Biography of Kandukuri Veeresalingam
Rao Bahadur Kandukuri Veeresalingam (Telugu: కందుకూరి వీరేశలింగం), also known as Kandukuri Veeresalingham Pantulu (Telugu: కందుకూరి వీరేశలింగం పంతులు), was a social reformer of Andhra Pradesh. He was born in an orthodox Niyogi Telugu Brahmin family. He is widely considered as the man who first brought about a renaissance in Telugu people and Telugu literature. He was influenced by the ideals of Brahmo Samaj particularly those of Keshub Chunder Sen. He got involved in the cause of social reforms. In 1876 he started a Telugu journal and wrote the first prose for women. He encouraged education for women, and started a school in Dowlaiswaram in 1874. He started a social organisation called Hitakarini (Benefactor).
In the History of the Brahmo Samaj, Sivanath Sastri writes Kandukuri Veeraselingam Pantulu, “He constructed the first Brahmo Mandir in the Andhra country at Rajahmundry in 1887. He constructed a Widows’ Home, a two storied building and a similar one for the Social Reform Association at Madras; he started the first theistic high school, the Hithakarini School at Rajahmundry in 1908; during the same year he willed away all his property for the benefit of Rajahmundry Widows’ Home and the school, and placed them under the management of an association, the Hithakarini Samaj. The movement spread from Rajahmundry to Cocanada (presently Kakinada), Parlakimedi, Palakole, Narsapur, Vijayawada and Tenali.”
He is also credited with the setting up of Brahmo Samaj at Bangalore.
Veeresalingam panthulu is popularly called Gadhya Thikkana. He wrote about 100 books between 1869 and 1919 and introduced the essay, biography, autobiography and the novel into Telugu literature. His Satyavathi Charitam was the first social novel in Telugu. He wrote Rajasekhara Charitamu inspired by Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefied. To him literature was an instrument to fight social evils. He was a poet of considerable renown.
He was also one of the members of the first Indian National Congress (INC) meeting held in 1885.
He died on 27 May 1919. A statue of his has been installed on Beach Road, Visakhapatnam. His contributions to social reform, specifically to causes such as widow remarriage, are well-remembered in Andhra Pradesh.
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