Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian freedom fighter, politician, and author. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari and Punjab da Sher (Lion of Punjab). He was one of the most prominent personalities of the Indian independence movement. Read here to learn about his life.
Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak of Bombay, and Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal, the triumvirate were popularly known as Lal Bal Pal. They changed the political discourse of the Indian independence movement through assertive nationalism.
They advocated the Swadeshi movement involving the boycott of all imported items and the use of Indian-made goods in 1907 during the anti-Partition agitation in Bengal which began in 1905.
The early life of Lala Lajpat Rai
Lajpat Rai was born on 28 January 1865, in a Punjabi Hindu family, as a son of Urdu and Persian government School teacher Munshi Radha Krishan and his wife Gulab Devi, in Dhudike.
He enrolled at Government College in Lahore to study law in 1880, where he met future independence fighters and patriots like Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt.
- He was motivated by Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s Hindu reformer movement while he was a student in Lahore, where he also joined the Arya Samaj Lahore.
In 1886, he moved to Hisar and started to practice law and became a founding member of the Bar Council of Hisar along with Babu Churamani.
- He also founded the Hisar district branch of the Indian National Congress and reformist Arya Samaj.
To shape the political policy of India to gain independence, he also practiced journalism and was a regular contributor to several newspapers including The Tribune.
In 1886, he helped Mahatma Hansraj establish the nationalistic Dayananda Anglo-Vedic School, in Lahore.
In 1914, he quit law practice to dedicate himself to the freedom of India.
For his political activities, Lajpat Rai was detained and sent to Mandalay in modern-day Myanmar in 1907.
- He lived in exile for a year and published “The History of the Indian National Movement,” a book that described the history of the campaign for Indian independence and the hardships of the Indian people.
Lala Lajpat Rai gave up his law practice to devote all of his time and energy to rescuing his country from the British Empire.
To stress the horrific character of British rule in India, he saw the necessity of outlining the situation in the Indian Freedom fight to important nations throughout the world.
In 1914, he visited Britain, and in 1917, he visited the USA.
- He established the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York in October 1917.
- From 1917 until 1920, he resided in the United States.
Lajpat Rai was detained and imprisoned once more in 1919 as a result of his political involvement.
- Following his release from jail in 1920, he was swiftly chosen to lead the Indian National Congress during its Special Session in Kolkata, which coincided with the beginning of Mahatma Gandhi‘s Non-Cooperation Movement. He was thereafter detained from 1921 and 1923.
In 1921, he founded Servants of the People Society, a non-profit welfare organization, in Lahore, which shifted its base to Delhi after the partition.
In Punjab, he organized fierce protests against the British in response to their terrible conduct in Jallianwallah Bagh and Rowlatt Act before.
- Lajpat Rai disagreed with Gandhi’s decision to put the movement on hold following the Chauri Chaura tragedy and went on to form the Congress Independence Party.
To examine constitutional improvements, the Simon Commission went to India in 1929.
- The fact that there were only British representatives on the Commission severely incensed the leaders of India.
- Lala Lajpat Rai was on the frontline of the protests that erupted across the nation.
When the Simon Commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, Lajpat Rai led a non-violent march in protest against it. The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi (baton) charge the protesters and personally assaulted Rai.
He did not fully recover from his injuries and died on 17 November 1928.
Along with founding Arya Gazette as its editor, he regularly contributed to several major Hindi, Punjabi, English, and Urdu newspapers and magazines.
He also wrote biographies of Mazzini, Garibaldi, Shivaji, and Shri Krishna.
He was a prolific writer and his important literary works include-
- Young India: An Interpretation and a History of the Nationalist Movement from Within
- England’s Debt to India
- Evolution of Japan
- India’s Will to Freedom,
- Message of the Bhagavad Gita
- Political Future of India
- Problem of National Education in India
- The Depressed Glasses
- The History of the Indian National Movement
- The story of my deportation
Legacy of Lala Lajpat Rai
Lajpat Rai was a powerful veteran leader of the Indian Nationalist Movement, the Indian independence movement led by the Indian National Congress, the Hindu reform movements, and Arya Samaj.
Through his writings and activism that set an exemplary example for others, he inspired young men of his generation and sparked a dormant sense of patriotism in their hearts.
Rai served as an inspiration to many young men involved in the freedom struggle, including Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh.
Lala Lajpat Rai made a lasting impression in the minds of his countrymen not only through his leadership abilities but made his presence felt in the fields of education, commerce, and even healthcare.
Lajpat Rai’s efforts to advance the rights of Indian farmers and workers were another significant accomplishment.
- He fought to better the living circumstances of farmers and rural laborers and was a fervent supporter of the rights of the underprivileged in rural areas.
- Additionally, he was a supporter of industrial workers’ rights and worked to create labor unions and organizations in the Punjab region.
He initiated the establishment of a bank which later evolved as the ‘Punjab National Bank’.
He established a trust in his mother Gulabi Devi’s name in 1927 and oversaw the opening of a tuberculosis hospital for women named Gulabi Devi Chest Hospital.
Lajpat Rai supported women’s rights and education as well.
- The Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) College Trust and Management Society, which founded several schools and colleges in India, was founded by him.
- Additionally, he supported women’s education and worked to advance women’s rights in India.
The Indian independence movement suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Lajpat Rai, yet his sacrifice was not in vain. Numerous individuals who kept up the fight for Indian independence and the rights of the Indian people carried on his legacy.
Lala Lajpat Rai is regarded as a real leader and a representative of the struggle against British authority.
His famous words- “The nation is greater than the individual. Service of the nation is the supreme duty of the individual” show his deep patriotism.
-Article written by Swathi Satish