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Lala Har Dayal (Hindi: लाला हरदयाल, Urdu: لالا ہردیال; October 4, 1884, Delhi, India - March 4, 1939, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) was an Indian revolutionary and founder of the Ghadar Party.




Early years

He was the sixth of seven children of Bhoti and Gauri Dayal Mathur, Reader of the District Court. Dayal is not so much a surname as a sub-caste designation, within the Kayastha caste of writers. At the age of 17 he married Sundra. Their son, born two years later, died in infancy, but their daughter, born in 1908, survived.

At an early age he was influenced by Arya Samaj. He associated with Shyamji Krishnavarma, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Bhikaiji Cama. He also drew inspiration from Giuseppe Mazzini, Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin. He was, according to Emily Brown as quoted by Juergensmeyer, "in sequence an atheist, a revolutionary, a Buddhist, and a pacifist".

He studied at the Cambridge Mission School and received his bachelor's degree in Sanskrit from St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India and his master's degree also in Sanskrit from Punjab University. In 1905, he received scholarships to Oxford University studying Sanskrit. In a letter to The Indian Sociologist, published in 1907, he started to explore anarchist ideas, arguing that "our object is not to reform government, but to reform it away, leaving, if necessary only nominal traces of its existence." The letter led to him being put under surveillance by the police. Later that year, saying "To Hell with the ICS", he resigned his Oxford scholarships and returned to India to live a life of austerity. It was during this period that he became friends with the anarchist Guy Aldred, who was put on trial for printing The Indian Sociologist.

He moved to Paris in 1909 and became editor of the Vande Mataram. Unhappy in Paris, he visited Algeria where he wondered whether to go to Cuba or Japan. He then went to Martinique, where he was visited by the Arya Samaj missionary, Bhai Parmanand – with whom he discussed founding a new religion modelled on Buddha. He was living an ascetic life eating only boiled grain, sleeping on the floor and meditating in a secluded place. Guy Aldred later related that this religion's motto was to be Atheism, Cosmopolitanism and moral law. Emily Brown and Erik Erikson have described this as a crisis of "ego-identity" for him. Parmanand says he agreed to go to the United States to propagate the ancient culture of the Aryan Race.

Hardayal went straight from Boston to California, where he wrote an idyllic account of life in the United States. He then moved on to Honolulu in Hawaii where he spent some time meditating on Waikiki Beach. During his stay he made friends with Japanese Buddhists and started studying the works of Karl Marx. Whilst here he wrote Some Phases of Contemporary Thought in India subsequently published in Modern Review. Parmanand persuaded him by letter to return to California.

Anarchist activism in America

He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. He had served as secretary of the San Francisco branch of the Industrial Workers of the World alongside the National Bolshevik (but not while in the IWW), Fritz Wolffheim. In a statement outlining the principles of the Fraternity of the Red Flag he said they proposed "The establishment of Communism, and the abolition of private property in land and capital through industrial organisation and the General Strike, ultimate abolition of the coercive organisation of Government". A little over a year later, this group had been given 6 acres (24,000 m2) of land and a house in Oakland, where he founded the Bakunin Institute of California which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism".[1] The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneración movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. He had a post as a lecturer in philosophy at Stanford University. However, he was forced to resign because of embarrassment about his activities in the anarchist movement.

He had developed contacts with Indian American farmers in Stockton. Having adopted an Indian Nationalist perspective, he wanted to encourage young Indian men to gain a scientific and sociological education. With Teja Singh, Taraknath Das and Arthur Pope and funding from Jwala Singh, a rich farmer from Stockton, he set up Guru Gobind Singh scholarships for Indian students. As with Shyamji Krishnavarma's India House in London, he established his house as a home for these students. Amongst the six students who responded to the offer were Nand Singh Sihra, Darisi Chenchiah and Gobind Behari Lal, his wife's cousin. They lived together in a rented apartment close to the University of California, Berkeley.

The assassination attempt on Viceroy of India

At the time, he was still a vigorous anarchist propagandist and had very little to do with the nationalist Nalanda Club, composed of Indian students. However Basanta Kumar Biswas's attempt on the life of the Indian Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, on December 23, 1912 had a major impact upon him. He visited the Nalanda Club hostel to tell them news at dinner time finishing his talk with a couplet from the Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir:

Pagri apni Sambaliyega Mir
Aur basti nahin, yeh Dilli hai
Take Care of your Turban Mir
This is not just any town, this is Delhi

The hostel then became a party with dancing and the singing of Vande Mataram. Hardayal excitedly told his anarchist friends of what one of his men had done in India.

He quickly brought out a pamphlet called the Jugantar Circular in which he eulogised about the bombing:

"Hail! Hail! Hail! Bomb of 23 December 1912 ... Harbinger of hope and courage, dear reawakener of slumbering souls ... concentrated moral dynamite ... the esperanto of revolution."'

In April 1914, he was arrested by the United States government for spreading anarchist literature and fled to Berlin, Germany. He subsequently lived for a decade in Sweden. He received his PhD in 1930 from the University of London. In 1932, he published Hints of Self Culture and embarked on a lecture circuit covering Europe, India, and the United States.

He died in Philadelphia in 1939. On the evening of his death he had given a lecture where he had said "I am Peace with all".

In 1987, the India Department of Posts issued a commemorative stamp in his honor, within the series "India's Struggle for Freedom".


  1. ^ Avrich, Paul (1988). Anarchist Portraits. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 30. ISBN 0691006091.  


  • Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy by Harish K. Puri, Guru Nanak Dev University Press, 1983
  • Har Dayal: Hindu Revolutionary and Rationalist by Emily C. Brown, The University of Arizona Press, 1975
  • Har Dayal: Hindu Revolutionary and Rationalist, review by Mark Juergensmeyer. The Journal of Asian Studies, 1976
  • The Bodhisattva Doctrine in Buddhist Sanskrit Literature by Har Dayal, 1932; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1970

One more book was written by Lala Hardayal. It was "Glimpses of world religions". It is about a sketch of various various religious conceptions as they appear from history. Their philosophy and ethics and their individuality.

External links


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