Discovering heritage at Gokhale Institute
We are so enamoured by the superficial things around us that we are not even aware of the things that matter. In Pune, this is especially true when it comes to our heritage. One of the gems which is not much looked at is the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. This is the premier institute for research and training in the field of politics but more in economics. And interesting information was provided of the place at the Heritage Festival 2014, from April 13-20. Organised by Virasat, a venture of Janwani and Pune Municipal Corporation to promote the city’ heritage, the tour showed us a place steeped in history, from its pre-launch days, launch in 1930 and afterwards.
While most were aware of the fact that it was established by the Servants of India society and named after the legendary Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a leading name in socio-political field in the independence struggle. Apart from the usual demands of freedom, his focus was also on social reforms which would enable Indians to grow better. Gokhale carried the reforms and ideas of Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade forward and it can be seen in the words written in the institute’s main building which also has a part of the library. This is one of the best libraries for economics and also has the hall where the government related debates took place. You can also find rare copies of the books and population census. There is a new library building called Dhananjay Rao Gadgil Library.
Gokhale was the political guru of both Mahatma Gandhi and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Surprised? Gokhale’s popularity spread from Bengal and Assam to Pakistan, Mauritius and further. His backing to the Indentured Labour Bill was passed and had effect worldwide. It was recognised everywhere. Thanks to his help during the partition of Bengal, he is revered in those parts. In fact, one would be surprised to know that his first biography after his death came from Assam. Coming back to popularity, his popularity in Pakistan came due to Jinnah and in fact, on the institute’s campus, one can find the place where Jinnah stayed, on his visits. It is right besides Gokhale’s house which still has a lot of old photographs and furniture. Gandhi’s early struggles and efforts were supported by Gokhale, ideologically and financially. Gandhi has visited the institute only after Gokhale’s death. One of Gokhale’s wish was that Gandhi takes up the Servants of India work forward. In fact, one would be surprised to know that the initial funding of the Sabarmati Ashram came from Gokhale’s help. His research came in hand for Gandhi’s struggles in South Africa against the British, in the Smutts Pact. One can say he laid the foundation for what Gandhi did later during the freedom struggle.
While walking on the campus of the institute, you will notice a huge banyan tree which has been there even before the institute came in place. The tree, though slightly smaller from before, is very old. The institute came in as a pure research place first and then a place for study. It became the first institute for economics and has done pioneering work in the field. It is meant for researchers and research.
One can avail of the facilities of the library for a nominal amount and also the wide amount of courses offered is quite intriguing. Apart from the large green campus, another piece of history can be found on the Fergusson tekdi behind it where a column was erected for the Servants of India members to take their oaths. Now more modernisation efforts are taking place, with newer building and more courses. There are efforts to reach people with special talks and workshops. This article might be a small wake-up call for what holds on in that place called Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics.
Photos by: Sapna Sarfare