Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the towering figures in India’s independence movement and left an indelible mark on the country’s journey towards freedom and self-governance. Often referred to as the political guru of Mahatma Gandhi, Gokhale was a champion of social reforms and staunch advocate for Indian self-rule.
Though he did not receive formal higher education, Gokhale was a self-taught polyglot and voracious reader who acquired extensive knowledge across diverse fields. He emerged as a powerful orator and prolific writer who shaped the early Indian nationalist movement.
This article traces Gokhale’s inspiring intellectual journey and sheds light on his self-education that equipped him to become a guiding light for the nation.
Quick Facts About Gopal Krishna Gokhale
- Born in 1866 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra
- Leader of the Indian National Congress
- Pioneer of the Swadeshi movement
- Strong advocate of social reform and education
- Founded the Servants of India Society
- Close friend and mentor of Mahatma Gandhi
- Died in 1915 in Pune, Maharashtra
Who Was Gopal Krishna Gokhale?
Born on 9 May 1866 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, Gopal Krishna Gokhale rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential political leaders and social reformers of his time.
After losing his father at a young age, Gokhale supported his family by teaching at a young age. He was deeply influenced by revered social reformer Mahadev Govind Ranade who shaped many of his progressive views.
Gokhale wore many hats over his lifetime – scholar, lawyer, professor, journalist and member of the Imperial Legislative Council. He served as the President of the Indian National Congress not once but twice, in 1905 and again in 1911.
Through his life, Gokhale campaigned passionately for the empowerment of women and the underprivileged. He demanded increased rights for Indians and greater representation in the institutions of governance. He always advocated for constitutional and peaceful means to advance the nationalist cause.
Where Did Gopal Krishna Gokhale Go To College?
Unlike many other contemporary nationalist leaders, Gokhale did not have a formal college education. He was mostly homeschooled as a child.
As a young boy, Gokhale studied Sanskrit, English, and Marathi privately under the tutelage of respected local teachers. He gained proficiency in these languages through self-study and rigorous practice.
At the age of 22, he moved to Pune and came under the mentorship of Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade who guided his political and social awakening. Ranade encouraged Gokhale to read widely in history, politics, economics, and philosophy to strengthen the foundations of his nationalism.
Under Ranade’s guidance, Gokhale blossomed into a sophisticated and persuasive writer, thinker and orator. He regularly contributed scholarly articles to newspapers like the Sudharak and The Oriental Watchman, honing his intellectual skills.
Gokhale briefly studied law and passed the required exams in 1887. But he never actually practiced professionally as a lawyer. His true calling was political activism and social reform.
Despite not having a formal college degree, Gokhale’s tremendous appetite for learning and natural intellectual gifts allowed him to hold his own with British administrators and Webster-educated elites.
Gokhale As A Teacher and Mentor
While Gokhale did not attend college himself, he had a long and distinguished career as a professor and teacher.
After moving to Pune in 1884, Gokhale taught at the New English School and then at the famous Deccan College starting in 1890. He taught a range of subjects including history, political economy and logic.
Gokhale strongly believed in the emancipatory power of education, especially for girls. He established the Poona Seva Sadan in 1889 to promote women’s education.
Among Gokhale’s most famous students was none other than Mahatma Gandhi, whom he mentored during Gandhi’s early years as a lawyer in South Africa. Gandhi later acknowledged Gokhale as his political guru from whom he imbibed valuable lessons.
In 1905, Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society to specifically train educated Indians interested in dedicating their lives to the cause of the country. Through the Society and his lectures, Gokhale helped nurture a generation of nationalists.
Gokhale’s Advocacy for Indians
As an advocate for Indian representation in the institutions of British rule, Gokhale’s first major victory was getting elected to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1889.
The Imperial Legislative Council was established in 1861 but did not have any Indian members until 1909. Gokhale was appointed to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1900 as the first Indian member. He used the position to regularly advocate for reforms and greater self-governance by Indians.
Gokhale was elected President of the Indian National Congress not once but twice, in 1905 and 1911. This underscored his stature as one of the tallest national figures and his unwavering commitment to the nationalist cause.
Through his inspiring speeches and prolific writings, Gokhale played a pivotal role in shaping Indian public opinion around independence and social reform. He pushed for increased Indian participation in the civil services.
Unfortunately, Gokhale died at the young age of 49 in 1915 before his vision of an independent and equitable India could be fully realized. But in his short life, he profoundly impacted India’s destiny.
Follow Gopal Krishna Gokhale on Social Media
- No social media existed during Gokhale’s lifetime (1866 – 1915)
- However, one can follow online memorial pages dedicated to him:
Frequently Asked Questions About Gopal Krishna Gokhale
What were Gokhale’s main beliefs and causes?
Gokhale was a moderate liberal nationalist who believed in peaceful constitutional means to fight for greater Indian participation in governance. He advocated social reforms like women’s education.
What was Gokhale’s role in the Indian independence movement?
He was a key early leader who shaped Indian public opinion through his speeches and writings. He mentored leaders like Gandhi. He expanded Indian representation in legislative bodies.
How did Gokhale die?
Gokhale contracted pneumonia during a tour to England in 1915. He died at the age of 49 in Pune.
What is Gokhale’s lasting legacy?
He helped build the framework of the early nationalist movement and nurtured future leaders. His moderate, scholarly approach shaped the form of early Indian independence advocacy.
Why did Gokhale not go to college?
He came from a modest family background and could not afford an expensive British college education. He was mostly homeschooled and self-taught with a few influential mentors like Justice Ranade.
In an age where nationalists like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel gained university degrees abroad, Gokhale’s rise to prominence as an intellectual heavyweight despite having no formal higher education is extraordinary.
Gokhale proved that with determination, an open mind and sheer love for learning, the doors to knowledge can be opened. He remains an inspiration not just for his nationalism but for his belief in the transformative power of self-education.