Dadabhai Naoroji: The Grand Old Man of India and Father of Indian Nationalism

Dadabhai Naoroji
Dadabhai Naoroji

The Grand Old Man of India and Father of Indian Nationalism


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Career in England
  4. Philanthropic Activities
  5. Political Engagement
  6. Advocacy in the British Parliament
  7. Economic Contributions and Ideology
  8. Literary and Oratorical Pursuits
  9. Legacy and Conclusion

Dadabhai Naoroji, an exceptional intellectual and devoted patriot, dedicated his entire life to the service of the nation. Known affectionately as the “Grand Old Man of India” and the “Father of Indian Nationalism,” Naoroji’s contributions were universally cherished. This article explores the remarkable journey of Dadabhai Naoroji, from his early life to becoming a prominent leader in India’s struggle for independence.

Early Life and Education
Dadabhai Naoroji was born on 4th September 1825 in Bombay (now known as Mumbai). He received his early education in a primary institution in the city. He attends the prestigious Elphinstone Institution (now Elphinstone College) for his secondary education. He excelled in a variety of courses at the university, including mathematics, natural philosophy, and political economy. His brilliance led to winning multiple scholarships and prizes, including the prestigious Clare Scholarship in 1840. In 1845, Dadabhai graduated from the institution, and seven decades later, in 1916, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of LL.D. by the University of Bombay.

Career in England
After graduation, Dadabhai Naoroji began his career as the Native Head Assistant at the Elphinstone Institute, Bombay. In 1850, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, making him the institute’s first Indian to hold such a post.
He afterward moved to England to work as a partner in the commercial firm Cama & Co. Alongside his business activities, Dadabhai served as the Professor of Gujarati language at the University College of London for about a decade.

Philanthropic Activities
Dadabhai Naoroji was deeply committed to various philanthropic endeavors. He established the London Zoroastrian Association in 1861, and the London India Society in 1865, where he served as President until 1907.
In addition, he formed and served as Secretary of the East India Association in London in 1866.
He returned to Bombay in 1869 and was named Dewan of Baroda in 1874, but resigned a year later due to differences with the Maharaja and the Resident.

Political Engagement
In 1875, Dadabhai Naoroji was elected to the Bombay Municipal Corporation, and in 1883, he was appointed as Justice of the Peace (JP). He played a vital role in the formation of the Bombay Presidency Association in 1885, and he also joined the Bombay Legislative Council in August 1885 at the invitation of the Governor, Lord Reay. By the end of the year, he had been a crucial participant in the formation of the Indian National Congress, serving as its President three times: in 1886, 1893, and 1906.

Advocacy in the British Parliament
In 1892, Dadabhai Naoroji made history by becoming the first Indian to be elected to the British Parliament, representing the Central Finsbury constituency. During his brief stint from 1892 to 1895, he passionately advocated for Indian interests in the British Parliament, earning respect for his fearless advocacy of the Indian cause. He presented the theory of the ‘Drain’ of wealth, providing evidence of the systematic resource depletion of India by the British Government. This led to the appointment of the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure in 1895, with Dadabhai becoming the first Indian member of the commission.

Economic Contributions and Ideology
Dadabhai Naoroji was a leading social reformer who opposed casteism and advocated for women’s education and equal rights. As an eminent economist, he critically analyzed India’s economic challenges and identified the factors responsible for the nation’s hardships, such as scarcity, unemployment, and heavy taxation. In 1906, at the Indian National Congress’s Calcutta session, he emphasized the necessity of Swaraj (self-government) and self-sufficiency, particularly through the promotion of cottage businesses.

Literary and Oratorical Pursuits
Dadabhai Naoroji expressed his nationalistic ideas through various journals and magazines. He contributed regularly to the Students’ Literary Miscellany at Elphinstone College and later edited the Dnyan Prasarak magazine. He published the pamphlet “Poverty of India” in 1878, which he later expanded into the book “Poverty and un-British Rule in India,” published in 1901. Dadabhai also founded and edited publications like the Voice of India and the Rast Goftar.

Legacy and Conclusion
Dadabhai Naoroji’s unwavering dedication to the nation, selfless service, and intense patriotism continue to inspire generations. His contributions to India’s economic thought, advocacy for self-government, and relentless pursuit of justice remain a beacon for those seeking a just and equitable society. Mahatma Gandhi aptly described Dadabhai Naoroji’s life as one of “sweet purity, gentle forbearance, noble self-denial, lofty patriotism, abounding love, and strenuous pursuit of high aims.” His legacy as the “Grand Old Man of India” and the “Father of Indian Nationalism” will forever be etched in the annals of India’s history.

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