- By Laxmi Narayan Tiwari
2023.04.18 (Vrindavan Today News): With the announcement of Municipal Elections, it is an opportune time to reflect on the political leadership of Vrindavan. As we look back at its rich history, it becomes evident that the city’s leadership has not always been feeble, infirm, and subservient as it currently appears to be. There was a time when leaders emerged from Vrindavan who were not only important at the district level but also nationally recognized. One such great leader was Chabilelal Goswami, son of Kishorilal Goswami, a famous writer of the Bharatendu period.
The significance of Vrindavan’s culture and heritage was duly acknowledged by the British Raj, which established the Vrindavan municipality in 1866, comprising of 9 local members and a chairman, typically a British officer from the neighboring Mathura district. This arrangement continued for over 50 years until the New Municipalities Act of 1916 provided the members with the right to elect the chairman through voting, thus marking a significant milestone in the city’s political history.
In the year 1917, municipal elections were conducted in Mathura district. The collector of the district at that time was a highly influential British officer named Dampier. He had established a modern colony in Mathura that came to be known as ‘Dampier Park’. This was the first modern colony in the United Provinces built in the English style.
Despite Dampier’s stature, an unexpected incident occurred during the Vrindavan municipality election. Chabilelal Goswami’s public reputation overshadowed the influence of the English collector, and he defeated Collector Dampier by seven votes! This unprecedented event sent shockwaves throughout the British administration, making it the first of its kind in the country.
After his historic win, Chabilelal Goswami became the first Indian chairman of the Vrindavan municipality, serving from 1917 to 1919. Despite facing opposition from the district administration as well as some court cases slapped on him, he made several bold decisions during his two-year tenure. According to records preserved at the Braj Sanskriti Shodh Sansthan located at Shridham Goda Vihar Temple in Vrindavan, Goswamiji even expelled the district administration officer Hakim Pargana from a board meeting.
In 1918, he completely stopped the use of Urdu and English in the Vrindavan municipality office and replaced them with Hindi. This made Vrindavan municipality the first public institution in the country to establish Hindi as the national language.
Goswamiji was not only a hero of the freedom movement, but also the most popular orator of his era. During the non-cooperation movement in 1922, Goswamiji was imprisoned for one and a half years for giving an anti-British speech, and his “Sudarshan Press” in Vrindavan was confiscated. Despite facing challenges and opposition, Goswamiji continued to make significant contributions to Vrindavan and the country’s freedom struggle.
In 1942, Goswamiji became paralyzed, and entered the Nikunja lila in 1951. His legacy lives on as a symbol of Vrindavan’s political prowess and contribution to the nation’s freedom struggle. He became the first Indian chairman of Vrindavan municipality and paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.
Shri Laxmi Narayan Tiwari is a History enthusiast of Braj – Vrindavan and Secretary of Braj Sanskriti Shodh Sansthan, a research Insititute based at Goda Vihar. He has done several research on the different subjects related to Brajmandal.