Dadabhai Naoroji was an early Indian political and social trader. He was also an intellectual, cotton trader and an educator. He is fondly called the ‘Grand Old Man of India’ and is viewed as an
architect who laid the foundation of the Indian freedom struggle. Dadabhai was a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895 and the first Asian to be a British MP.
Life of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji was born on 4th September 1825 in Bombay in a priestly Parsi family. His father was Naoroji Palanji and mother Manekbai who shaped his mind and character. Dadabhai Naoroji lost his father when he was five years old and it was her mother who gave him the best education. Dadabhai had his early schooling in a primary institution run by a Mehtaji in Bombay. After that, on the urge by Mehtaji, Manekbai sent her son to the Elphinstone Institution in Bombay for his secondary education. Thereafter, he did a course of studies in Elphinstone College and attained the Clare Scholarship in the year 1840. He became a graduate in 1845 and was awarded the honorary degree of LL.B. by the Bombay University in the year 1916.
He married Gulbai at the age of eleven.
Career of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji was appointed the leading professor of the Elphinstone Institution in the year 1860. Being an Athonan, he founded the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha on 1st August 1851 to restore the Zoroastrian religion. In the year 1854, Naoroji found the fortnightly publication, the ‘Rast Goftar’ to clarify the Zoroastrian concepts. By the year 1855, Naoroji was the professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Bombay. Thereafter he travelled to London in the year 1855 to become a partner in Cama & Co., and opened a Liverpool location for the first Indian company to be established in Britain. However, he resigned on ethical grounds and established his own cotton trading company, Naoroji & Co. during that time; he travelled back and forth on business purposes between India and England during the year 1855 to 1876. He also became the professor of Gujarati in University College in London thereafter. In the year 1865, he along with W. C. Banerjee, founded the London India Society and became its president. He continued to remain its president until he returned to India. In 1861, he established the London Zoroastrian Association.
In the year 1867, Dadabhai Naoroji helped in establishing the East India Association, which was one of the predecessor organizations of the Indian National Congress. His aim was to put across the Indian point of view before the British public. The association thereby was successful in counter acting the propaganda by the Ethnological Society of London which in its 1866 session had tried to prove the Asians inferiority to Europeans. He was also a member of the Indian National Association which was founded by Surendranath Banerjee from Calcutta. The two groups Indian National Association and Indian National Congress merged into the Indian National Congress and Dadabhai Naoroji was elected the president of the Congress in the year 1886. Naoroji published the book ‘Poverty and un-British Rule in India’ in the year 1901.
Later Dadabhai Naoroji moved to Britain once again and hen continued the political involvement there. He was elected for the Liberal party in Finsbury Central at the 1892 general election and was the first British Indian MP. However, he refused to take oath in office on the Bible as he was not a Christian, and was allowed to take oath in the name of God on his copy of Khordeh Avesta. He spoke of on the Irish Home Rule and the condition of the Indian people in the Parliament. In the year 1906, he was again elected as the president of the INC.
Dadabhai Naoroji was a frequent contributor of articles and papers as well as various journals and magazines. He wrote regularly for the Students Literary Miscellany, a journal started by the Students Literary and Scientific Society at the Elphinstone College, Bombay. He also himself edited his society’s Gujarati journal ‘Dynan Prakash’. He also contributed articles to a number of newspapers and magazines in England including Commerce, India, Contemporary Reviews, Daily New, Manchester Guardian, Weekly News and Chronicle and the Pearson’s Magazine. Dadabhai Naoroji also founded the Framji Institute after he left India for London to join business. He also founded the Irani Fund, Parsi Gymnasium, the Widow Remarriage Association and the Victoria and Albert Museum. He also founded several other important organizations both in India and UK like the Indian National Congress, East Indian Association London and the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay and so on. Dadabhai Naoroji died at the age of 91 on 30th June 1917.
Memorials on Dadabhai Naoroji:
A heritage road in Mumbai is named as the Dadabhai Naoroji Road. A road in Karachi in Pakistan and another in Bloomsbury area in London is also named after him.