The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, February 27, 2000


Gopal Krishna Gokhale
(May 9, 1866 — February 19, 1915)
Sarojini Naidu
(February 13, 1879 — March 2, 1949)
V. D. Savarkar
(May 28, 1883 — February 26, 1966)
Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande
(1860 — September, 19, 1936)
Dhyan Chand
(August 29, 1905 — December 3, 1979)
Vishnu Digambar Paluskar
(August 18, 1872 — August 21, 1931)

Gopal Krishna Gokhale
(May 9, 1866 — February 19, 1915)

OWING to his excellent academic record, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had the choice of becoming a lawyer, engineer, or civil servant, but he chose to become the assistant headmaster of a high school in Poona, for he believed that imparting education was the noblest of deeds. When Tilak and his confederates formed the Deccan Education Society, Gokhale was invited to teach English, mathematics, and political economy.

Gopal Krishna GokhaleAfter the foundation of the Indian National Congress, Gokhale was made its secretary. He was made a member of the Bombay Legislative Council in 1899, and in 1902 he succeeded Sir Pherozeshah Mehta as member of the Imperial Legislative Council. He refused a knighthood and KCIE saying that by accepting such honours he would cease to be Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

As the freedom movement gained momentum, the Moderates began to lose ground to firebrand leaders like Tilak. Differences between Gokhale and Tilak began to become more and more pronounced, but it is to their credit that they did not allow their political ideologies to come in the way of their friendship. When Tilak was arrested, a rumour was spread that the order had been passed at Gokhale’s behest, Tilak refused to believe the allegations against Gokhale.

Going his own way, Gokhale with the assistance of luminaries like N. A. Dravid, A. V. Patwardhan, G. D. Deodhar, Srinivasa Sastri, Takkar Bappa, and P. Kodandarao, founded the Servants of India Society in 1905 in order to train missionaries for the service of India. "Love of the country," he laid down in the preamble to the constitution of the Society, "must so fill the heart, that all else shall appear as of little moment by its side. A fervent patriotism which rejoices at every opportunity of sacrifice for the Motherland, a dauntless heart which refuses to be turned back from its object by difficulty or danger, a deep faith in the purpose of Providence which nothing can shake - equipped with these, the worker must start on his mission and reverently seek the joy which comes of spending oneself in the service of the Motherland."

In 1912, Gokhale strongly opposed the indentured labour system. At the invitation of Gandhi, he went to South Africa to strengthen his hands. The arduous struggle with the authorities ended in success, but ruined his already failing health. Back in India, he got involved in social reform, decrying the caste system, poor education, and communalism.

When failing health finally caught up with him, he was only 49 years old. "A prince and patriot has fallen," observed Surendranath Banerjea. Tilak called him "the diamond of India", and "the gem of Maharashtra". Jinnah was unusually generous with his praise when he said: "Gokhale was a fearless critic and opponent of the measures of Government and the administration of the country but in all his actions and utterances, he was guided by reason and pure moderation. Thus he was a help to the Government and source of strength and support to the cause of the people. One of the greatest lessons that his life and work teach me is the example of what one single individual can achieve, how powerfully and materially he can help and guide the destinies of his country and his people and from whom how millions can derive true lead and inspiration."

He denounced the caste system. He believed that the introduction of Western education was a blessing and Indians should try to make the best of it and catch up with the rest of the world. He believed that primary education must be made free and compulsory.Economic results of the British rule were absolutely disastrous, resulting in poverty. According to him the greatest need was industrial education. In agriculture, old methods should be replaced with the more modern ones.Top


Sarojini Naidu
(February 13, 1879 — March 2, 1949)

BACK in the first decade of the last century, an aspiring young girl sought an appointment with Edmund Gosse, and showed him some of her poems. After giving it a careful thought Gosse said a few kind words, but added at the end: "All your poetry, in the falsely English vein, should be put in the waste-paper basket. You have no doubt mastered the English language, but you should start writing about the mountains, the gardens, and the temples." The advice was well-taken and the young poet rose to become 'the nightingale of India': Sarojini Naidu.

Sarojini NaiduThe eldest daughter of a scientist-philosopher Aghornath Chattopadhyaya, Sarojini Naidu it appears inherited the gift of poetry from her mother, Barada Sundari, who was herself a poet. Her earliest poems can be seen in the archives of the National Library in Calcutta.

In 1895 she left for England for higher studies on a scholarship awarded by the Nizam of Hyderabad. There she studied at King's College, London, and then Girton College, and Cambridge University. About this time she fell in love with Govindarajulu Naidu, and married him despite stiff opposition to an alliance between a Brahmin and a non-Brahmin.

Sarojni's second volume of poetry, The Bird of Time, appeared in 1912.

But those were turbulent times, and the whole nation was in the grip of revolution. When Dr Annie Besant gave the clarion call of Independence, Sarojini Naidu gave up her literary career and joined politics 1917. Leaders like Gokhale, Tagore, Jinnah, C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer, Gandhi, and Nehru shaped her political thought.

From 1917 to 1919 she campaigned for the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the Rowlatt Act or the Black Bills, the Sabarmati Pact and the Satyagraha Pledge. She was Gandhi's most trusted lieutenant when he launched the Civil Disobedience Movement on April 6, 1919. And she spoke out against the Jallianwala massacre , and returned the Kaiser-i-Hind medal to the Government, led a deputation to Montague, Secretary of State for India, and fought for the rights of women. She was elected President of the Indian National Congress in1925, and in her Presidential address she said: "The National Congress must clearly issue a mandate to all those who come within its sphere to vacate their seats in the Central and Provincial Legislatures and inaugurate from Kailas to Kanyakumari, from the Indus to the Brahmapurta, an untiring and dynamic campaign t o arouse, consolidate, educate and prepare the Indian people for all the progressive and ultimate stages of our united struggle and teach them that no sacrifice is too heavy, no suffering too great, no martyrdom too terrible, that enables us to redeem our Mother from the unspeakable dishonour of her bondage, and bequeath to our children an imperishable legacy of Peace. In the battle for liberty, fear is the one unforgivable treachery and despair, the one unforgivable sin." Top


V. D. Savarkar
(May 28, 1883 — February 26, 1966)

LONDON in the first decade of 20th century was becoming a hub of revolutionary activities, and the man most feared by the authorities was V. D. Savarkar, a spell-binding orator, and a fire spitting writer. When his presence became intolerable, he was arrested and deported to India. The steamer that was bringing him back to India stopped at the French port of Marsielles for some repair work. Savarkar sought permission to use the toilet, and escaped from its widow and swam across to safety. Soon the French police spotted him and arrested him, he tried to tell them to take him to the magistrate, but the British bribed the French police and Savarkar was back in their custody.

V. D. SavarkarThough Madame Cama and the International Court of Justice took objected his illegal arrest on French soil, the ultimate decision was given in favour of England.

Known for his daredevilry, Savarkar was born into a Chitpavan family of Maharashtra, that has given India great leaders like Bhandarkar, Ghokhale, Tilak, Agarkar, and Pranjpye.

After matriculation he went to Ferguson College, Poona where he organised Mitra Mandali to arouse the spirit of patriotism among Indians. The Partition of Bengal and the Swadeshi Movement had a great impact on his mind. After his graduation in 1905, he transformed the Mitra Mandali into Abhinava Bharat. Later he opened its branches in England, France, America, Germany, Hong kong, Singapore, and Burma.

Thanks to Bal Gangadhar Tilak' initiative, and a scholarship, he sailed for England in 1906. Once there he started Free India Society and roped in revolutionaries like Dr. Hardyal, Bhai Paramananda, V. V. S Iyer, Senapati Bapat, and Madan Lal Dhingra. About that time he got hold of a book on making bombs, and smuggled its cyclostyle copies into India.

Being a rare combination of a man of letters and man of action, to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the 1857 struggle, he wrote The First Indian War of Independence. The book was immediately banned by the authorities. Not the one to give up so easily, he got it published in Holland.

While in London he also qualified for the Bar, but the Inn of Court wanted his assurance that he would not take part in seditious activities.. This was not acceptable to Savarkar, and this put an end to his law career.

During his imprisonment in the dreaded jail of the Andamans, he wrote Echoes from Andamans, a vivid document describing the horrors of the black waters. He was released in 1924 because of intense public opinion. and because of his ruined health. He was allowed to go back to Ratnagiri provided he did not take part in politics. When the Congress Ministry assumed office in 1937, he was finally allowed to go free.

Savarkar revitalised the Hindu Mahasabha and countered the separatist policies of the Muslim League. He opposed the partition of India vigorously, and was convinced that Gandhi was sacrificing the interests of the nation in order to please the Muslims.

When Nathu Ram Godse assassinated, Savarkar was also implicated. At this stage he was defended by P. R. Das, the younger brother of Deshbandhu Chitranajan Das. But since nothing could be proved, he was acquitted of the charges honourably.

He was a staunch believer of the idea of Greater India, but he also believed in international peace and brotherhood. "The earth is our motherland," he once said, "mankind our nation and a human government based on equality of rights and duties is or ought to be our ultimate political goal."Top


Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande
(1860 — September, 19, 1936)

VERY little is known about Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande's ancestry and his early years. It is believed that his father was incharge of Zawba Gora Ram Temple, and was a musician fond of playing the swarmandal.

Vishnu Narayan BhatkhandeIn his formative years Bhakhande was greatly inspired by Gyanotejak Mandali, the oldest music academy in India, founded by the Parsis in 1870. As he grew up and studied music deeply, he realised that India classical music had not only degenerated in the past centuries, and though it was of great merit, it was not systematised scientifically, thus leading to confusion and acrimony among its various practitioners. After careful thought he undertook the mammoth and spine-breaking task of codifying and writing Indian music. For the next twenty-five years of his life, he travelled all over India, met great masters, read whatever was available, and made exhaustive researches. He spent another 25 years studying contemporary and classical western music, modifying and adapting the Western notation system to suit Indian music.

A great scholar that he was, he wrote such exhaustive treatises as Shrimallakshya Sangeetam, Abhinava Ragamanjari, Abhinava Talamanjari, in Sanskrit; and Hindustan Sangeet Paddhati (4 vomumes) in Marathi, and in English he wrote the 2500 page magnum opus: A Comparative Study of the Music Systems of 15th, 16th. 17th and 18th Centuries. His other mammoth volume was the 3000 page Historical Survey of the Music of India. All these books were written between 1908 and 1933.

Impressed by Bhatkhande's dedication to music, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda handed him over the Government College to him; Maharaja Madhavrao Scindia of Gwalior sought his expert advice and started Madhav Sangeet Vidyalaya; and at Lucknow founded Morris College of Music, now renamed Bhatkhande Sangeet Mahavidyalaya. In order to popularise classical music he also organised numerous music conferences in Baroda, Delhi, Lucknow.

Since he tried to make radical changes to the existing music tradition, he faced stiff opposition, especially from his contemporaries, but he carried on with his herculean task.

He adopted an ingenious methods to confound his critics by writing his books under various pseudonyms. He wrote Lakshyasangeet as, Bharatpurva-

khandanivasi Chaturpandit, Hindustan Sangeet Paddhati, as Pandit Vishnusharma, and for his compositions he used - Chatur, Harrang and so on, and for his text books he used his real name. If someone, let's say, criticised his views in Lekshyasangeet, he would refute the critics by quoting Pandit Vishnusharma (his own pseudonym)!

He and Vishnu were not very friendly. He was a scholar and scientist, whereas Paluskar was a saint and performer. Because Paluskar established the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, and went on to train a number of great musicians, his services received immediate recognition, whereas Bhatkhande's contribution though equally great, was not so easily appreciated.

Commenting on Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande’s immense contribution to Indian Music, Professor G. H. Ranade says: "Although book-music was not considered his most important subject by Pandit Bhatkhande, his historical and technical discussion concerning it has proved most instructive to those newly interested in it. Those who were not familiar with the names of the Sanskrit books on music became familiar with them and because of their Marathi translations these books could be studied easily and, on occasion, provided material for attacking Bhatkhande himself. One cannot forget that the knowledge or strength (of the critics) in question is not their own — it belongs to Bhatkhande. For there is no doubt that it was through Bhatkhande's discussion of Sanskrit books that those rhetoricians who today call themselves researchers in music were born." Top


Dhyan Chand
(August 29, 1905 — December 3, 1979)

BERLIN Olympics, 1936. India are playing the favourites Germany in the Hockey finals. Germany's centre-forward Fritz scores a goal in the dying moments of the game. When everyone in the India squad have lost hope, Dhyan Chand suddenly puts India back in the reckoning by scoring an equaliser, and in the next five minutes scores two more goals to fetch a Gold for India.

Dhyan ChandThousands cheered the Indians that day, and among them was a person named Adolf Hitler. He was so impressed by Dhyan Chand's skill with the ball, that he is supposed to have told him: "I will make you Field Marshal if you join the German Army." Not the one to be swayed by praise, Dhyan Chand refused the offer politely.

For a man who rose to such dizzy heights of fame, Dhyan Chand was a very humble and unassuming man. Being the son of a sepoy, he, too, joined the army, and it was in the army that he was initiated into hockey by Major Bale Tiwari of the First Brahmin Regiment. When the regiment was disbanded, Dhyan Chand was transferred to the Punjab Regiment, where he soon established himself as the most talented player in the forces. He was sent to New Zealand, where out of 21 matches, the army won 18, drew two and lost one. The team scored 192 goals conceding only 24.

But Dhyan Chand’s greatest moment arrived when he found himself in the Indian team that was being sent to Amsterdam for the Olympics. "The day of our dreams dawned," he recalled later, "On May 17, (1928) we confidently marched into the stadium to make our Olympic debut. We had travelled thousands of miles for this. People at home, quite a number of them were hyper-critical, had their doubts as to the wisdom of India's participation in the Olympics. We were determined to show the world that in this game our country was supreme." He was definitely not exaggerating, for in the matches that followed, Indians beat Belgium (9-0), Denmark (5-0), and Holland (3-0).

Commenting on the spectacular performance of the Indian team, and especially of Dhyan Chand, a Dutch sports reporter said:"An Indian hockey ball never obeys the laws of gravity, and has never learned that the shortest distance between two points is s straight line. The shortest way for the Indian ball is a zig-zag, a triangle or a circle, never a straight line."

Dhyan Chand also played for India in the 1932 Olympic Games, Los Angeles, and captained India in the 1936 Olympics, Berlin. His last appearance was in 1947-48 when he led the IHF team in Kenya.

After retirement, he was for a while the Chief Coach at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. He was awarded a Padam Bhushan 1956, and statue of his was unveiled at the National Stadium, New Delhi on August 29, 1965.

If he were alive today, he would have rued the sorry state Indian hockey finds itself in.Those who complain about lack of patronage or sponsorship should look to Dhyan Chand for his resourcefulness. In the end it is sheer talent and dedication that wins the day.Top


Vishnu Digambar Paluskar
(August 18, 1872 — August 21, 1931)

FOR decades we have been hearing and even singing popular compositions like Sare Jehan se achcha, and Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram without really knowing the name of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, the composer of these beautiful songs.

Vishnu Digambar PaluskarBorn at Kurundwad state of Maharashtra into a Brahmin family, Vishnu Digambar Paluskar inherited musical gifts from his

father Shri Digambar Gopal.who was a reputed kirtanist himself. While his parents and patrons were planning a career for him, he met with a serious accident and lost his eyes.

He was sent to Dr. Bhirbhire Kishore, the chief medical officer of a hospital in Miraj, who did his best, but failed. What he did not fail to notice was the extraordinary musical talent the hapless lad possessed. The kind doctor advised Vishnu's parents to send him to a good music guru, but since they were unable to afford the expenses, the doctor using his influence managed to make persuade Shri Hari Krishna Buwa, the court musician of Miraj, to teach him. Thus in 1887, at the age of 15 his training began and continued for the next nine years. Soon he started accompanying his guru on stage. But as the young disciple often outdid his master, his guru did not like it, and, unfortunately the relationship suffered.

Vishnu left Miraj for Aundh, and then to Satara where he held his first solo performance. Thence he went to Baroda, a prominent centre of music like Gwalior. He stayed at the Ram Mandir, where he used to practice in the wee hours. People came to listen to him in throngs, and as his fame spread, Maharani Jamuna Bai invited him to perform at the court. She later gave him a shawl and a gift of rupees three hundred, a considerable sum in those days. But she also advised him to leave Baroda, as she feared her envious court musicians might harm him.

Far more than his personal achievement, Vishnu was was worried about the lack of outlets available to the common masses to learn music, since only the elite and the privileged were given musical training. He wanted music to reach the masses; he wanted to train musicians not in dozens but in hundreds. To achieve this goal he would have to establish music academies, and to do that he would require a lot of money. To begin with he decided to hold public performances charging low ticket rates. Since more and more people could now afford to attend these concerts, more and more young men and women began to learn music. This democratisation of music was not liked by court musicians.

Since he himself had been trained in the rich traditions of the Gwalior gharana, he decided to spend some time there. His performances there were liked very well received, and he impressed great maestros like Guru Apte, Pandit Shankar, and Amir Khan. Maharaj Madho Rao invited him to perform at his court, and he also gave letters of introduction to the Rajas of Mathura and Bharatpur. In Mathura Vishnu learnt Hindi, Sanskrit, and Brij music. He also came in contact with Pandit Chandan Chaube, and learnt the dying art of Dhrupad music.He later went to Delhi, and in 1898 he was invited by Pandit Tola Ram to Jullundar to perform at Shri Hariballabh Sangeet Sammelan. He became so popular there and his fame spread all over Punjab.

Until then music was taught and composed orally, since we had not developed a method of writing music. Like Bhatkhande, Vishnu also studied the Western method of notation and with some modification adapted it to Indian music.

His dream of founding a music academy came true with the opening of Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Lahore, in the early 1900s.

Among his books are:Sangeet Bal Prakash in three volumes, and equally valuable are his 18 volumes on ragas. When King George V came to India, Paluskar was asked to perform at the Royal Garden of Lahore.

When Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were arrested in 1907, he sang Pagree Sambhal Jatta, and In 1923 he also sang Bande Mataram in spite of all opposition. He also performed during the non-cooperation movement.

(To be concluded)
Text and illustrations by Kuldip Dhiman