves because we have grown and are made up from the same soil. If we forget it we will have no roots, which are very essential. But along with it, it is also important to know the present day world. Today’s world belongs to science and if we do not understand it, we will lag behind. We have lost our freedom. The biggest question in front of us today is how to understand it to improve the financial status of our country and make it better. Therefore, if you see both these sides, you will understand the need of both. Our country needs both. If only one is there and not the second, we cannot march ahead. If the first is not there, that means if we forget the ancient culture, we will become rootless, we will remain artificial people. No country can grow much by artificiality; this has to be learnt by every country, understand it fully and well. We cannot progress much by just talking about the country’s great past without understanding today’s world, today’s science etc and then we will not be useful in today’s world, will become strength-less, weak, will not be able to retain our freedom, cannot make ourselves prosperous and our economic position will not be good. The world belongs to science and science is a part of knowledge. Science has given man great power. Therefore both the sides are essential for the growth of India. Even if one separates out, then it becomes like a one wheeled vehicle.
Malaviyaji had both the sights in front of him. He put both the objects in front of the Banaras University and the same challenge is there in front of all of us today. The vehicle of Hindusthan went ahead speedily on these two wheels. Today’s youth complain of the slow march, just as we complained that the old people were slow and shoddy, that they do not have that much zeal, that much courage as we have. In every period, our youth understand the same way. If we read the lectures of the people who started Congress—whether of Dadabhai Naoroji or other great people or of Malaviyaji — they appear to be in mild tone. But people forget what the times were then, what conditions prevailed then, what efforts were made for change. Comparing the ten-twenty year old happenings with today’s yardstick has no meaning; that will be beyond our understanding. When you see with this view, you will comprehend how Malaviyaji led the nation, how was his leadership, how he was in the forefront of our political movement. You will find the old leaders of Congress, (respected Malaviyaji was among the greatest of those leaders), as great from any standard of comparison in the world.
He was a great man who took out the country from that bad situation, a noble man in thoughts and in sacrifice. In addition to these, he was a great visionary who also built, not broke, unlike most of the so-called revolutionaries who pay more attention to breaking than to making. In other countries also, whether it be Asia or Africa, we see that to build is more difficult than to break. Our elderly leaders’ attention was always on building, not on breaking. Malaviyaji was a special example of this, he was great, he used to bring about change by his effort. He was a true revolutionary and there is no doubt about this. It is not that he made some institutions, he made many of them, but he made the people of India. He desired that the people of India should gain courage, their head held high, and with confidence in themselves.
A leader has to go forward and take his people step by step and keep the steps together. If leader goes too far, then the people will fall behind. There is no use for the group, for the people. This way you can judge the times and the leader. Therefore, if we measure from this standard and see what relationship Malaviyaji had with his times and with the old generations, then you will gauge how big he was and how great he was. And Malaviyaji was forward looking and taking people forward also. There is no doubt that he was a Mahapurush (a great soul) of our country. The entire country is proud of him, and those living in Allahabad should be particularly proud that such a great man was born here in our city. We should pay our tributes to him. Banaras University is his greatest legacy. What greater memorial can there be than this? In the past seventy years of our political history, in the history of India, his name is shining like a bright star. From the beginning, he took part in Congress and in many other fields and made them sparkle and progress further.
The youth of today are in a different age; they probably cannot even understand fully what happened or did not happen in our fight for freedom. Yes, they hear some stories, read some things from the books, but can never fully feel the way someone who has seen with his eyes and experienced the events. It will be good if young people try to understand some such great people and find what they were, what all they did in their time, how they extricated Hindustan and its people from a deep gorge in which they had fallen.
The country progresses not on the basis of the money (money is also important and is required) it has but on the basis of the quality of its people. And you will see that a great person born amidst us faces the question of how to uplift people. Malaviyaji and Gandhiji’s attention was to uplift the peasantry, the depressed people, and the downtrodden. How these people can lift their head, have confidence in themselves, work together in cooperation? Malaviyaji and Gandhiji used to think that when freedom arrives and the people are not ready, it will go away, it will not stay. If people are educated, freedom will come and it will remain.
Malaviyaji and Gandhiji looked to the future – to make everyone progressive, educated, uplifted. Brick by brick, stone by stone, the two great men tried to make the future of India bright. They made us, they made the people. We were given opportunity so that we can do something in our time; just like now the time has come for the present youth. And they will also do something, because all structures are built, from where they can go further. People of today can profit from past experience and with intelligence can improve on it. People will keep growing day by day, always.
On such an occasion when we remember a great person, we should get an inspiration, a lesson from his life. In this way we can learn many things. What is the history of the world? There are many things in world history, but world history is the life story of people who are of higher calibre, who are great. There are other opinions also, but in reality probably this is the most important thing.
Today’s people, today’s youth can learn a lot from Malaviayji’s life -- from the goal he had in front of him, how he worked and how he succeeded. To erect statues, to establish organisations is alright, but let us learn from his life, let us learn more from his work and go in that path. That will become the greatest memorial! It is good the time has come for celebrating his centenary. Let old and new people of Hindu Vishwavidyalay think again, discuss and learn whatever made Malaviyaji such a great person (Mahapurush), how he encouraged everyone in the path of India’s freedom, in the path of respecting our culture and how we follow in the path shown by him and serve India and progress ahead. Jai Hind!
(Pt. JawaharLal Nehru was the Chairman of the Committee of Birth Centenary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviyaji and delivered this address in 1961, at Allahabad in Hindi. Edited version of the translation by Shri K. Chandramauli (Bangalore).
"A giant among men, one of those who laid the foundation of modern Indian Nationalism and, year by year, built up brick by brick and stone by stone, the noble edifice of Indian freedom. With his passing, perhaps it might be said that a certain age in Indian Politics had closed. Men like Pandit Malaviya laboured in days when they had to face enormous difficulties. My earliest memories of childhood are connected so far as Indian politics is concerned with Pandit Malaviya. Somehow Indian politics took shape in my boyhood eyes in Malaviyaji's face and figure.
Pandit Nehru, As Leader of the Central Assembly on 13.11.46, New Delhi