Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya : Social Enterpreneur of the 20th Century


Prof. H. C. Chaudhary


Social entrepreneurship as a practice that integrates economic and social value has a long heritage and a global presence.


The term ‘social entrepreneurship’ may be new, but the phenomenon is not. We have always had social entrepreneurship, even if we did not call them that. They originally built many of the institutions we now take for granted (One such great institution is Banaras Hindu University).


Social entrepreneurship is the work of social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are those exceptional individuals who dream up and take responsibility for an innovative and untested idea for positive social change and usher that idea from dream to reality.


Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya, the founder of the great Banaras Hindu University, provides a classic example of social entrepreneurship.


The Hindu university idea had caught the fancy of many earnest thinkers and was supported by vast numbers of people but the university which ultimately emerged was Malaviya’s conception. In the course of his life time, Banaras Hindu University came to be known as a capital of knowledge, acknowledged across India and the world.


Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya created history in Indian education with this institution-the first of its kind in the country. He chose Banaras as the site, because of the centuries old tradition of learning, wisdom and spirituality inherent to the place. His vision was to blend the best of Indian education called from the ancient centers of learning-Takshashila5 and Nalanda and other hallowed institutions, with the best tradition of modern Universitites of the west.


Entrepreneurs vs. Social Entrepreneurs


The concept of entrepreneurship, long hallowed in the concept of business and economic ventures, has been increasingly applied to the context of social problem solving. The challenges of finding effective and sustainable solutions to many social problems are substantial and solutions may require many of the ingredients associated with successful business innovations in business creation.


In common parlance, an entrepreneur is associated with starting a business. The term ‘entrepreneur’ originated in French, it means someone who ‘undertakes’ a significant project or actively. More specifically, it came to be used to identify the venturesome individuals who stimulated economic progress by finding new or better ways of doing things.


In the 20th century, entrepreneurs have been described as innovators. The function of entrepreneurs is to reform or revolutionize the pattern of production. By serving new markets or creating new ways of doing things, they move the economy forward.


Social Entrepreneurs are one species in the genus “entrepreneur”. They are entrepreneurs with a social mission. For social entrepreneurs, the social mission is explicit and central. This obviously, the social mission is explicit and central. This obviously affects how social entrepreneurs perceive and assed opportunities. Mission-related impact becomes the central criterion, not wealth creation. The phrase “Social Entrepreneurship” combines the passion of social mission with business-like discipline, innovation and determination. Social entrepreneurs look for the most effective methods of serving their social missions. The critical distinction entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship lies in the value-proposition itself. For the entrepreneur, the value proposition anticipates and is organized to serve markets that can comfortably afford the new product or service, and is thus designed to create financial profit. From the outset, the expectation is that the entrepreneur and his or her investors will derive some personal financial gain. Profit is sine-qua-non to any venture’s sustainability and the means to its ultimate end in the form of large-scale market adaptation and ultimately a new equilibrium.11


The Social entrepreneurs, however, neither anticipates nor organizes to create substantial financial profit for his or her investors or for himself or herself. Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accures either to a significant segment of society or to society at large. The social entrepreneur’s value propositions targets an under-served, neglected or highly disadvantaged population that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve the transformative benefits on its own.12


“Social Entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solution to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather then leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.”13


Madan Mohan Malaviyaji was one of such social entrepreneurs who persuaded the entire India (rich and poor) to establish a university of national level to solve the problem of the society for higher education in early 20th century.


Mahamana Madan Mohan malaviya as social entrepreneurs of 20th century


Social Entrepreneurship describes a set of behavior that are exceptional.


Social entrepreneurs are characterized by very special traits, special leadership skills, a passion to realize their vision, and a strong ethical fiber. Social entrepreneurs exemplify certain characteristics necessary to bring change in society.


Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya (born in an educated orthodox Hindu family at Allahbad in 1861) is recognized as an outstanding and noble son of India. His multifaceted personality made him, at the same time, a great patriot, an educationist with a vision, a social reformer, an ardent journalist, reluctant  but effective lawyer, a successful parliamentarian and an outstanding statesman.14 His vision and hard work created Banaras Hindu University.


For the establishment of the university ( a social need of the country in the early 20th century), he applied entrepreneurial spirit, innovation approaches, management skills, and leadership. Accomplishing the social mission was certainly the prior objective of his life. As a social entrepreneur he played the role of a change agent in the social sector15 by


·         adopting a mission to create and sustain a university;


·         recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission;

·         engaging in a process of continuous innovation adaptation and learning;

·         acting boldly without being intimidated by limited resources in hand, and

·         exhibiting heightened accountability to serve the university.


Malaviyaji as change agent in the social sector


Social entrepreneurs are reformers and revolutionaries with a social mission. They make fundamental changes in the way things are done in the social sector. Their visions are bold16.


Among Malaviyaji’s many achievements, the most monumental was the establishment of the Banaras Hindu University or kasha Hindu Vishvidyalaya. Great minds and personalities like Annie Besant, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Shyam Charan De and many others joined hands with him in his quest for knowledge, arousing the national spirit in India and winning freedom with the power of education and righteousness.17


Malaviyaji had great dreams, grand wakeful dreams that made him the visionary of the 20th century. While a sleepy dream fades in the dawn, the wakeful dream gets clearer by the day, takes a specific shape and soon becomes a burning passion. A suitable mission emerges out of the vision and soon consumes the person’s entire life towards its fulfillment. The greatness of the vision depends mostly on its farsightedness, its clarity, its magnitude, and its wide canvas. Normally, the farther one looks into the future, the hazier is the picture. While the ordinary sees nothing but dark clouds, the visionary sees a bright star shining in the distance. He then paints it for others with all the clarity on a wide canvas. Malaviyaji was one such rare visionary.18


Malaviyaji adopted a mission to create Hindu university


Mission is the core of what distinguishes social entrepreneur from business entrepreneurs. For a social entrepreneur, the social mission is fundamental.19


Malaviyaji realized the importance of education and the hardships of the students early in life. He set up the “MacDonald Hindu boarding house” to accommodate230 students at Allahbad in 1903, by collecting a public donation of Rs. 1.3 lakhs. This appears to be the precursor for his grand vision of the Banaras Hindu University, which became a reality in 1916.


Malaviyaji started with a definite concept of what the university was to do and what the general disposition was to be of the various building which were to give it habitation.


Malaviyaji was nt a mere dreamer; he was an active “Builder” too. Clarity  of vision, conviction of thoughts, skills in communication, power of persuasiveness, transmitting that dream into an action plan… were some of the extraordinary qualities that marked him as a great ‘Builder’. To say that the ’Banaras Hindu University’ was his creation is acknowledging only part of the truth. He can be considered responsible for providing the backbone of ‘modern India’, of most of what we see today as ‘progress’.20


Malaviyaji recognized and relentlessly pursued the opportunity for the creation of a university


Where others see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunity. Social entrepreneurs are not simply driven by the perception of a social need or by their compassion, rather they have a vision of how to achieve improvement and they are determined to make their vision work.21


Malaviyaji had a different perspective on the university of his dreams. A residential teaching institution, it would maintain high standards of research in all the fields-ranging from culture, history, agriculture, engineering, science and education. Of course, emphasis was to be laid on imbibing true religious sprit which was possible only in a pure and healthy atmosphere. He, therefore, also laid stress on games and sports. He sought help of people from all over the country and was encouraged in his mission by people propounding different faiths.22


In 1904, when he started giving shapes to his idea of the university, the scheme appeared grandiose, if not impossible. But Mahamana went ahead with his mission since in his view education provided a key both to freedom and nation-building.23


It is remarkable that proving necessity of the University, he first threw light on the problem of the country’s increasing poverty and ignorance and then compared India with European countries. He pointed out the continuous decline of average earning of Indians. Whereas illiteracy percentage in U.K. was 5%, in Germany 1%, in India it was 95%.


To improve this sorry state state he called on the necessity of establishing University. He had declared that the main objective of the University would be the study of morality, religion and ancient culture. The only solution to eliminate the country’s backwardness and decline was scientific development. He has said in the 1905 document: “ The millions mired in poverty here can only get rid when science is used in their interest. Such maximum application of science is only possible when scientific knowledge is available to Indians in their own country”. Obviously, in Madan’s plan the main objective was to provide scientific knowledge and study of Indians youths. He considered sciences the key to prosperity.24


Malaviyaji realized that Modern India’ can be built by engineers, doctors, scientists and artist, only when they are imbued with high character, probity and honour. He strongly felt that all of them could be nurtured in a beautiful, big garden called the ‘university’ what should be an extension and modified version of the ‘gurukul’. Hence, in order to meet the future immense needs of the ‘Resurgent Modern India’, he visualized a ‘Modern University’ that would combine the best thought and culture of the East with the best science and technology of the West.25


The other distinguishing characteristic of the proposed University was to make it fully residential, whereas all other existing Universities in India-Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Lahore, and Allahbad were merely affiliating universities conducting examinations. His vision was a University where 10thousand students would live together and think over progress of society and nation.26


When the project of the Hindu University was mooted, it was thought by many that it would continue to live only in the fertile mind of Panditji but as a result of his incurable optimism and tireless labour it is now a grand and noble fact.


Malaviyaji engaged in a process of continuous adaptation and learning


The keynote of the success of the life and career of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya had been the sincerity and earnestness of his convictions, fortified by a sense of robust optimism, which never failed him even in the most unfavorable or adverse circumstances and surroundings.


Malaviya first propounded the idea of a Hindu University in 1904 at a meeting at Mint House, Banaras, presided over by the Maharaja of Banaras who had been his co-worker in the founding of the Hindu Boarding House at Allahabad. The idea was enthusiastically received and a prospectus was drawn up by Malaviya and circulated to select members of the Hindu community in October 1904.27


Madan Mohan Malaviya also circulated and discussed his prospectus of the Hindu University in the select meeting of distinguished educationists and representatives of Hindu community who were assembled in Banaras for the 21st session of the Indian National Congress in December 1905. During this select meeting a provisional committee was appointed to give final shape to the prospectus and to promote the scheme.28


Malaviya placed the university scheme also before the Sanatan Dharma Sammelan which met Allahabad during the Kumbh fair (January 20-29, 1906) under the presidentship of the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Pitha (Puri). The Sammelan, while approving the idea, suggested some additions to the aims and objects of the University.29


Due to political events taking place in the country, the scheme of the proposed Hindu University could not make any appropriate progress during the period, 1905-1910. The scheme was, however, kept alive by Madan Mohan Malaviya through discussions and consultations with leading educationists, patriots and leaders of the Hindu Community.30


In the meantime, another idea of establishing a National University was gradually shaping in the mind of Mrs. Annie Besant and in the year 1907 she put forward the idea of establishing such a University at Banaras under the name of “The University of India”.


In order to get government’s approval for the university at Banaras, the two schemes were amalgamated and Madan Mohan Malaviya modified his scheme in consultation with Mrs. Besant, who was leaving India for six months in April, 1911. His highness the Maharaja of Banaras had promised as much land as was needed for the carrying out of the scheme.31


In order to establish university at Banaras, Malaviyaji incorporated many charges in his earlier scheme and issued, in july  1911, a pamphlet entitles ‘Banaras Hindu University-why it is wanted and what it aims at’. A copy of this note was forwarded by him to all concerned with his convening letters dated the 15th july, 1911.32


Malaviyaji acted boldly without being limited by resources in hand


Social Entrepreneurs do not let their own limited resources keep them from pursuing their vision. They are skilled at doing more with less and at attracting resources from others.33


The most notable achievement of Malaviyaji in the sphere of constructive activities is the establishment of the Hindu University at Banaras. Such important institutions are usually built up by the benefactions of super rich men, or by high officials taking the lead with the backing of government, or by means of public subscriptions raised to commemorate a great name. but in the present case the university has been brought into existence by the trust reposed by the public in Malaviyajee’s devotion, character and high morale.


He had also demonstrated that the funding requirements for a social initiative could be successfully met on a sustainable basis by multiple strategies. He was successful in marketing his social mission of creating a national university. He carried on an intensive, campaign to collect funds and build up the university from stage to stage.


By preparing an acceptable draft proposal of the university, he had created basis for cooperation of influential sections of country. He knew well that for realizing his dream wide support of society was necessary. For about five years, he was busy collecting donations. The government could grant recognition only after a sum of Rs. 50 lacs was available. For raising the sum, he travelled to different parts of the country, met both the rich and the poor appealing them to donate generously for a noble cause. And he succeeded in his mission in 1915.34 The Banaras Hindu University Act was passed on 1st October 1915 and came into force on 1st April 1916.


Government cooperation was sought for the development of the university. That is why he invited the Viceroy to lay the foundation in February 1916 where several governors, Kings, Feudal lords, educationists and national leaders gathered. The main aim of the ceremony was to seek cooperation of the government and the rich Madan sought help from both, the rich and the poor.35


It was the first university to come out of private efforts. The other existing ones were government creations. Here everything was to be done by one single man, Madan.


Malaviyaji exhibited a heightened sense of accountability to serve the university


Madan Mohan Malaviyaji not only had the vision of dedicating a new temple of Sarasvati (center for learning) in the ancient and scared city of Banaras, but also the tenacity of purpose to achieve its material realization, and within his own life time to see it become a great seat of learning.36


Malaviyaji decided to give up his roaring practice at the bar in 1910 in order to devote all his energy to the Hindu University movement.37


When he accepted the Vice-Chancellorship in 1919 during the formative years of the university and until 1939 when he retired, the institution had already attained through his untiring efforts a definite shape and a character of its own, which has been sustained through the wear and tear of time. He was q unique patriarch-a banyan tree who, paradoxically enough, encouraged talent and positive tendencies. It goes to his credit that the University maintained best of traditions, with Pt. Malaviya making periodic visits to the classes as also to staff quarters and helping poor students.38


Malaviyaji gave up his lucrative practice and courted poverty so that he might devote his whole attention to the country’s cause in its multifarious aspects. He has been a life of dedication to the service of his motherland. The Banaras Hindu University is a living monyment of his unbounded and untiring energy and devotion.




The establishment of the Banaras Hindu University is a landmark in the history of the university education in this country. It was the first residential university to be established in India. In those days it was considered to be a novel experiment in the field of education. Not onlywas the university a residential one, it was established as an All – India University.


The Banaras Hindu University is the living picture of Madan’s philosophy of education. The dedication with which he founded the University proves that he showed exemplary capability as a successful social entrepreneur of the 20th century to achieve his objective. Right from the beginning he had the vision of a great fully developed university.


He not only dreamt of such an institution but materialized his dream and founded this great University by raising funds for it from the rich and the poor, princes and peasants of this land.


He made the institution a major centre of national awakening. He made education the prime means for national awakening. He was determined to establish Banaras Hindu University even before achieving national stature of leadership. More than a decade after 1905, he was engrossed in establishing the University. After that his main task was development of the University. That is why Gandhi said, “His greatest accomplishment is the Banaras Hindu University”. He wanted an educational system that would shape character of Indian youths, increase their faith in Indian culture and enliven them with patriotism and national service.


One century ago when the starting of the Hindu University was mooted, there were many who treated the idea with ridicule, regarding it as utopian and impracticable. Today the Banaras Hindu University with its magnificent edifices, colleges and hostels vivid with life, stands a as living monument of what robust optimism and self-confidence can accomplish.


Remembering through this paper such a great man,  the founder of this great University and its glorious tradition provides new sources of inspiration to all of us.


As we are going to celebrate the 150th birth-anniversary of Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya in the year 2011 and 100 years of Banaras Hindu University in the year 2016, we need more SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS like Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviyajee to help us find new avenues towards social improvement.


References and Notes

1.       Johanna Mair & Ignasi Marti, 2006; “Social Entrepreneurship Research”: A source of explanation, Prediction and Delight; Journal of world Business; .


2.       J. Gregory Dees; 1998; “The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship”; Graduate School of Business; Stanford University.


3.       What is Social Entrepreneurship?


4.       Under the foundation stone of the Banaras Hindu University is laid a casket containing, among other things, a copper-plate bearing a long inscription in Sanskrit verse which names the “Malaviya Brahman Madan Mohan” as the prime instrument of the Devine will for bringing the University into being (Parmanand; 1986 “MahamanaMadan Mohan Malaviya: An historical biography”; Varanasi; Malaviya Abhyayan Sansthan, Banaras Hindu University)


5.       In the seventh century before Christ, Takshashila was tha most famous seat of learning and a celebrated centre of Hindu culture (S. L. Dar & S. Somas Kandan; 2007, (reprinted) “History of the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi” Publication Cell, Banaras Hindu University).






Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya