Born On: September 15, 1891
Born In: Thiruvananthapuram, Travancore
Died On: May 26, 1934
Career: Patriot, Indian Revolutionary
Chempakaraman Pillai was one of the greatest Indian revolutionaries who brought glory to our motherland with his undying efforts and spirits, but the nation had somehow forgotten to honor the great hero. He was one of the unsung heroes and patriots who went abroad and organized his own army to fight for India’s freedom from the British Raj with support from the Germans, another enemy of the English. Though brought up on a foreign land, Chempakaraman did not let his passion and enthusiasm lower even by a percentage and dedicated his entire life fighting for the freedom of Bharat Mata. He was one of the few people who wished to join hands with the common enemy to drive away the British from his homeland and organize an armed attacked from outside. Such was his influence and power that even Germans were urged to trust and believe him.
c Pillai was born in an average middle-class family to Chinnaswami Pillai and Nagammal in Thiruvananthapuram in the state of Travancore in southernmost India. His family was of Tamil origin and had settled in Thiruvananthapuram, since his father was a police head constable in Travancore State Government Service. He received his primary and high school education at Model School, Thycaud in Thiruvananthapuram. During his school days, Chempakaraman was fortunate to meet a British biologist, Sir Walter Strickland, who made visits to the city for botanical specimens. On one of his visit, he offered Chempakaraman and his cousin, Padmanabha Pillai, to come along with him. However, Padmanabha left midway at Colombo and ran back to Thiruvananthapuram. Chempakaraman continued the journey and landed in Europe. This proved to be a turning point in his life. Strickland got him admitted in a school in Austria from where Chempakaraman completed his high schooling.
Life in Europe
On the completion of his schooling, Chempakaraman joined a Technical Institute to pursue a diploma in engineering. Soon, the First World War broke out and Chempakaraman got an opportunity to fulfill his long-cherished plans. With the help of German Embassy, he formed the International Pro-India Committee with Zurich as the headquarters in September 1914. He declared himself as the President of the committee. During the same time, he saw the urge of Indian revolutionaries abroad trying to take advantage of the new situations to achieve freedom. Further, a group of Indian expatriates formed the Indian International Committee in Berlin with Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, eldest brother of Sarojini Naidu, as the President. The committee included Bhupendranath Dutta, Punnackal A. Raman Pillai, Taraknath Das, Barkatullah, Chandrakant Chakravarty, M. Prabhakar, Birendra Sarkar, and Herambalal Gupta. Chempakaraman went to Berlin in October 1914 and joined the committee. He merged the International Pro-India Committee with Indian International Committee and named it Berlin Committee. The Committee opened branches in various parts of Europe and America, including Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Washington.
After Berlin Committee was established in Berlin, Lala Har Dayal was also persuaded to join the movement, thereby bringing forward the Ghadar Party for the same purpose. This resulted in the Indian Independence Committee getting involved with Hindu-German Conspiracy and Ghadar Party in America. Chempakaraman’s intelligence, brilliant organizational abilities, and undaunted courage helped him get accolades and appreciation from the German Kaiser. Such was his confidence amongst the Germans that he was permitted to lead the operations of German Navy in Indian Ocean. During this period, he directed the German vessel “Emden” and destroyed English war-vessels. Left with no option, the British government was forced to announce a reward of one lakh pounds to anyone who successfully captured Chempakaraman and handed him to them.
However, the cunning lion of India never fell into the hands of British hunters. Chempakaraman proved to be the predecessor of Rash Behari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose in organizing an Indian Army outside India for striking the enemies at home. He established the Indian National Volunteer Corps during World War I and offered military uniform and discipline to the volunteers. In 1919, he met Subhas Chandra Bose in Vienna and explained his plan of raising revolt amongst Indian soldiers and attacking the British to set the motherland free. Such was the impact of Chempakaraman’s words on Bose that he fulfilled his dream during World War II on forming the Indian National Army.
Tenure in Provisional Government
Chempakaraman Pillai was one of the first freedom strugglers who gave India and Indians, living in India and abroad, fighting for the country’s independence the slogan “Jai Hind”. Apart from standing and struggling for the freedom movement from Europe, he became the Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government of India set up in Afghanistan in December 1915. Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh from Kabul became the President and Maulana Barkatulla the Prime Minister. But the defeat of the Germans in the war left the hopes of the revolutionaries ruined.
Victim of Nazi Wrath
Unknown by the fact, the Germans were helping the Indian revolutionaries in Germany with selfish motives. Even though the Indian patriots had made it very clear to the Germans that they would be equal partners is revolting and fighting against their common enemy, the British, the Germans held a dominating position as they had been providing funds, arms, and ammunition to the revolutionaries, both abroad and at home. As such, the Germans intended to exploit the Indians for their work. Thus, when Germans started losing the battle, they lost interest in the revolutionaries. To add on, they even started looking at them with suspicion, thereby weakening the relationship between Indian revolutionaries and Germans.
Chempakaraman Pillai met Lakshmibai from Manipur, India in Berlin and married her in 1931.
When Adolf Hitler started assuming Indians incapable of ruling themselves and looking upon others, Chempakaraman stood against Hitler, thereby forcing him to give a written apology. As such, he became a victim to the anger of the Nazis who were believed to have killed Chempakaraman, on Hitler’s orders, through food poisoning on May 26, 1934. He was just 42 years old. While he wanted his ashes to be carried back to his homeland, his wife took 33 years to fulfill his last wish, all due the severe hardships and sufferings she went through that period as Nazis had made her life miserable and torturous. However, she did not lose hope and preserved his ashes, his diary, and secret documents, and traveled to Mumbai through Berlin, Italy, and Spain. Chempakaraman’s ashes were brought to Cochin on September 16, 1966 in the Indian Navy’s warship, I.N.S. Delhi under the flag of free India hurling.
1891: Born in Thiruvananthapuram, India
1906: Went to Europe with Sir Walter Strickland and took admission in Austrian school
1914: Established the International Pro-India Committee in Zurich in September and became President
1914: Went to Berlin in October and joined Indian Independence Committee
1915: Became Foreign Minister of Provisional Government of India in Afghanistan
1919: Met Subhas Chandra Bose in Vienna
1931: Married Lakshmibai
1934: Killed by Nazis through food poisoning on May 26 in Germany, aged 42
1966: Ashes brought back to India by wife