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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Alluri Sitarama Raju – the Hindu Sannyasi who preached the Gita and inspired people to revolt against the British

The film #RRR earned an Oscar. This film was inspired by a Hindu Sanyasi named Alluri Sitarama Raju. Alluri Sitarama Raju used to travel from village to village & preach Bhagavad Gita among tribals. He urged Hindus to revolt against foreign rule.

Alluri Sitarama Raju was born on July 4, 1898 in Andhra Pradesh. His was a lower middle class Hindu family. His father died when he was 8. Like most Hindus, Alluri Sitarama Raju was taught Ramayana and Mahabharata in his childhood and he took an extreme liking to these epics.

By the age of 14, Alluri learnt Sanskrit, Hindi & English. At the age of 18, he took Diksha & became a Sanyasi. By 24, he visited by foot various holy places such as Gangotri, Nashik and Varanasi. Adorning Kamandalu, saffron clothes & preaching Gita, he travelled everywhere.

These travels familiarized him with the condition of people. He realized that Bharat was under foreign rule and Bharatiya past glory could only be restored through Bharatiya independence. He was also particularly upset about the degeneracies that crept in social life of Bharatiya people.

When Subhas Bose visited Vizag, he address a large gathering. Bose said it was a time to make sacrifices. Bose asked if anybody was ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of nation. Alluri came forward & declared he would happily sacrifice his life. Bose garlanded Alluri.

Alluri was particularly upset by activities of Christian missionaries who were converting tribals. He opposed them tooth and nail and installed Lord Rama statues. He settled down among Koya hill tribes & led a very austere sanyasi life by subsisting only on fruits and roots.

Soon, Alluri gained tremendous popularity among hill tribes. They regarded the sanyasi as an incarnation of Rāma & were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. He noted grievances of tribals & educated them about their rights. He was known as Manyam Veerudu “warrior of jungle”.

Alluri prepared tribals for a fight against British officials & police. He prepared them for confrontation against Christian missionaries. He trained them in guerilla warfare. Soon, he came to notice of British for his activities. In the beginning, they tried to placate him.

British declared Alluri was just a leader of tribals who were driven to desperation after their lands were unfairly grabbed. British offered Alluri 60 acres of fertile land for his Ashram. “I asked for entire India. I don’t want 60 acres”- he said while rejecting the offer.

The 1882 Madras Forest Act curtailed basic human rights of the tribals. Alluri wisely advised the tribals that fighting against British using traditional weapons is useless. Instead, he raided and looted police stations to gain modern weapons like Muskets and revolvers.

In those days, there was a Christian missionary named (se)bastian. He was the tehsildar. An extremely cruel person, he subjected the tribal people to untold atrocities. He used to burn their settlements and grab their land. He used to cut the fingers of anyone who protested.

Sebastian forced the tribals to perform labor work of constructing roads in the forest lands without any compensation. When they denied working without wage, they were brutally lathi-charged. When they protested against this, they were fired upon and many tribals were killed.

The tribals sought protection of Alluri Alluri asked- “who is responsible for this state? “There are so many divisions among us. We are one. Our strength comes only when we are united. We must establish panchayats among ourselves to resolve our disputes amicably”.

Alluri urged the tribals to give up the practice of drinking alcohol. He said Alcohol is man’s worst enemy & it turns humans into Rakshasas. Under his influence, many drunkards gave up the practice of drinking alcohol. This is how he inspired the tribal community to strength.

In 1921, Alluri launched a guerilla attack on Sebastian and vanquished him along with his 8 officers. His name then inspired terror among terror among British officials. At this time, Alluri was merely 24 years old.

Soon, Alluri achieved spectacular success. He raided police station after police station. Restored village after village. Such was the terror of Alluri that a special deployment of 1200 Assam Rifles and Malabar reserve police were deployed in the forest just to catch Alluri.

These “special forces” committed untold atrocities on the tribal people. The British subjected tribals to brutal punishments to coerce them into revealing the whereabouts of Alluri. A special bounty was announced on the head of Alluri.

However, Alluri continued evading them while changing his attack tactics. The weapon he used was ‘Mirapatapasu’. This is an extremely simple but effective weapon. A heap of burnt chilies shot at trees to produce devastating effect. No British officer could have detected this.

On August 22, Alluri raided Chintapalli station. The British officials fled in terror. The weapons were distributed among tribals. The end of British rule was declared.

For 2 years, Alluri Sitarama Raju kept attacking police stations. For 2 years, the British relentlessly pursued him. They used all the resources at their disposal. Money, forces, bribes, coercion, punishment. It is a testimony to his intelligence, courage wit & tactical mind.

Alluri was devotee of Rāma. His real name was Alluri Ramaraju. When young, he fell in love with a girl named Sita. But she passed away in a few days. Then, he prefixed Sita to his name Like Rāma, there would only be one woman in his thoughts. He remained lifelong celibate.

On April 17 1923, Alluri attacked Annavaram police station. The collector sent a force of 500 policemen. When Alluri himself led the battle, police had no chance. They fled away. Annavaram was conquered. Thousands of people came to behold Alluri. People fell at his feet.

Rattled by these developments, British Governor Freeman Thomas sent thousands of forces into forest areas. Military rule was declared in the entire tribal area. There were troops everywhere. A commander named Chris broke into house of Alluri’s follower Mallidora & killed him.

Another detached of 200 soldiers attacked and kiIIed Ghantam Dora. A tribal Chenchu female follower of Alluri was then pregnant . She resisted the forces in the battle and sacrificed her left.

Thousands of Assam rifles launch ‘operation sitaram’ to catch Alluri. They surround him on all sides. Alluri fights with the British soldiers and kiIIs many of them. His entire body was drenched in his own blood. However, he did not give up. He fought with them until sunset.

After sunset, Alluri & handful of remaining followers took refuge somewhere in the forest. That night, it was a follower of Alluri (bribed by British) who revealed his location. They suddenly surround Alluri . Drenched in blood, Alluri could hardly move. He is captured.

They tied him in Iron chains and bound him to a tree. They called him a dacoit. To which he responded: “Do you not have any shame in capturing an unarmed person? Is this your bravery? You have only come to our country to loot. Leave our nation and be gone for good”.

“This is the land of Abhimanyu. I will happily give up my life for this country. You can kill alluri today. But thousands of Alluris will rise tomorrow. Your end is near”- Alluri said. Hundreds of bullets were fired at him until nothing remained of his body.

At the time of his death, Alluri was 26 years old. Singlehandedly, without any economic/political backing, Alluri fought an all out war against the most powerful empire of the world. His courage & sheer military genius has been acknowledged by all, including his British enemies.

Caveat: This Malludora who was killed is not to be confused with Gam Malludora, who was another comrade of Alluri. Gam Malludora not only survived but later became Vishakhapatnam MP.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread posted by @TrueIndology on March 14, 2023, with minor edits to improve readability and conform to HinduPost style guide

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