Saturday, March 31, 2018

Shri Shyamji Krishna Varma A Tribute

Tribute to the proud son of India Shri Shyamji Krishna Varma on his death anniversary on 30th March

Dr Vivek Arya

Early Life and Education

Shyamaji Krishna Varma was born on 4th October, 1857 in Mandvi, a province in Kutch, Gujarat. He was the son of Karsan Bhanushali, a laborer for Cotton Press Company and Gomatibai, his mother who died when Shyamaji was only eleven years old. Shyamji Krishna Varma was then raised by his grandmother. He had his primary education in the village school at Mandvi and thereafter completed his secondary education in Bhuj. He went to Mumbai for further education at Wilson High School where he learnt Sanskrit. Here in Mumbai, he acquired the knowledge of Sanskrit language in great depth from Shashtri Vishvanath and mastered the language. In 1875 Shyamaji Krishna Varma got married to a daughter of a wealthy businessman. Her name was Bhanumati and hailed from the Bhatia community.
He in contact with Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who was a nationalist, a radical reformer and an exponent of Vedas. Swami Dayanand Saraswati was the founder of Arya Samaj. Shyamji Krishna Varma became his disciple and was soon found conducting lectures on Vedic Philosophy and Religion. In 1877, Shyamji toured all over India propagating the philosophy of Vedas. These tours secured him a great public recognition all over India and many prominent scholars admired him for his knowledge and speeches. Such great was the influence of Swami Dayanand Saraswati on his life that his work was being remarked and applauded by all. He soon moved forward to associate with Bombay Arya Samaj.

He became the first non-Brahmin in Modern India /to receive the prestigious title of "Pandit" by the Pandits of Kashi. He came to the attention of Professor Monier Williams, an Oxford Professor of Sanskrit who offered Shyamaji a job as his assistant. On 25th April, 1879, Shyamji arrived in England and joined Balliol College, Oxford with the recommendation of Professor Monier Williams as an assistant professor in Sanskrit.

In 1881 he was sent by the Secretary of State for India to represent the learning of his country at Berlin Congress of Orientalists. There he not only read his own paper on the subject of "Sanskrit as a Living Language of India", but also he read and translated a patriotic Sanskrit poem sent by RamDas Sena, a learned Zamindar of Behrampur. It is believed that this recital of patriotic poem might have created the spark of patriotism in Shyamji Krishna Varma.

In 1883, he cleared his B.A. and presented a lecture on The Origin of Writing in India to the Royal Asiatic Society. The presentation was very well received and as a consequence he was elected a non-resident member of the society.

In 1885 he returned to India, enrolled himself as an advocate of Bombay High Court and started his practice. He later moved on and served for a short time as Diwan of Ratlam. His ill health made him retire early from this post with some gratuity for his service - which he invested in to cotton press mills to earn assured income. After a short period of stay in Bombay (now Mumbai), he settled in Ajmer which was also the headquarters of his Guru, Swami Dayanand Saraswati. He started practicing at the British Court in Ajmer and earned his fame as an advocate. During his stay here, he became a member of the Municipality of Ajmer city, and also served as Diwan of Ajmer. He also served the Maharaja of Udaipur as a council member from 1893 to 1895 followed by the position of Diwan of Junagadh State. Somewhere in 1897, a bitter experience with a British agent shook his faith in the British rule. He was moved to dedicate the rest of his life to fight the British rule.

Nationalism and Social Reforms

Shyamji Krishna Varma was highly impressed with the work of Shri Lokmanya Tilak.He fully supported Tilak during the consent of Age Bill Controversy of 1890. Shyamji initiated very friendly relations with Tilak, which inspired him to the Nationalist Movement in the next decade. The timid and futile cooperative policy of Congress Party did not appeal to Shyamji. He dejected the petitioning, praying, protesting, cooperating and collaborating policy of the Congress Party, which he considered undignified and shameful.

In 1897, the atrocities inflicted during the plague crisis in Poona on Indians by the British Government, stunned and shocked Shyamji. At this point in life, he felt full justification for the Nationalist stand taken by Nathu brothers and Tilak. When he saw them sentenced to a barbarous imprisonment he saw his future too ending up in jail like others. His immediate decision was to give up his lucrative career and to immigrate to England with a view to carry out the freedom fight from abroad. He had only one business in mind - training and inspiring the young sons and daughters of India to strive for the liberty of their Motherland.

He decided to dedicate all his money, time, scholarship, literary power and above all his life to serve his Motherland selflessly. He deliberately intended to launch uncompromising propaganda and to create support in England and Europe for the independence of India.

Life and Work in England

Upon his arrival in London, he stayed at the Inner Temple and
studied Herbert Spencer's writings in his spare time. In 1900 he bought an expensive house in HighGate. His home became a base for all political leaders of India. Gandhiji, Lenin, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and many more visited him to discuss the Indian Independence Movement. Avoiding the Indian National Congress, he kept in contact with rationalists, free thinkers, national and social democrats, socialists, Irish republicans, etc.

In 1898, when a free press defence committee was formed in order to resist police attack upon liberty of all opinions Shyamji subscribed generously to its funds.

Shyamji was a great admirer of Herbert Spencer's philosophy and he accepted him as his guru. Herbert Spencer died 14th December 1903 and in his honour Shyamji established an annual lectureship at Oxford for the sum of £1000. In addition, he endowed five Herbert Spencer Indian fellowships, each valued at Rs. 2,000 and a Swami Dayanand fellowship. He also established many other fellowships in honour of great Indians.

In 1905, Shyamji embarked on a new career as a full-fledged propagandalist. He made his debut by publishing the first issue of his English monthly "The Indian Sociologist" - an organ of freedom and of political, social and religious reform. This powerful ideological monthly served a great purpose in uplifting the mass against British rule and encouraged many more intellectual revolutionaries in India and abroad to fight for the freedom of India. On 18th February 1905, Shyamji inaugurated a new organisation called "The Indian Home Rule Society". The first meeting for the same was held at Shyamji's residence at HighGate and the meeting unanimously decided to found "The Indian Home Rule Society" with the object of:

--Securing home rule for India

--Carrying on propaganda in England by all practical means with a view to attain the same
-Spreading among the people of India knowledge of freedom and National unity

India House

As many Indian students faced racist attitudes when seeking accommodations, he founded India House as a hostel for Indian students, based at 65, Cromwell Avenue, Highgate. This living accommodation for 25 students was formally inaugurated on 1st July by Henry Hyndman, of the Social Democratic Federation, in the presence of Dadabhai Naoroji, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madam Cama, Mr. Swinney (of the London Positivist Society), Mr. Harry Quelch (the editor of the Social Democratic Federation's Justice) and Charlotte Despard, the Irish Republican and suffragette.
Declaring India House open, Hyndman remarked, As things stand, loyalty to Great Britain means treachery to India. The institution of this India House means a great step in that direction of Indian growth and Indian emancipation, and some of those who are here this afternoon may live to witness the fruits of its triumphant success. Shyamji hoped India House would incubate Indian revolutionaries and create great patriotic revolutionaries by implementing his ideology for the freedom of India. He succeeded in his vision and he produced the greatest revolutionaries such as Krantivir Vinayak Savarkar, Hardayalji, etc. Gandhiji stayed at India House on his visit to England in 1906. Despite differing views on how to free India, Shyamji and Gandhiji's relationship was friendly until 1909 when the justified assassination of William Curzon-Wyllie at the hands of the great martyr Madanlal Dhingra occurred.

Shyamji's activities in England remained highly volcanic and inflammatory to British Government. The power of his pen shook the whole British Empire and they became highly suspicious of him. Shyamji realised that British Secret Services closely watched his movements and so he decided to move his headquarters to Paris leaving India House in the hands of his disciple Vir Savarkar. Shyamji left Britain secretly before the British Government tried to arrest him.

Life and Work in Paris

He arrived in Paris in early 1911 and continued his work vigorously. The British media still remained highly critical of him and tried to use their influence in French media circle. The British government tried to extradite him from France with no success. Shyamji's name was dragged into the most sensational trial of Mr. Merlin, an Englishmen, at Bows Court for writing an article in "liberators" published by Shyamji's friend, Mr. James. Shyamji's work in Paris helped gain support for Indian Independence from European countries. He agitated for the release of Savarker and acquired great support all over Europe and Russia. Guy Aldred wrote an article in the Daily Herald under the heading of Savarker the Hindu Patriot whose sentences expire on 24th December 1960 , helping create support in England too. As the presence of an Indian nationalist in Paris would be seriously jeopardised by the outbreak of a European war and the visit of King George to Paris in 1950 to set a final seal of Entente Cordiale, Shyamji foresaw the fate and shifted his headquarters to Geneva.

Here the Swiss government imposed political restrictions during the entire period of World War I. He kept in touch with his contacts but he could not support them directly. He spent time with Dr. Briess, president of the Pro India Committee in Geneva. Shyamji was later shocked and heartbroken when he found out that Dr. Briess was a paid secret agent of the British Government, as well as the treachery of his old friend. This event left a deep scar in his heart but his support to the cause remained at his heart throughout.

Sad Demise

In the wake of World War I, Shyamji had moved his headquarters to Geneva in 1914. Due to the outbreak of war, Shyamji stopped the publication of "Indian Sociologist" and resumed publication in 1920. His last two issues of "Indian Sociologist", as per his wish, were to be taken as his last will and testament of his work. After several health problems, the great patriot, Shyamji Krishna Varma, passed away on 30th March 1930 far away from his beloved Motherland.

News of his death was suppressed by the British government in India. 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 Shri Tilak in Marathi, paid very touching tribute to him as a great revolutionary.

Pandit Shyamaji Krishna Varma did not live to witness the independence of Bharat, but his efforts, conviction and confidence of India gaining its freedom from British rule in future was strong and unshakable as he made the prepaid arrangements with the local government of Geneva, Ville de Geneve, and St Georges cemetery to preserve his and his wife's ashes (Asthis) at the cemetery for one hundred years and to send their urns to India whenever it becomes independent during that period.

Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat State, finally succeeded in returning the urns of Pandit Shyamaji and his wife Bhanumati on August 22, 2003 - fifty five years after Indian Independence.


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