Tilak, Bal Gangadhar

Tilak, Bal Gangadhar

(bäl gŭng`gədär tē`läk), 1856–1920, Indian nationalist leader. He was a journalist in Pune, and in his newspapers, the Marathi-language Kesari [lion] and the English-language Mahratta, he set forth his nationalist ideals. He sought a Hindu revival based on Maratha traditions and independence [swaraj] from Britain. After the Indian National CongressIndian National Congress,
Indian political party, founded in 1885. Its founding members proposed economic reforms and wanted a larger role in the making of British policy for India.
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 was founded (1885), Tilak became the acknowledged leader of the extreme wing. He fought the moderate measures of Gopal Krishna GokhaleGokhale, Gopal Krishna
, 1866–1915, Indian nationalist leader. A Brahman from Maharashtra, he was educated in India and became involved in the nationalist movement when he was quite young.
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 and advocated resistance to British rule; he was arrested (1897) by the British and imprisoned for 18 months. In 1907 a split took place in the Congress, and Tilak led his extremist wing out of the party. The next year he was again imprisoned, this time for six years. Unlike Mohandas GandhiGandhi, Mohandas Karamchand
, 1869–1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar. In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years.
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, he welcomed the Montagu-Chelmsford Report (1918), which conceded a substantial measure of self-rule.


See biographies by T. V. Parvate (1959) and R. Gopal (1965); S. A. Wolpert, Tilak and Gokhale (1962); G. V. Saroja, Tilak and Sankara on Bhagvad Gita (1985).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tilak, Bal Gangadhar


Born July 23, 1856, in Ratnagiri, in the state of Maharashtra; died Aug. 1, 1920, in Bombay. Scholar and a leader of the democratic wing of India’s national liberation movement.

Tilak studied law before becoming a social and political activist in the 1870’s. Beginning in 1881 he published two newspapers, Mahratta (in English) and Kesari (in Marathi), that served as the voice of the national movement’s democratic wing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A bitter critic of British colonialism and its oppressive rule in India, Tilak, as a member of the swadeshi movement, advocated India’s independent economic development. He was among the first nationalists to suggest the need to enlist the broad popular masses in the struggle for freedom. He invoked India’s religious traditions in his effort to bring about unity in the national movement.

During the 1890’s and the early part of the 20th century, Tilak was active in the Indian National Congress (INC) and from 1905 to 1908, during a period of revolutionary upsurge, became a national leader of the extremists (that is, revolutionary democrats) in the INC. He publicized the revolutionary experiences of the Russians, the Irish, and others and proposed that the Indians in their struggle adopt the general political strike, which was being used in Russia, as a weapon. While training cadres of Indian revolutionaries, he called for the overthrow of colonial rule and the establishment of a republican government composed of representatives of the people. Tilak was imprisoned several times for his anti-imperialist activities; in 1908 he was sentenced to six years at hard labor. The sentence provoked a protest by workers in Bombay, who staged a general political strike (seeBOMBAY STRIKE OF 1908).

In 1914, Tilak helped organize the struggle for home rule. Later, influenced by the October Revolution of 1917, he began focusing attention on the necessity for the Indian proletariat to assume political power. In his newspapers he welcomed the October Revolution and supported the activities of the Bolsheviks under V. I. Lenin’s leadership.

Tilak wrote several scholarly works on the Vedas and on India’s early civilization.


Bal Gangadhar Tilak: His Writings and Speeches, 3rd ed. Madras, 1922.


Natsiona’ no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie v Indii i deiatel’nost’ B. G. Tilaka. Moscow, 1958.
Raikov, A. V. Probuzhdenie Indii. Moscow, 1968.
Gopal, R. Lokamanya Tilak: A Biography. London [1965].
Karmarkar, D. P. Bal Gangadhar Tilak: A Study. Bombay [1956].
Parvate, T. V. Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Ahmadabad [1958].
Tahmankar, D. V. Lokamanya Tilak: Father of Indian Unrest and Maker of Modern India. London, 1956.
Wolpert, S. A. Tilak and Gokhale: Revolution and Reform in the Making of Modern India. Berkeley, Calif., 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.