C Rajagopalachary or Rajaji was one of my favorite personalities from India's freedom struggle. His candor, pragmatism and intellect made his stand apart from most of his contemporaries. Not many know that he had a funny nick name, "Mango of Salem"! His house is now a museum and worth visiting from Bangalore. Located at Thorapalli near Hosur it is just an hour's drive from Bangalore. A half day can be well spent at his house reminiscing about India's freedom struggle and the early years of Independent India.
Rajaji Memorial is located 12 KMS from Hosur. While coming from Bangalore, upon reaching Hosur look for a right into the Onnalvadi Thorapallu road. The Rajaji Memorial is located 10 KM away on this road. There are sign boards and one can also ask for directions as this is a prominent landmark in this area.
For most of us who have read about India's freedom struggle only from history books while at school, The Rajaji Memorial at Thorapalli provides a good context to the events that led to India's independence as well as the challenges faced by India after gaining it.
Rajaji was the first Indian Governor General. When Lord Mounbatten took leave to attend the wedding of his nephew Price Philip with Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, Rajaji was made the acting Governor General. Rajaji washed his own clothes even when he was the Governor General of India! He eventually became the full time Governor General in 1948. Interestingly he was the second choice of Lord Mountbatten to succeed him, the first being Sardar Patel. However both Nehru and Patel himself did not want the post and Rajaji went on to become the last Governor General of India. When India became a republic on 26th January 1950, he was the top choice for the post of President of India. However due to politics in the Congress Party, he did not take up that position.
What separated Rajaji from many of his illustrious contemporaries was his courage to take an unpopular stand if he felt the need for it. Unlike most politicians, Rajaji did not care about public sentiment. He would take a stand even if it was against the wishes of the public provided he felt that was the right thing to do. Rajaji introduced a system of Education which encouraged children to improve their hereditary crafts. This was opposed by many as encouraging the caste system. Rajaji's view was that a combination of regular schooling and learning ancestral trade would help the youth get employment and manage the country's education with its limited budget. Another instance when Rajaji took an unpopular stand was when he enforced Hindi as the national language against violent protests by other parties in Tamilnadu.
In the later years after India's Independence, Rajaji and Nehru developed differences on critical matters related to policy. Eventually Rajaji left the Congress Party and founded the Swatantra Party, a right wing alternative to the Indian National Congress. The party was the main opposition to the Congress after the 1967 General Elections.
Rajaji was dead against the demarcation of States basis the spoken Language. He felt it would divide the Country on linguistic lines. He was a far sighted man, as we can see the state of India due to the linguistic divide!
He was also a proponent of Prohibition. When the DMK ruled Tamil Nadu government revoked prohibition to improve the state's finances, Rajaji withdrew support to the party and joined hands with the Congress led by Kamaraj.
Rajaji was also a great writer. He used to write in both Tamil and English. He has written an abridged retelling of both the Ramayana and Mahabharata in English. He was the founder of Salem Literary Society and one of the founders of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. In 1922 he published Sirayil Tavam, an account in Tamil of his imprisonment by the British between 1921 and 22.
In 1916 he started the Tamil Scientific Society. The focus of this group was to coin new words in Tamil for terms in botany, chemistry, astronomy and mathematics.
Mahatma Gandhi is the one who paid the greatest tribute to Rajaji when he said the latter is his conscience keeper.
Next time when you are looking to go somewhere on a weekend from Bangalore, try Thorapalli. It is a memorable and enriching experience, learning about the life and times of Rajaji and other great men of India's freedom struggle.
For more of my travelogues on heritage holidays, visit Great Heritage Getaways.