story icon Shyamji Krishnavarma

Contributed by: Mr Hemant Padhya
1857 - 1948

Pandit Shyamji Krishnavarma was a great patriot of Bharat -India. He will be remembered in the history of the freedom movement of Bharat as a great revolutionary journalist, writer and a maker of freedom fighters and the most inspiring genius of freedom movement for Indian youths. He started the freedom movement in England thirty years before Gandhiji entered into freedom movement of Bharat. He was not only a great freedom fighter and inspirer but also a great and profound Sanskrit & English scholar. Professor Monier Williams and famous indologist professor Max Muller spoke very highly of Shyamji. He sacrificed his whole life and earnings for the freedom of his motherland from the foreign rule of British Imperialism. He was a brave and committed comrade who made his headquarter right in the heart of British Empire, their capital, London, to fight against British Rule in India. He was one of the foremost leaders of New Nationalist Movement during the most critical years of awakening Indian mass. He carried out rigorous propaganda in Europe for the cause of Freedom Movement of Bharat.

Shyamji was born in a historic year of 1857 when the first war of Indian Independence was fought against British Imperialism, where thousands of freedom fighters sacrificed their life to liberate their Motherland from foreign rule. Shyamji was very intelligent from his childhood. He completed his primary and secondary education in Mandavi and Bhuj in Kutchh Province. He came to Mumbai for further education and joined Wilson High School. He has a great love for Sanskrit from his childhood. Here in Mumbai, he acquired the knowledge of Sanskrit language in great depth from Shashtri Vishvanath & mastered the language.

In 1876, He came in touch with Swami Dayanand Saraswati, an exponent of Vedas and founder of Arya Samaj. He became his disciple. Swamiji was very impressed with Shyamji's knowledge of Sanskrit and religious literatures. He guided and inspired Shyamji to conduct lectures on Vedic Philosophy and Religion. In 1877, Shyamji toured all over Bharat propagating the philosophy of Vedas. This tour secured him a great public recognition all over Bharat and many prominent scholars admired him for his knowledge and speeches.

Shyamji arrived in England in 1879 at oxford and met professor Monier Williams who had a great respect for him. He joined professor William as his assistant. Shyamji also joined Balliol College on 25th April 1979 with the recommendation of professor Williams. He passed his B A with distinction in 1883. He was invited to read papers on "the origin of writing in India" by the secretary of Royal Asiatic Society. Pandit Shyamji's speech was very well received there and he was elected as a non-resident member of the society. 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. This patriotic poem might have created the spark of patriotism in Shyamji. In 1982 Shyamji was elected as honorary member of "Empire Club". Here in England, he enacted from success to success. He came across many thinkers, Philosophers and scholars and they all admired this genius young man from India. Indologist Max Muller and vice chancellor of Oxford University, Dr B Jowett thought very highly of Shyamji. He returned to India in the end of 1883 and came back with his wife Bhanumati.

In 1885 he returned to India and enrolled himself as advocate of Mumbai High Court on19th January 1985 and started his practice. Then he was appointed as Diwan (chief minister) of Ratlam State by the king of the state. He resigned his high post in May 1988 due to ill health. The king granted him a lump sum of RS 32052 as signal mark of his high regards for his service. Then he stayed in Mumbai for a while. He settled in Ajmer, headquarter of his Guru Swami Dayanand Saraswati, and started his practice at British Court, Ajmer. Here he earned the bigger income than Ratlam. He made industrial investment in three cotton presses and secured a permanent income, which made him independent of any services for remainder of his life. He also served for Maharaja of Udaipur as member of his council from 1893 to 1895. He took position of diwan of Junagadh State in 1895 and resigned in 1897 due to bitter experience of British agent's interference. This incidence shook his faith in British Rule.

During his stay in India Shyamji was very much impressed with a nationalist leader, Lokmanya Tilak. He whole-heartedly supported Tilak when he said hands off to British Government during the consent of AGE BILL CONTRAVERSY. Shyamji initiated very friendly relation with Tilak, which inspired Shyamji to the Nationalist Movement in next decade. The timid and futile cooperative policy of Congress Party did not appeal him. In 1897, the atrocities inflicted during the plague crisis in Poona on Indians by British Government, stunned and shocked Shyamji. He than felt full justification for the nationalist stand taken by Nathu brothers and Tilak. Then he saw them sentenced to a barbarous imprisonment. He has foreseen his future to ending up in jail like Tilak and others if he would carry out his future plan of this movement. He rejected his lucrative career to immigrate to England with a view to carry out the fight from abroad. He deliberately intended to launch uncompromising propaganda and to create support in England and Europe for THE INDEPENDENCE OF INDIA.

Shyamji left his Motherland with the great determination to work restlessly for the liberation of India from foreign rule. He had only one business in mind to establish a business of 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.

After his arrival in London, he bought a luxurious house at 9 Queens wood Avenue, Highgate (now known as 60 Muswell Hill Read from 3rd March 1921). This place became a base for all political leaders of India. Gandhiji, Lenin, Tilak, Lala Lajpatrai, Gokhle etc visited this house to discuss the plan for Indian Independence Movement. Shyamji disagreed and refused to be associated in any measure with congress activity which was largely run by Mr Hume, Mr Waddenburn and company. Shyamji cultivated personal contacts with many person of advanced views such as rationalists, free thinkers, national & social democrats British Socialists, Irish republicans and above all those who were fighting for liberty in the any corner in the world.

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.

In 1899, Shyamji strongly criticised Gandhiji, a lawyer from Natal, for supporting British Government in Boer war, when Boers were fighting for their very existence of their small nation.

Shyamji, a follower and disciple of Spencer's philosophy, announced 1000 to establish the lectureship at university of Oxford in memory of Herbert Spencer, a apostle of the freedom of the individuals and principle of a British philosophers, at his funeral service held in Golders Green, on 14/12/1903, as a great tribute and respect to him and his work. He also planned the programme of carrying out Spencerian propaganda for the benefit of his countrymen. On Herbert Spencer's 1st death anniversary, 8th Dec 1904, Shyamji announced that Herbert Spencer Indian fellowships of RS2000 each were awarded to enable Indian graduates to finish education in England. He also announced additional fellowship in memory of the late swami Dayanand Saraswati the founder of Arya Samaj along with further four fellowships in the future.

In 1905, Shyamji embarked on his great life work for the freedom of his motherland. Shyamji's new career as a full-fledged political propagandalist and organiser for the alignment of complete independence of India. Shyamji finally made his debut in Indian politics by publishing first issue of his English monthly "The Indian Sociologist" - an organ of freedom and of political, social and religious reform in January 1905 from his address 9 Queens Wood Avenue, Highgate, now known as 60 Muswell Hill Road, Highgate. This strong, powerful, realistic, ideological monthly served a great purpose in uplifting mass against British rule and created many more intellectual revolutionaries in the India and abroad to fight for the freedom of India.

On the 18th February 1905, Shyamji inaugurated a new organisation called "The Indian Home Rule Society". The first meeting held at Shyamji's residence at Highgate and the meeting unanimously decided to found "The Indian Home Rule Society" with the object of:

  1. Securing Home Rule for India
  2. Carrying on Propaganda in England by all practical means with a view to attain the same.
  3. Spreading among the people of India in knowledge of freedom and national unity.

As the racial prejudice barred the way to many boarding houses and hostels to Indian students, he foresaw the necessity of starting a hostel for Indian students. He bought a freehold property at 65, Cromwell Avenue and he made an announcement of forthcoming opening of famous India House, a hostel of Indian students with living accommodation for 25 students. India House formally inaugurated on 1st July by Mr. H. M. Hyndman, a leader of social, democratic federation, in presence of many dignitaries, such as Dadabhai Navarozji, Lala Lajpatrai, Madam Cama, Mr. Swinney (from positivist society), Mr. Quelch (the editor of Justice) and Madam Despard (Irish Republican and Syffette). The main purpose of Shyamji Krishnavarma to open this hostel was to 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.

Shyamji attended the United Congress of democrats held at Holborn Town Hall on 29th July 1905, as a chief delegate of the India Home Rule Society. Shyamji scored a tremendous personal success when he rose to move the resolution on India, he received an enthusiastic ovation from the entire conference. The newspapers Reynolds and Daily Chronicle gave remarkable chronicle of his speech. Shyamji's activities in England remained highly volcanic and inflammatory to British government, the power of his pen shook the British Empire. He was disbarred from inner temple and removed from the book of the society on 30th April 1909 for writing anti-British articles in Indian Sociologist. Most of the British press were anti - Shyamji and carried out outrageous allegations. He defended them boldly. The Times referred to him as the "Notorious Krishnavarma". Many newspapers criticised liberal British people who supported Shyamji and his view. The British government became highly suspicious of him. Shyamji realised that his movements were closely watched by British Secret Services. He finally decided to shift his headquarters to Paris leaving India House in charge of his disciple Vir Savarker. He left Britain secretly.

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 restlessly worked in Paris to procure support for Indian Independence from European countries with great success. 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". This created a great support in England too. As the presence of Indian nationalist in Paris would be seriously jeopardised on outbreak of a European war and the visit of King George to Paris, to set a final seal of Entente Cordiale. In 1950, Shyamji foresaw the fate and shifted his headquarter to Geneva. He continued his struggle for Indian independence, morally and financially, with same enthusiasm but with some restriction as the pledge of political in action he had given to Swiss government during the entire period of war. He kept in touch with his old friends but he could not support them fully. As he was restricted from all political activities and isolated from his friends, e.g. Ranaji, Madam Cama, and his created revolutionaries, like Savarker, Hardayal, etc. this isolation threw him into the company of Dr. Briess who was president of 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.

He was always prepared to help for the cause of freedom and injustice. He offered a sum of 10 000 francs to the league of nations for the purpose of endowing a lectureship to be called President Wilson (USA) Lectureship for the discourse on the best means of acquiring and safe guarding national independence consistently with freedom, justice, and the right of asylum accorded to political refugees. It is said that the league rejected his offer due to political pressure from British government. When he made a similar offer to Swiss government, it was also turned down. He declared another lectureship to the president of Press Association of Geneva at the banquet given by Press Association of Geneva where 250 journalists and publicists which included the president of Swiss Federation and the league of nations. Shyamji's offer was applauded on the spot but it met with the same fate as before. Shyamji was very much disappointed with such decision and he published all his abortive correspondence in this matter in his new issue of the Sociologist on Dec. 1920, after a lapse of almost 6 years. His last 2 issues of Indian Sociologist were published in August and September 1922, could be taken as his last political will and testament of his work. After several health problems, a great Indian patriot, Shyamji Krishnavarma, breathed his last in hospital at 6pm on 31st March 1930 leaving his wife Shrimati Bhanumati Krishnavarma with no heir.

The news of his death was suppressed by British government in India and Britain. Although the best tribute paid to him by a great revolutionary, Sadar Bhagat Singh and his co-revolutionist brothers in Lahor Jail where they were undergoing a long-term drawn out trial. Shyamji's good work was carried out by his wife Bhanumati even after his death. She donated 10 000 Swiss Francs in memory of Shyamji to the Geneva University to be used every year for printing and approved thesis on subject of sociological interest. She also donated 10 000 Swiss Francs to the hospital in Geneva, she presented the whole of the Sanskrit and Oriental Library of Pandit Shyamji to the institute De Civilisation Indienne in the Surbonne. She established a trust in Surbonne University for awarding scholarship to a suitable number of selected Indian students for prosecuting higher studies in the university. Even today the memory of Shyamji and his wife is preserved in Surbonne University in the form of inscription engraved on the bookshelf that they had donated, along with their portraits in the reading hall.

Shyamji KrishnaVarma declared undying war against the British occupation of his Motherland, well before Mahatma Gandhi! He spent the rest of his life in exile to achieve his goal for independence of India. The seed he sowed for the independence struggled, in early 19th century, brought a fruitful result in 1948, when finally India's struggle for Independence was over and it became Independent from British Rule. He did not survive to see the glorious result of all his hard work that bore freedom to Mother India, but his vision for freeing his country from the all embracing strong hold of foreign power and to establish India on the high pedestal of sovereign republic among the free nation of the world became fulfilled. Shyamji will always be remembered and be seen as an intellectual role model to not only the people of India, but to the people of the world as a great freedom fighter revolutionist with a pen as the weapon which shook the mighty British Empire.

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