Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India and architect of India’s foreign policy, grew from a anglicized child into a dedicated nationalist par excellence.
|14 November, 1889||Jawaharlal Nehru born|
|1896||Nehru spends 6 months at St. Mary Convent School|
|1902-1904||Nehru tutored by Ferdinairn Brooks.|
|1905||Schooling at Harrow, England|
|1907||Trimity College, Cambridge|
|1910||Law degree from Inner Temple|
|1912||Nehru returned to India|
|1912||Attended Congress session at Bankipore|
|1916||Jawaharlal Nehru meets M.K.Gandhi for the first time.|
|1916||Married Kamala Kaul|
|1918||Daughter, Indira born|
|1919||Joined Gandhi’s Satygraha Sabha|
|1920||Participated in Non Co-operation Movement|
|1924 – 1925||Becomes General Secretary, All India Congress Committee|
|1927||Jawaharlal Nehru elected to 9 member executive committee of Congress of oppresed Nationalities in Brussels; attended 10th anniversary celebration of Russian Revolution.|
|1928||Beaten in Simon Commission protest|
|1929||Elected President of All India Congress Committee, Leads Lahore Session.|
|1930||Likewise Participates in Civil Disobedience Movement|
|1942||Certainly Nehru arrested in Quit India Movement.|
|1947||Prime Minister of Interim Government, Chief Negotiation of Indian National Congress|
|15 August, 1947||Finally Elected as 1st Prime Minister of Independent India|
|July 1954||Nehru inaugarates Bhakra Dam|
|27 May, 1964||Jawaharlal Nehru dies|
Profile of Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14th November 1889, the first child of Motilal and Swarup Rani Nehru. By 1900, the family had moved to Allahabad and Motilal’s flourishing practice saw them residing at a Palatial home, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.
Between 1902-1904, Jawaharlal was tutored by Ferdinand T. Brookes and in 1905, he entered Harrow, one of England’s leading schools. Jawaharlal went on to get a degree in natural science from Trinity College, Cambridge and a law degree from the Inner Temple.
Whilst in England, Nehru frequently asked for Indian newspapers, particularly “The Times” and much of his correspondence was based on the Indian National Congress.
He was happy at his father’s entry into the Congress, though he often expressed more severe views than the moderate Motilal. An only child of 11 years, Jawaharlal was a voracious reader and his areas of interest included literature, history, science, philosophy and economics.
Already a close friend of Annie Besant, Jawaharlal’s holiday to Dublin in 1907 acquainted him with the Lrish Republican Movement. Thus by the time Jawaharlal returned to India in 1912, this young man with a very English upbringing, was already full of nationalist ideas.
Jawaharlal, Motilal and Gandhi
Jawaharlal, Motilal Nehru and Gandhi shared a unique relationship and their combined importance to the Congress led to them being called the ‘Holy Trinity” by some journalists. Indeed the inclusion of the Nehrus into the National Movement had much to do with the relationship between father and son and Jawaharlal’s loyalty to Gandhi.
By the time Jawaharlal was in England, he had become the intellectual partner of his father Motilal. Motilal Nehru, born a posthumus child, had from the age of 26 years, supported his wife and child and the widow and seven children of his brother.
A tough, self confident, witty lawyer, Motilal paved his way to the top of the legal profession with tremendous hard work and honour. His home, “Anand Bhavan,” at Allahabad was the focal point of attention and Motilal refused to conform to convention over eating separately like other Brahmins or purifying himself after foreign visits etc.
His children (Jawaharlal, Swarup Kumari and Krishna) received the best education possible. Practical and gritty, Motilal was a leading member of the Moderates in the Congress but by 1920, he followed his impetuous son to become a staunch supporter of Gandhi.
During the 1920 Non Co-operation movement, Motilal grabbed the headlines when he got rid of his horses, cars, carriages, servants, crystal and Seville Row suits and adopted sudh Khadi and the Gandhi cap. Both father and son gave up flourishing legal practices to follow the national movement and in the words of B. R. Nanda,
“what seemed a tryst with destiny in 1947 was, 28 years earlier, a leap in the dark.”
The relationship between Gandhi and Jawaharlal was still harder to define, as inspite of many differences they remained loyal to each other. Jawaharlal first met Gandhiji at the 1916 Lucknow Session of the Congress and by 1919 had joined the Satyagraha Sabha. Jawaharlal recognized Gandhi’s amazing ability to rouse the masses and Gandhi treated Nehru like a Son.
1920’s and 1930’s:
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (1919) had a profound influence on Jawaharlal and his mother’s ties with people in Lahore, brought Nehru face to face with official butchery. During the Non Co-operation Movement (1920), the Nehrus became staunch Nationalists.
In 1926, Jawaharlal and his family (wife Kamala and daughter Indira) spent a year in Europe, during which time Nehru became associated with Socialism. At the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in Brussels (1927), Nehru was elected to a 9 member executive committee along with Romain Rolland, Mme Sun Yat Sen and Albert Einstein of the Russian Revolution.
Returning to India, Jawaharlal threw himself into the anti-Senior Commission Satyagraha and was severely beaten in a lathi charge. At this juncture a letter to Jawaharlal by Gandhi dated Dec 3rd, 1928 said,
” May God spare you for many a long year to come and make you his chosen instrument for freeing India from the yoke” — a truly prophetic vision”.
In 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the All India Congress Committee and was given the reception fit for a king at the Lahore session of 1929.
As the Civil Disobedience movement began, Jawaharlal and Motilal spent long periods in jail (beginning in 1921, Jawaharlal was arrested several times – spending approximately 10 years under arrest between 1920 – 1947), but the women of the Nehru family threw themselves into the nationalists movement.
Tragedy struck Jawaharlal when his father died in 1921 and his wife, Kamala, died in 1936, both after prolonged illnesses.
Independence and After
Jawaharlal remained at the forefront of the National movement and became the Chief Negotiator of the Congress for the Transfer of power. A close friend of Lord Mountbatten, Nehru became the P.M. of the Interim government and on 15th August 1947, became the first Prime Minister of Independent India.
Along with Vallabhai Patel as Interior minister, Jawaharlal Nehru ensured the accession of the Princely states to India and extended a hand of friendship to other Afro – Asian Countries. The architect of India’s foreign policy, Nehru defined it as anti-imperialist, anti-arpatheid and anti-colonial.
Nehru also believed that the newly independent states in Asia and Africa had the right not to join either the Soviet or Capitalist Power Blocs. Thus he along with Tito (Yugoslavia) and Nasser (Egypt) founded the Non-Aligned Movement. Nehru did not consider the “Non Aligned Policy” to be neutral but he believed it allowed Nations to accept aid and maintain good relations with Nations from both Power Blocs.
The only blot on Nehru’s foreign policy was the breakdown of the “Panchasheel” agreement signed with China — In 1962, the Chinese Aggression on India was a huge blow to Nehru. But Nehru’s numerous trips abroad, India’s membership in the commonwealth and commitment to anti-apartheidism and anti-colonialism were well received.
In December 1929, Nehru had declared that “our economic programme must be based on a human outlook, and must not sacrifice men to money”. In keeping with this, Specifically Nehru’s economic policy was socialist in leaning, giving India a mixed economy and five year planning.
Unlike Gandhi who believed that village development was more important, Nehru concentrated on industrialization, refeuing to dams and power units as India’s new Temples.
Nehru died in 1964, plunging India into mourning. By no means a perfect leader, Nehru was an introspective, sometimes impetuous man. Passionately fond of children, his birthday is celebrated as children’s Day in India.
Much has been written in hindsight criticizing Nehru’s economic policy, questioning his foreign policy and speculating on his friendship with Edwura Mountbatten. But few who knew him were immune to Jawaharlal’s deeply passionate love for India and his dreams for her future. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore, Nehru was
“the Rituraj representing the season of youth and triumphant joy of an invincible spirit of fight and uncompromising loyalty to the cause of freedom.”
Jawaharlal Nehru’s Writings
One of the books Nehru had written was Discovery of India. This book was written by him when he was in Ahmadabad Fort prison in 1944. He took five months from April to September 1944 to complete the book.
The proofing of the book was done by his daughter Indira Gandhi as he had no time to read the typescript. Although the book remains as written in prison with no additions or changes, except for the postscript at the end.
As Nehru said about the book: “It is mine and not wholly mine, as I am constituted today; it represents rather some past self of mine which has already joined the long succession of other selves that existed for a while and faded away, leaving only the memory behind.”
Indira Gandhi’s views on her father’s writings
The [book] delves deep into the sources of India’s personality. In his writings, he aimed at describing his motives and appraisals as meticulously as possible. The purpose was not self-justification or rationalisation, but to show the rightness and inevitability of the actions and events in which he was a prime participant.
Extracts from the book Discovery of India
Religion merges into mysticism and metaphysics and philosophy. There have been great mystics, attractive figures, who cannot easily be disposed of as self-deluded fools. Yet mysticism (in the narrow sense of the word) irritates me; it appears to be vague and soft and flabby, not a rigorous discipline of the mind but a surrender of mental faculties and a living in a sea of emotional experience.
The experience may lead occasionally to some insight into inner and less obvious processes, but it is also likely to lead to self-delusion.
The future is dark, uncertain. But we can see part of the way leading to it and can trend it with firm steps, remembering that nothing that can happen is likely to overcome the spirit of man which has survived so many perils; remembering also that life, for all its ills, has joy and beauty, and that we can always wander; if we know how to, in the enchanted woods of nature.
‘What else is wisdom? What of man’s endeavour
Or God’s high grace, so lovely and so great?
To stand from fear set free, to breathe and wait;
To hold a hand uplifted over Hate;
And shall not Loveliness be loved for ever?’
What is Hinduism?
Hinduism, as a faith, is vague, amorphous, many-sided, all things to all men. It is hardly possible to define it, or indeed to say definitely whether it is a religion or not, in the usual sense of the word. In its present form, and even in the past, it embraces many beliefs and practices, from the highest to the lowest, often opposed to or contradicting each other. Its essential spirit seems to be to live and let live.
Mahatma Gandhi has attempted to define it: `If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through nonviolent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth … Hinduism is the religion of truth. Truth is God. Denial of God we have known. Denial of truth we have not known’
Whatever the word we may use, Indian or Hindi or Hindustani, for our cultural tradition, we see in the past that some inner urge towards synthesis, derived essentially from the Indian philosophic outlook, was the dominant feature of Indian cultural, and even racial, development.
The Gita deals essentially with the spiritual background of human existence and it is in this context that the practical problems of everyday life appear. It is a call to action to meet the obligations and duties of life, but always keeping in view that spiritual background and the larger purpose of the universe. Inaction is condemned, and action and life have to be in accordance with the highest ideals of the age, for these ideals themselves may vary from age to age.
In addition to, The message of the Gita is not sectarian or addressed to any particular school of thought. It is universal in its approach for everyone, Brahimn or outcaste: `All paths lead to Me,’ it says.
Old Indian Art
Indian art is so intimately associated with Indian religion and philosophy that it is difficult to appreciate it fully unless one has some knowledge of the ideals that governed the Indian mind. In art, as in music, there is a gulf which separates eastern from western conceptions.
Probably the great artists and builders of the middle ages in Europe would have felt more in tune with Indian art and sculpture than modern European artists who derive part of their inspiration at least from the Renaissance period and after. For in Indian art there is always a religious urge, a looking beyond, such as probably inspired the builders of the great cathedrals of Europe.
Gandhiji was like a powerful current of fresh air that made us stretch ourselves and take deep breaths; like a beam of light that pierced the darkness and removed the scales from our eyes; like a whirlwind that upset many things, but most of all the working of people’s minds.
However he did not descend from the top; he seemed to emerge from the millions of India, speaking their language and incessantly drawing attention to them and their appalling condition. Furthermore Get off the backs of these peasants and workers, he told us, all you live by their exploitation; get rid of the system that produces this poverty and misery.
We did not grow much more truthful perhaps than we had been previously, but Gandhi was always there as a symbol of uncompromising truth to pull us up and shame us into truth. What is truth? I do not know for certain, and perhaps our truths are relative and absolute truth is beyond us.
Different persons may and do take different views of truth, and each individual is powerfully influenced by his own background, training, and impulses. So also Gandhi. But truth is at least for an individual what he himself feels and knows to be true. According to this definition I do not know of any person who holds to the truth as Gandhi does. Gandhi influenced millions of people in India in varying degrees.
Vitality and Persistence of Sanskrit
Sanskrit is a language amazingly rich, efflorescent, full of luxuriant growth of all kinds, and yet precise and strictly keeping within the framework of grammar which Panini laid down two thousand six hundred years ago. It spread out, added to its richness, became fuller and more ornate, but always it stuck to its original roots.
The modern Indian languages descended from the Sanskrit, and therefore called Indo-Aryan languages, are: Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Gujrati, Oriya, Assamese, Rajasthani (a variation of Hindi), Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and Kashmiri.
The Dravidian languages are: Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese, and Malayalam. These fifteen languages cover the whole of India, and of these, Hindi, with its variation Urdu, is far the most widespread and is understood even where it is not spoken.
Sometimes as I reached a gathering, a great roar of welcome would greet me: Bharat Mata ki Jai – `Victory to Mother India.’ I would ask them unexpectedly what they meant by that cry, who was this Bharat Mata, Mother India whose victory they wanted? My question would amuse them and surprise them, and then, not knowing exactly what to answer, they would look at each other and at me.
The question and answer went on, till they would ask me impatiently to tell them all about it. I would endeavour to do so and explain that India was all this that they had thought, but it was much more. The mountains and the rivers of India, and the forests and the broad fields, which gave us food, were all dear to us, but what counted ultimately were the people of India, people like them and me, who were spread out all over this vast land.
Bharat Mata, Mother India, was essentially these millions of people, and victory to her meant victory to these people. Likewise You are parts of this Bharat Mata, I told them, you are in a manner yourselves Bharat Mata, and as this idea slowly soaked into their brains, their eyes would light up as if they had made a great discovery.
Because of this business of thinking and trying to give some expressions to my thoughts, I have drawn myself away from the piercing edge of present and moved along the wider expanses of the past and the future.
`But the rage for travelling is a symptom of a deeper unsoundness affecting the whole intellectual action … We imitate …. Our houses are built with foreign taste; our shelves are garnished with foreign ornaments; yes, our opinions, our tastes, our faculties, lean on and follow the past and the distant. The soul created the arts wherever they have flourished.
It was in his own mind that the artist sought his model. It was an application of his own thought to the thing to be done and the conditions to be observed …. Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession.’
Nehruji took almost five months to complete this book. He had covered a thousand hand-written pages.
Books by Jawaharlal Nehru
Below listed books are written by the Jawaharlal Nehru:
- An Autobiography
- Nehru on Gandhi
- The Discovery of India
- Nehru and Africa: Extracts from J. Nehru’s speeches on Africa, 1946-1963
- Glimpses of World History
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