Lakshminarayana Unnava (1877-1950)

Lakshminarayana Unnava was born on December 4, 1877 in Vemulurpadu village in Guntur district to Sriramulu and Seshamma, a Niyogi Brahmin couple.  He was educated in Ameenabad and Guntur. He went to England in 1913 to study law and came back to Andhra as a barrister in 1916 to practice law in Guntur and Chennai (then Madras).

He attended first ever widow marriage in Guntur in 1902,  influenced by Veeresalingam Kandukuri.  Later, he arranged several such widow marriages in Guntur and Krishna districts.   Widow marriage was not accepted by many Hindu castes and tribes in those days.   Young girls often found themselves being married off to very old men who died leaving behind very young widows.  The problem of widow marriage stems from beliefs and practices such as that marriage was a bond formed between a man and wife for ever, no one should marry a woman who was once married or was not a virgin and prevalent child marriages- origins of which were in the insecurity created by Muslim invasions.  Once a woman was married to a man, she belonged to him and his family and when the man died, she remained part of her husband’s family, although she usually was sent back to her parent’s home.   Remarriage of these young widows was unthinkable, even though Brahmin scriptures expressly suggest and provide rules for such widow remarriages, intercaste marriages and also for polygamy.  Widow marriages are not a problem in today’s Andhra society mainly because the need for such marriages was eliminated due to rarity of illegal child marriages and hence no more hapless young widows of old men.

In 1913, he served as the secretary to the first “Andhra Mahasabha” and in that assembly he insisted that a resolution for a separate Andhra State from Madras State be passed. However, it was postponed until next year to gather public opinion and was passed in the assembly in 1914.  In 1922 he presided over the Andhra Mahasabha assembly in Chittore.

He firmly believed that the society could not progress without women's emancipation and education. He founded an educational institution “Sarada Niketan” in 1922 for women.  This institution was run in a “gurukula” style.  His wife, Lakshmibayamma, also dedicated her life for this institution.   Sarada Niketan played a prominent role in Indian independence movement.  Many of its alumni participated in satyagraha and went to jails.

Lakshminarayana Unnava was jailed for one year in 1921 for his activities against the British government in favor of poor farmers of Palnadu.  He was again jailed for his participation in non-cooperation movement in 1930 and Quit India Movement in 1942.  He wrote in jail Malapalli, an important novel in the Telugu literature which mirrored the social and political conditions of Andhra during the British Raj and was banned by the British government.  His other writings include palnati veeracharitra, nayakuralu, bhavatarangalu, swarajya sode, etc.

His wife died in 1950 and he passed away at the age of 80 on September 25 in 1958.  His contributions to the political, social, literary history of Telugu people and to the formation of Andhra state from the then Madras state are unforgettable and unparalleled.

Source: noorguru telugu pramukhulu, M.L. Narasimharao

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu

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