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Saturday, 27 July 2013

110) Motilal Nehru (06.05.1861 – 06.02.1931): the Nehru-Gandhi Family Patriarch: A five rupee coin issued by Govt.of India/Reserve Bank of India to commemorate his 150th Birth Anniversary:

110) Motilal Nehru (06.05.1861 – 06.02.1931): the Nehru-Gandhi Family Patriarch:

A five rupee coin issued by Govt.of India/Reserve Bank of India to commemorate his 150th Birth Anniversary:

Motilal Nehru was a prominent lawyer and activist in the Indian Freedom struggle.

He was the patriarch of India’s Nehru-Gandhi family who have contributed several Prime Ministers in India’s post Independence history.

His education:

He spent his childhood in Khetri, in the then princely State of Jaipur (presently the capital of the State of Rajasthan) where his brother served as the “Diwan” or Chief Minister and had his early schooling there.

Later, in 1870, Motilal moved to Agra with his brother when the latter began practicing English law at Agra.

Still later, when the High Court shifted to Allahabad, the family took up residence at Allahabad and subsequently settled there.

Motilal passed his Matriculation examination from Cawnpore (present day Kanpur – in the State of Uttar Pradesh) and thereafter attended Muir Central College at Allahabad where he failed to appear in B.A. Final year exams.

In 1883, he attended the University of Cambridge completing the “Bar – at – Law” course and started practicing as a lawyer at Cawnpore.

In 1886, he joined his brother in his practice at the Allahabad High Court. He was a successful advocate with a reasonably good reputation.

In 1909, he got an approval to appear in the Privy Council of Britain.

His Political and Journalistic Career:

He was the President of the Indian National Congress on two occasions: 1919 (Amritsar session of the INC) and then again from 1928 (Calcutta session of the INC).

In 1922, he later joined the Swaraj Party which was following a strategy to gain membership of the British sponsored councils for the purpose of obtaining full Dominion status for India.

In 1923, he got elected to the Central Legislative Assembly of British India, set up at New Delhi and became the leader of the Opposition.

In 1926, he campaigned for creation of a representative conference to draft a constitution for conferring full “Dominion status” on India. He belonged to the school of thought which advocated full Dominion status as opposed to full Independence. This demand was rejected which led him to quit the Assembly and rejoin the Congress which all along had advocated total Independence for India. (Thus, the wheel had turned a full Circle for Motilal).

Nevertheless, in 1928, he chaired the “Nehru Commission” to counter the findings of the all-British “Simon Commission”. The Report submitted by the Nehru Commission proposed a constitution prepared by it and for conferring a dominion status to India. He prevailed upon the INC to endorse his Report, but the Report was rejected by almost all Nationalist leaders, as well as the Muslims who felt that their interests were not adequately represented.

In 1929, he handed over the position of President of the Indian National Congress to his son Jawaharlal who had all along opposed his father Motilal in his quest for seeking Dominion status for India and had stayed on in the INC when Motilal had left to join the Swaraj Party.

He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of a leading daily newspaper “The Leader”.

Motilal found the Leader newspaper too liberal and articulate, as such he started a moderate newspaper “The Independent” which he started publishing from Allahabad to counter the views of “The Leader”.

Death and Legacy:
He joined the Indian National Congress leaders in excluding western clothes and material goods and dressed up in Indian style clothes.

He lent support to Non-Cooperation Movement.

He was arrested and released during Mahatma Gandhi’s “Salt Satyagrah” in 1931, (after the INC declared complete Independence as its ultimate goal) on grounds of failing health. He passed away on 06.02.1931.

Several educational institutions have been named in his memory viz. Motilal Nehru Medical College and Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, both at Allahabad and Motilal Nehru College at Delhi.

His biographies include: “Pandit Motilal Nehru: His life and Work”, “Motilal Nehru (Builders of Modern India)” and “Pandit Motilal Nehru, a great Patriot” etc.

Other works on him include: “The Voice of Freedom: selected speeches of Pandit Motilal Nehru”, “Motilal Nehru: Essays and reflections on his times” and Selected Works of Motilal Nehru (6 volumes)”.

Controversy regarding Motilal Nehru’s ancestry:

There is some controversy regarding the ancestry of Motilal Nehru’s family. Some schools of thought believe that his father was the last “Kotwal” (equivalent of Governor/Administrator) of Delhi under the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah, going by the name of Ghiyasuddin Ghasi who escaped British persecution after the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 by fleeing Delhi to Agra under the assumed name of Gangadhar and later moving to Allahabad taking shelter with a Muslim family residing in a building named “Irshad Manzil” which Motilal Nehru subsequently bought in 1900 from its Muslim owners and renamed it “Anand Bhavan”.
Motilal married a Kashmiri Brahmin and is said to have adopted the surname Nehru sometime in between.

His frequent visits to England and European countries was contrary to the beliefs of the Kashmiri Brahmin community to which he professed to belong, as it was the Kashmiri Brahmin Community’s belief that one lost his caste after crossing the Seas/Oceans. He was ordered by the Kashmiri Brahmin community to perform “Prayashchit” (Reformation ceremony), which he steadfastly refused. As such, he was said to have been excommunicated/ostracised by the Community.

(Be that as it may, there is no escaping the fact, that India’s Independence in 1947, only led to replacing the British Monarchy as the Rulers of India with the Nehru-Gandhi “dynasty”, with the latest member Rahul being quoted by the Indian Media as the “heir apparent”!!).

Commemorative Coin:
The Reserve Bank of India on behalf of the Government of India has issued a five rupee coin in June 2013 to commemorate the occasion of 150th Birth Anniversary of Motilal Nehru for general circulation. The specifications of the coin are:

Shape: Circular; Diameter: 23 mm; Number of Serrations: 100; Metal Composition: Nickel Brass (Copper – 75%; Zinc – 20%; Nickel – 5%).

Reverse of the five rupee coin issued on the occasion.  The coin shows a portrait of Motilal Nehru in the centre. Along the periphery of this face of the coin is the inscription “Motilal Nehru ki 150vi Jayanti” (in Hindi/ Devnagri) on the upper periphery and “150th Birth Anniversary of Motilal Nehru” (in English) on the lower periphery. At the bottom, below his portrait are mentioned the year “2012” indicating the year in which the 150th Anniversary was celebrated. (Perhaps 2011 would have been the correct year on this coin as his birth was on 06.05.1861 – Possibly, the year 2012 marks the end of the centenary year).

Notice that on the reverse of this coin the “Diamond” mint mark of the Mumbai Mint has been engraved on the bottom periphery.

Obverse of the five Rupee coin. This face shows the Lion Capital in the centre with the legend “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth will Prevail/triumph). On the left periphery/flank is the word “Bharat”, in Hindi/Devnagri script and on the right hand periphery/flank is mentioned “India”, in English. On the bottom half of the coin is mentioned the denominational value of the coin with the numeral “5”, preceded by the rupee symbol.

 The above coin-set image has been sent to me by Dr.P.V.Satyaprasad, an eminent numismatist based in Vishakhapatnam.

This set of coins on the Nehru-Gandhi family include:
Motilal Nehru : 5 rupees (facing left)
Jawaharlal Nehru( his son): 5 Rupees (facing right)
-    DO      -  : 50 paise (name in English)-(facing left)
                   : 50 paise  (name in Hindi)- (facing right)
                   : 1 rupee (with cap) (facing right)
                   : 1 rupee (without cap) (facing left)
Indira Gandhi (his granddaughter):5 rupees (facing right)
-  DO   -       : 50 paise (facing right)
Rajiv Gandhi : (his great-grandson) 1 rupee (facing left).

Jawaharlal is the only personality who has Indian coins minted on him with his profile facing left as well as right.
Also, notice that in the manner of the British monarchs who after the restoration of the monarchy when Charles II took over from Oliver Cromwell, each succeeding British monarch faces in the opposite direction as a matter of tradition (with a few aberrations/exceptions), similarly, while the Nehru-Gandhi family patriarch Motilal faces left, his son Jawaharlal faces left in the earlier coins issued upon his passing away as well as right in later coins, while his granddaughter Indira faces right on coins issued shortly after her assassination and his great grandson Rajiv faces left !!


  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 27.07.13:
    "Motilal Nehru's face appearing on the coin resembles with Mahatma Gandhi with slight difference".

  2. They also had a lot of mutual respect and liking for each other even though they differed on several issues on grounds of principles.