KULAPATI K.M. MUNSHI
K.M. Munshi was born to Maneklal and Tapibehn Munshi in Broach, Gujarat on 30th December 1887. He was named as Kanaiyalal. Kanaiya did his first three years of schooling in Surat where his father was posted as a government official. In 1900, Maneklal was transferred to Broach as Deputy Collector and Kanaiya finished his schooling in the town of his birth. Dalpat was his schoolmate with whom he used to play cricket and who finally became his life long friend.
Kanaiya was an avid reader and whenever he read a good book he would not miss telling the story to his mother. Tapibehn, would regale her son with puranic verses in Gujarati and tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata whenever she had an opportunity.
As a young man, Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi was imbued with a sense of India’s greatness. Not yet, out of his teens, he learned from his mother’s songs and stories about the sages and seers of India’s past. The heritage that these master-spirits represented was ingrained in the young Munshi deeply; and later this incipient perception received an adult dimension.
The seeds so sown were precognitive and were backed by K. M. Munshi’s great inner strength, which prompted and sustained his external actions. His sense of India as the Motherland of the Spirit impressed him irreversibly-and so, as he moved professionally and politically, rung by rung, it was with a sense of pride in the cultural, intellectual and spiritual heritage of India. India was for him not just a nation but an ongoing civilization; not an accident of history but a design of destiny. For him the vitality of Indian culture and its self renewing greatness constituted a living principle. Like most others of his generation and class, Munshi took to the study of law and rose to the pinnacle of his profession even in the era of legal giants. It was but natural that law led to politics and politics to the service of the country’s heritage. The call of Mahatma Gandhi for sacrifice led to Munshi bidding goodbye to his lucrative practice and prepared to risk his life all in the fight against injustice in and to his country. Also his training and temperament inclined him to constitutionalism. The framing of the new nation’s supreme statute called for the gift of idealism as well as realism. Munshi was possessed of both. He regarded India’s independence in 1947 as an opportunity for an ascent once again. He believed that the people of India had it in them to climb up into a new millennium. Munshi showed that a man with pride in the past could also have faith in the future through the instruments of science and technology.
Today when the world is so conscious of the environment and of ecological factors, it is edifying to note that as much as half a century ago, Munshi’s Vanamahotsava scheme heralded the impulse for preserving ecology. Munshi’s vision was as deep as it was vast- a heightened commitment, genuineness, sincerity and dedication played an immensely crucial role in bringing stature to a name which was the binding force of a pan-Indian movement, a pan-Indian spirit and a pan-Indian ethos which would present to contemporary Indians, and to the world at large, a glimpse of the composite magnificence of ancient times- ‘Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’. The name became synonymous with reverence of the people’s own inner vision.