In 1886, when his family shifted to Hissar, Lala Lajpat Rai started practicing law. It was here that he set up the nationalistic Dayanand Anglo-Vedic school and turned into a follower of Dayanand Saraswati, who founded the Arya Samaj institution. Showing concern for self-help and enterprise in India, Rai helped found the Punjab National Bank in 1895, which is still trusted as an excellent banking option by innumerable Indians.
Even before Gandhi and Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai stressed self-reliance for Indians in the 1900 session of the National Congress. He was later one of the architects of the Swadeshi movement (now turned into Make-In-India) along with Mahatma Gandhi, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and others. There was also a postage stamp issued in India to honour Rai.
Rai toured Sikh communities along the West Coast in the USA and noted sociological similarities between the notion of 'color-caste' there and within castes in India. He also wrote this in his travelogue, The United States of America (1916). In 1920, upon his return from America, Rai was invited to preside over a special session of the Congress in Calcutta. These sessions were now a means for revolutionary Indians to decide their future course of action in trying to fight the British rule.
Lala Lajpat Rai participated actively in the non-cooperation movement against British rule, which was started mainly to oppose the Rowlatt Act. The Rowlatt Act was formed by the British so that they could jail any Indian who was threatening to cause damage to them through their protests. For showing bravery in opposing this new legislation, in Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai was given the title of 'Punjab Kesari' (the lion of Punjab). He was a freedom fighter and leader, but Rai was also a noted author. 'History of the Arya Samaj', 'England's Debt to India: India, The Problems Of National Education In India', 'Swaraj and Social Change', 'The United States of America: A Hindu's impressions and a study', were some of the books he penned.
Lala Lajpat Rai launched a peaceful procession to boycott arrival of the Simon Commission in Lahore in 1928, which was sent to recommend constitutional reform in India under the British rule. However, then Superintendent of Police, Scott ordered a 'lathi-charge' at all the activists to stop them. The police hit Lala Lajpat Rai on the chest during this exchange and targeted him in particular. Unfortunately, the confrontation led to Rai's death. To take revenge, Bhagat Singh and his associates tried to assassinate Scott. Instead, they killed JP Saunders, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, mistaking him for Scott. Lala Lajpat Rai's death anniversary, 17 November, is one of the several days celebrated as Martyrs' Day in India.
He has been long described as 'a pillar of extremist nationalism in India' for his bravery in protesting against the British rule. Many universities and hospitals have been opened in India in his honour.
The main theme of my life is to take the message of Sanatana Dharma to every home and pave the way for launching, in a big way, the man-making programme preached and envisaged by great seers like Swami Vivekananda. - Mananeeya Eknathji
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