Born On: October 4, 1857
Born In: Mandvi, Kutch, India
Died On: March 30, 1930
Career: Lawyer, Journalist
Shyamji Krishna Varma, also known as Shyamji Krishna Nakhua, was one of the greatest revolutionaries that the Indian independence movement witnessed. A lawyer and a journalist professionally, Shyamji Krishna Varma was also an expert in the Sanskrit language. In fact, he had a deep knowledge about several other languages spoken in India. However, it is his revolutionary spirit that Shyamji Krishna Varma is best remembered for. He laid the foundation of the Indian Home Rule Society and the India House which worked towards inspiring youngsters in Britain to take up revolutionary activities against their own representatives in India. Having completed his graduation from the Balliol College under the University of Oxford in England, Shyamji Krishna Varma escaped to England when differences arose between him and the British rulers in India. Dayanand Saraswati and Herbert Spencer were his chief inspirations on the path to revolution.
Shyamji Krishna Varma was born on October 4, 1857 in the city of Mandvi, located in the Kutch province of Gujarat. He was born as Shyamji Krishna Nakhua, a surname that was used for his community during the old days. Shyamji Krishna's parents passed away when he was just 11 years old, leaving him in the care of his grandmother. Shyamji Krishna Varma was a student at a local school in the Bhuj district of Gujarat. He later shifted to Mumbai to complete his education after studying the elementary years in his home state. It was in Mumbai that Shyamji Krishna Varma developed a love for Sanskrit and other Indian languages. In the year 1875, Shyamji Krishna Varma married Bhanumati, a girl hailing from a rich business family of Gujarat and also the sister of one of his school friends.
The very next year, in 1876, Shyamji Krishna Varma was deeply moved by the reformist teachings of the guru of the Vedas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati and from the very same year adopted his principles and teachings to nurture his own nationalistic dreams for the country. The year 1877 saw Shyamji Krishna Varma give a public speech on Vedic philosophy and religion on the lines of his guru Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He came to be regarded as such a wonderful orator that the Pandits of Kashi bestowed upon him the title of Pandit in 1877. His deep knowledge of the Sanskrit language caught the attention of Monier Williams, a professor of the subject in Oxford University. Williams offered Shyamji Krishna Varma the post of his assistant in Oxford and this marked Shyamji Krishna's first trip abroad.
Education in Oxford
Shyamji Krishna Varma landed in England on April 25, 1879 and immediately enrolled in the Balliol College under the University of Oxford, following the suggestion of professor Monier Williams. Shyamji Krishna Varma also became the Indian representative at the Berlin Congress of Orientalists after his arrival in Britain in the year 1881. After completing his graduation in the year 1883, Shyamji Krishna Varma delivered a lecture on 'the origin of writing in India' in front of a large audience in the Royal Asiatic Society of England. Everyone in the gathering was so impressed with Shyamji Krishna Varma's speech that he became a non-resident member of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Return to India
Shyamji Krishna Varma returned to India in the year 1885 and started professional legal practice in the country. He was elected the Diwan (modern day Chief Minister) of Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, a post which he had to quit following a deteriorating health condition. Shyamji Krishna Varma then shifted base to the city of Mumbai, but left the place to move to Ajmer in Rajasthan, where he started his practice as a lawyer in the British Court of Ajmer. Shyamji Krishna Varma invested part of his earnings from his term as Diwan of Ratlam in cotton presses of Ajmer and received returns, which would ensure a monetarily sound future for the lawyer. Shyamji Krishna Varma later served as a council member to the Maharaja of Udaipur and was also the Diwan of Junagadh in the period between 1893 and 1897.
However, an argument with a British agent forced him to resign from his administrative post, following which he actively participated in the freedom struggle of India. Apart from Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Herbert Spencer, Shyamji Krishna Varma was also impressed with the works of Lokmanya Tilak. Therefore, he provided Tilak all the support that he could when the former was involved with the Age of Consent Bill controversy. Shyamji Krishna Varma was against the moderate policies adopted by the Congress in India and it is for this reason that he considered it best to move out from India and settle in Britain in the year 1897 to realize his plans to achieve India's independence.
Return to England
Shyamji Krishna Varma settled in London after his return to England in 1897. Herbert Spencer's writings were his chief inspiration during these days. Shyamji Krishna's house in London became a frequent haunt of several political leaders from India during this time, the most popular among them being Lokmanya Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Though he remained dedicated to the cause of Indian independence, Shyamji Krishna Varma never became sympathetic towards the Indian National Congress, choosing to take sides with the free thinkers, Irish republicans, socialists, rationalists and social democrats.
At the same time Shyamji Krishna Varma took care that the cause of education in England for Indians did not suffer. While he contributed 1000 pounds for the establishment of a lectureship dedicated to Herbert Spencer in University of Oxford, Rs 2000 fellowships were distributed to Indians who wanted to complete their graduation from England. In addition Shyamji Krishna Varma also started the Swami Dayananda Saraswati fellowships. In the year 1905, he started spreading his propaganda for India's freedom struggle. His ideas were brought to India with the publishing of 'The Indian Sociologist', a monthly magazine which spread the political, social and religious reforms of Shyamji Krishna Varma.
Shyamji Krishna Varma's revolutionary spirit manifested itself through the establishment of the Indian Home Rule Society and the India House. The Indian Home Rule Society was set up on February 18, 1905 with the objective of achieving Home Rule for India, to prepare an organized propaganda and spread the same in Britain making everybody aware of the atrocities that India faced at the hands of the British and to unify the Indians and prepare them for freedom struggle.
On July 1, 1905, Shyamji Krishna Varma established the India House, a hostel for Indian students coming to England for education. Shyamji Krishna was aware of the racism that the Indians had to face in an alien land, and therefore he decided to bring them together under one roof very close to his own residence in London. The house at 65 Cromwell Avenue in Highgate, London came to be known as the India House.
Though Shyamji Krishna Varma got the support of the common people of England, the British government was far from happy with his growing popularity. As a consequence, Shyamji was dismissed from the list of members of the Inner Temple in England on April 30, 1909 because he had written anti-British articles in 'The Indian Sociologist'. The British government used the press as their weapon to curb the nationalistic spirit of Shyamji Krishna Varma.
By this time, Shyamji Krishna Varma had already arrived in Paris to seek refuge in fear of his life following the allegations made against him by the British government. He landed in Paris in the year 1907 and Britain tried to convince France to extradite him from the French territory after Shyamji was gradually gaining popularity among politicians there. Through his works, Shyamji Krishna Varma was not only able to gain the confidence of the French politicians, but also that of others across Europe and even Russia.
However, Shyamji Krishna Varma had to flee to Geneva in the year 1914 because the French government had invited King George V for a political event in Paris. It was gradually becoming impossible for Shyamji Krishna Varma to stay in touch with his old friends and aides. He trusted a man named Dr Briess but later realized that he was tricked as the latter was a secret British agent. In fact the Swiss government almost always acted on the instructions of the British government. This came as a shock to Shyamji Krishna Varma who gradually grew disillusioned and ill with each passing day.
Even during days when he had to survive without political support, Shyamji Krishna Varma always expressed his feelings through 'The Indian Sociologist'. His last writing was in the month of September, 1922, after which Shyamji was too sick to continue writing work. Shyamji Krishna Varma died on March 30, 1930 in hospital. His death was a great loss to India, as he was one of the greatest revolutionaries that ever lived. Shyamji Krishna Varma's body was burnt in Britain and although he had set directions for his ashes to be carried to India after the country's independence, Congress leaders who came to power after 1947 never bothered to bring the remains back from Britain. The ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma, along with that of his wife who had also died in Britain after her husband's death, returned to India on August 22, 2003 after 55 years since India's independence.
1857: Shyamji Krishna Varma is born on October 4.
1868: His parents passed away.
1875: He was married to Bhanumati.
1877: Shyamji is conferred the title Pandit by the Pandits of Kashi.
1879: He joins the Balliol College, Oxford University on April 25.
1883: Delivered a lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society.
1885: Returned to India and becomes a lawyer.
1897: Resigned from post of Diwan following argument with British agent.
1897: Went back to England to settle in London.
1905: Started 'The Indian Sociologist'.
1905: Set up the Indian Home Rule Society on February 18.
1905: Established the India House on July 1.
1907: Fled to Paris from London after allegations made against him by British government.
1909: Dismissed from Inner Temple on April 30 for writing anti-British articles in The Indian Sociologist.
1914: Moved from Paris to Geneva.
1922: Wrote his last article for 'The Indian Sociologist'.
1930: Shyamji Krishna dies on March 30.
2003: His and his wife's ashes are brought to India on August 22.