Gopal Krishna Gokhale

Indian political leader and social reformer (1866–1915)

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (May 9, 1866February 19, 1915) was a “Liberal Reformer” who primarily promoted independence from the British Empire in India. He is considered one of the founding social and political leaders during the Indian Independence Movement. Gokhale was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and founder of the Servants of India Society. He adopted two principles -non-violence and reform within existing government institutions - to achieve his objectives. He was known by the honorable sobriquet "Servant of India".

Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1909)



On caste system

  • The condition of the low castes—it is painful to call them low castes—is not only unsatisfactory as this resolution says—it is so deeply deplorable that it constitutes a grave blot on our social arrangements... I think all fair-minded persons will have to admit that it is absolutely monstrous that a class of human beings, with bodies similar to our own, with brains that can think and with hearts that can feel, should be perpetually condemned to a low life of utter wretchedness, servitude, and mental and moral degradation, and that permanent barriers should be placed in their way so that it should be impossible for them ever to overcome them and improve their lot. This is deeply revolting to our sense of justice… How can we possibly realize our national aspirations, how can our country ever hope to take her place among the nations of the world, if we allow large numbers of our countrymen to remain sunk in ignorance, barbarism, and degradation?

Sources of Indian Tradition


Bary, Stephen N Hay, William Theodore De; Bary, William Theodore De Bary (1 May 1988). Sources of Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 694–. ISBN 978-81-208-0467-8. 

  • No taxation without representation
    • His refrain and demand during the budget speeches in 1904 as the Indian Representative on the Imperial Legislative Council urging for financial and administrative reforms for India.Page=695
  • A taxation so forced as not only to maintain a budgetary equilibrium but to yield as well “large, continuous, progressive surpluses –even in years of trials and suffering –is, I submit, against all accepted canons of finance.
  • But I venture to submit, my lord, that the consideration which the people of the Western countries receive in consequence of their voting power should be available to us, in matters of finance at any rate, through an “intelligent anticipation” – to use a phrase of Your Lordship’s- of our reasonable wishes on the part of the government.
    • He commented criticizing the heavy taxation that was creating surpluses and the need to have a say in the matter by the representatives of the people. Pages=696-97
  • What the country needs most at the present moment is a spirit of self-sacrifice on the part of our educated young men, and they may take it from me that they cannot spend their lives in a better cause than raising the moral and intellectual level of their unhappy low castes and promoting their well-being.
    • Extract from his speech on improving the lot of low-caste Hindus. Page=702
  • The work that has so far been done has indeed been of the highest value. The growth during the last 50 years , of a feeling of common nationality, based upon common tradition, common disabilities, and common hopes and aspirations, has been most striking. The fact that we are Indians first, and Hindoos, Mahomedans, Parsees, or Christians afterwards, is being realized in a steadily increasing measure, and the idea of a united and renovated India, marching onwards to a place among the nations of the world worthy of her great past, is no longer a mere idle dream of a few imaginative minds, but is definitely the accepted creed of those who form the brain of the community-the educated classes of the country.
    • Extract from his speech during setting up and defining the charter of the Servants of Scoiety. Page=702

About Gokhale

  • It was like meeting an old friend, or better still, a mother after a long separation. His gentle face put me at ease in a moment. His minute inquiries about myself and my doings in South Africa at once enshrined him in my heart. And from that moment Gokhale never lost sight of me. In 1901 on my second return from South Africa, we came closer still. He simply 'took me in hand', and began to fashion me. He was concerned about how I spoke, dressed, walked and ate. My mother was not more solicitous about me than Gokhale. There was, so far as I am aware, no reserve between us. It was really a case of love at first sight, and it stood the severest strain in 1913. He seemed to be all I wanted as a political worker—pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault. It does not matter to me that he may not have been any of these things. It was enough for me, that I could discover no fault in him to cavil at. He was and remains to me the most perfect man on the political field. Not, therefore, that we had no political differences. We differed even in 1901 in our views on social customs, e.g. widow re-marriage. We discovered differences in our estimate of Western civi¬lization. He frankly differed from me in my extreme views on non-violence. But these differences mattered neither to him nor to me. Nothing could put us asunder. It were blasphemous to conjecture what would have happened if he were alive today. I know that I would have been working under him.
  • This diamond of India, this jewel of Maharashtra, this prince of workers is taking eternal rest on funeral ground. Look at him and try to emulate him.
  • I had a farewell talk with Gokhale....On the whole his tone both attracted and impressed me. He promises very confidently a good reception for our Reforms by the Congress....But whether dealing with Parnell, Gokhale, or any other of the political breed, I have a habit of taking them to mean what they say until and unless I find out a trick. Parnell always so long as we were friends or allies, treated me perfectly honourably.... Mr. Gokhale is to stay in London until the end of the session, and I am in good hopes of finding him a help to me, and not a hindrance, in guiding the strong currents of democratic feeling that are running breast high in the House of Commons.
  • [Gokhale] hated foreign rule, but he did not blame all the ills from which Indian suffered on the British. He wanted her to shake off the shackles of social and economic backwardness as well as of political subjection. He wanted to turn the encounter with the Raj into an opportunity for building a secular, modern and democratic society.
    • B.R. Nanda in "Makers of Modern India", page=94
  • Gokhale has feeling, but feeling guided and controlled by thought, and there is nothing in him which reminds us of the usual type of political agitator.
    • John Maynard Keynes on hearing Gokhale speaking in Cambridge in BR Nanda. Gokhale:The Indian Moderates and the British Raj. Princeton University Press. 
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