November 2014 \ Cover Story \ Cover Story
Forgotten Freedom Fighter

By Hemant Padhya
  • Pandit Shyamaji Krishnavarma (1857-1930)

This is the inspiring narrative of a forgotten hero, a lesser known yet gallant Indian soul who was a freedom fighter, scholar and philanthropist rolled into one, a man deeply committed to freeing India from the stranglehold of the British during the first decade of the 20th century. It is strange that very few Indians living in Paris and France that talk about the Indian Diaspora these days, rarely mention about the Sanskrit scholar Pandit Shyamaji Krishnavarma. Shyamaji lived in Paris for seven years, between 1907 and 1914, and worked tirelessly to make Europeans aware of the need to free India from British rule. To this end, he ran newspapers, doled out scholarships for Indian students in Britain, lectured extensively, and financially involved himself to the cause.

Before moving to Paris, Shyamaji lived in London for 10 years. He escaped the clutches of British police and intelligence in the nick of time to find his way to Paris with his wife. In London he had established the Indian Home Rule Society in 1905 at his home address at 60, Muswell Hill Road, Highgate, London N 10 31R. In the British capital his freedom propaganda took off with the publishing of the first and foremost anti-colonial newspaper called The Indian Sociologist. He bought a large house at 65, Cromwell Avenue and transformed it into a student hostel named India House. Visiting Indian students to England who were looking for cheap accommodation were housed there, and at the same time provided demagogic orientation to become part of India’s freedom movement.