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