Tilak’s legacy continues to be significant for India-Myanmar cultural ties

India-Myanmar ties are rooted in decades of shared ethnic, cultural and historical bonds. The ties date back to when India was struggling to gain independence from the British.
In the early 20th century, Britain had charged Bal Gangadhar Tilak with sedition and intensifying racial animosity between Indians and the British, and incarcerated him for six years in Burmese prison of Mandalay from 1908 to 1914.
However, this period later turned out to be a key contributor to the foundation of the India-Burma cultural ties as a prominent book Geeta Rahasya (an analysis of ‘Karma Yoga’, one of the three spiritual paths in Hinduism mentioned in Bhagavad Gita) written by Tilak during his jail tenure was looked upon by Indian side to assess and improve relations with its neighbor.
The book is now available in multiple languages including Burmese. Celebrating Tilak’s legacy and contribution to the Indian freedom struggle, the Consulate General of India in Mandalay recently organized an event to mark the 100th death anniversary of Indian nationalist and freedom fighter, Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
The event also marked the century-old cultural relationship between the two sides that was said to have been established after Tilak’s imprisonment in Burma.
Indian ambassador to Myanmar, Saurabh Kumar said, “Lokmanya was a great patriot, father of our freedom movement. He has a connection with Mandalay, then Burma, which is now called Myanmar. From 1908 to 1914, he spent six years of his life in Mandalay. He was here under incarceration in the British colonial rule. He spent the time out here in deep thinking, reflection and reading, which resulted in a very prominent book called Geeta Rahasya, which is a study of the Bhagavad Gita.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted on the occasion saying that “India bows to Lokmanya Tilak on his 100th Punya Tithi. His intellect, courage, sense of justice and idea of Swaraj continue to inspire.”
Post-Indian independence, the two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951. Since then, a number of agreements enhancing bilateral cooperation have been signed between the two sides.
New Delhi’s ‘Look East’ policy has provided a fresh impetus to the relationship between two sides and both countries are now looking to engage at more than one more front to further consolidate their ties.