In the hierarchy of the cultural and socio-political field of India in the last half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, the name of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya stands very high. He was born at Allahabad in 1861, the same year which witnessed the birth of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore. Madanmohan belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family of Sanskrit scholars, and naturally, he was brought up in the good old traditions of the country.
His early education started in tol, the Oriental system of Sanskrit education. Later he passed the Entrance Examination from Allahabad Zilla School in 1881. Four years later he took his degree from the Calcutta University and joined the Allahabad Zilla School as a teacher Simultaneously he engaged himself in journalism and politics.
In 1892 he graduated in law and joined the High Court of Allahabad. But his genuine interest lay, not in law, but in politics. The liberation of his countrymen from foreign rule was a great concern to him. He took part in the work of the India National Congress from its very inception and held his high position all along for his valued opinions. He became the President of the Congress as many as four times, and even when he differed from the official policy, his advice was attended to with great respect. He was a member of the Provincial or the Central legislature till his retirement from active politics. He was tireless in doing his duties in the Councils. His straight-cut criticism of the high-handed bureaucratic policies was based on such factual information that it could not be brushed aside.
The Rowlatt Act passed by the British government in the face of the fiercest opposition of the Indians was the turning point in Malviya’s political career. He did not agree with all the details of the Gandhian programme of direct action. The idea of Non-cooperation did not appeal much to him, and he held himself more or less aloof from the movement. He organised a new party, the Nationalist Party, which supported the Congress generally but did not advocate extreme measures.
The crowning achievement of Malviya was the foundation of Banaras University. He took over the Central Hindu College of Mrs Ani Besant and transformed it into a great University with faculties in Arts, Science, Engineering and Medicine. It was entirely due to his untiring efforts that the rich and the common people of India donated crores of rupees to build up his dream. Now it has over ten thousand students on the rolls hailing from all parts of India, and the buildings of the university are scattered over an area of nearly 2 square miles.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya was an ardent supporter of the industrial revival of India. It was his efforts that led to the establishment of a sugar research station at Coimbatore, and to the foundation of the large-scale industries in this country. As a member of the Indian Industrial Commission of 1916, he did valuable work in the way of securing provision for research in science for the development of Indian industries.
He Malviya’s last important act in public life was to attend the Second Round Table Conference held in London for solving the Indian political issue. After this, he virtually retired from active politics. He died in November 1946 in his eighty-fifth year. And, as the years rolled on, Malviya became more and more a legend and a symbol of India’s cherished ideal.