Bhai Parmanand biography

Bhai Parmanand



     Bhai Parmanand came from a family whose ancestor; Bhai Mati Das was sawed alive and martyred by the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb, along with his guru, Teg Bahadur, in 1675 in ChandniBhai Parmanand Chowk, where the gurdwara Sis Ganj stands today.

     Parmanand was born in 1874 at Karyala, a village near Chakwal; district Jhelum (now in Pakistan). His father, Bhai Tara Chand, was serving in the British Indian army. Parmanand had his early education in a local school at Chakwal. While still a student, he was very impressed by the tenets of Arya Samaj. He even helped in the establishment of a branch of Arya Samaj at Chakwal while still in his teens. After passing the middle examination, he joined D.A.V. school at Lahore, from where he passed the entrance examination. Soon after, the Arya Samaj was split into D.A.V wing and Gurukul Wing. For two years, Parmanand worked for the cause of the D.A.V movement at the bidding of Lala Hansraj, the principal. After passing F.A. (the First Arts examination), he went to Jodhpur and founded the Rajput School. After a year, he came back to Lahore and passed the B.A. examination. That was the year when Parmanand was married to Bhagi Sudhi. The following two years were spent as headmaster of the Anglo-Sanskrit School at Abbotabad. Thereafter, he left Abbotabad and Went to Calcutta to study for an M.A. degree but came back to Lahore after one year and passed the M.A. examination from the Punjab University in 1902. The same year, he joined the Dayanand College as a professor. Along with teaching in the college, he used to lecture about Arya Samaj in different towns of Punjab during vacations, and had become a forceful speaker. After three years of teaching at the Dayanand College, a letter addressed to the Arya Samaj, Lahore, came from the Indian settlers in South Africa requesting the services of a preacher. The principal of the college suggested the name of Bhai Parmanand, who agreed. Parmanand left for South Africa in 1905. On the Way, he gave lectures on Arya Samaj and Vedic religion at Bombay, Mambassa and Nairobi in East Africa.
     Reaching South Africa, he toured Natal, Transvaal and Cape Colony, giving lectures. He was warmly received wherever he went and his lectures were even attended by a large number of Whites. The Indian residents collected about Rs. 8000 and sent it as donation to Dayanand College, Lahore. At Durban, Parmanand met Mahatma Gandhi. About Gandhi, Parmanand writes in his The Story of my life ‘He (Gandhi) took the chair in one of these lectures. Subsequently, I stayed nearly a month at his house at Johannesburg (in Transvaal). His simple life and asceticism left a deep impression on me even then. He also wrote letters to England (where Parmanand planned to visit) on my behalf to his friend Shyamji Krishna Varma and two English friends’.1 From South Africa he reached England after a three-Week journey, where he stayed at the India House, established by Shyamji Krishna Verma, in London. He also visited Oxford and Cambridge. He came back to London and devoted much time in researching the history of India at the British Museum. He submitted a thesis for the M.A. degree at London University titled, The Rise British Power in India, which was, however, rejected by the two Anglo-Indian experts. All his expenses in England were borne by the Dayanand College, Lahore. While he was still in England, Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were deported to Burma for organizing the agrarian movement in Punjab. Parmanand was close to Lajpat Rai and was very pained to hear the news of Lajpat Rai’s deportation. Meetings were held in London against the high-handedness of the government in which Parmanand also took part and spoke. Lala Har Dayal (who later organized the Gadar Party in USA) was then studying at Oxford and was a friend of Parmanand from his Lahore days. They came close to each other and exchanged views on various problems that India was facing. This made Parmanand a suspect in the eyes of the Indian government officials later on.
In 1908, Parmanand returned to India and resumed the work of Arya Samaj. During the summer vacation, he went to Burma to spread the word of Arya Samaj and to collect funds for the college. Even after his release from Mandalay prison, Ajit Singh was under surveillance. To avoid arrest once again he left India for good. As luck would have it, Parmanand rented the same house where Ajit Singh was staying in Lahore. As a result, Parmanand became a suspect and his movements were watched day and night. During the vacation of 1909, Parmanand went on a lecture tour in the Madras Presidency and founded an Arya Samaj at Madras. The lecture tour lasted for five months. On his return, his house was searched; many letters and some written material was found, one of which contained hints on bomb making, about which Parmanand had no knowledge. How this found its way into his papers, he did not know. He was produced before a magistrate. The trial lasted for a few months. He was released on bail and had to give an undertaking of good behaviour for three years. It is unfortunate that the Arya Samaj did not show any interest in his case. On the other hand, he was dismissed from the college service. He once again left the country in 1910. He visited British Guiana, Trinidad and Martinique (a French colony), where he met Lala Har Dayal and spent some time with him. He lectured to the local audience consisting of Indians settled there, and was respected as a pandit. As most of the schools there were run by Christian missionaries, he opened a Hindu school for the Indians. From there he came to the United States, where he studied at the University of California and got a degree in 1913, and left for England. Meanwhile, Lala Har Dayal had founded the Gadar Party, whose object was to overthrow the British Raj through revolution and who had brought out a journal, Gadar, for spreading the objectives of the party
Though Parmanand never took any interest in the activities of Har Dayal and the Gadar Party, his friendship with Har Dayal was known to the British Consul in New York and this information was passed on to the secret police in India. During his brief stay in England, he was put too much annoyance by the secret police. He returned to India in December 1913 as a suspect revolutionary, constantly being followed by C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) men. As he had been discharged from the college, he opened a pharmacy on Mohan Lal Road. But this was the time when members of the Gadar Party started coming to Punjab from America and Canada. They regularly visited Parmanand and he could not shun them, such was his character. Thus, suspicion about his participation in the revolutionary activities further deepened. He was arrested along with twenty-four other ‘conspirators’ in 1915. The trial was conducted under the Defence of India Act. It was alleged that a huge and terrible conspiracy was being hatched by Parmanand in the absence of the leader Har Dayal. His book History of India was also a charge against him. The trial lasted for several months. The verdict was death sentence, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. Bhai Parmanand was sent to the Andaman Cellular jail, where he spent five years, along with hundreds of other political prisoners as well as some hard core criminals and he suffered terribly. His Wife residing in Lahore was an even greater sufferer. The property of the family had been confiscated. Each item from the house was auctioned. She lived in a small dark room, earning rupees seventeen from teaching in a private school. Their two daughters died of malnutrition and fever while Parmanand was in the Andaman She met Madan Mohan Malaviya, Gandhi and C.F. Andrews. They all showed Sympathy for her but it was Andrews who was moved greatly by her misery fought for her husband’s release and wrote several articles in the Tribune about her case and about the innocence of her husband. Gandhi also wrote in Young India about Bhai Parmanand’s imprisonment: “Bhai Parmanand belongs to the band of Indians daily growing in numbers who have set apart their lives for India’s service and have accepted comparative poverty as their lot. During his visit to South Africa he was for nearly a month my honoured guest and left on my mind a deep impression as a man full of truth and nobility. The Government has grievously erred in treating an honorable man as a common felon”.
All these efforts bore fruit and Parmanand was released in 1920. He has given graphic details about the life of prisoners in the Andaman jail in his autobiography, The Story of My Life. There was great jubilation in the country, especially in Punjab, on his release. He became active again and attended the Calcutta session of the Congress along with Lala Lajpat Rai, in which the resolution recommending non-cooperation with the government was passed. Though he did not approve of the Congress espousing the cause of the Khalifa of Turkey, he was all for national education which was very near to his heart. When the Congress party established Central National College or University (Vidya Pith) at Lahore he was put in charge of the National College and Vidya Pith. An industrial school and a National Medical College were also established and Bhai Parmanand was put in charge of these also. However, these two institutions were soon closed. The Vidya Pith functioned from 1921 to 1926. It had to be closed because hardly any student sought admission to it after that. Sometime earlier, Lala Lajpat Rai had founded the Tilak School of Politics. When Lajpat Rai went to jail in 1921, he made Bhai Parmanand the director of the Tilak School.
The purely political part of the Non-Cooperation movement did not interest Parmanand and he did not believe that Swaraj could be won in a year, as claimed by Gandhi. When, after the suspension of the Non-Cooperation movement, communal riots took place in several parts of the country, starting with the Mopla riots in Kerala, Bhai Parmanand was greatly upset. In almost all these riots, Hindus were the sufferers, though they were in a majority. When serious riots took place in Saharanpur (U.P) Lajpat Rai sent Bhai Parmanand to study the situation first hand. Parmanand wrote: The misery and suffering of the Hindus there pained me deeply. And when I learnt that the office-bearers of the local Khilafat Committee were responsible for the riots and the destruction of the lives and property of the Hindus, I was forced to the conclusion that the Khilafat agitation was at the bottom of all Hindu-Muslim riots." For the rest of his life he worked for Hindu Sanghatan (unity). He joined the Hindu Mahasabha and was elected its president for the 1933 session at Ajmer. To put forward the Hindu point of view in the Central Legislative Assembly, he fought the election on the National Party ticket and was elected in 1931 and again in 1934. He vehemently opposed the Nehru Report (1928), and my strongest reason for this was that I felt sure that no amount of yielding on the part of the Hindus to the Muslim demands could ever win them over to making common cause with the Hindus. For the same reason he opposed the Communal Award (1932). In the Central Legislative Assembly, he gave a powerful speech against the Communal Award, which had specially harmed the interests of Bengal and Punjab Hindus but the Congress leadership took a neutral stand. Parmanand said, The Communal Award is a great constitutional wrong, and a serious political blunder. But the harm had been done and Muslims had their way, supported as they were, by the government as well as by the Congress. In 1933, he went to England to give evidence before the Joint Select Committee on behalf of the Punjab Hindus. But his first and last love was Arya Samaj and the propagation of its message. He wrote: To my mind the Arya Samaj had but one mission for the Universality of mankind, to establish Truth in the place of untruth. But preparatory to and side by side with this, it should resuscitate through spiritual power the nation which had to this day kept alive the religion of the Vedas. The question of the political unity of Hindus and Muslims would also find solution only when the Hindus grew strong. Nobody cared to cultivate friendship with the dead, nor is unity worth the price of self-government. The Arya Samaj alone can vivify the Hindu nation." Like Vivekananda and Aurobindo before him, he was a votary of Hindu nationalism.
As a social reformer, he was again influenced by the Arya Samaj. He strongly opposed the caste system among Hindus and founded an organization, ‘Jat Pat Todak Mandal’, for breaking caste distinctions among the Hindus, and was its first president. He preached against child marriage and advocated widow remarriage. Like many Arya Samajists, he worked for female education.
Bhai Parmanand was a prolific writer and wrote more than twenty books, mostly in Hindi and Urdu. Some of these are: Swarajya SangramBharat Nari RattanHistory of Europe (Hindi and Urdu), History of MaharashtraKaum Ka Naya JanamBharat varsh Ka Itihas (which was banned), Arya Samaj and CongressHindustan Ki Rajniti and of course, his autobiography The Story of My Life (Urdu, Hindi and English).
The journalistic ventures of Bhai Parmanand included Hindu Weekly (1927), Akash Vani (Hindi Weekly) and Hindu (Urdu. But the last two weeklies had a very short life-span. Parmanand also wrote articles for several newspapers.
Parmanand led a simple life and wore Khadi all his adult life, made from the yarn spun by his wife. He had a robust constitution and suffered the tortures in the Andaman jail stoically. His noble physical presence reminded one of the Roman warriors of yore. The couple had four children, three daughters and a son. Their two daughters had died very young due to malnutrition. Another daughter Sushila was born to them on Parmanand’s return from the Andaman. As they did not have a son, they adopted a boy Dharm Vir as their son. But soon after Bhagi Sudhi his wife, gave birth to a son who grew up as Bhai Mahavir. He served as governor of Madhya Pradesh for some time. Dharm Vir, however, continued to be a member of the family. Bhagi Sudhi died in 1932 of tuberculosis. Parmanand’s last letter to his wife is one of the most moving and touching letters ever written by a husband to his dying wife. Gandhi wrote a condolence letter to Bhai Parmanand from Yervada jail on the death of Parmanand's wife, which became a treasured possession for Parmanand. He bore the demise of his wife with great equanimity and continued to serve the cause of the Hindus and Arya Samaj while fighting the evils of Hindu society like caste distinctions, till the very end.
During the' holocaust of the Partition, he left his beloved Lahore burning and in ruins, including the headquarters of Arya Samaj, for the building of which he had not played an in significant role. He died on 18 December 1947 at Jalandhar, East Punjab.

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