Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born on May 9, 1866, in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, and he became one of the most learned men in India, a leader of social and political reformists and one of the earliest, founding leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. Gokhale was a senior leader of the Indian National Congress and the Servants of India Society. The latter was committed to only social reform, but the Congress Party in Gokhale's time was the main vehicle for Indian political representation. Gokhale was a great, early Indian champion for public education. Being one of the first generations of Indians to receive college education, Gokhale was respected widely in the nascent Indian intellecutal community and acoss India, whose people looked up to him as the least elitist of educated Indians. Coming from a background of poverty, Gokhale was a real man of the people, a hero to young Indians discovering the new age and the prospects of the coming 20th century; he worked amongst common Indians to encourage education, sanitation and public development. He actively spoke against ignorance, casteism and untouchability in Indian society. Gokhale was also reputed for working for trust and friendship between Hindu and Muslim communities. It should be remembered that Gokhale was a pioneer in this work, never done before in Indian history by Indians. Along with distinguished colleagues like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Dadabhai Naoroji, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Annie Besant, Gokhale fought for decades to obtain greater political representation and power over public affairs for common Indians. He was moderate in his views and attitudes, and sought to petition the British authorities, cultivate a process of dialogue and discussion which would yield greater British respect for Indian rights. In 1906, he and Tilak were the respective leaders of the moderates and extremists (now known by the more politically correct term,'aggressive nationalists') in the Congress. Tilak advocated civil agitation and direct revolution to overthrow the British Empire, and the Congress Party split into two wings. The two sides would patch up in 1916. Gokhale did not support explicit Indian independence, for such an idea was not even understood or expressed until after the World War I.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale's biggest contribution to India was as a teacher, nurturer of a whole new generation of leaders conscious to their responsibilities to a wider nation. Gokhale was famously a mentor to a young barrister who had been blooded in the work of revolution in South Africa a few years earlier. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi received great warmth and hospitality from Gokhale, including personal guidance, knowledge and understanding of India, the issues of common Indians and Indian politics. By 1920, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would become known as Mahatma Gandhi, and ad the leader of nationalist Indians and the largest non-violent revolution in the history of the world. However, Gokhale himself died in 1915. In his autobiography, Gandhi calls Gokhale his mentor and guide, while Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the future founder of Pakistan, in 1912 wanted to become the "Muslim Gokhale," "Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity."