Darbar Gopaldas - 19 December 1887

Darbar Gopaldas - 19 December 1887

Darbar Gopaldas was born on 19 December 1887 at Vaso in the Nadiad taluka of Gujarat. His maternal grandfather, who was a Talukdar of the VIth Order, adopted Gopaldas as he had no children of his own. On his grandfather’s death, Gopaldas became the ruler of a small principality consisting of Dhasa, Rayasankali and Vaso. Gandhiji conferred upon him the title of ‘Darbar’. By caste he was a Patidar and belonged to a landowning family. Gopaldas was married twice, first at the age of 11 and, after his first wife’s death, a second time in 1912 to Bhaktiba, daughter of Zaverbhai Nathabhai, Diwan of Thakore of Limbi State in Kathiawar.

Gopaldas was educated in a local primary school at Vaso and in a secondary school at Baroda. He joined the Baroda College in 1907 but left in 1911 when he succeeded his grandfather. The most overpowering influence in his life was that of Gandhiji who transformed Gopaldas from a prince to a nationalist leader. Motibhai Amin, the educationist, social reformer and founder of the library movement in Baroda State, influenced Gopaldas’s social and educational thinking. His political career was influenced by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and also by Vithalbhai Patel.

Darbar Gopaldas’s activities in the nationalist movement extended for thirty years, from 1920 to 1951. It started with his refusal to contribute to the World War I Fund which was almost compulsory for the rulers of Indian States. His principality observed a strike in protest against the Rowlatt Act. In 1920 Gopaldas attended a meeting addressed by Gandhiji at Vadhavan for collecting contributions for the Tilak Fund, and when volunteers began the collection, the Darbar removed his golden anklet, a royal insignia, and quietly put it in the collection bag. From then onwards he made no secret of his sympathies with the nationalist movement, and in 1920 invited a Harijan Conference in his State. He started wearing khadi and presided over meetings advocating boycott of foreign goods.

His nationalist activities and his ignoring and defying the warnings of the Political Agent led to the loss of his State in 1922. With the loss of his State, Darbar Gopaldas became a full-time political worker. He took an active part in the Borsad Satyagraha (1923), Bardoli Satyagraha (1928), Dandi March, Individual Civil Disobedience and Quit India Movement. In 1938, as Chairman of the Reception Committee, Gopaldas took a leading part in the Haripura session of the Congress.

Before Independence, Darbar Gopaldas was an active organiser of the States People’s Movement in Baroda, Laktar, Limbi and Rajkot. He often presided over the Baroda Praja Mandal Conferences and Kathiawar Political Conferences. After 1947 he used his personal influence in bringing the small States of Kathiawar and Gujarat within the Union of Saurashtra. When the Nawab of Junagadh declined to join, the Darbar took a leading part in organising the Arzi Hakoomat, which finally succeeded in getting Junagadh to accede to*the Indian Union. In 1946 Gopaldas was given back his State, but he handed it over to the government of free India.

In the few years during which Darbar Gopaldas ruled over his State, he was in many ways an ideal ruler. He introduced land reforms, made attempts to remove untouchability and did relief work during famines, floods and plague. In 1947 when Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in his principality, he immediately rushed there and tried to reduce communal tensions.

In 1915 Darbar Gopaldas helped in establishing the first pre-primary school of Gujarat run on the Montessori method in Vaso. Both the Vithal Kanya Vidyalaya at Nadiad and the Vallabh Kanya Vidyalaya at Rajkot owed much to him. He generously patronised libraries and schools. Education of girls and adult education programmes received his whole-hearted support.

The Darbar’s views on social reform were influenced first by Motibhai Amin and later by Gandhiji. He attended inter-caste marriages as a matter of principle and tried to prevent child marriages and encourage widow remarriages. He also made an effort to improve the position of the Harijans. He was broad-minded and catholic in his religious outlook and had friends following different religions. He was an ardent advocate of pre-primary education and of basic education.

A dedicated disciple of Gandhiji, Darbar Gopaldas was simple in dress and appearance, and his colleagues uniformly praise his high sense of duty, generosity and deep patriotism.

(Kumud Prasanna) Aparna Bose



Reference: DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY – Vol 1 edited by S. P. Sen – Institute of Historical Studies – Calcutta - 1972

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