Remembering the legend of Bharat Ratna ‘Mahamana’, whose legacy will remain unparalleled in India’s history

The millions mired in poverty here can only get rid (of it) when science is used in their interest. Such maximum application of science is only possible when scientific knowledge is available to Indians in their own country,” these were the words of visionary educationist ‘Mahamana’ Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. The vision and determination of making India a place for world class modern education culminated in his founding of Benaras Hindu University, which is the largest residential university in Asia, and undoubtedly the best in India. Spread over an area of 4000 acres (including the south campus in Mirzapur), there are about 35,000 students enrolled in over 132 departments of the university.

In December 1905, Malviya ji publicly announced his intent to establish a university in Varanasi. The foundation stone of Banaras Hindu University was laid at Varanasi in 1914. Malviya continued to develop his vision for the university with inputs from other Indian nationalists and educationists. In October 1915, the Banaras Hindu University Bill was passed. BHU was finally established in 1916 and the foundation for the main campus of the university was laid on the auspicious occasion of Vasant Panchami 4 February 1916. It was the first university in India that was the result of a private individual’s (Malviya Ji’s) efforts. With his dedication and hard work, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya single-handedly raised a huge amount of fund for establishing BHU. He went to various places all over the country and procured donations which ultimately led to the establishment of BHU. The land was provided by Kashi Naresh. Malviya Ji was the first vice-chancellor of BHU from 1919 to 1938 and took the university to great heights.

Born on 25 December 1861 in Allahabad, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya Ji devoted his life to the cause of education, independence of India and for social causes. In 1905, he founded the Ganga Mahasabha in Haridwar and forced the British government to drop their plans to make dams on Ganga and ensure its flow. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya is well known for his firm stand against separate electorate for Muslims, and his opposition to politics based on religious lines. He was conferred the title Mahamana by Shri Rabindranath Tagore. Pandit Malviya ji was also a member of Hindu Mahasabha.

Malaviya Ji has often been described as a Hindu nationalist, but he always strived for Hindu-Muslim unity. He never was a Hindu hardliner, but he opposed the politics of favoritism and appeasement to Muslims. In Calcutta session of Congress, he said “I implore all Hindus and Mussalmans, Sikhs, Christians and Parsees and all other countrymen to sink all communal differences and to establish political unity among all sections of the people. In the midst of much darkness, I see a clear vision that the clouds which have long been hanging over our heads are lifting. Let every son and daughter do his or her duty to expedite the advent of dawn of the day of freedom and happiness. Truth is on our side. Justice is with us. God will help us. We are sure to win. Vande Mataram.”

As a professional lawyer, a not so well known fact about his life is that he appeared for those accused in Chauri-chaura incident and defended most of the accused, saving 153 people from getting death sentences. He also campaigned extensively to abolish untouchability and caste discrimination. He gave ‘diksha’ to untouchables and made unprecedented efforts for the entry of the untouchables in Hindu temples. The slogan “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth alone will triumph) is also a legacy given to the nation by Pandit Malaviya. He made the slogan popular and said that this slogan from the Mundakopanishad should be the slogan for the nation.

But as the case has always been, a man of such great prominence who took Indian freedom struggle and education to an altogether new level, dedicated his life to the nation till his last breath and heralded an era of world class education in India by single-handedly establishing Asia’s largest university, which is considered as the seat of India’s learning even today…. his legacy was buried by the Congress party. Just like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri and many others, the dynasty ensured that Mahamana never got the recognition he should have. In 2014, after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, he was awarded Bharat Ratna. A special train between New Delhi and Varanasi with model coaches , “Mahamana Express” was inaugurated by PM Modi. On his birth anniversary, tributes to one of the greatest souls of India.

Kshitij Mohan