Lala Har Dayal (1884-1939): Architect of the Ghadar Movement and His Enduring Legacy

This topic of “Lala Har Dayal (1884-1939): Architect of the Ghadar Movement and His Enduring Legacy” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.


Lala Har Dayal, born in Delhi on October 14, 1884, was a distinguished Indian nationalist and polymath. Renowned for his intellectual prowess and radical ideologies, he played a significant role in India’s freedom struggle, particularly through his leadership in the Ghadar Party. His commitment to overthrowing British rule, combined with his scholarly contributions, marked him as a key figure in the early 20th-century revolutionary movement against colonialism.

Lala Har Dayal Mind Map

Early Life and Education

  • Lala Har Dayal Mathur was born on October 14, 1884, in a Hindu Mathur Kayastha family in Delhi​​​​.
  • He received his early education at the Cambridge Mission School and later pursued a bachelor’s degree in Sanskrit from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi​.
  • Har Dayal furthered his studies by obtaining a master’s degree in Sanskrit from Punjab University​.
  • Recognizing his exceptional talents, he was awarded two scholarships for higher studies in Sanskrit at Oxford University: the Boden Scholarship in 1907 and the Casberd Exhibitioner from St John’s College​.
  • Despite his academic achievements, Har Dayal developed a strong aversion to the British rule in India. This led him to relinquish his Oxford scholarship and forgo a career in the Indian Civil Service​​​​​.
  • His early education, which included Sanskrit, mathematics, and history, was instrumental in shaping his intellectual foundation​​.
  • Har Dayal’s time in England, particularly at Oxford, was a turning point. The oppressive British policies towards India deeply affected him, fueling his decision to abandon his scholarship and dedicate his life to India’s independence​​.

Prelims Sureshots – Most Probable Topics for UPSC Prelims

A Compilation of the Most Probable Topics for UPSC Prelims, including Schemes, Freedom Fighters, Judgments, Acts, National Parks, Government Agencies, Space Missions, and more. Get a guaranteed 120+ marks!

Political Awakening and Activism

  • Har Dayal’s political activism was initially influenced by his disillusionment with British rule in India while at Oxford University, leading to his active support for the Indian revolutionary movement​​​​.
  • In 1908, he returned to India to further indigenous political institutions and arouse resistance against British rule, but his efforts were obstructed by the government, prompting his return to Europe​​.
  • Har Dayal continued his anti-British propaganda in Europe, traveling through France and Germany and advocating Western science and political philosophy as crucial for successful anti-colonial struggle​​.
  • In 1913, he founded the Ghadar Party in the United States, a pivotal group composed mainly of Indian immigrants in North America, aiming to overthrow British rule in India through revolutionary means​​.
  • His activism extended beyond India, gaining resonance notably in the United States, where he played a crucial role in mobilizing Indian expatriates and fostering a spirit of rebellion against colonial rule​​.
  • In the United States, he became involved in industrial unionism and served as the secretary of the San Francisco branch of the Industrial Workers of the World​​.
  • Har Dayal developed contacts with Punjabi Sikh farmers in California, tapping into their disaffection with the British and encouraging young Indians to gain scientific and sociological education​​.
  • He was arrested by the U.S. government in 1914 for spreading anarchist literature, then fled to Berlin, where he contributed to the formation of the Berlin Committee (later: Indian Independence Committee) and collaborated with the German Intelligence Bureau for the East​​.

The Ghadar Movement and International Efforts

  • Lala Har Dayal was instrumental in the formation of the Ghadar Movement, an international political movement initiated by expatriate Indians to overthrow British rule in India. It began in the early 20th century on the West Coast of the United States and Canada and later spread globally​​.
  • The Ghadar Party, initially known as the Pacific Coast Hindustan Association, was officially founded on July 15, 1913, in Astoria, Oregon, USA. Har Dayal played a pivotal leadership role in its establishment​​.
  • Har Dayal, along with other leaders, chose to base the Ghadar Party and its newspaper, the Hindustan Ghadar, in San Francisco, California. The party rapidly garnered support from Indian expatriates, notably in the United States, Canada, East Africa, and Asia​​.
  • Following World War I’s outbreak in 1914, some Ghadar Party members, including Har Dayal, returned to Punjab to ignite an armed revolution for Indian independence. They attempted to incite mutiny among Indian troops against the British, an uprising known as the Ghadar Mutiny​.
  • Although the Ghadar Mutiny was ultimately unsuccessful, resulting in the execution of 42 mutineers after the Lahore Conspiracy Case trial, the Ghadarites persisted with their underground anti-colonial actions from 1914 to 1917. They received support from Germany and Ottoman Turkey in what became known as the Hindu–German Conspiracy​.

Later Years and Philosophical Shift

  • After World War I, Har Dayal settled in Stockholm as a professor of Indian philosophy. His writings during this period, such as “Forty-Four Months in Germany and Turkey,” reflected a significant shift in his views. He began advocating for mixed British and Indian administration in India and developed an admiration for Western culture and values​​.
  • In the late 1920s, Har Dayal moved to the United States, where he became a professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley​​.
  • Har Dayal also became involved with the South Place Ethical Society, joining in 1930. He became a respected speaker on pacifism, democracy, and rationalism, emphasizing humanist values of reason, freedom, and the pursuit of a better world​​.
  • His philosophical transition is evident in his work “Hints for Self-Culture,” published in 1934, which underscored humanist values and the importance of personal morality grounded in reason, reflecting the principles of the humanist Ethical movement​​.
  • Har Dayal’s time in Germany during World War I led to a shift in his ideals and allegiances, eventually causing him to part ways with the Hindu Revolutionary movement after the war​​.
  • In 1927, he returned to London to study for a doctorate in Sanskrit at the University of London and established the Modern Culture Institute at his home in Edgware, promoting the cultivation of personal morality and progressive reform​​.
  • He died in Philadelphia on March 4, 1939, delivering a lecture on the evening of his death, where he expressed being “in peace with all”​​.
  • In 1987, the India Department of Posts issued a commemorative stamp in his honor, recognizing his contributions to India’s struggle for freedom​​.

Literary Contributions

Lala Har Dayal was a prolific writer with contributions spanning various genres and themes:

  1. Our Educational Problem: A collection of his articles published in Punjabi from Lahore in 1922, with an introduction by Lala Lajpat Rai.
  2. Thoughts on Education: Articles against the British Government’s Education Policy in India, published in Punjabi (Lahore) and Modern Review (Calcutta).
  3. Social Conquest of Hindu Race: A booklet proscribed by the British Raj, now kept in the National Archives of India.
  4. Writings of Lala Har Dayal: Published in 1920 by Swaraj Publishing House, Varanasi.
  5. Forty-four months in Germany and Turkey, February 1915 to October 1918: A record of personal impressions published in 1920 in London.
  6. Lala Har Dayal Ji Ke Swadhin Vichar: Translated into Hindi and published in 1922 in Kanpur.
  7. Amrit me Vish: Hindi translation of “Thoughts on Education,” published in 1922 in Lahore.
  8. Hints for Self Culture: Published in 1934 in London, emphasizing humanist values of reason, freedom, and the striving for a better world.
  9. Glimpses of World Religions: A rational perspective on various religions, focusing on history, ethics, theology, and religious philosophy.
  10. Bodhisattva Doctrines: Originally a thesis for his Ph.D., published in 1932, exploring the principles of Gautam Buddha​​.

Impact and Legacy

Lala Har Dayal’s contributions to India’s struggle for freedom, though not widely recognized in popular history, have had a profound impact:

  • Foundational Role in the Ghadar Movement: Har Dayal’s role in founding the Ghadar Party in 1913 was pivotal. This movement, largely comprising Indian immigrants in North America, was dedicated to overthrowing British rule in India through revolutionary means. The Ghadar Party was crucial in mobilizing Indian expatriates and fostering a spirit of rebellion against colonial rule​​.
  • Intellectual and Revolutionary Influence: Har Dayal was a brilliant scholar and a fierce nationalist. His numerous writings critiqued British imperialism and called for a united Indian front against it. His work, particularly “Hints for Self Culture,” advocated for an enlightened and progressive society​​.
  • Pre-Gandhi Era Leadership: Before the prominence of Gandhi in the Indian independence movement, Har Dayal was a prominent leader who advocated for both non-violent civil disobedience and aggressive actions against the British Empire. His inspirational leadership and writings motivated the Indian youth of that era​​.
  • Global Recognition for His Ideas: Har Dayal’s profound thoughts and ideas garnered appreciation from American and European intellectuals. His writings, characterized by originality, cognitive power, and aesthetic splendor, made a lasting impression​​.
  • Unleashing a Wave of Nationalism: Har Dayal played a covert role in initiating Americans and Germans into India’s independence movement, challenging the British Empire’s might. The Ghadar movement became a global phenomenon, leading to strict laws like the Rowlatt Act to counter his influence​​.
  • Legacy in Exile: Despite being in exile for over thirty years, Har Dayal remained dedicated to India’s liberation from colonial rule, using his intellect as his primary weapon. His legacy continues to be recognized and appreciated even today​​.


Lala Har Dayal’s life, characterized by intellectual brilliance and unwavering dedication to India’s independence, left an indelible mark on the country’s freedom struggle. His leadership in the Ghadar Party, profound writings, and global influence significantly propelled the anti-colonial movement. Despite his relative obscurity in popular history, Har Dayal’s legacy as a pioneer of the Indian nationalist movement and a champion of enlightened societal progress continues to inspire future generations.

Related Posts

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Home Courses Plans Account