Patriots > Cultural Inspiration and Nationalism > Munshi, Kanaiyalal Maneklal
Munshi, Kanaiyalal Maneklal (1887-1971)
Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi was born in Broach in South Gujarat in a higher middle-class Bhargava Brahmin family. He had his primary education at home under the supervision of his mother Tapiben and his secondary education in the Khan Bahadur Dalal High School, Broach. After passing his Matriculation in 1901 he joined the Baroda College. He took his B.A. in 1906 and LL.B in 1910 from the Bombay University.

Sir Aurobindo Ghose, Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Bhulabhai Desai and Jinnah created a deep impression on Munshi's thinking and way of life. He was greatly influenced by the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit Literature. He had also made a serious study of the English, French and German literature and of the history of the various countries. By his versatility, he has made his contribution in all fields of life-political, social, educational, cultural and religious.

Under the influence of Sri Aurobindo Ghose, his Professor in the Baroda College, Munshi was drawn towards the revolutionary group and even took an interset in the art of bomb-making. But after his arrival in Bombay about 1915, he drifted towards the Home Rule League and became its Secretary. In 1917 he was elected a member of the Subjects Committee of the Indian National Congress. In the same year he became the Secretary of the Bombay Presidency Association. In 1927 he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council from the University Constituency.

With the Bardoli Satyagraha (1928) he became a convert to Gandhiji's creed of politics. He resigned from the Legislative Council on the Bardoli issue. He then joined the Congress, participated in the Salt Satyagraha (1930) and was arrested. In December 1933 he started the movement for a parliamentary wing of the Congress and in the following year became the Secretary of the Parliamentary Board. In 1937 he was appointed Home Minister in the Kher Ministry in Bombay. In 1940 he offered Individual Satyagraha and was arrested.

In 1941 he went on a tour of the country campaigning for Akhand Hindustan (United India).That very year he resigned from the Congress on account of a difference of opinion on the use of violence in the case of self-defence. In 1943 he organised a Leader's Conference in Delhi for the release of Gandhiji and other leaders. Between 1943 and 1945 he conducted several cases connected with the Quit India Movement.

In 1946 he rejoined the Congress on Gandhiji's advice and was elected to the Constituent Assembly. Nehru appointed him on the Experts' Committee for drafting the Constitution of India. In 1948 he was appointed Agent-General of the Government of India to Hyderabad and handled the extremely dangerous situation very tactfully until Hyderbad joined the Indian Union. In 1952 he was appointed Food Minister, Government of India. From 1953 to 1958 he was Governor of Uttar Pradesh. In 1960 he resigned from the Congress and joined the Swatantra Party. He was the Vice-President of that group.

Munshi's contribution to the academic world is equally important. In 1924 he founded the Panchgani Hindu High School, a residential school. In 1925 he actively associated himself with the movement for a University of Gujarat. In the same year he was elected a Fellow of the University of Bombay. He fought for giving the Indian languages a larger place in the University curriculum. The Department of Chemical Technology was the result of the joint efforts of Munshi and Chimanlal Setalvad.

In 1926 H. H. the Gaikwad of Baroda nominated Munshi on the Baroda University Commission. In 1926-27 he piloted the University Bill (in the framing of which his hand is clearly discernible) through the Bombay Legislative Council. The Kabibai High School (1929) and the Hansraj Moraji Public School, Bombay (1936), owe their origin to him. In 1935 Munshi was instrumental in starting a hostel for girls in Bombay. In 1939, along with Sader Patel, he founded the Institute of Agriculture at Anand. Out of this nucleus developed the present Vallabh Vidyanagar University.

By far the greatest of Munshi's contributions to the academic and cultural life of the country is the foundation of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 1938, a centre with branches in many places. The Bhavan promotes varied activities including Colleges in Arts, Science, Engineering, Journalism and faculties in Sanskrit, Dance, Drama and Music. It conducts special courses on the Gita.It has also undertaken and completed the scheme of publishing the 'History and Culture of the Indian People' by its own historians. Munshi was also associated with the Sahitya Samsad, the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.

Even as a college student, Munshi advocated social reforms. Between 1907 and 1915, he strove for the fusion of different sub-castes of the Bhargava Brahmins. In 1912-13 he took part in the activities of the Social Reform Association and championed the cause of widow-marriage. On the death of his first wife, he married a widow who belonged to a different caste, thus setting an example in support of widow-marriage and inter-caste marriage. In 1939 he founded the Children's Home for the delinquent children at Chembur, Bombay.

Munshi stood for a blend of orthodoxy and modernism. He believed that traditional values could subsist side by side with a liberal and progressive attitude. He was a follower of the 'Sanatan Dharma' (Orthodox Hindu Religion);

yet he was catholic in religious outlook.

A great admirer of Western learning, he could hardly find anything of value in the system of education introduced by the British in India. He was a staunch supporter of National Education which would make a student proud of his country's culture. Munshi was a great nationalist and an equally great constitutionalist.

He was a champion of the unity of India and opposed linguistic provinces which would undermine the country's unity.

Munshi vehemently denounced the British for the pitiable economic condition of the country. Believing in a self-reliant economy, he felt that cottage industries must be encouraged and even subsidized. But he was not against industrialisation. It was as a result of his inspiration that the Vana Mahotsava (Planting of Trees) festival came into existence.

Munshi was a journalist from his younger days. His articles were first published in the East and West and the Hindustan Review. He started a Gujarati monthly, the Bhargava, a caste magazine, in 1912. He was a Joint- Editor of the Young India in 1915. He started the Gujarat, an illustrated Gujarati monthly, in 1922. In 1936 he founded 'The Hans Ltd.' For pooling the prominent literary output in the Indian languages through Hindi. He started the Social Welfare, an English weekly (1940), and finally The Bhavan's Journal (1954), now published in several languages.

Munshi was also an accomplished speaker. He was a member of the Secondary Education Committee (1928), the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee and the All India Congress Committee (1931-37). He was the Chairman of Sir Harkisandas Narotam Hospital (1924), of the Board of Directors of the Bombay Fire Assurance Co., and of the Physical Culture Committee (1928); Trustee: Bai Kabibai Trust (1929), Seth Mansukhlal Chhaganlal Trust (1931), Seth Kanji Khetsey Trust (1935), Seth Manganlal Goenka Charitable Trust (1938), Krishnarpana Trust (1944) and All India Arya Dharma Seva Sangha Trust (1944).

He was also the Vice-President: Gujarati Sahitya Parishad (1926-37, 1945) and Children's Aid Society (1938-39); President: Sahitya Samsad (1922-71), Bombay City Ambulance Corps (1930-71), Gujarati Sahitya Parishad (1937), Society for the Protection of Children of Western India (1938), First All India Penal Reform Conference (1940), Hindu Din Daya Sangha (1946), All India Hindi Sahitya Parishad (1946) and Indian History Congress (1957); Founder: Sahitya Samsad (1922), the Bombay City Ambulance Corps (1930), the Institute of Agriculture at Anand (along with Sardar Patel) (1938), the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (1938), the Children's Home at Chembur, Bombay (1939) and Home for the Mentally Deficient Children (1940).

He was Founder-President of the Panchgani Hindu High School (1924). He inaugurated the All India Sanskrit Conference, Agra (1945). From 1928 onwards Munshi was connected with the Akhada (Gymnasium) Movement in Bombay Presidency.
Honorary Doctorate degrees were conferred on him by the Benares Hindu University, Saugar University, Osmania University and Vallabh Vidyapeeth, Anand.

He visited Europe in 1923 and again in 1951. In 1958 he went to America via Hong Kong and Japan and then proceeded to England and several European countries. In 1959 he visited Japan.

He lived in an aristocratic style, at once elegant and cultured.A lawyer by profession, Munshi rose to be one of India's most eminent jurists. Lilawati Munshi, herself a writer of considerable repute, had been an active partner in her husband's various activities and continued to direct them after his death.

Among his major English works may be mentioned: 'Gujarat and its Literature' (1935), "I follow the Mahatma' (1940), 'Akhand Hindustan' (1942), 'Glory that was Gujardesh' (1943) 'Imperial Gurjars' (1944), "Indian Deadlock' (1945), 'The Ruin that Britain Wrought' (1946), 'The Creative Art of Life' (1946), 'The Changing Shape of Indian Politics' (1946), 'The End of an Era' (1957) and 'Pilgrimage to Freedom' (1968). Among his Gujarati works may be mentioned:

'Verni Vasulat' (1913-14), 'Swapna Drashta' (1924-25), 'Sneha Sambhram' (1931-32 ) (all social novels); 'Patan ni Prabhuta' (1916), 'Gujarat no Nath' (1918-19), 'Prithivi Vallabha' (1920-21), 'Rajadhiraja' (1922-23), 'Bhagwan Kautilya' (1924-25), 'Jai Somnath' (1940), 'Lomaharshini' (1945) and 'Bhagwan Parashuram' (1922), 'Avibhakta Atama' (1923), 'Putrasamovadi' (1924), 'Tarpan' (1924) and 'Lopmudra' (1933) (Puranic dramas); 'Be Kharaba- Jana'(1924), "Agnankita' (1927), 'Kalkani Shasmi' (1929), "Brahmacharyashram' (1931), 'Dr. Madhurika' (1936) and 'Chhiye Tej Thik' (1946) (social dramas).

Among his autobiographical writings may be mentioned: 'Shishu ane Sakhi; (1932), "Adadhe Raste' (1943), 'Sidhan Chandan' (1943) and 'Mari Binjawabdar Kahani' (1943). Among his miscellaneous writings may be mentioned: "Ketalak Lekho' (1925-26), 'Narasaiyo Bhakta Harino' (1933) and 'Narmad' (1939).

A biography of Dr. K. M. Munshi , an eminent writer and thinker who contributed greatly to the enrichment of Indian society and culture.

Author : G. Hatalkar