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Chief Editor: Dr. Sreenivasarao Vepachedu

 Veeresalingam Kandukuri (1848-1919)

Veeresalingam Kandukuri (1848-1919) and Paravastu Chinnayasuri are considered prophets of Modern Andhra.   Veeresalingam awakened Andhras out of their suffocating medieval orthodox customs and superstitions.  He was not only a reformer, but also a literary activist. His literary activities were varied.  He was the first to write a Telugu novel,  Telugu drama, books on natural sciences and history in Telugu, and Telugu prose for women.  He was considered the father of renaissance in Andhra.

Veeresalingam was born into a poor Brahmin family on 16 April 1848 at Rajamundry. His father was Subbarayudu and mother was Purnamma.  He lost his father at the age of four.  In spite of poverty, his mother sent him to the Government District School. He finished Matriculation in 1869 and worked as a teacher in Korangi Town. Later he worked in Rajamundry City as a Senior Telugu Pundit.

He was a reformist writer. His initial writings were in classical style of Prabandhas. He wrote several Satakas, such as, Gopala Satakamu, Markandeya Satakamu etc.   Later he became interested in erotic literature. His sensual writings include Suddhandhra Niroshtya Nirvachananaishadhamu, Rasikajana Ranjanamu,  Suddhandrottara Ramayanamu, Suddharndhra Bharata Sangrahamu etc. His Abhagyopakhyanamu is a humorous satire on the Andhra society. His novel Rajasekhara Charitram was the first Telugu novel.

Veeresalingam was one of the greatest personalities and earliest reformers in India to demand for radical changes in Telugu Indian society.  He had a keen insight, great courage and dynamic energy.  He fought against untruth and championed the cause of progress with vigor.  He fought for education for women, and remarriage of widows.  He started Vivekavardhini, a monthly journal, to point out and criticize the defects in the society.  He also maintained several other journals like Chintamani, Sateehitabodha, Satyasavardhani, Satyavadi etc., and helped develop the Telugu literature and reformation of the society.  He established in 1874 a girls school at Dhavaleswaram to encourage women's education.  In 1884, he established another school for girls at Innispeta in Rajamundry.  He also established an organization called Hitakarini Society and donated all his property for the social  activities to improve the society and support various organizations set up by him.  He ridiculed the opponents of women's education in many satires, lampoons and drama like "Brahma Vivaham." Through his writings he criticized early marriages, Kanyasulkam (price of bride) and marriages of old men with young girls.

Veeresalingam developed contacts with influential British officials and other eminent citizens of Madras.  He began to give seminars  to convince the orthodox leaders that re-marriage of widows was not prohibited by Dharma Sastra (Scriptural Law).  In these seminars he used to quote verses from scriptures to prove his point.  The  orthodox leaders took up the challenge and arranged special meetings and debates to counter Veeresalingam's arguments.  The opponents of remarriage failed to prove their point and resorted to physical violence against Veeresalingam. He didn't back down and fearlessly established a Remarriage Association and sent his students nook and corner of the Andhra Nation to find young men willing to marry widows.  He arranged the first widow remarriage on December 11, 1881.  Because of these reformist activities Veeresalingam became famous even abroad.  The Government, in appreciation of his work, conferred on him the title of "Rao Bahadur" in 1893.  Later he established a Widow Home.

He also fought against the system of concubines called nauch system. Keeping concubines was regarded as a status symbol.  Most of these concubines were from Devadasi tribe/caste. Usually in the houses of these Davadasis, the corrupt officials made illegal deals.  So, it became a common practice to use these concubines to get favors from the officials.  Veeresalingam attacked this sexual corruption in the society.

Sir Veeresalingam Kandukuri was a multifaceted personality and he reformed the society with his literature and revolutionary activities. He was a crusader and one of the greatest leaders that India ever had.

Telugu Sahitya Sameeksha, Nagayya G.
History of Modern Andhra, Raghunadharao P.

Happy Dasara!
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 10/07/2000

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Vepachedu Educational Foundation, Inc
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Om! Asatoma Sadgamaya, Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma Amritamgamaya, Om Shantih, Shantih, Shantih!
(Om! Lead the world from wrong path to the right path, from ignorance to knowledge, from mortality to immortality and peace!)