Lala Har Dayal
Mathur on a 1987 stamp of India
|Born||Har Dayal Singh Mathur|
14 October 1884
Delhi, Delhi Division, Panjab Province, British Indian Empire
|Died||4 March 1939 (aged 54)|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Notable works||Our Educational Problem, Thoughts on Education, Hints for Self Culture, Glimpses of World Religions and The Bodhisatva Doctrines in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature|
Lala Har Dayal Singh Mathur (Punjabi: ਲਾਲਾ ਹਰਦਿਆਲ; 14 October 1884 – 4 March 1939) was an Indian nationalist revolutionary and freedom fighter. He was a polymath who turned down a career in the Indian Civil Service. His simple living and intellectual acumen inspired many expatriate Indians living in Canada and the U.S. to fight against British Imperialism during the First World War.
He was born in a Hindu Mathur Kayastha family on 14 October 1884 at Delhi. Har Dayal Mathur was the sixth of seven children of Bholi Rani and Gauri Dayal Mathur. His father was a district court reader. Lala is not so much a surname as a sub-caste designation, within the Kayastha community, but it is generally termed as an honorific title for writers such as the word Pandit which is used for knowledgeable persons in other Hindu communities. At an early age, he was influenced by Arya Samaj. He was associated with Shyam Krishnavarma, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Bhikaji Cama. He also drew inspiration from Giuseppe Mazzini, Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin. He was, according to Emily Brown as quoted by Juergensmeyer, "in sequence an atheist, a revolutionary, a Buddhist, and a pacifist".
He studied at the Cambridge Mission School and received his bachelor's degree in Sanskrit from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India and his master's degree also in Sanskrit from Punjab University. In 1905, he received two scholarships of Oxford University for his higher studies in Sanskrit: Boden Scholarship, 1907 and Casberd Exhibitioner, an award from St John's College, where he was studying. In a letter to The Indian Sociologist, published in 1907, he started to explore anarchist ideas, arguing that "our object is not to reform government, but to reform it's [sic?] away, leaving, if necessary only nominal traces of it's [sic?] existence." The letter led to him being put under surveillance by the police. Later that year, saying "To Hell with the ICS", he gave up the prestigious Oxford scholarships and returned to India in 1908 to live a life of austerity. But in India too, he started writing harsh articles in the leading newspapers, When the British Government decided to impose a ban upon his writing Lala Lajpat Rai advised him to leave and go abroad. It was during this period that he came into the friendship of the anarchist Guy Aldred, who was put on trial for printing The Indian Sociologist.
He moved to Paris in 1909 and became editor of the Vande Mataram. But he was not very happy in Paris, so he left Paris and moved to Algeria. There too, he was unhappy and wondering whether to go- either to Cuba or Japan. After all, he went to Martinique, where he started living a life of austerity. An Arya Samaj Missionary, Bhai Parmanand went there to look for him and found him lonely and isolated. The two discussed founding a new religion modeled on Buddhism. Har Dayal was living an ascetic life eating only boiled grain and potatoes, sleeping on the floor and meditating in a secluded place. Guy Aldred later related that this religion's motto was to be Atheism, Cosmopolitanism and moral law. Emily Brown and Erik Erikson have described this as a crisis of "ego-identity" for him. Parmanand says that Har Dayal agreed to go to the United States to propagate the ancient culture of the Aryan Race.
Hardayal went straight from Boston to California, where he wrote an idyllic account of life in the United States. He then moved on to Honolulu in Hawaii where he spent some time meditating on Waikiki Beach. During his stay, he made friends with Japanese Buddhists. He also started studying the works of Karl Marx. Whilst here he wrote Some Phases of Contemporary Thought in India subsequently published in Modern Review. Parmanand persuaded him by letter to return to California.
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He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. He had also served as secretary of the San Francisco branch of the Industrial Workers of the World alongside Fritz Wolffheim, (later a National Bolshevik after he had left IWW and joined the Communist Workers Party of Germany). In a statement outlining the principles of the Fraternity of the Red Flag he said they proposed "the establishment of Communism, and the abolition of private property in land and capital through an industrial organization and the general strike, ultimate abolition of the coercive organization of government". A little over a year later, this group was given 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land and a house in Oakland, where he founded the Bakunin Institute of California, which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism". The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneración movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. He had a designated post of a lecturer in Indian philosophy and Sanskrit at Leland Stanford University. However, he was forced to resign because of embarrassment about his activities in the anarchist movement.
In California he soon developed contacts with Punjabi Sikh farmers in Stockton, California. Punjabis, a great majority of whom were Sikhs, had started emigrating to the West Coast around the turn of the century. Having experienced hostility by the Canadians in Vancouver, they had already become disaffected with the British. Hardayal tapped into this sentiment of these energetic Sikhs and other Punjabis. Having developed an Indian Nationalist perspective, he encouraged young Indians to gain a scientific and sociological education. With the personal help of Teja Singh, Tarak Nath Das and Arthur Pope and funding from Jwala Singh, a rich farmer from Stockton, he set up Guru Govind Singh Sahib Educational Scholarship for Indian students. With Shyamji Krishna Verma's India House in London, he established his house as a home for these students. Amongst the six students who responded to the offer were Nand Singh Sehra, Darisi Chenchiah and Gobind Behari Lal, his wife's cousin. They lived together in a rented apartment close to the University of California, Berkeley.
At the time, he was still a vigorous anarchist propagandist and had very little to do with the nationalist Nalanda Club, composed of Indian students. However, Basanta Kumar Biswas's attempt on the life of the Indian Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, on 23 December 1912 had a major impact upon him. He visited the Nalanda Club Hostel to tell them this news at dinner. He delivered a rousing lecture, which ended with the following couplet of the Urdu poet Mir Taqi 'Mir' of Delhi (India):
The hostel then became a party with dancing and the singing of Vande Mataram. Hardayal excitedly told his anarchist friends of what one of his men had done in India.
He quickly brought out a pamphlet called the Yugantar Circular in which he eulogised about the bombing:
HAIL ! HAIL ! HAIL !
BOMB OF 23 DECEMBER 1912
HARBINGER OF HOPE AND COURAGE
DEAR REAWAKENER OF SLUMBERING SOULS
CONCENTRATED MORAL DYNAMITE
THE ESPERANTO OF REVOLUTION
Who can describe the moral power of the bomb? It is a concentrated moral dynamite. When the strong and cunning in the pride of their power parade their glory before their helpless victims, when the rich and naughty set themselves on a pedestal and ask their slaves to fall down before them and worship them, when the wicked ones on the Earth seem exalted to the sky and nothing appears to withstand their might, then in that dark hour, for the glory of humanity comes the bomb, which lays the tyrant in the dust. It tells all the cowering slaves that he who sits enthroned as God is a mere man like them. Then, in that hour of shame, a bomb preaches the eternal truth of human equality and sends proud superiors and Viceroys from the palace and the howdah to the grave and the hospital. Then, in that tense moment, when human nature is ashamed of itself, the bomb declares the vanity of power and pomp and redeems us from our own baseness.
HOW GREAT WE FEEL WHEN SOMEONE DOES THE HEROIC DEED? WE SHARE IN HIS MORAL POWER. WE REJOICE IN HIS ASSERTION OF HUMAN EQUALITY AND DIGNITY.— Lala Hardayal (Yugantar Circular:1913)
In April 1914, he was arrested by the United States government for spreading anarchist literature and fled to Berlin, Germany. He subsequently lived for a decade in Sweden. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1930 from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. In 1932, he got his book Hints For Self Culture published and embarked on a lecture circuit covering Europe, India, and the United States.
He died in Philadelphia on 4 March 1939. In the evening of his death, he delivered a lecture as usual where he had said: "I am in peace with all". But a very close friend of Lala Hardayal and the founder member of Bharat Mata Society (established in 1907), Lala Hanumant Sahai did not accept the death as natural, he suspected it as poisoning.
In 1987, the India Department of Posts issued a commemorative stamp in his honor, within the series of "India's Struggle for Freedom". The Article,Karl Marx:Modern Rishi, written by him in the March 1912 issue of the Modern Reviewwas plagiarised and printed by Swadesabhimani Ramakishna Pillai,after four months,in August,1912,in Malayalam.This was exposed by reputed Editor and Writer,Ramachandran in the January 2018 issue of Granthalokam,the Kerala Library Council publication.The similarity between the two has been noticed by Kiran Moitra in his book,Marxism in India.
Some of his books with available references are listed below:
This 392-page work of Lala Hardayal consists of 7 chapters which deal with the Bodhisattva doctrine as expounded in the principal Buddhist Sanskrit Literature.
This book contains comprehensive notes and references besides a general index appended at the end. This book has been written in a particularly lucid style which exhibits scholarly acumen and the mastery of Lala Hardayal in literary art.
According to Swami Rama Tirtha Lala Har Dayal was the greatest Hindu whoever came to America, a great sage and saint, whose life mirrored the highest spirituality as his soul reflected the love of the 'Universal Spirit' whom he tried to realize.
In another appreciation Prof. Dharmavira has sketched the picture of Lala Har Dayal which is being quoted here in verbatim:
Har Dayal dedicated his whole life to the sacred cause of the motherland. Surely from such a person alone could one ask: "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Let us drink deep at this spring and wax glad and strong and brave in every nerve and fibre of our being. He was one of the race of those who wrote the New Era in blood. His course was laborious, truthful, simple, independent, noble; and all these in an eminent degree. His experience of the inward and the outward battle was not inconsiderable and it was not confined to his early manhood, but was spread over his whole life. Lala Har Dayal had the Janak and Dadhichi touch and his life demonstrated that he had what it takes.— Prof. Dharmavira (9 July 1969)
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