Dadabhai Naoroji

(1825 –1917)

It was a resplendent life of multi-faceted faculties. Born in Bombay to Parsy parents. Elected to the British Parliament from a constituency in England (1892). Played an active role in the formation of the first political organization in Bombay (1852). Assuming the editorship of ‘satyvadi’, a Gujarati newspaper. Being the first Indian professor at an Indian college for modern education (1854, Bombay’s Elphinston College, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy). Running a trading partnership firm in London (1860). Being professor of Gujarati in the University of London (1856). Setting up in Bombay diverse organizations like Native General Library, Scientific and Literary Society, Parsy Physical Training School, Society for the Widows, Victoria Museum. Playing an important role with A.O. Hume and W.C. Banerjea in the formation of the Indian National Congress (1885). Elected as the President of Congress Party thrice. Becoming the founder President of the Home Rule League of Annie Besant (1915) -- Dadabhai Naoroji was considered in his times as the “greatest, finest and the bravest of all the Indians”.

Dadabhai’s father was Naoroji Palanji Dorji, a Parsy priest, and mother Manakbai. When he was 11, he married 7-year old Quilbai (Those were the times of child marriage, an Indian custom). The Cama family, celebrated traders, decided to open their branch in London and made Dadabhai a partner; and it was how he went to London to supervise the business. It was England’s first company set up by an Indian or an Indian group. After a couple of years, he returned to India only to go back again, and it was then that he set up a company of his own, styled ‘Dadabhai Naoroji Compani’.

In London, he tried his best to bring to the attention of the Britons the problems of Indians and the prospects. He set up London Indian Association’ for this purpose and this was followed up with the formation of ‘East India Association’. But in 1873 he had to go back to India accepting an offer from the King of Baroda to take charge as the Dewan (chief secretary) of the kingdom. He was not happy with the job and so returned to London in 1875 only to wind up his company and to come back to India to work with A.O. Hume and the others for the formulation of the Congress Party. He traveled back and forth several times, between London and Bombay. While in London he worked for the Indians and their politics. While in India he worked the Indian National Congress. He was of the opinion that an Indian voice is required in the British Parliament to raise India’s concerns and needs there and it received widespread support and this made Dadabhai to go back to London to contest there for the parliament. It was how he got elected to the British Parliament in 1892. It was Dadabhai who used the term ‘Swaraj’ for the first time (1906). He returned to India in 1907. And in 1917 he died, at the age of 91, leaving a brilliant trail of hard work in India and England for the sake of India and the Indians.