One of the most towering personalities of pre-Independence India who fought for the freedom of this country was Bāl Gaṅgādhar Ṭiḷak.
Born as the only son of Gaṅgādhar Pant and Pārvatī in A. D. 1856 at Ratnagiri (in Maharashtra), he was extraordinarily intelligent, endowed with an iron will. He was well-educated in Sanskrit and Marāṭhī apart from the usual subjects in languages and science.
After getting his Law degree in A. D. 1879, he rather preferred the teaching profession. He, along with one friend, Agarkar by name, started the New English School, the very next year. It became an instant success because of its special methods of teaching and strict discipline. Within a few years it grew into a big educational institution known as Deccan Education Society.
Ṭiḷak started two newspapers—Kesarī in Marāṭhī and Marāṭhā in English—which were totally dedicated to nationalism and freedom struggle. His revolutionary writings in these journals made him a hero in the eyes of the people whereas it also roused the wrath of the British rulers.
During this period, he started the tradition of public celebrations of the Gaṇeśa festival with a view to uniting all the Hindus irrespective of their caste or creed. This, very soon attained the status of a national festival.
He also did relief work among the masses during famine in A. D. 1896 and epidemic diseases next year.
He was closely associated with the Indian National Congress along with Lālā Lajpat Roy (A. D. 1865-1928), Bipincandra Pāl (A. D. 1858-1932) and many other well-known leaders. His active propagation for attaining “Svarājya’ (independence) through the famous statement, ‘Svarāj is my birthright!’ resulted in his imprisonment several times. It was during the six-year period that he spent in the Mandalay jail (in the then Burma, now Myanmar) that he wrote his now famous work Gītārahasya. His other works are Orion: Researches into the Antiquities of the Vedas and The Arctic Home of the Āryans.
Launching the Home Rule League to mobilise public opinion towards political freedom and drafting a comprehensive blueprint for the reconstruction of India after freedom were his other contributions.
He passed away on 31st July 1920.