Born: May 9, 1866
Died: February 19, 1915
Achievements: Political guru of Mahatma Gandhi; one of the pioneers of the Indian national movement; founder of the Servants of India Society.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the pioneers of the Indian national movement. He was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress. Gokhale gave voice to the aspirations of millions of Indians who were looking for freedom from the British rule. Gandhiji considered him as his political guru. Apart from being a political leader, Gopalkrishna Gokhale, was also a social reformer. He founded the "Servants of India Society"-an organization dedicated to the cause of common people. Gopal Krishna Gokhale's contribution to the making of Indian nation is invaluable.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born on May 9, 1866 in Kothapur, Maharashtra. His father Krishna Rao was a farmer who was forced to work as clerk, as the soil of the region was not conducive for agriculture. His mother Valubai was a simple woman. Gokhale received his early education at the Rajaram High School in Kothapur with the help of financial assistance from his elder brother. Later on he moved on to Bombay and graduated from Elphinstone College, Bombay in 1884 at the age of 18.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the first generations of Indians to receive college education. He was respected widely in the nascent Indian intellectual community and across India. Education influenced Gokhale greatly. His understanding of the English language allowed him to express himself without hesitation and with utmost clarity. His appreciation and knowledge of history instilled in him a respect for liberty, democracy, and the parliamentary system. After graduation, he moved on to teaching, and took a position as an Assistant Master in the New English School in Pune. In 1885, Gokhale moved on to Pune and became one of the founding members of Fergusson College, along with his colleagues in Deccan Education Society. Gopal Krishna Gokhale gave nearly two decades of his life to Fergusson College and rose to become principal of the college. During this time, Gokhale came in contact with Mahadev Govind Ranade. Ranade was a judge, scholar, and social reformer, whom Gokhale called his guru. Gokhale worked with Ranade in Poona Sarvajanik Sabha of which Gokhale became the Secretary.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale entered public life in 1886 at the age of 20. He delivered a public address on "India under the British Rule", which was highly appreciated. Gokhale regularly contributed articles to Bal Gangadhar Tilak's weekly "Mahratta". Through his articles he tried to awaken the latent patriotism of Indian people. Soon, Gokhale was promoted as Secretary of the Deccan Education Society. When the Indian National Congress held its session in Poona in 1895, he was the secretary of the Reception Committee. From this session, Gokhale became a prominent member of the Indian National Congress. Gokhale was twice elected as president of Pune Municipality. For a while Gokhale was also a member of the Bombay Legislative Council where he spoke strongly against the then Government.
In 1902, Gokhale left the Fergusson College. He became a Member of the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi. There he spoke for the people of the country in an able manner. Gokhale had an excellent grasp of the economic problems of our country which he ably presented during the debates. In 1905, Gokhale started a new society called "Servants of India Society". This society trained workers for the service of the country. In the same year, Gokhale went to England to voice his concerns relating to the unfair treatment of the Indian people by the British government. In a span of 49 days, he spoke in front of 47 different audiences, captivating every one of them. Gokhale pleaded for gradual reforms to ultimately attain Swaraj, or self-government, in India. He was instrumental in the introduction of the Morley- Minto Reforms of 1909, which eventually became law. Though the reforms sowed the seeds of communal division in India, nevertheless, they gave Indian access to the seats of the highest authority within the government, and their voices were more audible in matters of public interest.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a diabetic and asthmatic. Excessive assertion took its toll on Gokhale's health and ultimately he died on February 19, 1915.