Lala Har Dayal

Lala Har Dayal



lala Har Dayal was born on 14 October 1884 at Delhi, to Bholi Rani and Gauri Dayal Mathur, who was a reader in the district court of Delhi. The couple had seven children; four sons and three daughters. Har Dayal was the sixth child. Gauri Dayal was a scholar of Persian and Urdu and Har Dayal inherited the love of the two languages from his father.
In later life he learnt several other languages including Sanskrit, Hindi, and almost all the European languages.lala hardayalHar Dayal’s formal education started at the age of four when he joined the primary section of the Cambridge Mission School, Delhi. He was a very bright student, with a phenomenal memory. He always stood first in class. He passed his middle school examination at the age of twelve and the matriculation examination at fourteen. He earned Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Stephen's College, Delhi and joined Government College, Lahore from where he passed M.A. examination in English literature in 1903 and obtained another M.A. degree in History the following year, standing first in both the examinations. What set him apart from other students were not only, the marks obtained in the examinations but his love for reading. He was a voracious reader, often finishing a book in a day, retaining in memory what he had read. He was selected for a state scholarship by the Government of India which provided him two hundred pounds annually for a three-year study in England. It also provided a round trip passage. He left India in 1905, at the age of twenty one, to join Oxford University. Before, he left for England, he had already been married at the age of seventeen (1901) to Sunder Rani, daughter of wealthy Lala Gopal Chand. A son was born to the couple after two years of marriage but the child lived only for ten months. A daughter Shanti was born five years later in 1908. At Oxford, he joined St. Johns College and proposed to read for the Honour School in Modern History. At the University of Punjab, Lahore, he had been an Aitchison-Ramrattan Sanskrit Scholar, and he continued his studies in Sanskrit at Oxford, and was made a Boden Sanskrit Scholar. He was also designated Cashered Exhibitioner in History. These honours carried with them stipends amounting to 130. There seems to be little doubt that Har Dayal made his mark in academics at Oxford. But it seems that he was feeling extremely homesick and at the end of his first term at Oxford, he left for Delhi and brought back his wife with him in spite of stiff opposition from his family as well as from that of his wife. That was in the summer of 1906. In England, Har Dayal had a wider range of friends and acquaintances than most Indian students studying there. He met G. B. Shaw and the poet laureate Robert Bridges, who spoke of Har Dayal in the highest terms, both of his character and his intellectual attainments. He also made the pilgrimage to see Alexander Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist who was living in England at that time. He also visited London frequently and met Shyamji Krishna Verma, the Indian nationalist who had established the India House in London and was editor and publisher of Indian Sociologist. In the India House, Har Dayal also met VD. Savarkar who was the acknowledged leader of the revolutionaries connected with the India House. Har Dayal was greatly impressed by Savarkar’s nationalistic views and was initiated into the Abhinav Bharat, a party founded by Savarkar, and took the required oath. Har Dayal was now in the company of great nationalists and revolutionaries. This was the time when Savarkar was distributing the Bomb Manual to revolutionaries and trying to send arms to India. Har Dayal’s association with Savarkar was noticed by the British secret agents, though Har Dayal was never personally identified with violence, his career was both directly and indirectly influenced by the cult of the bomb. The arrest of Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh and their deportation to Mandalay (1907) affected Har Dayal’s sensitive mind. He decided to discontinue his studies at Oxford in the fall of 1907 and decided not to accept any money in future as scholarship from the British government. He wrote to Oxford: “I am unable to continue my studies for the Final Examination. I request the favour of your allowing me to withdraw from the College. I am sincerely sorry that I find myself unable to finish my course of studies”. He had already put in two and a half` years at the College and was to finish his studies after six months. He did not give any reason for his action. Neither had the university nor the government found any “political misconduct or indiscretion” on his part. During the interim, between the resignation of his government scholarship and his return to India, Har Dayal started wearing a kurta (long shirt) and dhoti, discarding Western clothes and became strict vegetarian. Actually Har Dayal’s nationalism became an overriding commitment during his Oxford days which included his visits to the India House and meeting with revolutionaries like Shyama ji Krishna Varma, Savarkar and Madame Cama. His identification with extremism was evident not only in his political views but also in his conduct. “His almost total rejection of everything Western was more than just eccentricity”. Har Dayal returned to India in January 1908. He wanted to be a ‘political missionary’ or a ‘wandering friar of freedom’ to the chagrin of his relatives, especially his father-in-law who saw his daughter’s life being ruined. Har Dayal, however, put aside affection for his wife, their little daughter, and his brothers and sisters to become ‘a mendicant agitator’. During his brief stay in India, he wrote articles in various papers including Lajpat Rai’s Panjabi on different subjects. In these articles he attacked the British educational system, which he thought was the cause of many ills of the country. These articles were later published in a book titled Our Educational Problem. Har Dayal returned to England in September 1908. The reason for his leaving India was that “repressive laws and spies were making further work impossible within the country”. He never set foot on Indian soil again and spent the remaining thirty years of his life in exile. On his return to England, he started living at Oxford. It is difficult to know exactly what Har Dayal was doing during his stay in Oxford (September1908 to February 1909) beyond continuing “to contribute his diatribes to the Lahore newspapers”. According to Madame Cama, Har Dayal lived during this period in the “direst poverty”. “This lifestyle”, she said “rendered him neurasthenic” and friends in Paris finally persuaded him to join them, which included Krishna Varma, SR. Rana and Cama. He regained his health. As Krishna Varma’s 'The Indian Sociologist writings were getting ‘tepid and tentative’ after the assassination of Sir William Curzon Wyllie by Madan Lal Dhingra in London, Cama and Rana wanted to start a newspaper “which would reflect a vigorous revolutionary policy”. The paper was called Bande Matram and was, in a way, a continuation of the one, with the same name, started in Calcutta by BC. Pal in 1905 and edited later by Aurobindo Ghose, which had ceased publication in 1908 under the Newspapers Act of 1908. Har Dayal was the obvious choice for its editor. Cama provided the financial support. The first issue of Bande Matram appeared on 10 September 1909. Bande Matram was almost wholly written by Har Dayal for several months. It was published from Geneva. With Bande Matram, Har Dayal identified himself as an advocate of open rebellion. The arrest and deportation of Savarkar, his closest political colleague, if not his gum and his impending fate, affected him very much. He left Paris and spent a few months in Algiers but found it difficult to live in a Muslim country. He returned to Paris in July 1910 and resumed the editorial Work. He was living with S.R. Rana but was restless. Without consulting any of his friends, he left Paris in October 1910 for Martinique, an island in E. West Indies, which was also part of the French Empire. The only account of Har Dayal's stay in Martinique has been given by Bhai Parmanand, an Arya Samaj missionary, in his autobiography The Story of My life. The two friends lived together in Martinique for a month. Parmanand found that Har Dayal was living the life of an ascetic and spent his time in meditation and study. Har Dayal told Parmanand that he wanted to give a new religion to the world like Buddha did. Parmanand claims that he dissuaded him doing anything like that and suggested that he should go to the United States to preach the ancient culture and philosophy of the Aryan race. After days of discussion, Har Dayal agreed. Har Dayal arrived in the United States in February, 1911 and went to Harvard University to carry on his study on Buddhism. But hardly had he started, when he was informed by a fellow Punjabi that there were thousands of Sikhs and Punjabi labourers working in fields or factories on the West Coast, who lacked leadership in their struggle for social acceptance and economic equality. Har Dayal agreed to go to California to do something for the unfortunate Indians. He established himself in Berkeley by the end of April 1911. At Berkeley, he did not pursue any academic course but he did associate himself with campus radicals and intellectuals and introduced himself to select members of the faculty. He also met some literary personalities like the famous novelist Jack London who immortalised Har Dayal introducing a character like Har Dayal, calling him Dayal Har, in his novel The Little Lady of the Big House. At Berkeley, he was asked to speak on Indian philosophy at private gatherings. He was a powerful and enchanting orator as he was considered an intellectual giant. His fame spread and the University of Berkeley invited him to give a series of lectures on philosophy. His lectures at Berkeley had attracted attention and he was offered to join the faculty of Stanford University. Har Dayal refused to draw any salary. Soon after, Har Dayal started writing on subjects which the university did not approve of He had become a Marxian, and took a step still further preaching anarchism. He advocated free love. Several parents of female students objected and Har Dayal was removed from the Stanford University faculty panel. By 1912, Har Dayal was a devout communist, nay an anarchist. To spread his gospel, he founded The Radical Club during his days in Stanford and served as its secretary. He defined its members as dissenters from the establishment in any social, political, or intellectual area. It was like a clearing house for anyone and everyone to come and vent his feelings, somewhat like London's Hyde Park. It started attracting people, especially the young. The authorities of the university as well as of the government were concerned. The club could be one of the reasons for the university to have dissuaded Har Dayal to leave the university. By the end of 1912, Har Dayal was a figure to be reckoned with, as well-known in Washington as he had been in official circles in London, Delhi, Calcutta and Simla. His literary production (mainly articles in newspapers and journals) had made him one of the most avidly read young Indians of his time. Wherever Har Dayal went, there was excitement. His energy and enthusiasm seemed inexhaustible, and the variety of his interests and commitments left both Indian informers and British agents bewildered and worn out". A Crucial event occurred in 1912 in Delhi which brought Har Dayal back to nationalist activities. This was the assassination attempt on the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge. The event was celebrated in Berkeley, in which Har Dayal took a leading part. He also wrote an article titled ‘Salute to the Bomb Thrower’, and sent it for publication. He was now again lambasting the British in his writings. To bring Indians on a common platform, he founded the Hindu Association of the Pacific Coast in May 1913. (In the America of those days all Indians were called Hindus). It was decided that the association would sponsor the publication of a revolutionary newspaper. The journal was called Gadar (revolution) and Hal' Dayal announced the formation of Gadar Party on 1 November 1913. The first issue of Gadar was also brought out on that day in several Indian languages like Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu etc. Har Dayal was the editor and was helped by some members who knew these languages. A house at 436, Hill Street, San Francisco was purchased and was named as ‘Yugantar Ashram’, which was to be the headquarters of Gadar Party and from where the journal Gadar was to be published. In the first formal meeting of the party, Baba Sohan Singh was elected as president and Har Dayal as secretary and editor of Gadar. The fame of Har Dayal rests more as the founder of Gadar Party than on anything else. A majority of the members of the party were Sikhs, working on agricultural farms and factories, which were treated shabbily by the white overlords. The recurring theme of the Gadar was, “Chalo chaliye desh nun yudh Karan/Eho akhari vachan Farman ho Gaye” (Let us go to the motherland to fight the enemy/ these words (of Har Dayal) are last words and order). But before the orders could be implemented by Gadarites, Har Dayal was arrested by the U.S. Immigration Department with the connivance of British Embassy on 25 March 1914 in San Francisco. He was, however, released after signing a bond of $1000. Har Dayal left the country and after about Weeks appeared in Lausanne, Switzerland. In the Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco, the Gadar movement and the propaganda machine had been turned over to Ram Chandra, a Punjabi, who edited the party organ.   From Switzerland, Har Dayal moved to Germany where he opened an Oriental Bureau and sought German help for armed revolution in India. He was in Germany all through the War years. During the first year of his stay in Germany, he got close to the Germans but later on he was completely disillusioned. In an article on 4 December 1918 which was published in the San Francisco Call he wrote, “My residence in Germany has convinced me that German imperialism is a very great menace to the progress of humanity, and I rejoice to see that American arms bid fair to humble this arrogant nation”. From Germany he crossed over to Sweden in November 1918, just before the War ended. That was also the end of Har Dayal the revolutionary. He was now an adherent of the Home Rule instead of the old revolutionary party. He now advocated that India should remain a part of the great British Empire. Har Dayal lived in Sweden for almost a decade. “He earned his rather precarious living by lecturing on Indian philosophy, art and literature”. This miserable financial condition was changed when in November, 1926 Har Dayal met agda Erikson, “a Swedish social worker and philanthropist of significant accomplishment. She was to become his companion from then on and his acknowledged wife from the summer of 1932”. She bought a cottage at Edgware when the couple moved to London later, which became their home for the rest of their lives. Egda gave him company, inspiration, financial support and much more. She was with him when he died. Har Dayal applied to the British government for amnesty which was refused. However, the British ambassador in Stockholm issued a passport to Har Dayal for Great Britain only. Har Dayal reached London on 10 October 1927, accompanied by Egda Erikson. He was admitted to the doctoral programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies and submitted a dissertation, The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature. He was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1930 and was published in book the form of an in 1932. It is still considered as an authoritative work in its field. Two years later, in 1934, Har Dayal’s second book, and by far the most famous of his works, Hints for Self Culture was published. “The scope of the book is almost overwhelming”. In the brief preface he wrote, “In this little book (it has 363 pages) I have tried to indicate and explain some aspects of the message of Rationalism for the Young men and women of all countries”. In it, the later stage of ‘Hardayalism’ gets manifested, “a free, united and humanly perfect India” has given way to “a free, united, and humanly perfect world, having one state, one flag, one language, one ethic, one ideal, one love, one life”. From it emerges Har Dayal, as the man without a country, finding his identification as a world citizen. On 30 December 1935, Har Dayal renewed his request for amnesty because he wanted to return to his motherland. By the time the permission was dispatched to their Edgware address, the couple had left for the United States. They started residing in Philadelphia where Har Dayal was invited to deliver a series of lectures under the auspices of the Society for Ethical Culture. However, life ended for Har Dayal on 4 March 1939. He was only fifty-four. His sudden death remains a mystery. He was cremated at a simple service at which tributes were paid to him by the devotees of the twelve religions he had singled out in his book Hints. The only music at the funeral service was the singing of Bande Matram. Egda Erikson left for Sweden. She was heartbroken to discover that Har Dayal’s first wife was still alive and she had married a man who was neither a divorcee nor a widower. She died on 11 January 1940 in Sweden. For the relatives of Har Dayal, Egda never existed, so also for many Indian biographers of Har Dayal. She had lived with him for thirteen years, first as a friend and later as his wife. When the news of Har Dayal’s death reached India almost after a month, it did not go unnoticed. Most of the major newspapers devoted considerable space recounting his career. But the most memorable tribute came from the aged and ailing C.F. Andrews: “He (Har Dayal) was one of India’s noblest children and in happier times would have done wonders with his gigantic intellectual powers. For his mind was one of the greatest I have ever known and his character also was true and pure”. However, as a personality Har Dayal is elusive. “What have intrigued most of those who knew him were the seemingly abrupt changes in his actions and attitudes which occurred as he moved from a militant nationalist to a pacifist and internationalist who embraced not only the ideals but the homilies of the society he had once scorned and reviled”.

No comments:

Post a Comment