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

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Coming from a wealthy, respected, and influential landowning family, Gangadharrao Deshpande possessed a solid education and exceptional leadership qualities, which propelled him to the forefront of the struggle for national freedom. During his early youth, his fervent enthusiasm for serving his country manifested through his involvement in revolutionary activities. However, in 1906, he fell under the spell of Lokmanya Tilak and made the conscious decision to embrace the constructive path of mass awakening for swift action.

Gangadharrao Deshpande’s ancestors initially migrated from Bidar to Bijapur before finally settling in Hudli, a quaint town nestled at the foothills of the Western Ghats in Belagavi taluka, approximately 25 kilometers away from Belagavi. His father held the esteemed position of a vatandar (inamdar).

As one of Lokamanya Tilak’s four chief lieutenants, Gangadharrao Deshpande played a pivotal role in the Home Rule League initiated by Tilak. His dedication and capabilities led to his appointment as one of the vice presidents of the league. Recognizing his immense potential, Tilak nominated Gangadharrao Deshpande to the Bombay Assembly in 1920, further solidifying his influential position in the political landscape.


Gangadharrao Deshpande stood as one of Mahatma Gandhiji’s five esteemed personal disciples, alongside Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, and Kishorilal Mashruwala.

Hailing from Karnataka, Gangadharrao was the pioneer who promptly answered Mahatma Gandhi’s persistent calls to endure and relinquish for the noble cause of national liberation. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi himself bestowed upon him the title of “the great Gangadharrao.”

Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of Karnataka

He earned the title of the “Khadi Bhageerath of Karnataka” for his pioneering efforts in establishing the first Khadi center in Hudli, which was also the first of its kind in South India. Additionally, he founded the Kumri Ashram in Hudli, where numerous distinguished freedom fighters, including G. Narayan, received their training.

Furthermore, he made significant contributions to the field of journalism by establishing several daily newspapers. He served as the chief editor of the Marathi newspaper Raashtramat and also played a crucial role in the establishment of the leading Kannada daily newspaper, Samyukta Karnataka. Additionally, he founded the Kannada newspaper Dhureena and the Marathi newspaper Lokmanya.

His remarkable achievements and dedication to various fields have earned him a reputation as a prominent figure in Karnataka’s history.

Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of Karnataka

Gangadharrao 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, and a trustee of the 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.

GanDesh pundlikji
Gangadharrao Deshpande and Pundalikji Katkade at Belgaum 1924 session

Gangadharrao Deshpande was the First President of KPCC (1920) and KPCC President twice. He was a General Secretary of the Congress along with Jawaharlal Nehru and Saifuddin Kitchlew in 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

Gangadharrao Deshpande possessed an exceptional level of courage, eloquence, extensive knowledge, and unwavering commitment to leading a virtuous life. These remarkable qualities combined to elevate him to a position of superiority among his peers.

Tragically, Deshpande’s life came to an abrupt end on the morning of July 30, 1960, within the confines of his residence in Belgaum. The previous night, he exuded his usual cheerfulness and engaged in conversations with his beloved family members. However, the following morning, at approximately 5:30, as he strolled back and forth on the veranda outside his room, an unforeseen event occurred. Deshpande suddenly collapsed, leaving those present in a state of shock and disbelief. The attending physician, after conducting an examination, solemnly declared him deceased.

Haripura Congress Souvenir, 1938
Builders of Modern India

6 thoughts on “Shri Gangadharrao Deshpande Lion of Karnataka – 31st March 1871 to 30th July 1960”

  1. Nation building is a beautiful mission. Long live the memory of the lion-hearted contributions of the late Shri Gangadharrao Deshpande Ji.


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