A teacher, a journalist, a social worker, a lawyer, a politician, an educationist, and, above all, a profound student of ancient Indian culture and a devout Hindu, Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya was a sage and a savant who stood second only to Mahatma Gandhi among the builders of modern India. There have occasionally been oblique references to his orthodoxy, but those who had the good fortune of coming in close contact with him would bear it out that orthodoxy in Malaviyaji was nothing more than rigorous self-discipline prescribed by ancient texts. There was not the slightest trace of bigotry, fanaticism and intolerance in him. One of the articles of his faith was "वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम" I
He gave मंत्र दीक्षा to untouchables in Calcutta in 1928 and again in Varanasi in 1936. When Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast as a protest against the award of Ramsay Macdonald, he not only supported the stand that separate electorate would do a great harm to Harijans, but also went a step further and assured Mahatma Gandhi that no one would be regarded as untouchable thereafter. On the question of the right of Harijans to enter temples he observed, "मैं धर्म ग्रन्थों के अध्ययन के अनुसार कहता हूं कि इनको भी देव दर्शन मिलना चाहिये" I
There have been some who dubbed him as anti-Muslim. To them, an observation of Munshi Ishwar Saran, who knew Malaviyaji more intimately than many others, should serve as a corrective. “All over the country”, Munshi Ishwar Saran records, “Malaviyaji’s public life is an object of love and adoration, but there is one misconception which I shall try to remove, if I can. On the Hindu-Mohammedan question he and I are not in perfect agreement, but I can truthfully assert that he is by no means anti-Mohammedan, as in certain quarters he is supposed to be. I have had innumerable talks with him on the question, but never has he betrayed even in private any hostility to the Muslim community. By nature he is averse to wrong or injustice and he is loath to hurt even a fly much less a human being or a community. He desires to be just to Mohammedans, but unlike Mahatma Gandhi he is not prepared to give them all they want. He would be just and even a little generous to Mohammedan but not over-generous”.
It is in this strain and certainly not as a strand of hostility towards Muslim that his criticism of the Morley-Minto reforms which he made in 1909 as President of the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress should be read. It was not his complaint that direct representation was given to Muslim, but he failed to see why a similar privilege had been withheld from non-Muslims. “The point of our complaint,” he said, “is that franchise has not similarly been extended to the non-Mohammedan subjects of His Majesty …. A Parsee, Hindu or Christian who may be paying an income-tax on three lakhs or land revenue in the sum of three times, is not entitled to a vote to which his Mohammedan fellow-subject who pays an income-tax only on three thousand a year or land revenue in the same sum is entitled”.
If it is admitted that history creates its makers and in turn gets impetus from them, the personality of Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya appears in clearer relief. “By the nineties of the last century”, notes the well known historian Sri V.N. Mehta, “India was spiritually dead. Each Party was treating the symptoms of the body politic and trying to throw the responsibility on someone else for the sorry pass the country had come to. Mrs. Besant and the theosophists sowed at the time the seed of the tree that was to take under its shade the whole community for their spiritual uplift. Benares was asleep. The traditional sanctity of the holy place and the divine Ganges was still believed by the average citizen to be quite sufficient to atone for inactivity and sins of omission and commission”. There was a mania for English manners and customs. All that was English was considered good, everything else useless. India was, in short, losing her soul. Malaviyaji who started taking active interest in public affairs amid such a socio-political environment revolted, and nurtured as he was in Sanskrit lore and learning, drew inspiration from ancient Indian culture and civilization, to give a new orientation to the life of the young men of the country.
His very wide sympathies drew him in various directions and his genius created an indelible impression on whatever aspect of life it felt, called upon to act. Nature had gifted him with rare powers of oratory and sweet temper, besides delicately chiseled features, instinct with intellectuality and a far complexion. He was singularly free from rancor, malice and hatred, and was gentle and generous to a fault. There was no pride in him and he made no distinction between the rich and the poor. A couple of anecdotes would illustrate the point.
Once when he was ill and doctors had advised him not to receive visitors, his son wanted to stop some people going to see him, but Malaviyaji said, “As long as I occupy this house these poor people will come without let or hindrances”. Munshi Ishwar Saran records, “When he was at the bar, he and I for some time had our respective offices in the same house and thus he came to know my clerk. Once he invited me on the occasion of some festival to dinner. When I arrived at his house, he asked me when my clerk would come. I told him that he had not been asked and Malaviyaji felt terribly disappointed. He had intended to invite him also, but forgot to do so. Twice he expressed his disappointment to me and when he came to the office the next day, he profusely apologized to the clerk”.
Many other instances can be cited in support of Malaviyaji’s gentleness, courtesy, and sweetness of manners. Along with these qualities there was his remarkable gift of speech whose style, delivery and lucidity found no parallel. Sri Mirza Ismail once said, “He possesses in eminent degree the three great powers of the orator -- to instruct, to move and to delight”, and Sir Sachchidanand Sinha’s opinion was that “Pandit Malaviya’s speeches seemed to me to combine rare eloquence with remarkable sweetness and suavity…the conviction has steadily grown upon me that through India has produced several unrivalled orators and debaters, Pandit Malaviya is unique in the sense of being the only public speaker who tries to persuade the audience not by reason of power and vehemence of his language but by great tact, wonderful gentleness, and extraordinary charm coupled with the most easy flowing fluency which, all combined, produce upon the hearer’s mind and attention a soothing sense and at once carry conviction to it”.
Gifted as such, Malaviyaji could have soared to enviable eminence at the bar. That was what an Allahabad High Court Judge meant when he said, “Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya has the ball before his feet but he refuses to kick it”. Why he did so was due to his burning patriotism and his desire to uplift India materially and spiritually.
At the 1893 Congress session, he drew the attention of the British administration to the growing impoverishment of millions of Indians. “Will they kindly come here and see”, he asked. “If they believe in God, and believe they must, they will have to render an account of their stewardship in this country. Let them come out to this country once in their lives and go from village to village, and town to town and see in what misery the people live. Let them come out and ask the people what the country was, say before the Mutiny. Where are weavers, where are those men who lived by different industries and manufactures that were sent to England and other countries in large numbers year after year”.
The question was basic and its answer, attempted ever since, came only in 1947 when the British left the country. In the struggle of the intervening period Malaviyaji often played the decisive role. He kept an eye on the interests of Indians both at home and abroad so that indentured labour came in for forceful comment at his hands. He described it as an “unmitigated evil” and said, “The system has worked enough moral havoc during 75 years. We cannot think, my lord, without intense pain and humiliation, of the blasted lives of its victims, of the anguish of soul to which our numerous brothers and sisters have been subjected by this system. It is high time that this should be abolished.” The appeal had the desired affect and the system was stopped.
In the brief span of an article it is not possible to even touch all the aspects of the life of Malaviyaji, but any account of his activities, howsoever brief, would be incomplete without a mention of the Banaras Hindu University which epitomizes to a very large extent what Pandit Malaviya stood for. It is a permanent memorial to his greatness and a crowning glory of his life.
The idea of founding the Hindu University was conceived in the year 1904, when at a meeting held under the Presidentship of the then Maharaja of Banaras, the proposal to found a Hindu University was first put forward. The idea took some years to mature and led in 1911 to the formation of the Hindu University Society which was registered under that name. The Banaras Hindu University Bill was passed and placed on the Statute Book on October 1, 1915.
The foundation stone of this premier institution of Asia was laid on February 4, 1916 by the then Viceroy and Governor General of India, Lord Hardinge. The University is spread over an area of 1,300 acres of land.
The Banaras Hindu University, popularly known as B.H.U., is open to persons of either sex and of any race, creed, caste or class. There are nearly 14 constituent colleges and a number of local colleges affiliated with the University at present. The number of students studying in this University is nearly ten thousand which includes about a thousand girls and many students from foreign countries.
The objects of the Hindu University, which is ateaching and residential University, are: (1) to promote the study of Hindu Shastras and of Sanskrit literature generally as a means of preserving and popularizing the best thought and culture of Hindus, (2) to promote learning and research in arts and science in all branches, (3) to advance and diffuse such scientific, technical and professional knowledge, combined with the necessary practical training, as is best calculated to help in promoting indigenous industries and in developing the material resources of the country, and (4) to promote the building up of character in youth by making religion and ethics an integral part of education.
It needs little imagination to realize how great can be the contribution of the University in the regeneration of the forces which in days by-gone made India the leader of the rest of the world in every branch of knowledge and learning; and if the B.H.U. succeeds in recapturing the greatness that was ours, the contribution of Pandit Malaviya would be a greater landmark in the history of the country than any created so far. As a nation we are grateful to him, and though his physical form is no more amongst us, his spirit survives to inspire and guide us. We can pay him no greater tribute than to follow the path he chalked out for us and pledge to uphold all that he stood for.