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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Shyamji Krishna Varma – A Forgotten Freedom Fighter & Revolutionary

The true history of Bharat’s freedom movement is still shrouded in mystery. Bit by bit, we are slowly seeing glimpses of the past that was hidden by the erstwhile Congress-dominated Governments, such as the recently declassified Netaji Subas Chandra Bose files. It is another matter that our history textbooks, in urgent need of revision, still continue teaching the old, discredited and lopsided view of history.

Not many know about Shyamji Krishna Varma, born on 4 October, 1857 – the year of Bharat’s First War of Independence from brutal British rule – who is considered to be one of the first freedom fighters to demand full independence and home rule for Bharat.

We reproduce a blog written in 2014 by Suryah SG, Vice President BJP Youth Wing Tamil Nadu, to commemorate this great man.

I would like to bring to young Bharat’s notice a Bharatiya revolutionary freedom fighter Shri Shyamji Krishna Varma. We shall try to know a little about the life of Shyamji Krishna Varma as documented.

Shyamji Krishna Varma
Shyamji Krishna Varma

Shyamji Krishna Varma was born on 4 October 1857 in Mandvi, Kutch.  He had his primary education in the village school at Mandvi and thereafter completed his secondary education in Bhuj near Mandvi. Thereafter he went to Mumbai for further education at Wilson High School where he learnt Sanskrit.

In 1875 Shyamji got married to Bhanumati. Then he got in touch with Swami Dayananda Saraswati who had founded Arya Samaj. He became his disciple and was soon conducting lectures on Vedic philosophy and religion. In 1877, a public speaking tour secured him a great public recognition all over Bharat.

He earned the prestigious title of Pandit from the Pandits of Kashi in 1877. Later, he joined with Monier Williams, an Oxford professor of Sanskrit as his assistant. In 1879 he joined Balliol College, Oxford as Assistant Professor in Sanskrit.

In 1881 he represented Bharat at the Berlin Congress of Orientalists and read a paper titled “Sanskrit as Living Language of India”. In 1882 he passed his degree of B.A from Balliol College. In 1883 he became a member of the Royal Asiatic Society. In 1884 he earned “Barrister-at-Law” from Oxford.

He returned to Bharat in 1885 and started practice as a lawyer. Then he was appointed as Diwan (Chief Minister) by the King of Ratlam State; but ill health forced him to retire. After a short stay in Mumbai, he settled in Ajmer, headquarters of his Guru Swami Dayananda Saraswati, and continued his practice at the British Court in Ajmer. He served for the Maharaja of Udaipur as a council member from 1893 to 1895, followed by the position of Diwan of Junagadh State.

Inside Kranti Teerth
Inside Kranti Teerth

Upon Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s inspiration, he set up a base in England and called that building ‘India House’. Shyamji was also an admirer of Lokmanya Tilak. In 1896 he decided to support the war of Independence from outside Bharat and left for England.

In 1905, Shyamji made his debut in Bharatiya politics by publishing the first issue of his English monthly, “The Indian Sociologist” an organ of freedom and of political, social and religious reform. In the same year he founded “The Indian Home Rule Society”. He officially declared open “India House” at 65 Cromwell Avenue, High Gate as a living accommodation for Bharatiya students in England.

Due to increasing pressure form the British Government, Shyamji left Britain and arrived in Paris. In 1909 his degree of Barrister was taken back. The British Government sealed ‘India House’ after Madanlal Dhingra was sentenced to death. Publication of “The Indian Sociologist” was shifted to Paris.

Shyamji’s work in Paris helped gain support for Bharat’s Independence from European countries. Then in 1914 Shyamji shifted his headquarters to Geneva. Here the Swiss government imposed political restrictions on him during the entire period of World War I. He kept in touch with his contacts, but he could not support them directly. In 1920 he opened the publication of “The Indian Sociologist” after a lapse of 6 years.

Recreation of India house and statute of Shri Shyamji Krishna Varma & his wife at Kranti Teerth
Recreation of India house at Kranti Teerth

He died in a hospital in Geneva at 11:30pm on 30 March 1930 leaving his wife Bhanumati Krishna Varma.

News of his death was suppressed by the British government in Bharat. Nevertheless tributes were paid to him by Sardar Bhagat Singh and his co-revolutionist brothers in Lahore Jail where they were undergoing a long-term drawn-out trial. Maratha, a daily newspaper started by Lokmanya Tilak in Marathi, paid a very touching tribute to him as a great revolutionary.

Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma did not live to witness the independence of Bharat but his confidence in Bharat gaining its freedom from British rule in the future was so strong that he made prepaid arrangements with the local government of Geneva and St. Georges cemetery to preserve his and his wife’s asthis (ashes) at the cemetery for 100 years and to send their urns to Bharat whenever it became independent during that period.

The Modi Connection

The Congress Party who took over control of Bharat at the end of British rule did not bother to pursue the matter of bringing his ashes home for sectarian reasons. Finally, it took 56 years after Independence for Mr. Narendra Modi to succeed in reclaiming the urns of Pandit Shyamji and his wife Bhanumati, which were officially handed over to him on 22 August 2003 by the Swiss Government. However Narendra Modi’s efforts were assisted by various other eminent people like Mangal Lakhamshi Bhanushali, Trustee of Krishna Varma Foundation,  Kirit Somaiya, BJP Leader, Hemantkumar Padhya, Founder of Hindu Swatantryavir Smruti Sansthanam, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom and Vinod Khanna, BJP Leader.

Narendra Modi receiving ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma at Switzerland in 2003
Narendra Modi receiving ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma at Switzerland in 2003

In 2003 August, Modi returned from Geneva with a jubilant crowd welcoming him in Mumbai where Shyamji’s ashes were displayed. Modi then took the ashes on a “Veeranjali Yatra” in Gujarat which travelled through various districts of Gujarat before reaching Mandvi the birth place of Shyamji. The yatra continued for about a fortnight.

Modi eventually ordered the construction of a memorial to Shyamji in Mandvi. Modi named the memorial as “Kranti Teerath” (meaning – a revolutionary pilgrimage destination).

He laid the foundation stone of the memorial on 4th October 2009 and dedicated it to the nation on 13th December 2010. Recreating the life and times of Shyamji, Kranti Teerth is home to many memorial exhibits paying tributes to the heroes of our freedom struggle. ‘India House’, which holds a special place in the history of Bharat’s freedom struggle, has been recreated at Kranti Teerth.

On his visit to Kranti Teerath, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay remarked in his book “Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times” – “I did go visiting Kranti Teerath and was impressed with it. The memorial drew a fair sprinkling of tourists”.

Inside Kranti Teerth

Now this brings us to the moot point. How many of us really know about Shyamji Krishna Varma? Doesn’t this vindicate the stand of Narendra Modi, which he spelt out time and again, about the need to present the true history of Bharat’s freedom struggle? This distortion has happened because some of us are still stuck in the colonial mindset while for some this nation is nothing beyond a piece of land. Similarly, he has stressed on the need to move beyond viewing history in the prism of the sacrifices and glories of only one family.

Even the “Kranti Teerth” website is wonderfully maintained and is frequently updated. The website induces the visitors to make a visit to the place. One interesting feature of this website, other than beautifully documenting the life of Shyamji, is the option of E-Shradhanjali wherein you can pay tributes to Shyamji Krishna Varma and Bhanumati Krishna Varma’s asthis by offering ‘E-flowers’.

Editor’s Note

We are thankful to Suresh Nakhua, BJP Mumbai spokesperson and also a descendant of Shyamji Krishna Varma, for sharing a lot of valuable information about this forgotten hero in this tweet thread.

Here is a video about the great man –

Finally, we would also like to point out that Professor Monier Williams, who Shyamji joined as an assistant in Oxford, was one among a band of Western Indologists who used native Sanksrit scholars like Shyamji to further their goal of distorting Hindu Dharma and spreading Christianity in Bharat. One can refer to our article seriesWestern Indologists – A Study in Motives‘ for more details on this subject.

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  1. During his stay at Geneva Raja Mahendra Pratap met him on the way to Germany where Raja was going to seek the help from German King Wilhelm Kaiser in his fight against the British.King Wilhelm appreciated his plan and Raja went to Kabul and sought help from King Habibullah of Afghanistan and esteblished girst Government of India in exile on Deceber1,1915.Raja was its President.Afghanistan government readily recognised this govt in exile and entered into four treaties with it.


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