Today is death anniversary of Andhra Ratna Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya, who led the Chirala satyagraha against British rule, another of our freedom fighters who deserves to be known more.
Andhra Ratna Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya, the first ever Telugu person to become the secretary of All India Congress Committee, who did his post graduation in economics from the University of Edinburgh.
A polyglot fluent in English, Telugu, Hindi, Sanskrit, a brilliant writer known for his extempore verse composition,who set up the Andhra Vidya Peetha Gosthi, a literary society.
Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya was born on June 2, 1889 in Penuganchiprolu, a small village in Krishna district,known for it’s temples. His ancestors were very well off landlords in Guntur region, while his father Kodandaramaswamy, worked as a school teacher.
His mother Sitamma though died immediately after giving birth to him. With his father too passing away, Gopalakrishna was bought up by his uncle and grandmother. Completing his schooling from Bapatla, he worked for some time in the Taluk office there.
In 1911, he left for Edinburgh along with his childhood friend Nadimpalli Narasimha Rao, who would later be a close associate of Andhra Kesari Tanguturi Prakasam.
After completing his post graduation in Economics from the University of Edinburgh, he returned back to Guntur in 1917, and taught for some time at the colleges in Rajahmundry and Machilipatnam.
However being dissatisfied with the education, and attracted to the principles of non cooperation and Satyagraha, after attending the Kolkata session of the Congress in 1920, he resolved to dedicate his life to the cause of Swaraj.
Attracted to Annie Beasant’s Home Rule Movement, he quit his job to plunge into the freedom struggle. Being a devotee of Shri Rama, he organized a cadre of workers called Rama Dandu( Rama’s Army).
The Rama Dandu would play a prominent role in organizing the 1921 Congress session at Vijayawada. The members wore saffron robes, donned rudraksha beads and had a vermillion mark on their foreheads.
Chirala is a small town in the Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, famous for it’s high quality handlooms woven here. Then a part of Guntur district, the British had taken the decision of combining the twin villages of Chirala and Perala into one single muncipality.
While the decision would yield a large rise in income for the British Govt, it would have meant an equally large tax burden on the residents of these two villages. It was in protest against this decision that the residents led a non violent agitation in 1921.
The British clamped down ruthlessly arresting and prosecuting many of those involved. It was on the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi, that he began to move out the people from Chirala, Perala to other villages outside the town limits.
The depopulation of the town would make the muncipality meaningless. Responding to Gopalakrishnayya's call, around 13,000 residents moved to a new settlement called Ramanagara, where he set up a parallel Government.
Though this continued for 11 months with the assistance of the Rama Dandu, dwindling finances, lack of support from other Congress leaders saw the agitation weakening. And with the arrest of Gopalakrishnayya at Trichy, the settlement at Ramanagara would have to be abandoned.
When Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the Non Cooperation Movement following the Chauri Chaura incident, he resigned from the Congress in protest, and joined the newly formed Swarajya Party founded by Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru in 1925.
He became one of it’s secretaries, and was affectionately called as Rama Dasu. He was mentor to the Telugu writer Abburi Ramakrishna Rao, as well as a strong influence on the poet B Sundararama Sastri.
He was also good friends with Ananda Coomaraswamy, whom he had met in England, and along with him translated Abhinayadarpana, an ancient work on theater, written by Nandikeshvara, into English as The Mirror of Gesture.
Unfortunately Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya's later years were marked by poverty, and he passed away on June 10, 1928 at just 39 suffering from tuberculosis. Another great son of Bharat passed away into obscurity.
Andhra Ratna Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya, a truly selfess soul, freedom fighter, a brilliant mind. On his death anniversary today, my tributes to a great son of Bharat whom we can be proud of.

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