File photo of educationist and freedom fighter late Madan Mohan Malviya who was chosen for the country's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna on Wednesday. Image Credit: PTI

NEW DELHI: Madan Mohan Malaviya or Mahamana Malaviya, as he was popularly known, was born on December 25 1861 at Prayag, in a family of six brothers and two sisters. His grandfather Pandit Premdhar and father Pandit Baijnath were eminent Sanskrit scholars of that time.

Malaviya’s personality cannot be condensed in a few words. Father of Indian nation Mahatma Gandhi called him ‘Pratah Smaraniya’, a pious person whose name when remembered in the morning would lift one out of the mire of one’s sordid self. Malaviya’s gentle, sweet, soft and graceful nature was a true reflection of his abundant love for humanity.

A British official commented that “Malaviya wore the white flower of a blameless life’. Journalist Edgar Snow wrote that “Malaviya’s personality radiated the sweetness and simplicity of a child, yet his words carried the strength and conviction of a man with a settled philosophy of life. For all his sweetness he could still be tougher than the toughest when occasion

demanded it.”

After initial training in Sanskrit, Malaviya had joined the prominent Saraswati School for study in English. He completed graduation from Muir Central College in 1884, and in 1878, he got married to Kumari Devi of Mirzapur.

Raja Rampal Singh of Pratapgadh district was so impressed by the speech and the personality of Malaviya during the second Congress Session in Calcutta held in 1886 that he requested him to edit the Hindi daily ‘Hindosthan.’ Though he was young at that time, Malaviya’s earlier writings and speeches helped him acquire the characteristics of a journalist.

Malaviya was catapulted into the political arena immediately after his first thrilling speech at the Second Congress Session in Calcutta, held in 1886. He served the Congress for almost 50 years and worked with 50 Congress Presidents. He was the Congress President for a record of four times — in 1909 (Lahore), in 1918 (Delhi), in 1930 (Delhi) and in 1932 (Calcutta).

In protest against the Communal Award which sought to provide separate electorates for minorities, Malaviya left the Congress and started the Congress Nationalist Party. The party contested the 1934 elections to the central legislature and won 12 seats. Malaviya was also the Chairman of ‘The Hindustan Times’ from 1924 to 1946. His efforts resulted in the launch of its Hindi edition in 1936. The paper was saved from an untimely demise when he stepped in to realise his vision of a newspaper in Delhi.

In April 1911, Annie Besant met Malaviya and they decided to work for a common Hindu University at Varanasi. Besant and fellow trustees of the Central Hindu College, which she has founded in 1898, also agreed to Government of India’s precondition that the college should become a part of the new University. Thus Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was established in 1916. Today it remains a prominent institution of learning in India.