Chakravarty Rajagopalachari, affectionately known as Rajaji, was an ardent patriot, clever politician, pioneering social reformer, keen thinker, profound scholar, accomplished author, outstanding administrator and wise statesman. Above all, he was a moral giant and a crusader for freedom, democracy and human rights.

Born on December 10, 1878, in Hosur taluk of Salem district in Tamil Nadu, Rajaji had his early education in his village of Thorapolli. He received his high school and collegiate education in Bangalore and Madras. He qualified himself for the bar and started legal practice at Salem in 1900, when he was just 22. He built up a lucrative practice and also started taking active interest in municipal affairs.

Even before he started his legal practice, Chakravarty Rajagopalachari’s mind was getting ready for his eventual participation in the national struggle for freedom. He attended the Surat session of the Congress in 1907. He first met Gandhiji in 1919 and had the first experience of jail life in 1921. Deeply interested in tackling social evils, he first directed his attention to Prohibition. He also popularized khadhi through his speeches and writings. He also led the salt Satyagraha in South India and was eventually jailed for that.

Rajaji was gifted with a rare talent of re-telling stories from the epics and Puranas and applying their morals to the needs of the modern time. His books on the Upanishads, Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. have almost become classics. Rajaji was a karmayogi. He was never afraid of standing alone, and whenever national interest demanded he put himself in her service.

Rajaji became the Prime Minister of Madras Presidency in 1937. He resigned from the congress in 1942 on the issue of Quit India Movement. He rejoined it in 1946 and served in the interim government. After the independence, he became the first Governor of West Bengal. In 1948 he became the Governor General after Mountbatten. In 1951 he became the minister of Home Affairs and was subsequently given the Bharat Ratna in 1954.

Rajagopalachari drifted away from the Congress and formed the Swtantra party which was against socialism involving state planning and control of various economic activities. He went to the U.S. in 1962 as the leader of an Indian delegation to plead against the piling up of nuclear weapons of destruction. He passed away in Madras on Christmas Day, December 25, 1972 at the age of 94.

Indian freedom struggle is full of legendary heroes. Many of those heroes have been seeped away by time but their contributions have been etched into the memories of Indian people. One such legend was Khudiram Bose who defied all odds and terrified British rulers. Khudiram Bose became a martyr at a tender age of 19. His age was just a number. What many teens had dreamt of doing, he did that. Khudiram Bose was an exceptional freedom fighter.

Lets’ have a look into the extraordinary biography of Khudiram Bose.

Born on December 3, 1889 in the Medinipur village of Bengal, Khudiram was son of Trailokyanath Basu and Lakshmipriya Devi. One of the youngest revolutionaries of India’s freedom struggle, Khudiram Bose led an eventful life before he sacrificed himself.

Khudiram got his inspiration from sacred words of Vande Matram and Bhagvad Gita. When he participated in the freedom struggle and ultimately succumbed to it, he was merely a child. His first brush with freedom occurred during Bengal partition. The whole incident left him with a feeling of discontentment and anger against the British.

He jumped into revolutionary activities and was determined to free India of cruel British rule. Khudiram joined Jugantar, a party of revolutionaries to learn more about the freedom fighters. At a young age of 16, he threw the first bomb on the British who were curbing Indians from their birth right – ‘freedom’. These bombs were planted near the police station. Many British police offers lost their lives in this attack.

These bomb attacks were just the beginning of Khudiram’s freedom struggle life. He planned several more bomb attacks but the most prominent one was the one against Magistrate Kingsford. The Magistrate was notorious for his brutal and biased judgements against the Indian fighters. Khudiram had planned to throw a bomb to assassinate Magistrate but his plan did not materialise as he would have wanted. He had to flee from the scene but was arrested later on.

Khudiram Bose was sentenced to death on August 11, 1908 on the charges of bomb attacks. His last words before being hanged were, ‘Vande Matram’.

Fondly called as the “Grand Old Man of India”, Dadabhai Naoroji played a significant role in the initial period of Indian freedom struggle. He was in fact, one of the founding members and architects of freedom movement of India. Born in a poor Parsi family in Bombay on September 4, 1825, Dadabhai Naoroji was the son of Naoroji Palanji Dordi and Maneckbai. His father died when he was just four. His mother took great pains to ensure that Dadabhai get the best of education. He was an amazing student of Mathematics and English during his student days at Elphinstone Institution, Bombay. Once he completed his education, he was appointed as the Head Native Assistant Master at the same Institution. To his credit, he was the first Indian to become a professor of the college.

Because of his advanced thoughts and promising career, Dadabhai Naoroji was fondly known as ‘The promise of India’ in his youth. His political career began around the year 1852. He founded Gyan Prasarak Mandal for the purpose of promoting education among the illiterate people of India. He realised that education is at the core of suffering of Indian population and hence corrective measures need to be taken. Naoroji was deeply affected by the sufferings faced by Indians because of poor British rule. He wrote several letters to British Government but no actions was taken.

At the age of 30, Dadabhai Naoroji left for England to start his own business. He had a very eventful time in Britain where he delivered many speeches highlighting the plights of Indian people. He established and joined several learned societies and wrote numerous articles trying to influence people to realize the importance of freedom. Dadabhai played a crucial role in deciding several policies made by British rule. He also played a major role in Indian National congress and was elected its president three times in 1866, 1893 and 1906. He was a man of integrity and sincerity and was always respected among the freedom fighters for his purity, generosity and patriotism. Dadabhai Naoroji died in the year 1917 at the ripe age of 92. But before that, he ensured that his contribution to the Indian freedom struggle will always be remembered and cherished.

The real name of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was Abul Kalam Ghulam Muhiyuddin. Popularly known as Maulana Azad, he was one of the foremost leaders of Indian freedom struggle. Maulana Azad was not just a prominent freedom fighter. He was also a renowned poet and scholar. He was highly educated and travelled to different countries to understand the true meaning of freedom, struggle and culture. His proficiency in many languages like Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, English, Urdu and Persian made him a leading figure in intellectual arena. Azad was his pen name that he had adopted later in his life. It represented his liberation from a narrow view of religion and life.

Born on November 11, 1888 in Mecca, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad received his primary education at home. He was first taught by his father and then eminent scholars. His family had left India during the Sepoy Mutiny but came back to India in 1890 and settled in Calcutta. His father ensured, he received best of traditional Islamic education. His visit to diverse countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq had taught him valuable lessons about freedom struggle and Pan-Islamic spirit. His meeting with political members, freedom fighters and scholars of great repute left an indelible mark on his life. His return to India found him converted into a nationalist revolutionary. He met similar minded freedom fighters in Calcutta and decided to devote his life to freedom struggle of India.

His biggest contribution was in convincing Islamic revolutionaries to fight for India’s freedom struggle. Maulana Azad explained the futility of fighting for anti-Muslim causes and urged his community to present a united front for the freedom struggle of India. His idea of freedom was based on Hindu-Muslim unity and for that he started a weekly journal which later became a big threat to British rule. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an active participant of Non-Cooperation Movement, Khilafat Movement and Salt Satyagraha movement. British rulers kept putting him into prison every now and then and yet his spirit found him coming back to freedom struggle.

He was appointed president of Congress party in 1940 and he continued in that post till 1946. He was a staunch supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity and partition of the country left him devastated. Maulana Azad was appointed as independent India’s first education minister. He died on February 22, 1958 of a stroke. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was posthumously awarded India’s highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna in 1992 for his invaluable contribution to the nation.

Bhikaji Cama is also known as Madam Cama and is considered as the mother of Indian revolution because of her contributions to Indian freedom struggle. Madam Cama holds an important place in the annals of Indian freedom movement. Her name symbolised courage, integrity and perseverance. Fearlessness was the hallmark of her personality. She gave it all so that India could secure its freedom. She was one of the initial freedom fighters. Born on September 24, 1861 in a rich Parsi family at Bombay, Bhikaji Cama received her formal education from Alexandra native Girl’s English Institution. She was a bright student and mastered many languages.

After her marriage to British lawyer Rustom Cama did not work as she had wanted, she devoted herself to various social activities and worked tirelessly for the upliftment of weaker sections of society. Madam Cama did great many socially relevant works and her contributions to Indian society have become a subject of legends. She was also a passionate nationalist. A turning point in her life came when Bombay Presidency was hit by deadly Plague in 1896. She rose to the occasion and devoted herself to the services of plague victims. Her involvement was so complete that she herself fell victim to this dreadful disease. Her condition deteriorated badly and she was advised to go to England for rest and further treatment. She reluctantly left for Britain in 1902. Even in an alien land, Madam Cama worked for promoting India’s freedom struggle. She also worked as a private secretary to great Indian nationalist Dadabhai Navaroji. She learned a lot from the legend and that further made her resolver stronger to work for the welfare of the people.

Bhikaji Cama soon became very popular in Britain. The rulers became so scared of her effects on people that they planned her assassination but she survived that and escaped to France. Her efforts did not slow down in France and in fact, she became a leading inspiration for revolutionaries. She sheltered several freedom fighters and kept sending help in form of cash and materials across the sea. British came to know of her movements and asked French Government for her extradition but France refused. Madam Cama is also credited with designing India’s first tricolour flag with green, saffron and red stripes bearing the immortal words – Vande Matram. After fighting tirelessly for India’s freedom struggle on foreign land for several years, she came back to India and left for heavenly abode on August 13, 1936.

Lala Lajpat Rai was born on January 28, 1865. He was fondly known as Lala ji among the people. Lala Lajpat Rai was one of the foremost freedom fighters in India. Born in village Dhudike in the present day Moga district of Punjab, Lala ji was designated the title of Punjab Kesari (Lion of the Punjab) which tells a lot about his contributions and efforts in the Indian freedom struggle. Born in a family of traders, he inherited strong moral and ethical values from his loving parents. His first brush with the freedom struggle occurred during the time when he joined the Government College at Lahore to study Law. He came in contact with people like Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt who had revolutionary thoughts about the freedom movement taking place in the country at that time.

Lala Lajpat Rai soon joined the ‘Arya Samaj’ founded by legendary figure, Swami Daya Nand Saraswati. After the completion of his law course, he started to practice law and at the same time, was active in congress activities. Lala ji was a part of famous trio of Lal-Bal-Pal who were considered as the three most prominent Hindi Nationalist members of that era. The other two members were Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal. Actually, these three important members of the congress party represented aggressive side of the freedom movement.

Lala Lajpat Rai was a staunch believer of ‘Swadeshi’. He campaigned aggressively against the partition of Bengal. British government put him in prison for six months in 1907 for his aggressive campaign. He was a strong believer of organizing propaganda in foreign countries against the British rule. He travelled to Britain and USA for this purpose but got stuck during the First World War. He also wrote a book called ‘young India’ in which Lala Ji had vehemently attacked the British rule. The book was banned even before its release. He also established Indian Home League Society of America.

After his return to India in 1920, he admirably led the protest against British rule for Jalianwala Bagh Massacre. Lala Lajpat Rai used to differ with Gandhi ji’s suspension of Non-Cooperation Movement. He formed his own party named Congress Independence Party. When British government decided to send Simon Commission to India for constitutional reforms, he led the protest against the committee because it had no Indian members. During the protest rally, brutal lathicharge was ordered by the authorities in which Lala ji suffered fatal head injuries and finally he succumbed to it on November17, 1928.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the leading lights of the Indian Independence Movement. He was a senior freedom fighter and also a respected leader of the Indian National Congress. He was widely respected because of his knowledge and intellect. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was also considered as the political Guru of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. He was one of the founding leaders of the Indian independence movement. He was not just a political leader but also a social reformer. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born to Krishna Rao and Valubai in Kothluk in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. After receiving his early education in Kothaout, he moved to Bombay for higher studies. It is said that Gopal Krishna Gokhale was one of the first Indians to complete graduation and that is no mean achievement.

Gokhale completed his graduation in arts from the Elphinstone College, Bombay. Thereafter, he joined Fergusson College, Poona as professor of history and political economy. His higher knowledge base made him see all the spheres of Indian freedom movement. He had a keen eye for effects of virtues like liberty, democracy and parliamentary system of the government. Gopal Krishna Gokhale considered Mahadev Govind Ranade as his ‘Guru’. Ranade was a great leader and scholar. He was also renowned social reformer. Together, they worked in establishing ‘Servants of India Society’ and in a quarterly Journal, called ‘Sarvajanik’.

Gokhale was a prominent face of the Indian National Congress. He consistently raised his voice against the policies of British government. He was also sent to England on behalf of Congress to present India’s constitutional demands among the British leaders. His efforts led to formation of Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909. His perseverance ensured that Indians had access to seats of the highest authority within the government.

The first meeting between two stalwarts of Indian freedom movement, Gokhale and Gandhi took place in South Africa in 1912. Gopal Krishna Gokhale made Mahatma Gandhi aware of issues faced by the people of India. No wonder, Gandhi Ji, considered him as his ‘Mentor and Guide’ in his autobiography. Gokhale also played a crucial role in shaping the beliefs and ideologies of Jinnah. Gopal Krishna Gokhale finally, passed away on February 19, 1915, but before that he ensured that nation was on its way to attain freedom.

Sarojini Naidu was one of the front rank leaders of the freedom struggle. She knew no fear as a person and as a patriot. Presiding over the 41st session of the Indian National Congress, she had said that, “in the battle for liberty, fear is the one unforgivable treachery and despair, the one unforgivable sin”. That one statement tells us a lot about one of the most reputed women leader of Indian freedom struggle.

Born to Aghornath Chattopadhyaya and Barada Sundari Devi in Hyderabad on February 13, 1879, Sarojini matriculated with distinction at an early age of 12. She continued her education in England, at the King’s college, London and Girton College, Cambridge. Before she could complete her education, she returned to India to married the person she loved. The chance encounter with Gopal Krishna Gokhale in Calcutta changed her life forever. Initially she joined Annie Besant’s Home Rule League and later joined the congress. By 1919 she had emerged as a strong political leader in her own right. Leaders across the political spectrum used to look at her with respect and awe.

Sarojini Naidu met Gandhiji in London in 1914. After returning from London she went round the country lecturing on welfare of youth, dignity of labour, women’s emancipation and nationalism. She presided over the Indian National Congress in 1925 and courted imprisonment during the salt Satyagraha in 1930. She was jailed again in 1942 when the Quit India movement was launched. She presided over the Asian Relations Conference in1947 and made one of her most memorable speeches.

Sarojini Naidu was also a wonderful poetess. As a poetess, she belonged to the romantic school. Her poems appeared in four collections, ‘The Golden Threshold’, The bird of Time, The Broken Wing, all collected under the title ”The Sceptred Flute”, and The Feather of Dawn. She was indeed a poet of freedom, love, and beauty. She was multilingual and she was equally proficient in Persian, Urdu, English, Bengali and Telugu.

After independence, Sarojini Naidu was made the Governor of Utter Pradesh. It was a well thought decision. But soon, she passed away suddenly on March 2, 1949 at the age of 70.

Indira Gandhi played a major role in defining the destiny of India. She was one of strongest women leaders of last century. Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India, and daughter of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Born on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad, she was also known as Indira Nehru Gandhi. She was born in a family of freedom fighters. Her father Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime ministers of India and we all know how important a role he played in the freedom movement of India. Her grandfather Motilal Nehru was a legend in his own rights. Her childhood was greatly influenced by political movements taking place in his household. Indira Gandhi completed her study at a series of Indian schools and at non-British schools in Europe. Her education experience involved, Pune University, Shantiniketan formed by Rabindranath Tagore and prestigious Oxford University. She also had a number of private tutorials.

Indira Gandhi returned to India in 1941. Because of her strong family lineage, she was also expected to join politics and make a name for herself like her father and grandfather did. Her exposure to politics since childhood made a big difference in the way she perceived and learned the nitty-gritty of politics. Indira Gandhi was hugely influenced by life and works of Mahatma Gandhi who was a frequent visitor to her house. She married to Feroz Gandhi and gave birth to two sons named, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.

Indira Gandhi was very close to his father. The bond between them further strengthened during the time Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru spent in prison. He exchanged letters with his daughter that made her aware of the current political condition of the country. The letters also helped her in developing perspective and vision about her country. Indira Gandhi actively participated in Quit India Movement in 1942 for which she was imprisoned.

Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of independent India. She also became the first woman Prime Minister of the country. She was a lady with strong will power and tremendous self-belief. She ruled India for 16 years and her tenure at the top ensured India never lacked in courage and developmental policies. Indira Gandhi showed her true mettle during the Indo-Pak war in 1971. She was truly an Iron lady. Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984.

Mangal Pandey literally fuelled the fire of Indian freedom struggle. He gave rise to armed revolution against the British rule. His biggest contributions to Indian freedom struggle is that he gave belief to fellow fighters that British can be revolted against and they can be defeated as well. He led the first mass movement against the cruel British rulers. Not much is known about the childhood of Mangal Pandey. According to historians he was born on July 19, 1827 in the Nagwa village in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh.

Though, this fact is often debated by the historians for its authenticity. Mangal Pandey was a sepoy working under the British East India Company. He instigated the famous Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which is also referred to as the India’s First War of Independence. Mangal Pandey was an extremely courageous revolutionary who fought for a cause. The main cause of the mutiny was the rumour that cartridges used by Indian sepoys were greased with the fat of pig and cow. This led to turbulence in religious belief of Hindu and Muslims sepoys. Mangal Pandey could not stand the injustice and attacked his senior British officers.

Till the date, the history books refer Mangal pandey as Shaheed Mangal Pandey. The word Shaheed is basically an Urdu word meaning martyr. He was a member of the 34th Regiment of the Bengal native infantry of the East India Company. He woke up the Indian masses to fight for the nation and against the injustice caused by British army.

Mangal Pandey was a devout Hindu. The cartridges as rumoured were greased with tallow and lard. The sepoys were asked to bite off these cartridges to remove the cover prior to use. This affected the religious sentiments of Hindus and Muslims alike. On the other hand, it was believed that British officers had made this greasing mandatory in order to hurt the religious sentiments. Mangal Pandey could not stand this and fired the first salvo of revolution.
Mangal pandey attacked the British Sergeant on the parade ground. The native soldiers stood beside his actions. But soon, he was captured by the British army and sentenced to death on April 8, 1857. However, Mangal pandey ensured that Indians kept the flame of freedom struggle alive.