Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi

K. M. Munshi

Munshi in his early sixties.
Born 30 December 1887
Broach, Gujarat, India
Died 8 February 1971(1971-02-08) (aged 83)
Bombay, India
Occupation Freedom fighter, politician, lawyer, writer
Known for Founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (1938)
Home Minister of Bombay State (1937–40)
Agent-General of India in Hyderabad State (1948)
Member of the Constituent Assembly of India
Member of Parliament
Minister for Agriculture & Food (1952–53)
Governor of Uttar Pradesh (1952–57)
Political party Swaraj Party, Indian National Congress, Swatantra Party, Jan Sangh
Religion Hindu
Spouse(s) Atilakshmi Pathak, Leelavati Sheth
Children Jagadish Munshi, Sarla Sheth, Usha Raghupathi, Lata Munshi, Girish Munshi

Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi[1] (30 December 1887 – 8 February 1971), popularly known as K. M. Munshi, was an Indian independence movement activist, politician, writer and educationist from Gujarat state. A lawyer by profession, he later turned to literature and politics. He was a well-known name in Gujarati literature. He founded Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an educational trust, in 1938.[2]


K. M. Munshi was born on 30 December 1887 in the town of Bharuch in Gujarat. He had his school education in R.S Dalal High School in Bharuch. He was educated further in Vadodara (Baroda), where he excelled in academics. One of his teachers at Baroda College was Sri Aurobindo Ghosh who had a profound impression on him. Munshi was also greatly influenced by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Bhulabhai Desai.[3]

Munshi was a prolific writer in Gujarati and English, earning a reputation as one of Gujarat's greatest literary figures. He was also a barrister and an eminent jurist.[3]

Munshi was an active participant in the Indian Independence Movement ever since the advent of Mahatma Gandhi. He joined the Swaraj Party but returned to the Indian National Congress on Gandhiji's behest with the launch of the Salt Satyagraha in 1930. He was arrested several times, including during the Quit India Movement of 1942. A great admirer of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Munshi served in the Central Legislative Assembly in the 1930s.

As the demand for Pakistan gathered momentum, he gave up non-violence and supported the idea of a civil war to compel the Muslims to give up their demand. He believed that the future of Hindus and Muslims lay in unity in an Akhand Hindustan.[4] He was asked by Gandhi to leave Congress due to his lack of faith in non-violence, but was invited back in 1946.[3]

After the independence of India, Munshi was appointed diplomatic envoy and trade agent (Agent-General) to the princely state of Hyderabad, where he served until its accession to India in 1948. Munshi was on the ad hoc Flag Committee that selected the Flag of India in August 1947, and on the committee which drafted the Constitution of India under the chairmanship of B. R. Ambedkar. He was also the main driving force behind the renovation of the historically important Somnath Temple by the Government of India just after independence.

Munshi served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 1952 to 1957. In 1959, Munshi separated from the Nehru-dominated (socialist) Congress Party and started the Akhand Hindustan Movement. He believed in a strong opposition, so along with Chakravarti Rajagopalachari he founded the Swatantra Party, which was right-wing in its politics, pro-business, pro-free market economy and private property rights. The party enjoyed limited success and eventually died out. Later, Munshi joined the Jan Sangh.

In August 1964, he chaired the meeting for the founding of the Hindu nationalist organisation Vishva Hindu Parishad at Sandipini ashram.[4]

Being a prolific writer and a conscientious journalist, Munshi started a Gujarati monthly called Bhargava. He was joint-editor of Young India and in 1954, started the Bhavan's Journal which is published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to this day. Munshi was President of the Sanskrit Viswa Parishad, the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, and the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan.

Apart from founding Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Munshi was instrumental in the establishment of Bhavan's College, Hansraj Morarji Public School, Rajhans Vidyalaya, Rajhans Balvatika and Panchgani Hindu School (1924). He was elected Fellow of the University of Bombay, where he was responsible for giving adequate representation to regional languages. He was also instrumental in starting the department of Chemical Technology.

Besides being a politician and educator, Munshi was also an environmentalist. He initiated the Vanmahotsav in 1950, when he was Union Minister of Food and Agriculture, to increase area under forest cover. Since then Van Mahotsav a week-long festival of tree plantation is organised every year in the month of July all across the country and lakhs of trees are planted.


Munshi was also a litterateur with a wide range of interests. He is well known for his historical novels in Gujarati, especially his trilogy Patan-ni-Prabhuta (The Greatness of Patan), Gujarat-no-Nath (The Ruler of Gujarat) and Rajadhiraj (The Emperor). His other works include Jay Somnath (on Somnath temple), Krishnavatara (on Lord Krishna), Bhagavan Parasurama (on Parshurama), and Tapasvini (The Lure of Power) a novel with a fictional parallel drawn from the Freedom Movement of India under Mahatma Gandhi. Munshi also wrote several notable works in English.

Munshi has written mostly based on fictional historical themes namely

  1. Earlier Aryan settlements in India (What he calls Gaurang's – white skinned)
  2. Krishna's endeavors in Mahabharata kaal
  3. More recently in 10th century India around Gujarat, Malwa and Southern India.

K.M. Munshi's novel Prithvi Vallabh was made into a movie of the same name twice. The adaptation directed by Manilal Joshi in 1924 was very controversial in its day: Mahatma Gandhi criticised it for excessive sex and violence. The second version was by Sohrab Modi in 1943.

Works in Gujarati and Hindi[5][6]




Works in English[5]

Popular Culture

He was portrayed by K.K.Raina in Shyam Benegal's mini-series Samvidhaan


External links


  1. Krishnavatara (Vol. I) – The Magic Flute. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 1973. pp. dust cover flap.
  2. "Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi".
  3. 1 2 3 Bhagavan, Manu (2008). "The Hindutva Underground: Hindu Nationalism and the Indina National Congress in Late Colonial and Early Post-Colonial India". Economic and Political Weekly. 43 (37): 39–48. JSTOR 40277950.
  4. 1 2 Katju, Manjari (2013). Vishva Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 81-250-2476-X.
  5. 1 2 "Source: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai".
  6. Open Library – Books of Kanhiyalal Munshi
  7. Indian postage stamp on Munshi – 1988
  8. "Kulapati Munshi Award conferred". The Hindu. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
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