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Lala Hardyal

Lala Hardyal (1884-1939)

Lala Hardyal, one of the greatest revolutionaries and a founder of the Ghadar Party in the U. S. A., was born in Delhi in 1884 in a lower middle-class Kayastha family. His father, Gauri Dayal Mathur, a scholar of Persian and Urdu, was employed as a Copy-Reader in the District Court at Delhi. Gouri Dayal had a large family of seven children, four sons and three daughters, which he maintained with great difficulty with his meagre income. His wife was a pious woman, imbued with the traditional Hindu culture. Under the influence of his devoted mother, Hardyal in his boyhood visited and prayed at a Delhi Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.]

Hardyal was sent to a primary school at the age of four. From his early school days he displayed a prodigious memory and proved to be a precocious from the Cambridge Mission School at the age of twelve, and Matriculation at fourteen, always standing first. Then he joined the Imtermediate Class at the St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he again stood first. At the St. Stephen’s besides his text books, he began to study the ‘Gita’, ‘Manu Smriti’ and ‘Rig-Veda’. A firm theist, he began to perform religious penances in quest of inner happiness.
He did his B. A. from the Punjab University at Lahore and won a scholarship. He joined the Government College, Lahore, for his M. A. degree in English Literature and stood first in 1903. Next year he obtained the M. A. degree in History. In recognition of his brilliant academic attainments the Punjab University recommended and the Government of India awarded him a scholarship of 200 per annum for higher studies in England. In the meantime Hardyal had been married to Sundar Rani. He left his parents and wife and sailed for England in 1905. Here he joined St. John’s College, Oxford, for the Honours Course in Modren History. He also did his Ph. D. from the London University.

In London he came under the influence of Shyamaji Krishna Verma, Editor of the Indian Sociologist and a recognized leader of the Indian Revolutionary Movement. He also came under the influence of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madam Cama.
His close associates were Master Amir Chand, Raja Mahendra Pratap, Rash Behari Bose, Barkatullah, Birendra Nath Chattopadhyaya, Pandit Jagat Ram, Pandit Kanshi Ram, Champak Raman Pillay, Vishnu Ganesh Pingley, Khan Khoje, Sardar Kartar Singh Sarabha, Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Jwla Singh, Sant Wasakha Singh, Baba Kesar Singh, Baba Prithvi Singh Azad (Lalru) and others, all of whom had dedicated themselves to the cause of liberating their motherland from British slavery.
Such was the charm of their company that Hardyal threw away the scholarship, declaring that “No Indian who really loves his country ought to compromise his principle and barter his rectitude for any favour whatever at the hands of alien oppressive rulers of India.” Henceforward the talents of his genius were entirely devoted to revolutionary work. He returned to India in 1908 to work among his people and arouse their latent spirits.

India, he found, was steeped in superstitions and wedded to practices which retarded all progress. “Men were ignorant and women were in servitude. Invidious caste distinctions divided man from man. Hindus and Muslims did not regard themselves as belonging to one nation. These evils shall have to be eradicated to save moral energy in India, so necessary for progress.” The British system of education, he wrote, served “to crush our national aspirations…The British schools and colleges were founded to wean the youth from the sudden and absolute expulsion of the English…. The British teach our boys what is really a caricature of history….that we are an incapable race…Woe to the nation that allows its children to read such history.”
He advocated the study of Sanskrit, as: with its decay will fall the whole edifice of Hindu civilization.” He strongly supported the establishment of national institutions. “National institutions are the essential marks of national life. There can be no nation without national institutions.”

About education, he wrote, “The awakening of patriotism through the teaching of national history is thus the first requisite of a sound educational system…It must awaken in boys a sense of their the national type of character; it must accustom boys to the national modes of life and thought which are around them…Popular education will lead to a demand for free political institution. The despotism of the princes will be curbed; so it has been in Europe, so it shall be in India.” He went to Lahore in 1908, stayed with Lala Lajpat Rai, met his associates and suggested ‘passive resistance’ as a weapon of struggle against the British. In this he anticipated Mahatma Gandhi by ten years.

Not achieving much as a social reformer, he left India again in 1908, travelled through Europe and is said to have become a nonsectarian friar. He again came to India in 1910 but returned to Europe the same year. He was so impressed with the intellectual advancement in France and Germany of India. He now stood for the study of modern sciences and sociology. the future.

In 1913 thick war clouds hovered over Europe. Hardyal went to America and threw himself heart and soul into the struggle for Indian Independence. Imbued with an intense Anglophobia he planned to free his motherland from the British yoke. Along with other Punjabi Sikh immigrants, he started a journal named the Ghadar and published it in the ‘Yugandtar Ashram’ in English, Hindi, Gurmukhi, Urdu, Bengali and Marathi. Its first issue came out on 1 November 1913. Through the medium of this paper a violent anti-British propaganda was launched.
Passions were excited to strike against the British if and when a European war broke out. Hardyal began to address meetings of Indians. One such meeting was held on 30 December 1913 at Sacramento and another in Vancouver. Branches of the Ghadar Party were established in America, Europe and India. In March 1914 Hardyal was arrested for undesirable activities, but he jumped his bail and came to Switzerland where he started another anti-British paper, the Bandemataram. He also contributed articles to the Modern Review of Calcutta. From Switzerland he went to Germany and is also said to have established contact with Anwar Pasha of Turkey.
In Germany he opened an Oriental Bureau for the purpose of bringing about an armed revolution in India. Here in the first year of the war he found himself close to the Germans, and studied their character, aims and objectives. He was completely disillusioned and modified his earlier views about them. To him, now British imperialism was far better than German. In the later stage of the war he desired that the British should remain as trustees of the future of Asia and urged upon his countrymen to work for Home Rule and give up the idea of complete independence.

This was too much for the Germans, so he was hounded out of Germany. He went away to Stockholm in Sweden and stayed there till October 1927. He was now a changed man. In 1920 he wrote that a mixed European and Oriental administration was the best for Egypt, India and Persia. After a brief stay in London in 1927, Hardyal again sailed for U. S. A. His views had now undergone a complete change.

In America he was appointed as a Professor of Sanskrit and Philosophy at the Berkeley University (California). Some time later his services were lent to the Stanford University.
The last years of Lala Hardayal are wrapped in mystery. In 1939 came the news that an Indian ‘Sannyasi’ had died in Philadelphia. His old revolutionary friends suspected that he was the victim of a foul play. Hardyal was a genius, an ardent nationalist, a rare intellectual and a prolific writer.


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