Shri Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of Karnataka – 31st March 1871 to 30th July 1960


Coming from a rich, respectable and leading landowning family and endowed with sound education and unalloyed qualities of leadership, Gangadharrao Deshpande came to occupy the front rank in the struggle for national freedom. In his early youth, his bubbling enthusiasm for national service found expression in revolutionary activities. But, no sooner did he come under the spell of Lokmanya Tilak in 1906 than he chose to follow the constructive path of mass awakening for speedy action.

His ancestors migrated initially from Bidar to Bijapur and settled down at Hudli, a small Town at the foothills of the Western Ghats in Belagavi taluka which is about 25 kilometers from Belagavi. His father was a vatandar {inamdar).

Gangadharrao Deshpande was one of the four chief Lieutenants of Lokamanya Tilak. When Tilak started his home rule league Gangadharrao Deshpande became one of the vice presidents. Tilak nominated Gangadharrao Deshpande to Bombay Assembly in 1920.

Gangadharrao Deshpande was one of the five main personal disciples of Mahatma Gandhiji. Other four were Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Kakasaheb Kalelkar and Kishorilal Mashruwala.

Gangadharrao was the first and foremost from Karnataka to respond to the repeated calls of the Mahatma to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of national freedom. Mahatma Gandhi had called him “the great Gangadharrao”.

Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of KarnatakaHe was called as “Khadi Bhageerath of Karnataka” since he started first khadi center at Hudli and it was the first Khadi center in entire South India. He started Kumri Ashram at Hudli and many of eminent freedom fighters like G.Narayan were trained at the Kumri Ashram.

He established daily newspapers Dhureena(Kannada), Raashtramat(Marathi- worked as a chief editor) and Lokmanya (Marathi). He played an important role in establishing the leading Kannada daily newspaper Samyukta Karnataka.

Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of KarnatakaGangadharrao Deshpande along-with Govindrao Yalgi started the celebrations of Ganapati Festival and Shivaji Jayanti at Belgaum.

He was the Reception Committee Chairman of the Belgaum Congress Session 1924, the only session ever presided by Mahatma Gandhiji as President.

Karnataka Lion Gangadharrao Deshpande with his disciples Ramchadra Wadavi(Left) and Pundalikji Katagade(Right)
Karnataka Lion Gangadharrao Deshpande with his disciples Ramchadra Wadavi(Left) and Pundalikji Katagade(Right)

He organized a 3rd annual conference of Gandhi Seva Sangh at his native village Hudli. About 10,000 delegates from all over India except Jawaharlal Nehru have participated.

He was the Chairman of the Karnataka Khadi and Village Industries Association, a trustee of All India Spinners Association headed by Mahatma Gandhi. He was also one of the founders of Gandhi Seva Sangh along with top freedom fighters of the country.

Gangadharrao Deshpande and Pundalikji Katkade at Belgaum 1924 session

Gangadharrao Deshpande was First President of KPCC (1920) and KPCC President twice. He was a General Secretary of the Congress along with Jawaharlal Nehru and Saifuddin Kitchlew during 1923. He was the President of AICC(5th dictator) during 1931-32. He was a member of the Congress Working Committee for Several years.

He fought for India’s Independence for 60 years (1887 to 1947). When India got the freedom he worked for the unification of Karnataka. After 1947, Deshpande devoted himself to spiritual pursuits under the benign guidance of R.D. Ranade, a saint, and a reputed philosopher. He was convinced that real inner peace was available only in spiritual practices with implicit faith in them.

Rare photo of Gangadharrao Deshpande and Bapu
Rare photo of Gangadharrao Deshpande and Bapu

His superb courage, his brilliance in oratory, his prodigious learning, his severe purity of life all have combined to give Gangadharrao Deshpande a station of superiority to others.

Deshpande’s end came suddenly in the early morning of 30 July 1960 at his residence in Belgaum. The previous night, he was quite cheerful and talked to his family members as usual. The next morning, at about 5.30, he got up from the bed and was walking up and down in the veranda in front of his room, when he collapsed. He was pronounced dead by the doctor who examined him.

Haripura Congress Souvenir, 1938
Builders of Modern India




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