16 April 1848
Birth of Kandukuri Veeresalingam
‘Father of renaissance movement in Telugu’ Rao Bahadur Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu was born on 16 April 1848 at Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.
- Veeresalingam was born to an orthodox Brahmin family as the son of Subbarayudu and Poornamma. He lost his father when he was just four and was raised by his paternal uncle.
- He studied in local schools where his academic brilliance and good nature earned him accolades.
- After completing his matriculation in 1869, Veeresalingam started work as a school teacher in a village.
- Veeresalingam was a scholar of three languages namely, Telugu, Sanskrit and English. He wrote the first novel in the Telugu language. He is also credited with introducing the autobiography and the essay into Telugu literature. He also authored the first Telugu book on modern science. Apart from these, he composed many ballads and plays in Telugu. He also translated famous English works into Telugu.
- He is most revered for his contribution to the reformation of Telugu society. While more people are aware of the contributions of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Keshub Chandra Sen, Veeresalingam’s fame outside Andhra is restricted and this does him no justice.
- He wrote extensively for the emancipation of women. His works were predominantly satires on the then existing amorality, superstitions, double standards and degradation in society. He advocated widow remarriage and denounced child marriages as well as the practice of marrying off young girls to much older men.
- His sharp criticism bought him many enemies. He was ridiculed publicly for his then radical thoughts and advocacies.
- To counter his detractors, he used the ancient scriptures to portray that women were not always regarded secondary citizens. He made people aware that in the Ramayana, Lord Ram was always accompanied by Sita in the assembly by his side.
- He also declared that India started veering towards the path of decline only when the condition of women deteriorated.
- He set up schools for the education of girls and women. He also performed the first widow remarriage in Andhra Pradesh, on December 11th, 1881. He was censured by the conservative society of that time.
- Despite society’s heavy scorn, he helped marry off about 40 widows in his lifetime.
- He published various magazines and journals wherein he championed the cause of women and education.
- In 1887, he started a Brahmo Mandir at Rajahmundry.
- Veeresalingam was one of the first few members of the Indian National Congress who attended the party’s maiden meeting in 1885.
- In 1893, the government of India conferred the title ‘Rao Bahadur’ on him.
- He passed away on 27th May, 1919 aged 71.
Some of Veeresalingam’s works:
- Rajasekhara Charitra (first Telugu novel)
- Brahma Vivaham (play)
- Gopala Satakamu
- Abhagyopakhyanamu (satire on society)
Also on this day
1853: India’s first passenger train from Bombay to Thane.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.