He is often been referred to as Gandhi’s favorite disciple and went on to become free India’s first Prime Minister. Called the ‘Architect of Modern India’ and fondly remembered as ‘Chacha Nehru’ by little children Jawaharlal Nehru was born to the influential Allahabad based barrister Motilal Nehru and Swaroop Rani on 14th November, 1889.
Growing up amidst luxury he studied in some of the finest schools, leaving for England at the age of 15 where he attended the Harrow School, followed by Trinity College where he studied natural science. On completion he joined Inner Temple in London to prepare himself as a barrister.
On his return to India Nehru joined his father practicing law only to join politics when in 1917 he was encouraged by Annie Besant, an Irish Theosophist, committed to fighting for India’s freedom struggle. He soon joined the Home Rule League. However his true initiation into politics came only two years later when he met Mahatma Gandhi in 1919, when the latter launched a campaign against the Rowlatt Act and after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Fascinated with Gandhi’s work and his dedication towards the freedom struggle in a peaceful way, the Nehru family completely changed their lifestyle switching from western clothing and possessions to welcoming Swadeshi clothing. It was in 1920-22 that Jawaharlal Nehru took part in the Non – Cooperation Movement and was arrested by the British for anti-government activities only to be released a few months later. On his release Nehru became famous as a self-motivated Congress leader and was elected President of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation in 1924, a post he served for two years.
During his tenure he looked into public education, health care and sanitation, however resigning in 1926 citing non cooperation from civil servants and various hindrances from British authorities. During 1926-1928, he served as the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee. However while Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose backed full political independence, Motilal Nehru and other senior leaders wanted dominion status within the British Empire. Acting as a mediator between the two, Gandhi suggested that the British be given two years to grant India dominion status, after which a national struggle for full, political independence would be launched by the Congress, a move opposed by Nehru and Bose as they wanted the timeline to be reduced to one year.
In December 1929, at the Congress annual session held in Lahore, Jawaharlal Nehru was elected President of the Congress Party. During the session a resolution demanding India’s independence was passed and Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled free India’s flag on January 26, 1930 in Lahore. The Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 was a great success forcing the British Government to propagate the Government of India Act 1935 and the Congress Party decided to contest elections. Though Nehru stayed out of the elections, he dynamically campaigned for the party, resulting in the Congress forming government in nearly every province, and winning by the largest number of seats in the Central Assembly. Nehru was President to the Congress party in 1936, 1937, and 1946.
After his arrest following the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942, Nehru assumed a leading role in the negotiations, that concluded with a separate state of Pakistan being formed and Jawaharlal Nehru becoming independent India’s first Prime Minister.
The partition witnessed massive bloodshed and Jawaharlal Nehru as India’s first Prime Minister did his best to calm the situation by visiting the violence affected areas and providing assurance to those affected by the violence.
As Prime Minister he is remembered for ‘Nehruvian Socialism’ or the Indian version of Socialism, the Planning Commission of India also being Jawaharlal Nehru’s brainchild. Besides agriculture, Nehru also realized the importance of cottage industries in the Indian economy, land redistribution plans were undertaken during his tenure as a Prime Minister, leading to the wealth disparity lessening. He is also responsible for setting the direction of India’s foreign policy. Numerous educational and social reforms were undertaken, and primary education was made compulsory. Amongst the many institutes, he was also instrumental in starting new Indian institutes of higher learning like the Indian Institutes of Technology, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS and the various branches of the Indian Institutes of Management.
He also called for liquidation of colonialism in Asia and Africa and along with Tito and Nasser, played a productive role in bringing the Korean War to an end and in resolving other international crises, such as the Suez Canal and the Congo, offering India’s services for conciliation and international policing. When the world in the 1950s was sharply divided into two opposite factions: one side comprising of the United States and western European countries the other side dominated by USSR, India wisely joined neither and was one of the founding members of the Non Aligned Movement or NAM. Jawaharlal Nehru also signed the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan in 1960.
However he did suffer setbacks too during his tenure as Prime Minister when his decision to grant refuge to the Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama was severely criticized; his last days as India’s Prime Minister marred by political problems and corruption within the party. A dynamic leader, at the time of his death on 27th May, Indians found themselves echoing Nehru’s own words of the time of Gandhi’s assassination: “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.”
Today we focus on Allahabad his birthplace – one of the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh.
Known as Prayag in ancient times, according to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma, the creator god of the Trinity, chose Prayag as the place to perform Prakrista Yaga at the beginning of the creation. The name was later changed to Illahabad, which would later become Allahabad, meaning the ‘The city of Allah’ after King Akbar in 1575.
Allahabad is also famous for its Kumbh Mela, which occurs every 12 years, an occasion that attracts thousands of tourists to take a dip in its holy waters. Apart from the Kumbh Mela, the Ardhkumbh Mela which is held once in 6 years, and the Maha Mela held every year on the banks of the Sangam (Triveni Sangam) –the meeting of three rivers: river Ganga, river Yamuna, and the mythical and invisible Saraswath is also a major attraction.
Some of its attractions include the Allahabad Fort that dates back to King Akbar; the fort also houses the 10.6 m high Ashoka Pillar that dates back to 232 BC. Khusro Bagh a garden built by Moghul king Jahangir, in memory of his beloved son Khusro after he was murdered by his brother Shah Jahan. It also houses the tomb of his mother Shah Begum.
While Anand Bhavan the ancestral home of the Nehru–Gandhi family stands as a silent testimony to the Indian freedom struggle, other attractions here include the Allahabad Planetarium, Allahabad Museum Swaraj Bhavan and Minto Park.
Allahabad is also known for many religious places of worship some important ones being the Hanuman Temple, Kalyan Devi Temple, Mankameshwar temple, Shivkoti Mahadev Temple, Patalpuri Temple, All Saint’s Cathedral, Someshwar Mahadev Temple and many more.
Being an important seat of learning since times immemorial, the city has been referred to as the ‘Oxford of the East’ during the 19th century. Truly the ‘Oxford of the East’ produced one of its finest leaders in the form of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru!