Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Vunnava Lakshminarayana

P. Rajeswara Rao

Fighter, Writer and Reformer

It is difficult to be distinguished in more than one role. Each role worth its salt is a jealous mistress. Yet few succeed in being pioneers in several spheres simultaneously. Unfortunately they do not command the attention and appreciation they deserve. Vunnava Lakshminarayana was one such few. He became a pioneer and trend setter in every role he played.

He was born on December 4, 1877 in a petty village of Guntur District. He lost his mother early in life and his father was a school teacher. He studied FA., in the A.E.L.M. College at Guntur and was a voracious reader. He went to Rajahmundry to undergo teacher’s training. He also worked there as Superintendent of Widows’ Home established by: the great social re­former, Kandukuri Veeresalingam. His involvement in Vande­mataram movement against the wishes of Veeresalingam, who was a staunch loyalist, cost him his job.     

After returning to Guntur he worked as a teacher in the very institution where he studied. Along with Jonnavittula Guru­nadham he began to agitate for a separate Province for Andhras. He established a widows’ home at Guntur and performed 39 widow marriages. He was excommunicated. Even a seasoned public man like Konda Venkatappayya hesitated to dine with him. But Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao invited him to dinner. He was secretary of the first session of Andhra Mahasabha held at Bapatla in 1913 with B. N. Sarma presiding over the Andhra Mahasabha at Chittoor in 1922.

His participation in Home Rule agitation of Anne Besant during first World War cost him his job as a teacher. He qualified himself as a Pleader and worked as a cashier in a company. He opposed Gandhiji for supporting the war effort. He had been to Ireland to become a Barrister.

While in Ireland he came in contact with De Valera who was leading the rebellion for Home Rule. He used to go about with a turban to emphasise his national-identity. He protested when George Lansubury denigrated coloured people. After re­turning to India, he set up practice at Madras and shifted to Guntur. He once translated a pungent editorial from Krishna Patrika and got it published in an English journal from Dublin. It created sensation and shook the British rulers.

He gave up legal practice and plunged into non-co-operation movement inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920. He success­fully led the agitation against Forest Grazing Tax in Palnadu. Government officials had to face social boycott and had to get even elementary necessaries from Guntur. When Collector Shield summoned him, people took him as a hero on a horse in a procession with pipes and drums. On his refusing to furnish security, he was imprisoned for a year. After release, he con­ducted a journal called “Guntur” and frankly criticised the Khilaphat Movement which offended the top brass in the Congress. But C.R. Das complimented him.

His nationalism was constructive. Inspired by the example of Prof. Karve who founded Women’s University at Pune, he esta­blished in 1922 Sarada Niketan – a residential school for girls, run on national lines. The site for it was donated by Raja of Munagala. His wife fully co-operated with him. She reminded one of Rajyalakshmamma, who fully assisted her husband Veeresalingam in all his activities. She too plunged into the freedom struggle and courted imprisonment thrice. Unnava couple collected subscriptions and acquired considerable landed property, reminding of Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of Banares Hindu University.

It was inaugurated by Kasinadhuni Nageswara Rao, the well-known philanthropist who met the entire expenditure for a year and freely printed all that the institution needed. There was strict discipline and the surroundings reminded one of our ancient hermitages. Telugu, Sanskrit, Hindi, Sewing, Painting, Dance, Music and Handicrafts were taught. The inmates played a notable role in the national struggle by singing national songs at every function.

Institutions are greater than individuals. Sarada Niketan can be compared to Santineketan of Rabindranath Tagore, Andhra Jatteeya Kalasala (Machilipatnam) established by Kopalle Hanu­mantharao, Andhra Mahila Sabha (Madras) founded by Durga Bai Deshmukh, Kanya Gurukulam (Rajahmundry) of Duvvuri Subbamma and Andhra Geervana Vidyapitham brought into existence at Kovvur (West Godavari) by Tallapragada Suryanarayanarao. He was a good speaker and a genial conversationalist.

Sarada Niketanam celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1948 with fanfare. Students of this institution rendered a good account of themselves in later life. Sangam Lakshmi Bai of Telangana became a prominent social worker and Member of Parliament. Bharati Devi Ranga became a Kisan leader and a legislator. Tripuraneni Ramaswamy Choudary chose a bride for his son Gopichand from among the products of this institution. The institution had a homely atmosphere. When I visited the same in 1935 to see a relation of mine, Srimati Lakshmibayamma insisted on my dining. Orphans and the abandoned found a ready home. She passed away in 1956 leaving Lakshminarayana lonely. Ultimately the institution was handed over to Hindu Religious and Chari­table Endowments Department.

Unnava, will be remembered as the author of the master­piece “Malapalli” – a social classic. It was banned soon after its publication, as it mirrored Gandhian ethics. Then C. R. Reddy sought the intervention of C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, then a member of Governor’s Executive Council for the removal of the ban. He also authored a drama called “Nayakuralu”. His essays on Tikkana are interesting and instructive. If he confined himself to literary pursuits, he could have reached heights.

He symbolised simple living and high thinking. He was a reformer without iconoclastic zeal and cherished values that withstood the test of time. When Narla Venkateswararao spoke denigrating our culture and heritage, he contradicted him on the spot quoting chapter and verse. He was frank to a fault and modest to the point of self-effacement. Though he joined Swaraj Party in 1923 he did not contest a single election.

He was puritan in life and his life was a saga of suffering and sacrifice. He was convicted in Salt Satyagraha of 1930 and again in the, forties in individual Satyagraha and Quit India Movement. Free India did not utilise his services. He had to remain in the ground. Successful nationalism is not grateful to selfless pioneers. Like foundation-stones they remain unseen but sustain the national edifice. He was haunted by the plight of freedom fighters in free India. He passed away on September 25, 1958 at the age of eighty-one. His wife Lakshmibayamma predeceased him. His place in the galaxy of celebrities is as assured as it is high. One is tempted to apply to him the following lines of Rabindranath Tagore:

Where the mind is without fear
And the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free, where the
world has not been broken up into
fragments by narrow domestic walls,
where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms
towards perfection; where the clear stream
of reason, has not lost its way into
the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward,
By thee into ever widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom,
My father, let my country awake!

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: