Veer Savarkar- In the den of the British lion

1906 was the year, the All India Muslim League would be founded in Dacca. The roots though were laid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1886, through the All Indian Muhammadan Educational Conference. It was ostensibly to promote a modern, liberal education for the Muslim community in India, and it drove what was called the Aligarh Movement.  The movement was so called after the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College in Aligarh, founded in 1875, which in future would become the Aligarh Muslim University. More pro-British in nature, the Aligarh movement, aimed to provide a modern, British style education to Muslims, as opposed to the more orthodox Deoband School.  It also simplified the traditional writing style of Urdu, and made it to a more simple style, for the masses to understand. It was at the 1906 session of the All Indian Muhammadan Educational Conference, at Dacca, where the Muslim League would take root. It was also a response to the Congress protest against the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905.

Amidst the backdrop of such a societal churning, and increasing polarization between Hindus and Muslims, Savarkar left for London in the same year. London, one of the world’s greatest cities, the den of the British lion, the very hub of the empire that controlled close to 2/3rd of the world. It was also a refuge for revolutionaries across the world, the Irish, the Russians, the Anarchists and now the Indian rebels.  Savarkar ostensibly went to London for studying law, however his main aim was to organize the revolution, and carry on the freedom struggle from abroad. And for which he needed a meeting spot, a mentor, and financial support.

Shyamji Krishna Verma

All of which was provided by a genial, bearded, soft spoken gentleman with a warm smile, Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma. The soft spoken gentleman, a Sanskrit scholar heavily influenced by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, had a flourishing legal practice in India. A close associate of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he moved to England, where he would set up the India House in 1900. He used his money to fund scholarships for students arriving in London, named after two of his greatest influences, Swami Dayananda and Herbert Spencer. Through the Indian Sociologist a magazine started by him, he began to spread the ideas of nationalism among Indian students in London.

India House London

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True to his name, Shyamji was the Krishna to Savarkar’s Arjun, guiding him in the battlefield. The Kurukshetra here was London itself, the den of the British lion, where Savarkar began his battle.  Continuing from where he had left off in India, Savarkar established the Free India Society in 1906 in London. It was not an easy task, he had to deal with an entire generation of Indian students, who were more English than the British themselves. Decades of colonial education, had brainwashed the average Indian into believing that British rule was a blessing, and that they indeed bought civilization to a backward nation. Savarkar began to change that, holding weekly meetings explaining the ill effects of British rule. He also organized the anniversaries of great heroes like Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, and grand celebrations of Dussehra, Dipavali.

Bhikaji Cama

Senapati Bapat

Lala Hardayal

Bhai Parmanand

And soon they began to flock to him, from all corners of India, drawn by a single purpose the freedom of India.  From the city of Mumbai, came Madame Bhikaji Cama and Senapati Bapat. From the South came V.V.S. Aiyar and P.T.Acharya. From the plains of Punjab, came Lala Hardayal and Bhai Parmanand. From the North there was Gyanchand Verma, while from Nizam occupied Hyderabad, came Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, the brother of Sarojini Naidu. Men and women from different cultures, regions, backgrounds, but all united by one single desire, an independent India.  However the Muslim students from India in London kept away from India House. When Abdulla Suharwardy wanted to join, Sir Ziauddin Ahmed warned him with the following words

“You know that we have a definite political policy at Aligarh, i.e. the policy of Sir Syed. Do you really believe that the Muslims will be profited if Home Rule is granted to India? What I call the Muslim policy is really the policy of all the Muslims generally – of those of Upper India particularly.”

And so did Asaf Zaki who wrote to Pandit Shaymji that he did not want to antagonize his Muslim friends unnecessarily, by associating with the nationalist. The fact is Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and later the Muslim League had successfully brainwashed Muslims into believing, that freedom would mean a Hindu dominated India, where they would have no space. Barring a few like Ashfaqullah, most Muslims deliberately kept aloof from the freedom movement, and tacitly supported the British too.

On the other hand, Savarkar was going full steam ahead through his pamphlets and books. Being an admirer of the Italian nationalist leader Mazinni, Savarkar translated his autobiography into Marathi. And he got this published by his brother Babarao Savarkar at Nasik, in 1907, and through the book, he began to spread the message of revolutionary struggle for freedom. An admirer of Sikhism, he learnt Gurumukhi, read the Adi Granth and Pantha-Surya Prakash. Though pamphlets which he called Khalsa, Savarkar exhorted the Sikh soldiers to fight for independence against their British masters.

The British used to celebrate May Day in commemoration of their victory over the Indian revolutionaries during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Savarkar countered this propaganda, by calling 1857 as the First War of Indian Independence and decided to celebrate it all over London. Badges were worn, homage paid to the heroes of the 1857 Revolt and soon a wave of patriotism swept over the Indians living in United Kingdom.  The British media bitterly attacked Pandit Shyamji Varma,  and he had to leave for Paris, leaving India House in the care of Savarkar.

The Free India Society in the meantime,  reverberated with highly intellectual discussions on political philosophy, that provided an inspiration to the revolutionaries.   The discussions were read out in India, via letters that Savarkar sent from London, and soon they began to ignite the feelings of nationalism.  With his oratory, intelligence, Savarkar had the India House under his control firmly. Even those who disagreed with his political views, could never find fault with his sincerity and integrity.  Savarkar also had the vision to realize the importance of international engagement.  He got his pamphlets, letters translated into French, English, German, Russian to spread his thoughts wider. He wanted his message to reach out to a global audience, and get their support for India’s freedom struggle. He took the cause of Indian freedom on to the world stage with his speeches and letters.

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He was the one who deputed Madame Bhikaji Cama to the International Socialists Congress at Stuttgart, Germany in 1907, and ensured they moved a resolution on India’s independence. It was at this conference that Madame Cama, unfurled the flag of an independent India, which was designed by Savarkar himself. He also ensured that Indian revolutionaries of Abhinav Bharat were in close contact with those from Russia, Ireland, Egypt and China, all of whom were fighting in their own way against oppression.  Savarkar’s main aim was to forge an anti-British front on global level, against their empire, at a global level.  He had a four point plan to achieve liberation of India, through teaching of Swadeshi, Boycott of foreign goods, imparting a nationalist education, and using armed revolution. He helped in setting up small bomb factories, purchasing arms, adopting guerilla tactics where needed and also spreading the message in the armed forces.

Abhinava Bharat in the meantime, was publishing material desired to ignite the nationalist consciousness.  Senapati Bapat was sent to India to learn about bomb making, while pistols were smuggled  into India through Mirza Abbas and Sikander Khan, which then made their way into the hands of revolutionary groups. On the eve of the 1857 Anniversary,  Savarkar wrote a poem O Martyrs commemorating the heroes. This pamphlet distributed in Europe and India, aroused the consciousness against British rule.  Senapati Bapat meanwhile began to circulate the bomb making manual among important revolutionary hubs in Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal, the North.  One of those so inspired was Khudiram Bose, who threw a bomb at Muzaffarpur on April 30, 1908 at the carriage of a British official, killing it’s occupants. This singular act shook the whole of India.

With a rising nationalist feeling, the British struck back with more repression. Khudiram Bose was hanged, Aurobindo, Senapati Bapat had to go into exile. Some more were sentenced to the notorious Cellular Jail in Andamans, that included Savarkar’s brother Babarao. Savarkar was now regarded as one of the most dangerous of the rebels, a close watch was kept on India House by Scotland Yard.  Savarkar however  managed to win the sympathy and support of the Irish police in Scotland Yard, tactfully. Add to it Abhinav Bharat itself had it’s own agents inside Scotland Yard.

The emotional Bengali calls along the whole world to witness his deeds. The Chitpavan Brahmin whose bent of mind is far practical works in silence. Even as the Bengali did the shouting it was Pune that provided the brains that directed the Bengali extremists.- Sir Valentine Chirol

And this was what actually made him really dangerous.  He was not of the emotional impulsive type, rather he was absolutely cold and calculating. He was the mastermind, the brains behind the scene, that ran the whole operation. Possessed with the power to discriminated logically, and a very balanced mind, mindless rhetoric was not something he believed in. He did not believe in the romantic notion of revolutionary martyrdom. He was more of a realist, who believed in surviving to fight another day. Instead of blind action, for him the timing and purpose was far more important.  When Senapati Bapat wanted to bomb the House of Commons, Savarkar dissuaded him,  as he did not want the British to know that Indians had mastered the art of bomb making. For him revolution without purpose, had no meaning, he believed in planning and results.


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Shiva Temples in Telugu States.

What does one say of a language and a region, that takes it’s name from a belief that Shiva descended on three mountains there? The ancient name of the Telugu states is Trilinga Desa,  meaning the “Land of the 3 Lingas”. It is believed that the Telugu language gets it’s name from this too.  It’s believed that Shiva descended in the form of 3 Lingas located at Kaleswaram in Telangana, Srisailam in Rayalaseema and Draksharamam in Coastal Andhra, which made up the Trilinga Desa. The belief apart both the Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have had a close connect with Shaivism. This is a place, where you have the Pancharamas, the 5 Temples dedicated to Shiva, as well as one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas at Sri Sailam and one of the Panchabhuta Lingams at Sri Kalahasti.

Pancharama Kshetras are so called, after the 5 temples dedicated to Shiva, in Coastal Andhra.  All the Shivalingas at the five temples were derived from a single Linga. Apparently this massive Shiva Linga, was owned by the Asura ruler Tarakasura, which made him practically invincible. It was finally Kumara Swamy who attacked Tarakasura and used his Shakti to kill him. However Kumara Swamy discovered that the torn apart pieces of Tarakasura’s body, would rejoin again and again, frustrating his efforts. It was then Vishnu advised him to break the Shiva Lingam, which Taraka was wearing into 5 pieces.He also cautioned Kumara Swamy, that the pieces of the Linga would again reunite, so they should be fixed to the spot.

Soon Kumara Swamy, used the Aagnesthra, the fire weapon, to break the Shiva Linga, and then Surya fixed those pieces, by fastening them with nails and building temples over them. If one notices the five Shivalingas here have scaly markings, believed to be due to the Agneshtra. Now the five different temples are collectively called as Pancharamas( 5 places of rest).

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Amararamam, is located at Amaravati, in Guntur district, and the reigning deity is Amaralingeswara Swamy. The name comes from the fact that Amarendra installed the Shiva Linga here. Located on the Southern bank of the Krishna River, Bala Chamundika is the consort of Amaralingeswara Swamy. The temple is noted for it’s massive Shiva Linga, that covers two floors.

The temple was developed by Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, the ruler of Dharanikota, and a devotee of Amaralingeswara. It was also a penace for him, to atone for his act of massacring the Chenchus, in order to put down a revolt. He not only renovated the temple, but also appointed 9 Archakas, provided them with the means of livelihood.

Draksharama located in East Godavari district, near the town of Ramachandrapuram, is also the most picturesque, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.

Shiva here is called as Bhimeswara Swamy, and the Shiva Linga was believed to be installed by Surya himself here.It is believed that Draksharama was where the infamous Daksha Yagna took place, and that is the reason no yagna happens at this temple. It is also called as Dakshina Kasi, and Shakti here is Manikyamba Ammavaru. The pond here is believed to contain the waters of the Sapta Godavari.

The Shiva Linga at Draksharama again is quite tall, and one part of it lies in the basement floor, only the top part is seen.Another legend of Draksharama goes that the outer wall could not be completed in time, to date it still remains incomplete.The Draksharama Temple is one of the oldest in Andhra, dating back to 10th century, built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukya king of Vengi.

Somarama Temple, Bhimavaram

Somarama located at Bhimavaram, is the 3rd of the Pancharamas, and the Shiva Linga here is believed to be installed by Chandra. The front of the temple has a pond called Chandrakundam covered with flowers.It’s believed that Chandra, got rid of his sins by worshipping Shiva here, and hence the name Somaramam one of the Pancharamas.The unique aspect about the Shivalinga at Somarama, is that it keeps changing it’s color, based on the phases of the moon.During Pournami, the Shivlinga at Somarama turns full white in color, and during Amavasya, it turns a shade of black.A very unique aspect of this temple is that the temple of Annapurna, is built on top of the Shiva temple, which you do not find anywhere. Shakti is worshiped here as Sri Rajarajeswari Ammavaru.

Ksheerarama Temple at Palakollu in West Godavari,is where Shiva is worshipped as Ksheera Ramalingeswara Swamy.It is believed that Upamanyu, son of Kaushika, requested Shiva for desired quantity of milk for ritual, and the Pushkarni overflowed with milk, which also accounts for name of Palakollu(Palu is the Telugu word for Milk).

Temple Complex as seen from the Main temple tower.

It is believed that Vishnu installed the Shiva Linga here, and Shakti is worshipped as Parvati Ammavaru. It is noted for it’s tall gopuram, and the temple itself covers around nine floors. The Shiva Linga here itself is milky white, and the mandapa with 72 black pillars is worth a visit. Palakollu is located on the Gosthani, one of the tributaries of Godavari river, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.

The Kumara Rama temple at Samarlakota, in E.Godavari dist, is the last of the Pancharamas, Shiva Linga here was installed by Karthikeya. Shiva is worshipped as Kumara Bhimeswara Swamy here and his consort is Bala Tripura Sundari. The temple was built during the time of the Chalukya ruler Bhima, hence the name too.The Shiva Linga at Kumara Rama is around 16 ft tall, rises to two floors and is made entirely of limestone.Again the temple is famous for it’s  100 pillar mandapa and an Ekasila Nandi at the entrance.

Kotappa Konda in Guntur dist, is one of the more well known Shaivite temples, the Tirunallu(Jatara) on Shivratri here draws massive crowds. Kotappakonda contains one of the older Saivite temples, dating back to around 1172 AD, located a hill at a height of 1587 feet.Located close to Narasaraopeta in Guntur dist, the Kotappakonda temple received regular grants during Krishnadeva Raya’s time.Surrounded by 3 peaks, Shiva at the Kotappakonda temple is referred to as Trikooteshwara Swamy.

The Kotappakonda temple is surrounded by 3 major peaks,which one can see from any angle, when you climb the hill.It is believed that Shiva imparted the knowledge of Brahman to the other Gods in the form of Dakshina Murthy at Kotappakonda.  As Dakshina Murthy had observed strict celibacy during his stay here, no marriages are conducted to date at the Kotappakonda temple. Trikutaparvam is another name for this place, as it is surrounded by 3 peaks, but people generally prefer to call it as Kotappakonda.

During the Shivratri festival at Kotappakonda, huge rectangular frames called Prabhas are carried in a procession.The temple can be reached through a long trek, that goes to a height of 1587 ft, though a ghat road has been laid too.While many devotees at Kotappakonda still prefer the trek, ghat road has been constructed for benefit of those who can’t walk all the way up.

Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple in Tadipatri, Anantapur is one of the ancient Shaivite temples in Andhra Pradesh.This was built during the 13th century, by Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka, the chieftain of Gandikota, and also the military commander of Vijayanagara Empire.

The temple here is known for it’s architectural excellence. The Shiva Linga here  is surrounded by water always, which in a way accounts for it’s name too, Bugga being the Telugu word for water drop. The ceilings of the temple are richly decorated with carvings.

Srikalahasti located near Tirupati, gets it”s name from the fact that a Spider(Sri), Snake(Kala) and Elephant(Hasti) worshiped Shiva here. The temple is one of the Panchabhuta Kshetras, others being Tiruvannamalai(Fire), Kanchi(Earth), Chidambaram(Sky), Jambukeshwara(Water).  Shiva is worshiped here as Vayu Linga, representing the Wind.While the Pallavas built the initial part of Srikalahasti, it was developed in later years by the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers.Srikalahasti also contains a shrine in honor of Kannappa, the tribal devotee of Lord Shiva, who had offered his eyes.

Vemulawada in Karimnagar dist of Telangana  has one of the older Shiva temples, dating back to the time of Chalukya rulers. The Rajarajeswara Temple at Vemulawada, Karimnagar is one of the older Shiva temples, dating centuries back. Shiva is worshiped as Raja Rajeshwara Swamy at Vemulawada, also more popularly referred to here as Rajanna, while the tank here is called as Dharmagundam.

Another well known Shaivitie Kshetra in Karimnagar dist is Kaleswaram, where Lord Shiva is worshiped along with Yama here. It is believed to be one of the Trilinga Kshetras , other two being Draksharama and Srisailam.

Here you have Shiva and Yama on the same platform  as Kaleshwara(Yama) and Muktheshwara(Shiva).

While Kurnool is well known for Srisailam, another equally famous Shiva Temple is at Mahanandi. Located amidst the Nallamalla hills, Mahanandi is also famous for it’s huge Nandi statue.

One of the main features of the Mahanandi Temple are the fresh water pools, Pushkarni dotting it.The  pushkarnis  are perennially filled with water, thanks to the springs here.

Alampur is also called as Dakshina Kasi and is noted for it’s Navabrahma Temples. Surrounded by the Nallamala hills, Alampur is a noted Shaivite center down South, and it’s temples constructed in the Chalukyan style of architecture, are worth a visit.

Sangameshwar temple at Alampur

Sangameshwar temple at Alampur

The Navabrahma temples are primarily 9 temples dedicated to Shiva,  dating back to the 7th century AD, built during the rule of the Badami Chalukyas. The Swarga Brahma temple is the most prominent of the lot, noted for it’s very ornate sculptures.

Alampur is also home to one of the 18 Shakti Peethas. These shrines are dedicated to Shakti.  Apparently when a grief stricken Shiva, was walking around with the corpse of Sati on his back, the Gods appealed to Vishnu to save them from his wrath. Vishnu cut the corpse into pieces with his Sudarshana Chakra, and the places where different parts of the body fell are revered as Shakti Peethas.  Alampur is where the teeth are believed to have fallen and Shakti is worshipped here as Jogulamba.  Incidentally another Shaktipeetha is also located on Krishna river at Srisailam, where the neck is believed to have fallen, and she is worshipped as Brahmaramba there.

And from Alampur, the Krishna traverses through some of the thickest forests and valleys, touching the sacred place of Srisailam, one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas. Shiva is worshiped here as Mallikarjuna, while Shakti is worshiped as Brahmaramba.  Incidentally Alampur is also believed to be one of the 4 gateways to Srisailam, the others being Tripurantakam( Prakasam dt, AP), Siddhavatam( near Kadapa), Umamaheswaram( Mahboobnagar dt, Telangana). Adi Shankar’s famous Sivananda Lahiri was composed here at Srisailam.

Srisailam is also famous for it’s huge dam and hydro electric project, that is one of the main sources of power for the Telugu states.


Srimukhalingam in Srikakulam dist, has the Shiva temples built in a Kalinga style of architecture, on the banks of the Vamsadhara River.

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Veer Savarkar- In Pune

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It was an irony of sorts, that a college meant to render a more nationalist form of education to fight against British rule, was named after a Scottish Governor of Bombay. Fergusson College was founded in Pune, 1885, by nationalist leaders Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar along with social reformer Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. It began originally as the New English School, and  later Tilak, Chiplunkar founded the Deccan Education Society in 1884.   Shirole, the Patil of Bhamburde village on West bank of Mutha River , now called as Shivaji Nagar, donated 37 acres of land, on a 99 year lease, for just one rupee.  Inaugurated by William Wordsworth, the grandson of the more illustrious poet of the same name, and the principal of Elphinstone College, it would become a crucible of the nationalist awakening in Maharashtra.

Pune, the city sheltered by the towering Sahayadri ranges, where Shivaji Maharaj grew up. The capital of the Peshwas, who built the numerous Wadas, that gave the city it’s distinct character. The cultural capital of Maharashtra, and the Oxford of India, to which aspiring scholars, writers, thinkers, academicians flocked.  It was the city which proved to be the epicenter of the nationalist, social reform movements that shaped Maharashtra in the early 20th century. It was the city that provided the spark to the revolutionary movement, when the Chapekar brothers shot dead W.C.Rand. The city where reformers like Karve, Phule, Ranade, fought for equal rights to women, abolition of untouchability. And on the other hand, Tilak, Gokhale led the agitation against the British rule here.

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It was into such an atmosphere, that Savarkar stepped into in 1902, at Fergusson College. Blessed with a clarity of thought and an ability to articulate, he soon impressed the students, and began to form his own group. They published a weekly called Aryan where Savarkar often wrote articles on nationalism, history, literature. One such brilliant article was Saptapadi, where he dwelt with the seven stages of evolution a nation had to undergo. He also studied Kalidasa and Bhavabuti, and was influenced by Milton and Shakespeare among the English writers. The revolutions in Italy, America influenced him a lot, and he would often give talks on their history.

His speeches on India’s glorious history, and her loss of freedom, enthralled other students, and infused a sense of nationalism in them. In response to Tilak’s call for Swadeshi, he used only those goods made in India. While Savarkar, looked up to Tilak, as a mentor, and guide, the latter saw the fire and spirit in the young boy. It was around this time too that the differences between the Moderates and Extremists in Congress was coming to a head. Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal in 1905, and there was a massive protest against it. While the Muslims welcomed the decision, the Hindus of Bengal rose in unison against. The protests spread all over the nation, and Tilak was at the forefront in bringing it on center stage. Savarkar by now was fully in the struggle, and responding to Tilak’s call, he appealed for the boycott of foreign goods and clothes. He also led the first major bonfire of foreign goods and clothes in Pune. Soon Savarkar, became a name to be reckoned with in Pune’s social and political circles with his activism.

Savarkar’s action however did not go down well with the Moderates, who criticized him in the Indu Prakash, one of their papers. He was expelled from Fergusson by the Principal and fined ten rupees for his act. Savarkar became the first Indian student to be rusticated in this manner, as also the first Indian leader to make a bonfire of foreign cloth. However Gandhi as well as Gokhale, criticized the act, the schism between the Moderates and Extremists was deepening even more. Ironically Gandhi himself would lead the bonfire of foreign made goods, later during the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1921.  These activities did not affect Savarkar’s studies,  he passed the BA exam with distinction, and his fame as a writer was spreading wide now.

His ballads on Tanaji and Baji Prabhu, proscribed by the British, were an inspiration to the youth. Those ballads became popular folk songs in Maharashtra, and soon became an inspiration to the ordinary people, to revolt. One of the essays was on why we should celebrate the anniversaries of great leaders, where Savarkar stated it was our way of paying gratitude to those great men. He stated, that these anniversaries were a mark of remembrance, and were sanctified by our ancient tradition of remembering the ancestors.

Savarkar openly wore his Hindu identity on his sleeve, one of his essays concluded with very prophetic words-“Hindus are responsible for the poverty and disorganization of Hindustan. But if they ever desire to attain prosperity, they must remain Hindus”. This assertion was bold, audacious, and a departure of sorts from the current struggle, that stressed on Hindu-Muslim unity. Around 1904, the Mitra Mela founded by him, changed it’s name to Abhinav Bharat. It was now a society of around 100 select members, and inspired by Young Italy of Mazinni, a leader who was an inspiration to Savarkar.  After his graduation in Pune, Savarkar went to Mumbai for studying law, where he continued his political activites unabated. He began to contribute to a local weekly named Vihari, which soon became an unofficial mouthpiece for Abhinava Bharat. By now he was the leader of the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra, and looked up to by other freedom fighters.


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Veer Savarkar-The Woman in his life

Yamunabai Savarkar(Left) with daughter Prabhat and son Vishwas.

(The second in a part of my series on Savarkar, this time on the woman in his life, Yamunabai Savarkar, aka Mai).

“Behind every successful man is a woman” so goes the common saying. While we are familiar with Veer Savarkar, not many know about the woman in his life, Yamunabai Savarkar or more affectionately known as Mai. Her real name was Yashoda, and she came from a background, totally different to that of Veer Savarkar’s. Where her husband came from a modest family, supported by his elder brother, she came from a rich and influential family. Born to Ramchandra Trimbak aka Bhaurao and Lakshmibai aka Manutai Chiplunkar in Thane district on Dec 4,1888, her real name was Yashoda. Her father Bhaurao Chiplunkar was the Dewan of the principality of Jawahar in Thane District, and she grew up in the lap of luxury. Fondly called Jiji, she was unassuming and down to earth inspite of coming from a very wealthy background. She was friends with Savarkar’s sister in law Yashoda, wife of his elder brother Babarao. The Chiplunkars were good friends with the Savarkar family, and Bhaurao was impressed by Vinayak’s intellect, his erudition, his integrity. It was Savarkar’s Mama, who bought forth  the alliance, and Bhaurao agreed to bear Savarkar’s educational expenses too.  Vinayak in turn, greatly respected Bhaurao, and saw in him the father figure he had missed early in life.

Ramchandra Chiplunkar, his father in law.

Mai and Vinayak entered into wedlock at Nashik in February 1901, she entered into his home and soon imbibed her husband’s nationalism and patriotic spirit. Fond of singing, she lent voice to Vinayak’s patriotic poems and ballads, and make the other women members of the family memorize them. She became a member of the Atmanishtha Yuvati Samaj, a body started for women by Babarao’s wife Yashoda, to inculcate the nationalist feelings in women, and make them politically aware. Their meetings would typically begin with the patriotic songs of Aba Darekar, and then would read out Savarkar’s poems and his anti British articles from the Keshari. The members were required to take the following oath.

In the name of the Motherland, Shivaji Raja who won freedom through war and Bhavani Mata who gives strength, I hereby give witness before Shivaji and Bhavani Durga Devi that I shall use swadeshi goods only, love my country more than my life, strive for my country’s freedom and help those who are doing so.

The ladies of the group wore glass bangles made in India only, and only coarse hand made cloth. They felicitated Tilak’s wife Satyabhama Bai when she visited Nashik, and in 1908, they also raised funds for the defense of him in court.

Bhaurao Chiplunkar bore the educational expenses of Savarkar, in fact he helped him to get admission into Pune’s prestigious Fergusson College. Vinayak in turn would visit Mai, regularly at Jawahar, and his epic poem Kamala was based on her to an extent. They had a son named Prabhakar born in 1905, who unfortunately died of small pox when Vinayak was in London.It was not an easy life for Mai, her husband and his entire family were under constant surveillance by the British. Just 15 days after Prabhakar had passed away, Vinayak’s elder brother Babarao, was arrested and deported for life to the infamous Cellular Jail in Andamans. When Savarkar was arrested, after his epic escape at Marseilles and bought to India for trial, Mai went all the way to Nashik to see him. She had to travel on horseback from Trimbakeswar to Nashik along with her brother to meet her husband in prison. Even worse, fearing the wrath of the British, none of her friends gave her shelter, and she had to spend all the night in heavy rain at a temple in Nashik. She finally met her husband, and they spent around 45 minutes together. When Veer Savarkar was sentenced to life at Cellular Jail, she accepted her fate stoically. However when she saw him in chains at the Dongri prison in Mumbai, she became emotional and almost broke down. It was then Veer Savarkar advised her.

If the Almighty shows compassion, we shall meet again.  Till then, if you are ever tempted by the thought of an ordinary family life, remember that if producing children and collecting a few twigs to build a home is to be called married life, then such a life is led by crows and sparrows as well.  But if a nobler meaning is to be given to married life, then we are blessed to have lead a life fit for human beings.  By breaking our hearth and utensils, golden smoke may ensue from thousands of homes in future.  And did not plague render our homes desolate when we were building them?  Face the odds bravely.

To which Mai replied-“We are trying to do just that.  As far as we are concerned, we have each other.  If you take care of yourself, we shall feel fulfilled.”. Savarkar reassured her that he would take care and walked around with the manacles raised.

After a decade of separation from her husband, she was finally reunited with him in Ratnagiri, and she supported him whole heartedly in his campaign for social reform. When Ratnagiri was stuck by plague in May 1924, his younger brother Narayan bought Babarao and Mai to Mumbai. Vinayak could however not leave Ratnagiri, as the British Govt had placed him under house arrest. Finally in June 1924, he was permitted to go to Nashik, and after he was sometime he was in Mumbai till November, before he had to come back to Ratnagiri. Later they had a daughter named Prabhat in January 1925, and another daughter Shalini who however died in infancy. When Mahatma Gandhi came to Ratnagiri, in 1927, he personally called on Savarkar at his home, as the latter was not feeling well. Mai and Kasturba spent time together, too sharing pleasantries in the kitchen. They had another child, this time a boy named Vishwas in March 1928.

In 193o, Mai chaired a public meeting of women at the Vithal Mandir in Ratnagiri to propagate Swadeshi, that was attended by Dalit women too.Mai also took part in the inter community dining of women organized in 1932, at Ratnagiri, on the occasion of the visit of the Satyashodak leader Madhavrao Bagal. She along with Savarkar organized an Akhil Hindu Yagna, and in 1936 a holy palanquin, was taken out on occasion of Akhil Hindu  Nama Saptah consecrated by Mai.One of the largest inter community dinner was organized for women of all castes at the Patit Pavan Mandir in Ratnagiri, and Mai along with Ms.Mundkur, the wife of the Dy Collector attended it. She was felicitated by ladies of the Chitpavan Brahmin Sangh in 1941,and she later attended an Akhil Hindu Tilgul function, saying “The nation is my home”.

When Savarkar could not attend a Hindu Mahasabha convention in Pune, due to the volatile atmosphere after Gandhi’s assassination, Mai appeared on his behalf. She was felicitated with the traditional sari, a gold necklace, some cash. M.S.Dixit who wrote a small biography of Mai, Shantabhai Gokhale, Godumai Khare, Saraswatibai Kanikar were among those who spoke admiringly of Mai’s sterling qualities. And finally Mai’s thanks giving speech was read out by Sushilabai Gokhale, which said

Hindu sisters!  In my childhood, the secret society ‘Abhinav Bharat’ had several ladies’ branches.  In one of these branches and on the instructions of my late sister-in-law Yesuvahini, I took an oath to sacrifice everything for the glory of the Hindu Dharma and for the freedom of Hindusthan.  Many of my relatives and friends who undertook this sacred mission (vrat) along with me had their homes and family life destroyed due to this.  Many women who lost their husbands for the cause of Dharma in the prime of their youth laid down their lives pining in vain for their husbands.  In the last 4-5 years, several thousands of our Hindu sisters have surpassed Chittod of yore and performed jauhars (self-immolation) in Kashmir, Sind and Bengal provinces.   How can one mention their sacred names that run in thousands?  If I mention only the names of those brave Hindu sisters whom I know without mentioning the names of those brave Hindu sisters, I shall be in a sense committing partiality.  Hence, at the outset, I humbly and gratefully salute thousands of those brave Hindu women who laid down their lives to protect the Hindu Rashtra and Hindu Dharma.  And then, all I say for myself is that the Almighty gave me courage to do my duty to the best of my ability.  What is a Tulsi leaf?   But when it is offered at the Divine feet and dries up, even the saints rub it on their foreheads.  My own condition today is no different.  I am but a bundle of dried flowers and leaves.  I was fortunate enough to have fallen at the Divine feet.  That is why great women like you are felicitating the dried flowers that my life is.  But truly, this felicitation is not of the dried flowers but of the Master himself.  To conclude, my message to the rising generations is that we should protect the freedom and self-rule that we gained through our valour.

Mai soon became a grandmother when her daughter Prabhat gave birth to a son in 1949, and her son Vishwas to a daughter in 1953. However by 1956, Mai soon became ill, and was kept at AK Talwalkar’s Nursing Home in Dadar. Though she came back home, Mai was again struck with lyphoma in 1956 and bought back to Dadar. In the meantime Veer Savarkar’s health too was not good, he had suffered a fracture, and the long time he spent in Cellular Jail had broken him down. Finally she passed away on Nov 8, 1963, Veer Savarkar almost swooned when he heard of it. The woman who had walked with him in life, been by his side in the worst of his times, was no more.”Mai has passed, her life has been fulfilled”. As willed by him, her body was not kept in state, but taken straight to the crematorium. He himself did not attend her cremation, did not desire any public emotion. As he said “I have already bid farewell to Mai. I do not feel up to it to go there.” 

Mai was a simple woman, who walked shoulder to shoulder with her husband, took care of his needs. She was a true Sita of modern times. She ensured his clothes were always neatly ironed, and managed the family within very modest means. Considering she came from a very rich family, she adjusted wonderfully within her husband’s very humble household. She spent time in the garden watering plants just to be with Savarkar. Though he himself was an atheist, and did not perform Puja, he neverthless gave full freedom to Mai to do it, which he just observed. He ensured his numerous public engagements did not burden Mai in her household work. She not only supported him in his social reform campaign, but also took care of a Dalit girl, whom Savarkar adopted and bought into the home. When a mob descended on Savarkar Sadan, after Gandhi’s assassination, she bravely faced it with a stick in her hand. A truly great woman of strength, character and integrity, and the worthy wife of a great man, that was Mai.


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Veer Savarkar- A Hero is Born

(Veer Savarkar has been one of my heroes. One of the most fascinating, multi talented personalities ever. Freedom fighter, nationalist, activist, thinker, writer and sadly a very misunderstood personality too. Here was some one who braved the worst form of imprisonment at Cellular Jail for not one year, two years, but a whole decade. Imagine spending ten years in a hellhole, that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man.
There is so much about Savarkar to be told, his fight for independence, his Hindutva philosophy, his stay in Cellular Jail.This series of mine is to show case the truth behind Veer Savarkar, who is being portrayed by the Leftists as a traitor, when he was not. This will be a long series covering his entire life, works, philosophy in detail).Image result for veer savarkar

Bhagur is one of these sleepy, small towns in Maharashtra, a small dot on the map, a town where every one knows each other. Located in Nashik district, adjoining the Army cantonment of Deolali, the town lies astride the Darna River. The Balakwade Gymnasium here was the crucible in which many a great Maratha warrior was forged during the rule of Shivaji Maharaj and later the Peshwas. Navji Balawkade who took part in the conquest of Sinhgad and Lohgad, Sardar Bhaoji Balakwade, Yesaji Balakwade who took part in the epic battle of Kazi Gadhi, and rescued Nashik from the clutches of the Mughals.Currently the town is much like any of the small towns in the countryside, a smattering of homes, narrow streets, some shops, a lazy sleepy air.

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Veer Savarkar’s Home in Bhagur

There would be nothing unremarkable though about the person born in one of the homes there on May 28, 1883. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, better known as Veer Savarkar to many, was born on that auspicious date to Damodarpant Savarkar and Radhabai, the second of four children. Coincidentally the year in which he was born had seen, the passing away of two great icons of nationalism- Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Vasudev Balwant Phadke. Born as Mool Shankar in Gujarat, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, invigorated the sleeping Hindu masses with his clarion call of “Back to the Vedas”. Leading a crusade against social evils, he urged Hindus to rediscover the roots of their glorious religion, and rise against the oppressive British rule. He founded the Arya Samaj, which would be a nursery of sorts for many a great freedom fighter like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Swami Shraddhanand from there.  Vasudev Balwant Phadke who led the first major armed revolt against the British, passed away in a prison cell in Aden, pining for the freedom of his motherland.

Veer Savarkar would combine the fierce, revolutionary zeal of Phadke, with Swami Dayananda’s intelligence and exploration of Hinduism, to forge an identity of his own. He was a fierce fighter, and also a brilliant thinker and writer, who would forge a new ideology in Hindutva. Savarkar was a Chitpavan Brahmin, a community that gave us freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Phadke, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, as well as reformers like M.G.Ranade and Dhondo Keshav Karve. The great Peshwas of Pune also were from the same community. .  It’s believed that Parashuram,  the sixth avatar of Vishnu, was searching for Brahmins, to do the penance ritual after his slaughter of the Kshatriyas.  Finding no Brahmins, he found around fourteen bodies washed up on the sea shore, burnt them, breathed life into them, and bestowed the status of Brahmin on them.  As they had emerged from the funeral pyre( Chit) and purified by it( Paavan), it also became the name of the community.

To understand Savarkar more, however one needs to look into the context of the era when he was born. The year in which he was born was the one where Robert Louis Stevenson enthralled readers with Treasure Island and a fictional character named Pinocchio was born, who would capture the imagination of the children. It was a year in which the Krakatoa volcano would erupt with a massive explosion, and the resulting tsunami would wipe out 163 villages and kill more than 38,000 people.

India was at the cusp of a great social and political upheaval, after the 1857 Revolt had been brutally crushed by the British. Savarkar incidentally called it the First War of Independence, and his book on it, was banned by the British Government as being too seditious. The crushing of the 1857 Revolt, meant that the British were now the sovereign masters of India. It also meant they created a whole educated class, that believed anything Indian was inferior, and it was the Western civilization that was the greatest. Caught between a self loathing, educated class, indifferent to the plight of her people, and the ordinary masses, who were drained of their spirit, energy, and had become a victim to casteism, superstition, ignorance, India was passing through her darkest phase.  The British had physically destroyed India, ruined it’s economy, and worse had brainwashed a whole lot of people, into believing they were actually civilizing India.

The educated classes had become slaves of the British rule, the masses were drained of spirit, and meekly accepted their oppression, putting it down to their destiny. The darkest times, however often throw up some of the greatest heroes, and it was then during the late 19th century and early 20th century, that the awakening took place. “Arise, Awake and Stop Not till the Goal is Reached”, thundered a young monk named Swami Vivekananda from Kolkata, and showcased the greatness of Hinduism to the West, and to fellow Indians. “Back to the Vedas” roared Swami Dayananda Saraswati, as he urged Hindus to go back to their roots and discover the greatness of their ancient civilization. And inspired by the clarion call, a lawyer by name of Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak would defiantly proclaim “Swarajya is my birthright” in the court. He would also begin the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav, to promote unity among Hindus, and ignite the spirit of nationalism.It was an era of nationalist awakening, of a consciousness arising among people of the glories of ancient India and Hinduism. It was an era, that would lay the foundation for the nationalist movement, which would rise like a tidal wave against the entrenched British establishment.

Like most of the Chitpavan Brahmins, Savarkar’s ancestors originally hailed from the Konkan region. During the Peshwa rule, they were one of the more prominent families, and also had the Jagirdari of Rahgur, a small village in Ahmednagar district. Known for their eminence in Sanskrit scholarship, his ancestors were widely respected and also enjoyed the honor of being carried in the palanquin. His father Damodarpant, took pride in his roots,  and the glorious past of ancient India, while his mother Radhabai was a pious and beautiful lady.  Vinayak was the second of four children, he had an elder brother Ganesh, a sister Mainabai and the youngest of them all Narayan.  His parents would recite several passages from the Mahabharat and Ramayan, as also the stories of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and the great Peshwas.  The stories of the great heroes, as also the moral values of the epics, left a deep impression on Vinayak’s mind, and he would draw inspiration from them later in his life. Being a bright student, he excelled in studies at school, and was a voracious reader. He was writing poems at an age of just ten years, and newspapers in Pune published them, not even knowing they were written by a small boy. An insatiable thirst for knowledge, an elephantine memory, a voice that impressed listeners, made Vinayak a remarkable personality. For all his intelligence and knowledge, Vinayak however was as normal as any school going child, full of mischief and who loved to play.

In June 1893, communal riots broke out in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, between Hindus and Muslims, and later in Mumbai too. The reports of the atrocities of Muslims on Hindus reached Vinayak, who vowed to pay back, his blood boiling with anger. Leading a bunch of school mates, he attacked the local mosque, broke it’s windows, it was his initiation into direct action. The seeds of political activism and revolution were laid in him at that instant.  Though the Muslims hit back, Savarkar along with his friends managed to beat them back. Soon he was training and organizing a group in the village.

It was around this time that Vinayak moved to Nashik, which then was in the throes of a revolutionary movement.  A deadly plague had struck Pune somewhere in the end of 1896, and by January 1897, the entire city was engulfed in an epidemic. The British adopted draconian measures to combat the epidemic in March 1897. Barging into private homes, examining the occupants, forcibly removing personal possessions, segregating families into camps. The high handedness of the British officers, and their rough measures, infuriated the people of Pune, who had to bear the brunt. It was around this time,  Balkrishna, Damodar and Vasudev also called as the Chapekar brothers, assassinated the commissioner W.C.Rand , unpopular for his draconian measures.

The assassination of Rand by the Chapekar Brothers was carried out on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s rule. And the brothers were hanged for their act, a spark that would set aflame the fire of the revolutionary movement in India. The sacrifice of the brothers would inspire generations of revolutionaries to come against the oppressive British rule.  Vinayak was one of them,  who resolved to not let their sacrifice go in vain, and dedicate his life to the freedom of Indian from the British rule. Meanwhile he continued to impress the teachers with his intelligence, knowledge and eloquence at Nashik. The way he managed to get the words flowing, the depth of his knowledge and his outspoken views , made him a born leader and speaker.

Along with his friends Mhaskare, Page and Baburao, he formed the Mitra Mela in 1900 that would strive to inculcate a nationalist feeling among people, and play a role in driving out the British.  He initiated youth choosen by him for their revolutionary ideal into the group. Soon this group would become the destination for revolutionaries in Maharashtra, drawn to it like bees, seeking the nectar of nationalist spirit. It would later become the well known Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904, a hub for revolutionary activity in Central and Western India, and also spreading it’s activities abroad to England, France, US, where Indians were either studying or working. The motto of Abhinav Bharat was revolution by armed forced to drive out the British and secure freedom for India.

Spreading knowledge about the oppression of the British rule, as well as the glory of India, Vinayak,  invigorated the youth and planted the seeds of nationalist thought in their minds. Soon the Mitra Mela, was a major presence in Nashik, and used major religious festivals like Ganesh Puja, Dussehra to propagate it’s nationalist ideology among people. The Mitra Mela members also endeared themselves to the people of Nashik, through a plethora of social service activities. Any one was welcome into the Mitra Mela, with no distinction of caste or creed. Through his poems Savarkar aroused the feelings of patriotism and revolution among the masses. One of those poems was sung at Raigad Fort in the presence of Tilak by a group of ballad singers.

However Savarkar still managed to do well in his academics, emerging into a top class debater, an eloquent speaker and a first rate writer. He was more inspired by the extremists in Congress especially the Lal-Bal-Pal trio of Lala Lajpat Rai, Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, which in a way molded his own ideology too. The extremists rejected any dialog with the British Government and demanded nothing less than Purna Swaraj, instead of merely pushing petitions. Enrolling in the prestigious Fergusson College in Pune in 1902, that was founded by Tilak himself, Savarkar plunged himself headlong now into the freedom struggle.  He also had ample assistance from his brother Ganesh, affectionately called as Babarao, who took over the family responsibility, when his parents passed away. It was Babarao, who was his main pillar of support in his student years, who stood by him always.


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Coorg a tiny district in the state of Karnataka, is often called the “Scotland of India” for it’s lush green beauty, rolling hills and valleys, forests, lakes.  The term was actually given by Scotsmen, who began the coffee plantations there, as the place reminded them of their native land. Nestled in Karnataka’s Western Ghats, it was actually a separate Coorg state, before it was merged with Mysore in 1956, during the States Reorganization.  While very much a part of Karnataka, the region maintains its own distinct identity. Though Kannada is the official language, the inhabitants mostly speak Kodava, Tulu and Arebashe. The Kodavas, take pride in their martial traditions, carry guns, and their most famous dish is a mixture of steamed rice balls and pork curry. Known for it’s huge coffee plantations, it is one of India’s leading coffee producers. It is the place where the Kaveri originates at Talakaveri, and every year thousands of tourists visit the region, to experience it’s natural beauty, forests, waterfalls and hills.  It has one of the grandest  Dussehra celebrations on par with Mysore.  It is a region, known for it’s high literacy rate, where education is given a priority.  Considered as the cradle of Indian hockey, the region has given some outstanding players like M.P.Ganesh, M.M.Somaiyya, S.V.Sunil, as also champion athletes like Aswhini Nachappa in athletes, Rohan Bopanna in Tennis, Ashwini Ponappa in badminton and Robin Uthappa in cricket. In the tinsel word, some of the leading Kannada actresses like Prema, Daisy Bopanna. But above all, the region has given some of the finest defense officers to  India,  Gen.K.S.Thimmayya( Chief of Army Staff), A.C.Iyappa, first Signal officer in chief and also first chief of BEL, Major Mutthanna, CD Subbaiah to name a few.

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In this beautiful region, with a proud history, and a rich culture, was born one of Coorg’s greatest sons in the picturesque hill station town of Madikeri on Jan 28, 1900, just as the world was beginning to enter the 20th century.  Kodandera M Cariappa also known as Kipper, the first Indian Commander in Chief of the Indian Army, the only other Indian officer to hold the rank of field marshal, along with Sam Manekshaw.  The second of four sons of Madappa, a clerk in the revenue department and Kaveri,  he was made to take an oath by his mother at a small age that he would always work honestly and never take a bribe. That penchant for integrity is something that would be an aspect of his very distinguished career. Affectionately known as Chimma, he had his early schooling in Madikeri, where he learnt horse riding. It is said he once tamed an unruly horse, by riding it again and again, even when it threw him off the back. Coming from a region that was proud of its martial heritage, Cariappa imbibed the spirit and ethos of the place. He was just 15 when World War I, broke out, but keenly followed every news about it , using a map.

When studying at Presidency College, Chennai,  he came to know that the British Government would select young Indians for the Army, and that the training would take place in Indore. Fifty youngsters were to be selected,  and Coorg( which was a separate state then), had just one seat. Cariappa applied got that seat, and his training began In June 1918. While he graduated in December 1919, Cariappa got only a temporary commission. He only got a permanent commission in 1922, which was done deliberately to make him junior to the British officers who had passed out from Sandhurst in July 1920. What this effectively meant, was that though Cariappa had passed out earlier, than the Sandhurst officers, he was deliberately placed down the order.



It was a typical case of British high handedness and discrimination. Joining as a 2nd Lieutnant, he became a Lieutenant  in 1921, and served in Mesopotamia for some time. In India he was transferred to the 7th Rajput Regiment, which after independence became the Rajput Regiment, and also Cariappa’s permanent  regimental home too. In 1925, he went on a tour of Europe, US, Canada and Japan, which proved to be a learning experience for him. He also got the nickname of Kipper, by a British officer’s wife who found it hard to pronounce his name. Cariappa again came face to face with the discrimination, when in spite of being the first Indian officer to get through Quetta Staff College entrance examination, he was denied a staff appointment for two years, contrary to the existing procedures. During this time, he rendered service on the North Western Frontier Province, where he had to take on the dreaded tribesmen, known for their guerilla tactics. Displaying exemplary bravery, he protected the convoys many a time from their ambush attacks. Finally in 1936, Cariappa, was appointed as staff captain in the Deccan, two years later he was promoted to Major and appointed as Quarter Master General.

World War II

Cariappa was one of the early officers to raise the issue of discrimination of Indian officers in the army,  and the treatment meted out to them. He stressed the discrimination shown towards Indian officers in promotions, allowances, benefits before the Skeen Committee in 1939. When the War began, he was posted as Brigade Major to 20th Indian, stationed in the Derajat region of Pakistan. Later he was appointed as Dy. Assistant Quarter Master General( DAQMG) of the 10th Indian division in Iraq. Between 1941-42 he served in the Middle East, primarily in Iraq, Iran and Syria, and later in Burma between 1943-44. In 1942, he became the first Indian to command a battalion, when he was appointed  as CO of the newly formed 7 Rajput Machine Gun Battalion in Fatehgarh. He managed to stabilize the newly raised battalion, train it, in fact this is where he earned his administrative spurs too. Two major initiatives undertaken by him,  were to replace the machine guns in battalion with tanks and next it was moved to Secunderabad, amidst protests by unit members which he deftly handled.

Though he wished to serve in active combat, circumstances did not favor Cariappa. However he was posted as AQMG  of the Eastern Command in Burma at Buthidaung. This was the division that pushed out the Japanese Army from Arakan, and Cariappa was given an OBE( Order of British Empire) for the role played.  In November 1945, he was put in charge of the Bannu Frontier Brigade in Waziristan, and it was during that time,  Colonel Ayub Khan, who would later become the President of Pakistan, served under him.  Dealing with the hostile tribesmen there, Cariappa adopted a carrot and stick policy,  extending friendly relations with them, using force where necessary.

A stickler for fairness, Cariappa, was known for his treatment of the captured INA prisoners. When he saw the miserable conditions under which they were living, he immediately wrote to improve them, and also grant them amnesty. He had the foresight to point out that the INA officers had support from the Indian political leaders, who would sooner or later rule the country.  He was against the partition of Indian Army as he felt it would have a devastating effect, with inexperienced Indian officers in higher positions. However he had to deal with it, and handled the division of the Indian Army, sharing of assets between India and Pakistan, quite well.

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Post Independence

Cariappa was initially appointed as Dy. Chief of General Staff, however with the situation in Kashmir worsening, he was made as GOC in charge of East Punjab Command in 1947. He renamed it as Western Command, moved the HQ to Jammu, and raised a corps HQ under Lt.Gen S.M.Sriganesh at Udhampur. He also appointed Lt.Gen K.S.Thimayya as the GOC for Jammu and Kashmir and Atma Singh as GOC for Jammu division. Leading from the front, Cariappa launched three operations- Kipper, Easy and Bison, to capture the Naushehra, Poonch, Zozilla, Dras and Kargil areas.  He managed to beat back the Pakistani  forces, and was actually on the verge of driving them out of the valley. However thanks to Nehru taking the issue to UN, and subsequent intervention, it was not carried out.   Cariappa protested against this saying that Leh, Kargil, the Valley would be at a great security risk. Disregarding orders, he launched strikes in the Ladakh area and allowed India to take control over that region.

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When Lt.Gen Sir Roy Butcher’s tenure as Commander in Chief was expiring in January 1949,  it was decided to replace him with an Indian officer.  Along with Sriganesh and Nathu Singh, Cariappa was one of the contenders for the post.  The then Defense Minister wanted Sriganesh to take over on grounds of seniority. Though Sriganesh was 6 months senior, Cariappa had the longer period of service. Both of them declined, and K.M.Cariappa became the first Indian commander in chief of the Army.  The date on which he took over, January 15 is now widely observed as Army Day. As the chief, Cariappa, was instrumental in formation of the Territorial Army in 1949, and also played a role in the evolution of NCC.  He also adopted Jai Hind, and soon it became a formal greeting among officers in Indian Army. He turned down the proposal for reservations in the Army, as he emphatically stated it would affect the quality of the personnel. Finally on January 14, 1953, Cariappa retired making a farewell visit to his beloved Rajput Regiment,  which he served for a long time.

Even after retirement, he still continued to serve the nation in one capacity or another. He served as the High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand from 1953-56,  set up the ex-Servicemen’s league( ESL) in 1964, established the Directorate of Resettlement to look into issues of retired defense personnel, especially those who came out at a younger age. He helped in reorganization of armed forces of many newly independent nations, was given the Legion of Merit by US President Harry Truman. However his brief foray into politics was a failure, when he lost in the 1957 General Election as an independent candidate.

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Roshanara, Cariappa’s ancestral home at Madikeri.

Sadly he had a troubled married life , and his marriage with Muthu came to an end in 1945, when the couple separated. His son K.C.Cariappa served in the Indian Air Force, during the 1965 War and was in fact taken as prisoner. There was an interesting anecdote when General Ayub Khan, who was the President offered to release his son.  Cariappa, shot back saying “The POWs are all my sons, look after them well”.  He was a stickler for integrity and honesty , never misused his power and status, ensured his children also followed the same.  This true hero, a man of integrity, finally passed away in 1993 at Bangalore, but not before leaving a rich legacy.


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Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja


The Kingdom of Kottayam( not related to the city of the same name in Kerala),  is now located in the Malabar region of Kerala. Covering Tallaserry  and Wynad, this was ruled by a princely dynasty called as Purnattu Swarupam. This kingdom in a way is responsible for the evolution of Kathakali as a dance form, then then Raja was a brilliant dancer himself. This dynasty had three branches, the Southern one( Tekke Kovilkam) at Kottayampoli near Koothuparamba, the eastern one( Kizhakke Kovilkam) at Mantana near Peravoor. And the Western most one, Padinjare Kovilkam, at a place called Pazhassi near Mattanur. From Padinjare Kovilkam, would emerge a hero, a man who was a legend, in his life time, a man who took on Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and the British.

Kerala Varma, Pazhassi Raja, also referred to as Cotiote Rajah and Pychy Rajah, one of the earliest freedom fighters of India, much before the 1857 Mutiny. Also called the Lion of Kerala, one of the fiercest warriors ever encountered on the battle field. Born in the lush, green, hilly ranges of  Malabar, Pazhassi Raja knew the terrain like the back of his hand, and spent time, mobilizing the people there against the invaders, first the Mysore kingdom and later the British. When one looks at Pazhassi Raja’s history of resistance, it can be broadly be divided into three phases, first one against Hyder Ali from 1773-82, then against Tipu Sultan from 1784 to 1793 and finally the British till his death in 1805.

Hyder Ali

Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore had invaded the Malabar much earlier in 1766, at the behest of the Rajah of Kannur, who wanted independence from the Zamorin of Kozhikode. A long campaign later, Hyder reached Kozhikode, where the Zamorin was forced to surrender, and pay the taxes to Mysore. However with most of the Rajahs, reneging on the promise of payment, Hyder Ali once again invaded the Malabar in 1768, forcing most of the Rajahs, along with their Naduvazhis( vassals) to flee to Travancore. One such Rajah was Pazhassi Rajah’s own uncle, and at the age of 21 he ascended the throne in 1774. Unlike other Rajahs who fled to Travancore, Pazhassi Raja refused to flee and vowed to fight Hyder Ali’s forces.

Knowing he did not have the resources to wage an open battle, Pazhassi Raja began to attack Hyder Ali’s army through a series of guerilla attacks. Considering he knew the hilly terrains of Wynad well, Pazhassi was at advantage as he began to harass the enemy through a series of ambushes. Soon Pazhassi’s fame spread far and wide, and he became one of the most powerful figure head of Kottayam kingdom. This however aroused the envy of his scheming uncle Vira Varma, jealous of Pazhassi’s rising popularity. He began to play a series of power games with his nephew, leading to a long standing enmity between both of them. In the meantime the Coorg rulers too joined hands with Hyder Ali, who had promised them Wynad. Hyder reinstated the Raja of Chirakkal, and soon a triple alliance was formed with Mysore to crush Pazhassi Raja.Pazhassi Raja in turn regularly raided, Mysore, taking the sandalwood from it’s forests,  and laid claim to large parts of the kingdom right up to Nanjanagud. Apart from attacking the Rajahs of Coorg and Northern Malabar, Pazhassi ensured he had a close alliance with Ravi Varma, the prince of Kozhikode and Krishna Varma, the rebel leader of Southern Malabar.

Siege of Thalaserry

Thalaserry was of vital importance to the British East India Company, being a harbor, fort as well as a a manufacturing center. Taking control of the place meant a major effect on the British naval presence in the West Coast. It would also affect the flow of arms and ammunition to the anti Mysore rebels in the Malabar region. Keeping in mind the strategic importance, Hyder Ali, decided to capture the fort, which would hit both the British as well as the rebels. His ally, the Chirakkal Raja, besieged Thalaserry, and enforced an economic blockade on the orders of Hyder Ali. However Pazhassi Raja’s rebel forces attacked Thalaserry, with British help, and routed the Chirakkal Army. The Chirakkal forces were pursued by Pazhassi Raja’s men right up to Kottayam, where the Mysore occupying forces were routed too. However just at a critical juncture, when the entire Mysorean army could have been wiped out from Malabar, the British were ordered to go slow on Hyder Ali, for tactical purposes.

This worked to the advantage of Mysore, and soon a joint Mysore- Chirakkal army led by the Rajah, attacked Kottayam. Inspite of a brave resistance, Pazhassi Rajah’s army had to retreat, and soon the combined army captured Kadathanad, installing a puppet Rajah. Once again Thalaserry was attacked by a large force of Mysore- Chirakkal-Kadathanad in 1799, and the British were once again under siege. Pazhassi Raja sent a force of 2000 Nairs to aid the British in Thalaserry, and was able to hold the place for a long time. Sardar Khan, the Mysore General, opened negotiations with Pazhassi Raja, and offered to restore the territories occupied by Mysore, if Pazhassi accepted their sovereignty and pay a tribute of 50,000 rupees. However Khan got greedy, raised the tribute amount and Pazhassi had no option but to fight back again. In the mean time, the Kottayam forces captured Kalpetta in Wynad, where a 2000 strong Coorg army was ambushed and wiped out. By 1780, Pazhassi allied with the British, and broke the siege of Thalaserry by striking from both ends. As per plan, the British came out of the fort and attacked the Mysorean army , while Pazhassi attacked from the rear. It was a total rout for Mysore, Sardar Khan was killed, and the forces had to retreat from Malabar.

Tipu Sultan

Though Kotttayam became free, the British once again ceded Malabar to Tipu Sultan as per the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784.  Pazhassi’s brother Ravi Varma, agreed to pay the rather exorbitant tribute to Mysore, which meant greater hardship for the peasants. What angered Pazhassi even more, was that his brother even ceded Wynad to Tipu Sultan. He swore not to let Tipu enjoy in peace, and soon rebelled against his own brother and Mysore once more. For close to seven years, Pazhassi’s guerilla forces constantly harassed the Mysorean army in Wynad’s hilly terrain. A furious Tipu sent an army under the French general Lally, to exterminate the entire Nair community from Kottayam to Palakkad. However the war in Deccan, meant Tipu had to divert his attention elsewhere, leaving Pazhassi with a free hand to attack. Katirur near Talassery was recaptured, as was the Kuttiyadi fort and soon the whole of Kottayam was out of Tipu’s control.  However after the Treaty of Srirangapatnam, Malabar this time was ceded to the British, who began to establish their supremacy there.

The British put the following terms to the Rajahs of Malabar, in 1792, once it passed into their rule.

  • The British would control the Rajah, in case he oppressed the people.
  • A British resident would look into complaints of oppression.
  • Two British persons would assist the Rajah’s men in making land revenue valuation.
  • British share of pepper to be delivered at a fixed price.

What this effectively meant was that the rulers of Malabar were just agents of the British, stripped off all powers effectively. And this humiliating treaty was ratified by Pazhassi’s uncle Vira Varma.

British Rule

This began the final phase of Pazhassi Raja’s struggle from 1793 till his death in 1805.  In what was called as the Cotiote War, Pazhassi fought the British, over Kottayam and  Wynad.

By 1793, Pazhassi’s wily uncle Vira Varma was made ruler of Kottayam, the British feared Pazhassi was too independent. Pazhassi felt betrayed, as he was the only Malabar ruler who assisted the British against Mysore when all others had fled to Travancore. Vira Varma played a double game, collecting taxes, and instigating Pazhassi against the British for his own ends. The harsh methods adopted by the British to extract taxes from the peasants, meant Pazhassi had to once again revolt against them.

Pazhassi ensure no tax was collected by the British in the entire Kottayam kingdom, and threatened the British that their pepper vines would be destroyed too. The British discovering Vira Varma’s double games, tricked Pazhassi into believing he would be given a 20 per cent share of the pepper revenue, however in 1794, Kottayam was given to the Rajah of Kurumbranand on a five year lease. A furious Pazhassi, refused to accept it, and ruled Kottayam as his own.  Adding fuel to the fire he also gave shelter to  Narangoli Nambiar an outlaw rebel against the British.

Vira Varma found it hard to collect the tax, with his nephew stubbornly resisting him. In 1796, the British sent a large force to arrest Pazhassi, who by that time itself, fled to Manatanna. Pazhassi’s ancestral palace was looted by the British Lieutenant James Gordon. Also one of his former generals Pazhayamviden Chandu too joined hands with the British betraying Pazhassi. Soon Pazhassi, began to operate out of the Purali range, blocking all British communications between Low Malabar and Wayanad through the Kuttiyadi Pass.

Pazhassi communicated to the British, through an old friend Colonel Dow of his, that he was willing to negotiate with them, to avoid needless bloodshed. The British too were willing to negotiate, as they feared Pazhassi might ally with Tipu if pushed too far. However Pazhassi’s uncle Vira Varma, played spoilsport, ensuring that the British communication did not reach his nephew, as he had a vested interest here. Varma also removed Kaitheri Ambu, a favorite general of Pazhassi from the Kottayam administration.

The British now sided with Vira Varma, and refused to accede to Pazhassi’s request, that Kottayam be under his rule. In the meantime Ambu, began to plan a mass resistance against the forcible tax collection by the Vira Varma. Add to it a large number of Vira Varma’s troops too deserted him and joined Pazhassi’s side. By early 1797, Nair milita began to rise all over the Malabar in support of Pazhassi.  Earlier he visited the Mysorean commandant at Karkankotta  and met Tipu too, who promised him support. The British sent a large force to arrest Pazhassi, outposts were set up all over Wynad and Kottayam.

In 1797, Colonel Dow along with his forces marched into Wynad, with a plan to block the Periya Pass, and crush the rebel force in Kannoth. However they were ambushed by a force of Nairs, Kurchias, losing 105 men, and were forced to retreat. Suffering from chronic shortage of supplies, Dow decided to go to Talassery to consult authorities, but was again ambushed on the way. It was then that Major Cameron decided to attack Kottayam via the Periya pass with a force of 1000, however Pazhassi had got wind of the plans already. He laid a trap for them, ordering his troops to be concealed in stockades, on both sides of the pass. As soon as the British forces entered the Periya Pass, the troops ambushed them, it was a massacre all the way. Had not Major Anderson’s force arrived in time, the entire British unit would have been wiped out. Major Cameroon himself was killed in the ambush, along with Lieutnants Nugent, Madge, Rudderman, it was a total rout.

Furious at the rout, the British struck back, through Swaminatha Pattar, a Tamil Brahmin, who served as the minister to the Zamorin. They raised a band of irregulars to attack Pazhassi, which later became the notorious Kolkar, that acted as stooges to the British and harassed local people. Understanding the fact that the British did not have much chance with Pazhassi in a guerilla war in the hilly terrains of Wynad, they decided to make peace with him. There was also a fear, that Pazhassi might side with the French, so they felt it best to come to terms with him. Finally a peace pact was signed between Pazhassi Raja and British in 1797, brokered by the Rajas of Chirakkal and Parappanad. As per the treaty, Pazhassi would be pardoned, his property would be returned, and his elder brother Ravi Varma would be the head of Kottayam.

Tipu Sultan died in 1799, at Srirangapatnam, fighting the British, after which they turned their attention to Wynad. The plan was to annex Wayanad to either Canara or Mysore. However once again Pazhassi, refused to entertain the British designs, and collected a large force of Nairs, Mapillas.  With Tipu’s fall, many of the ex Pathan soldiers of his army too joined Pazhassi.  Sir Arthur Wellesley was appointed as the Army Commandant of Mysore, Canara and Malabar. Wellesely began to build roads in the Wayanad region, and outposts to subdue the rebels. When Wellesley left for the Deccan, Pazhassi, marched across the Kutiyadi Pass, and formed an alliance with Unni Mootha Moopan, a Mapilla leader from Wayanad. Soon other nobles like Kampurat Nambiar of Iruvazhinad, Peruval Nambiar, Sankaran Nambiar too joined him. By 1800, the entire Kottayam countryside was controlled by the rebels, forcing Wellesley to send a large force under Colonel Sartorius to recapture Kottayam. However shortage of troops meant the plan ended in failure, and in the meantime Manjeri Atthan Gurikal, an Ernad Mapilla leader too sided with Pazhassi.

However by 1801, the British, spread out all over Kottayam and Wayanad, blocking all the passes, cutting off the region. With contacts cut off with Southern Malabar, Pazhassi decided to go underground with his followers, who were 6 close aides and around 25 musketeers. Pazhassi moved from forest to forest evading capture, visiting his secret bases in Kottayam, Kadathanand and finally the jungles of Kurumbranand. The British struck back through a reign of terror, targeting nobles sympathetic to Pazhassi. Peruval Nambiar was hanged from a tree, and those nobles who supported Pazhassi, were threatened with brutal confiscation of properties. Another supporter Kannatvath Sankaran Nambiar too was arrested and hanged in public.  Once again the Malabar was on fire, as the people revolted against the draconian British acts.

Panamaram fort was captured by Edachena Kungan Nair, with around 150 Kurichia archers led by Talakkal Chandu. The garrison under Captain Dickenson was slaughtered along with himself, the rebels got hold of 112 muskets and a whole lot of ammunition, while destroying the fort. A furious Wellesley sent a force of around 500 to retaliate, but by then the entire Wayanad and Kottayam area was up in revolt. Rebels began to come in from all sides, motivated by Edachena Kungan, and both the Periya Pass and Kotityur Pass were taken. Edachena ambushed the British forces en route to Mysore from Mananthavadi, however a reinforcement arrived just in time, that outflanked the rebels and most of them were massacred.

It was an uphill task for the British, the people of Kottayam sided with the rebels, and soon the revolt spread to Chirakkal, where the rebels began to attack the British forces. By the end of 1803, Pazhassi’s army had spread as far as Kannur and Thalassery. Kozhikode was attacked, the prisoners in the sub jail were released, and Wellesley had to leave in failure after 3 unsuccessful years. It took a civil servant Thomas Baber, the Sub Collector, to finally crush Pazhassi’s revolt. A huge uprising by Kalayat Nambiar was put down in 1804, in the largely forested eastern Chirakkal region. It was also the time the Kolkar came into picture, serving their British masters.

The British offered a bounty of 3000 pagodas for Pazhassi Raja’s capture, along with 1000 for Edachena Kungan. However once again the monsoon and Wynad’s climate meant, Pazhassi had an advantage once again. Pazhassi along with Edachena, organized a large force of Kurumbas and Kurichias, along with the Nair nobles of Wayanad. The Kolkar were devastated by the Wyanad climate, most of them were not used to it. The British were finally able to capture Pazhassi after a local Chetti, informed them of his location.  On 1805, 30 November, Pazhassi Raja was ambushed by the British at the Karnataka border on a stream called Mavilla Tod. In a fiercely fought encounter, Pazhassi was killed, bringing to an end, one of the fiercest revolutionary fighters ever. Pazhassi Raja was no more, but for close to a decade, he gave one of the toughest resistances to the British. A Man who humbled Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and Arthur Wellesley finally fell to betrayal and capture, a true hero and a legend.





Posted in Indian History, Kerala, Kerala Freedom Struggle | 4 Comments