Born On: April 16, 1848
Born In: Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh
Died On: May 27, 1919
Career: Social Reformer, Novelist, Dramatist, Editor
Kandukuri Veeresalingam was renowned scholar and a versatile intellectual who stood strongly for several social causes, like widow remarriages and abolition of child marriages. With his rational and dynamic thinking and views, he battled vehemently for women's equal rights. Apart from being a social reformer, he was a leader of the general public and showed immense interest in writing, poetry, and drama as well. Despite being born in an orthodox Brahmin family, he brought a period of renaissance to Andhra and introduced Telugu literature to the people. He strongly opposed the existence of caste system in the society, criticized misconceptions, condemned religious misbelieves, and opposed itching palms and bribery amongst Government employees. For all the efforts made in bringing our social reformism, he was popularly known as "Gadya Tikkana" by his well-wishers and followers.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam, also known as Kandukuri Veeresalingam Pantulu, was born in an orthodox Brahmin family in Rajahmundry, now in Andhra Pradesh. His father was Subbarayadu and mother was Purnamma. When Kandukuri Veeresalingam was six months old, he suffered from small pox, a killer disease in those days, but managed to survive. While he survived the disease attack, his father died when he was just four years old. He was, then, adopted by his paternal uncle, Venkataratnam, who brought him up like his own son. After receiving formal education at an Indian school, Veeresalingam was sent to an English school where his talents and versatility were noticed and underwent further improvement. With his exceptional behavior in both his nature and studies, he was unanimously elected as the best student in the school. Veeresalingam completed his matriculation in 1869 and got his first job as a teacher in Korangi village. After working as a teacher for sometime and as a head master for two years, he moved to Dhavaleswaram, near Rajahmundry City as a head master in an English medium school.
Emancipation of Women
Veeresalingam was very devoted towards radical changes in Telugu Indian society. He fought against untruth and stood for the cause of progress with passion and vigor. He was also very much involved in social reforms concerned with the education for women and remarriage of widows. To begin with, he established a girls' school in Dhavaleswaram in 1874 as a sign of encouraging their education. In 1876, he started a Telugu journal and began writing for women. Later, he established a magazine titled "Vivekavardhini" (Knowledge Improver) at Dhavaleswaram which included articles on women's uplift, criticism of superstitious beliefs, and rampant corruption amongst officials.
The magazine was initially printed at Chennai, but when it gained popularity, Kandukuri Veeresalingam established his own press at Rajahmundry. Here, he launched another magazine titled "Satihitabobhini", particularly for women and their rights. In 1878, the Rajahmundry Social Reform Association was founded that emphasized on anti-nautch movement to discontinue the hiring of nautch girls. However, the association started concentrating on widow remarriage at a later stage. Under this association, Kandukuri Veeresalingam organized the first widow remarriage on December 11, 1881 of Gogulapati Sreeramulu and Gowramma. Though he faced severe criticism from the society but he was successful in convincing people on accepting widow remarriage.
Due to his social reformist activities, Kandukuri Veeresalingam gained fame abroad as well. He received a congratulatory message from Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on performing the third widow remarriage. Following this, he founded a widow orphanage, an act which was critically opposed, but he continued to fight devotedly. He later took up the cause of opposing child marriages and Kanyasulkam, a kind of dowry given by the groom to the bride's parents. In 1884, Kandukuri Veeresalingam set up another school for girls at Innispeta in Rajahmundry. He was honored with title of "Rao Bahadur" in 1893 by the government in appreciation of his work towards the society.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam was highly influenced and moved by the Brahmo Samaj leader, Atmuri Lakshmi Narasimha. Further, the ideologies and principles of Raja Rammohun Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Keshub Chunder Sen made a great impact on him. Following the footsteps of Brahmo Samaj, Kandukuri Veeresalingam established the first Brahmo Mandir in Andhra at Rajahmundry in 1887. This was followed by a widows' home and a similar structure for Social Reform Association at Madras. He began the first theist high school, the Hithakarini School at Rajahmundry in 1908. In the same year, he donated all his wealth and property for the social activities of Rajahmundry Widows' Home and the school. All these donations were kept under the management of Hithakarini Samaj Association. As word spread by, the movement expanded from Rajahmundry to Coconada (presently Kakinada), Parlakimedi, Palakole, Narsapur, Vijaywada, and Tenali.
Being a learned scholar and versatile genius, Kandukuri Veeresalingam had a good command over Telugu, English, and Sanskrit. He introduced essay, biography, autobiography, and novel into Telugu literature. Satyavathi Charitam was his first novel in Telugu. Inspired by Oliver Goldsmith's "The Vicar of Wakefied", he penned the "Rajasekhara Charitamu". He considered literature as a source of fighting against social evils and hence, instituted revolutionary activities in his writing. Some of his works include Vyavahara Dharmabodhini (A Primer of Legal Practice, 1880) and Brahma Vivaham (A Brahman Wedding, 1880).
He wrote many plays on the attitude of Brahmin priests and dubious ethics of people in power, such as Prahlada (1885), Satya Harischandra (1886), Tiryag-Vidwan Mahasabha (The Assembly of Demented Scholars, 1889), Maharanya Puradhipatyam (A Sovereign of the Forest Kingdom, 1889), and Viveka Deepika (A Torch of Wisdom, 1880). He translated Malavikagnimitram (1885), Prabodhachandrodayam (1885-91), and Ratnavali (1880) from Sanskrit, and Chamatkara Ratnavali (Comedy of Errors, 1880), Ragamanjari (Sheridan's Duenna, 1885), and Kalyana Kalpavalli (Sheridan's The Rivals, 1894) from English.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam was married to Bapamma Rajyalakshmi in 1861. While he was 13 years at the time of marriage, his wife was only 8. However, she grew up to play a significant role in his life. She stood by him throughout his progressive ideas, extending support even in days of difficulties and social oppression.
Kandukuri Veeresalingam served as one of the members of the first Indian National Congress (INC) meeting in 1885. He died on May 27, 1919 at the age of 71. His statue has been established on Beach Road in Vishakhapatnam.
1848: Born in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh
1861: Married to Bapamma Rajyalakshmi
1969: Completed matriculation
1872: First job as a teacher in Korangi village
1874: Established a girls' school at Dhavaleswaram
1876: Stared a Telugu journal for the upliftment of women
1878: Founded the Rajahmundry Social Reform Association
1881: Organized the first widow remarriage on December 11
1887: Set up the first Brahmo Mandir in Andhra
1893: Conferred upon with the title "Rao Bahadur" by the government
1908: Established the first theist high school, Hithakarini School, Rajahmundry
1919: Died on May 27, aged 71