Hardekar Manjappa: Karnataka's own Gandhi 

Hardekar Manjappa: Karnataka's own Gandhi 

Ideas can change the world Hardekar Manjappa

During the freedom movement, various Kannada-speaking regions experienced different kinds of struggle. Many individuals proved their abilities as leaders and carved a niche for themselves. One among them was Hardekar Manjappa, popularly known as the ‘Gandhi of Karnataka’.

He was born on February 18, 1886, in Banavasi. Manjappa was appointed as a teacher at an early age. He gave tuition to supplement his livelihood. During this time, he began studying the biographies of eminent leaders. Participation in freedom struggles such as the Swadeshi movement turned him into a nationalist. During this time, he became more inclined towards Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s political ideology. His participation in the freedom movement brought him to the fold of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1917, he was drawn towards Home Rule League movement jointly led by Annie Besant and Tilak. Eventually, he spread the concepts of Swaraj and Swadeshi. 

Power of the pen

Hardekar Manjappa also made his mark as a journalist. In September 1906, he started his first newspaper Dhanurdhari. As he was well-versed in Marathi, he published Kannada translations of Marathi articles published in Tilak’s Kesari. 

To propagate khadi and its importance in the Swadeshi movement, he started a publication called Khadi Vijaya, which reflected his vision on self-reliance and simple life. In 1921, he mooted the idea of publishing books and pamphlets under the concept of Rashtra Jeevana. He inspired people to participate in the freedom movement through his writings and publications.

Later in 1923, he established an ashrama near Harihara to train people who are willing to propagate the Gandhian way of life. He visited places like Bengaluru, Bijapur and Bagalkot to propagate nationalist ideas. During his visits, he faced many oppositions but that didn’t deter him from his mission. 

After he met Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashrama, he concentrated more on writing books on Satyagraha, Brahmacharya, Ahimsa and Khadi. He was very much attracted by the philosophy of the Sharanas. He also started organising Basava Jayanthi programmes to unify the Sharanas. In 1924, his book, Basava Charitre, was released. 

Since his ashrama was ravaged by floods, he shifted to Alamatti in Bijapur in 1927. He started Vidyalaya to provide meaningful and constructive education. For nearly two decades, this place became the centre for all his activities. It is here that he started editing and publishing Sharana Sandesha, a journal on the philosophy of the Sharanas. He started Udyoga, another journal in which he stressed the need of self-sustenance and revival of the cottage and small industries.  

In 1931, he established All Virashaiva Khadi Bhandar to propagate Gandhian ideology amongst the Virashaivas. He also took up the cause of untouchables, as initiated by Mahatma Gandhi. Being a religious reformer, he stressed on social reforms. He was a sharp critic of society and social abuses, particularly alcoholism and tobacco addiction. He breathed his last on January 3, 1947. With his death, the Kannada-speaking people lost a versatile leader.

The life and work of Hardekar Manjappa were based on the Gandhian ideology. Appreciating his service to the people, the people of Karnataka fondly called him the ‘Gandhi of Karnataka’.  

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