Posted: July 4, 2011 in Icons, The NamoLeague Times
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Kanhaiyalal Munshi was a versatile man of great ideas and courage. He was an Indian freedom fighter, a politician, writer, educationalist, environmentalist and by profession, a lawyer. The list, however, does not end here. Munshi was also the founder of the organization called ‘Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’. The aim of the Bhavan that was established in 1938 was to create awareness of virtues like ‘Truth, Love and Beauty’ (Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram). His aim was to develop the Bhavan as an important cultural organization of the country. Munshi was also instrumental in establishment of Bhavan’s College, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Rajhans Vidyalaya and Rajhans Balvatika.

Kanhaiyalal Maneklal Munshi was born on 30 December, 1887 in the town of Bharuch in Gujarat. He studied in Vadodara, where he always excelled in academics. At college, his thoughts were deeply influenced by Sri Aurobindo, a prominent freedom fighter-philosopher. A prize winner at the B.A. and LL.B. examinations, Munshi enrolled himself initially as a Pleader and later as an Advocate in the Bombay High Court. He first joined Dr. Besant’s All India Home Rule League in 1916 and later the Indian National Congress.

At the personal front, Munshi was married to Lilavati Sheth in 1926 (who was one of his literary critics) after the death of his first wife, Atilakshmi Pathak, whom he married when he was just 13.

Munshi always looked upon himself as a “sea shell thrown up by the mighty flood of Indian renaissance”. He actively participated in the freedom struggle of India alongside Mahatma Gandhi. Munshi was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1927. He joined the

Swaraj Party but later on supported Indian National Congress for the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. He was imprisoned several times during the freedom struggle, including a rigorous captivity during the Quit India Movement of 1942.

A great admirer of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Munshi served in the Central Legislative Assembly in the 1930s. His career graph contained a whole lot of contributions to the society. Munshi was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly in 1937 and became the Home Minister in the first Congress Government. He served as India’s Agent-General in Hyderabad, until its accession in 1948. He became a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1948. He was the Food and Agriculture Minister of the Government of India in 1950. He was Governor of Uttar Pradesh during 1952-57. Later, he resigned from the Congress and became the Vice President of the newly formed ‘Swatantra Party’, which supported free enterprise. The party enjoyed limited success, but eventually died out. Later, Munshi joined the Jan Sangh.

As a part of other major achievements, Munshi was on the ad hoc Flag Committee that selected the Flag of India in August 1947, and on the committee which drafted the Constitution of India under the chairmanship of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. He and Purushottam Das Tandon were among those who strongly opposed propagation and conversion in the constituent assembly. He was also the main driving force behind the renovation of the historically important Somnath Temple by the Government of India just after independence.

Kanhaiyalal Munshi, apart from this political background, was a very well-known name in Gujarati Literature. He was an outstanding novelist, particularly of historical romance. His literary work ‘Kulapati’s Letters’ published in the Bhavan’s Journal, were widely read and appreciated.

Munshi, when not seen as a politician or a litterateur, was a noted environmentalist. He initiated the Van Mahotsav in 1950, when he was Union Minister of Agriculture and Food, to increase the area under forest cover. Since then Van Mahotsav a weeklong festival of tree plantation is organized every year in the month of July all across the country and lakhs of trees are planted.

Kanhaiyalal Munshi was given the name ‘Kulpati’, meaning ‘Chieftain’ for all his devotion and services to the society.  He passed away in 1971.

Read original article at: http://epaper.namoleague.com/EpaperArticle.aspx?title=A%20MULTI-FACETED%20GENIUS%20,%20CHIEFTAIN_243

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