Yentha’s weekly series on historical personalities - those who now live as 'lifeless' statues in various parts of the capital city. A peek into their lives is also a peek into the history of this land and the struggles it has witnessed on its way to becoming one of the socially and economically foremost states in the country.
Here comes the fifth in the series, which will be featured every Wednesday.
Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai - 25 May 1878 – 28 March 1916
Regarded as the greatest journalist in Kerala history, K Ramakrishna Pillai was born to a Nair family in Arangamugal in present day Neyyattinkara taluk. He began his education in Neyyattinkara English Medium School in 1887, but later moved to Mahapadashala (Royal School) in Trivandrum, in 1892. His obsession with the newspaper saw him write many articles and form friendships with legendary names in literature like A R Rajaraja Varma and Ulloor S ParameswaraIyer.
He took up the editorship of 'Kerala Darpanam' in 1900 against the wishes of his uncle Keshava Pillai, for which he was ousted from home. Between working as the Editor and struggling to survive, he passed his BA degree in Malayalam with a first rank from the University College. In 1901 'Kerala Darpanam' and 'Vanjivibhujhika' – two periodicals which were started simultaneously- merged to form 'Kerala Panjhika'. Ramakrishna Pillai continued as the editor for two more years, before resigning in 1903 and moving to Kollam were he wished to settle down with his family. He wrote articles and spoke in various conferences against the malpractices and social injustices of that period.
He took up the editor post of the newspaper Swadeshabhimani, started by Abdul Khadar Moulavi in January 1906. He had to first shift his family to Vakkom and then to Trivandrum in 1907 for the sake of his job. Although Moulavi was the owner of the paper, Ramakrishna Pillai was given a free hand in its running. He started the women's magazine 'Sharada', which is considered to be the first women's magazine to be published in Malayalam. A students’ magazine 'Vidhyarthi' was also started by him.
Ramakrishna Pillai wrote openly about the corruption of the state and the injustices in society. He accused Diwan P Rajagopalachari of immorality through his newspaper. As a result, on September 26, 1910, the newspaper and printing press were sealed and confiscated by the British Police and Ramakrishna Pillai was arrested and banished from Travancore to Tirunelveli in Madras province.
In 1911, he published his autobiography 'Ente Naadukadathal'. He wrote 'Vrithantha Pathra Pravarthanam' in 1912, which is considered to be the first book on journalism in Malayalam. Ramakrishna Pillai also wrote the biography of Karl Marx in Malayalam, which was the first translation of the book into any Indian language. A fearless campaigner for civil rights and press freedom, 'Swadeshabhimani' Ramakrishna Pillai died on March 28, 1916 in Kannur, because of ailing health.
Statue unveiled by V S Achuthanandan, Chief Minister of Kerala on 26 September 2009 at the present location. The bust was originally unveiled by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, next to the State Secretariat in the presence of E M S Namboodiripad, Chief Minister of Kerala, on 13 August 1957.
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