Born on July 23, 1856, in Ratnagiri Bombay State (now Maharashtra), Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a social reformer and freedom fighter.
He was one of the key originators of modern India and perhaps the strongest campaigner of Swaraj or Self-Rule for India.
In 1877, Tilak obtained his Bachelor of Arts in first class in Mathematics from Deccan College Pune. He left his Masters course of study midway to join the L.L.B course, and he successfully procured his L.L.B degree from Government Law College in 1879.
After the completion of his education, Tilak rejected the well-paid offers of a government job and decided to dedicate himself to the bigger cause of national development.
His legendary declaration “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it” served as a brainwave for future revolutionaries during India’s independence movement.
The British Government had termed him as the "Father of Indian Unrest" and his supporters bestowed the title of ‘Lokmanya’ upon him
Tilak was a radiant politician and an idealistic scholar who believed that sovereignty is the primary need for the well-being of a country.
To attain his patriotic goals, Tilak published two newspapers -Mahratta' in English and Kesari in Marathi. Both the newspapers emphasized on making the Indians conscious of the magnificent past of the country and also egged on the common people to be self-dependent.
In other words, the newspapers launched by him vigorously propagated the cause of independence from colonial rule.
In 1896, when the entire nation was stung by famine and plague, the British government declared that there was no cause for worry and also declined the urgency to set up a 'Famine Relief Fund'. The outlook of the imperial government was sternly criticized by his newspapers.
Tilak intrepidly published reports regarding the mayhem caused by famine and plague and the complete capriciousness and unresponsiveness of the British Government.
He joined the Indian National Congress in 1890 and soon started opposing the moderate outlook of the party on self-governance. He felt that undemanding legitimate campaigning in itself was fruitless against the colonial government.
Consequently, this made him a severe critic of well-known Congress leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He wanted an armed revolt to drive away the British.
After the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, he heartily supported the Swadeshi movement and boycott of British merchandise.
Due to this deep difference in viewpoint, Tilak and his followers came to be known as the extremist wing of the Congress. His activities were supported by Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab. The trio came to be popularly known Lal-Bal-Pal.
During 1908-1914, Tilak had to endure six years of rigorous imprisonment in Mandalay Jail, Burma (Myanmar).
Following his mounting reputation and fame, the British government also endeavored to impede the publication of his newspapers.
Tilak returned to India in 1915 when the political situation was rapidly changing under the gloominess of the World War I. There was an extraordinary celebration after he was released from prison.
He then returned to active politics with a placid and soft outlook. Making a decision to reunite with his fellow nationalists and supporters, Tilak founded the All India Home Rule League in 1916 along with, Annie Besant Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Joseph Baptista.
After some time although he rejoined the Congress, he was unable to reconcile the two opposite-minded groups.
Tilak was one of the greatest social reformers of India and throughout his life, he preached for the cause of women education and women empowerment.
Not only that, he educated all of his daughters and did not marry them until they were over 16 years of age
In order to inculcate the spirit of nationalism among his countrymen, Tilak also proposed the celebrations of ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and ‘Shivaji Jayanti' in a grand manner.
He envisaged that these kinds of celebrations inflame a feeling of unity and arouse nationalist feeling among the common people.
Tilak breathed his last on August 1, 1920, when he was just 64.
It is an utter catastrophe that due to his adherence towards radicalism, Tilak and his contribution in the Independence of India were not given the due recognition that was actually deserved after India attained freedom on August 15, 1947.