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Great People who made Prakasam district proud
Andhra Ratna Diggirala Gopalakrishnaiah
      Gopalakrishnayya Duggirala was one of the famous leaders in the non-violent Indian Freedom Movement. He attracted millions of Andhra people to the movement through his poetry and speeches.
      He was born in Penuganchiprolu village in Krishna district on June 2, 1889 into a Brahmin family. His father was Kodandaraamaiah and mother was Seetamma. He studied in high schools in Gunturu and Bapatla cities. While at school, even at that young age, he founded “Jaateeya Naatyamandali (National Dance Group)” to help develop arts such as drama and music.
      He went to England for higher studies. After graduating with MA degree from Edinburgh University, he worked with Ananda Kumaraswamy for some time and translated Nandikeswara’s abhinaya darpanamu from Sanskrit into English entitled, “The Mirror of Gesture,” published by Cambridge-Harvard University Press in 1917.
     After a brief tenure as a lecturer at Rajamandri Training College and Bandaru National College, he jumped headlong into freedom struggle. In 1919, the British government unified Cheerala and Perala municipalities into one municipality. Gopalakrishnayya called for a non-cooperation movement against this action. This movement became one of the most important milestones in the Andhra freedom struggle. He traveled extensively in Andhra, after the Nagpur Congress Convention in 1920, to propagate the aims of the meeting. He was jailed for one year when he disobeyed a ban on speeches in Barampuram.
      He was very much interested in Telugu folk-arts and toiled for the uplift of these arts. Telugu folk arts include toalubommalaata (puppet show), jamukulakatha, burrakatha, veedhinaatakaalu, saamu gaaradeelu, golla kalaapam, butta bommalu, keelu gurraalu, vaalakaalu, gosangi, guravayyalu, saradhakatha, kinnerakatha, kommu boora, jodu maddela, palle suddulu, toorpu bhagotham, chuttukaamudu, pitchikuntlavaalla katha, sadhana soorulu, palanati veera vidyavanthulu, etc. He founded a journal entitled, “saadhana.” He strove for the spread of libraries in Andhra in a movement called grandhalayodyamamu (library movement).
      He was very spiritualistic and a Rama worshipper. He formed a volunteer group called ‘Ramadandu,” which was a well-organized, patriotic and spiritual organization. He was awarded the title “Andhra Ratna (Gem of Andhra)’ by the people in 1921 at a meeting in Gunturu. He died at the age of 40 in 1928.
      Three episodes during the Civil Disobedience Movement in Andhra attracted the attention of the whole country. The first and major one was the Chirala-Perala episode led by Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya. He served for some time in the Government College at Rajahmundry and the National College at Machilipatnam. He was, however, not satisfied with the kind of education that was imparted there. Moreover, after attending the Calcutta Congress in 1920, he was attracted to the programme of Non-co-operation and resolved to dedicate his life to the achievement of Swaraj. For this purpose he trained thousand disciplined band of warriors and gave them the name `Ramadandu'. He put them to test at the All-India Congress Session in Vijayawada to maintain peace and order and the All-India leaders were immensely pleased with the kind of work they did.
      Chirala and Perala were two contiguous villages in Prakasam (then part of Guntur) district with a population of 15,000. The Government wanted to combine them into a municipality in 1920. But the people protested against this move because it meant imposition of additional taxes. These protests were not headed to and the municipality was constituted. As a protest against this, all elected councilors resigned. The Government, however, carried on the administration of the municipality with a paid chairman. In January, 1921, the residents refused to pay the municipal taxes. Several of them including a woman were prosecuted, tried and sentenced to imprisonment. This woman was considered to be the first woman in the country to be imprisoned on political grounds. After the All-India Congress session at Vijayawada, Gandhiji came to Chirala. Gopalakrishnayya sought his advice on the future course of action to be taken. Gandhiji suggested two alternatives, (1) to continue the No-Tax Campaign in a non-violent manner and (2) mass exodus of people to the vacant areas beyond the municipal limits. The second would automatically end the municipality. But he made it clear that whatever course they chose the Congress would bear no responsibility and that they must stand on their own legs. Gopalakrishnayya had enough confidence in himself and the people, and in spite of the warning, he persuaded the residents to move to the area outside the municipal limits and raise temporary tenements which he called `Ramanagar'.
      It was an unprecedented step in the history of the country. For eleven months people lived there in thatched huts braving the severity of weather. Gopalakrishnayya and his Ramadandu kept up the morale of the people. Their aim was to establish a parallel government and demonstrate to the outside world how Swarajya, as conceived by him, would be like. He constituted an Assembly comprising members elected from each caste and established an arbitration court. Sankirtans and Bhajans kept up the morale of the people. He, however, faced financial difficulties and he went to Berhampore in 1921, when the Andhra Conference was in session to collect some money. There he was prohibited to address the public meetings but he defied the orders. He was arrested and sentenced to one year's imprisonment and sent to Trichinapally. There was no other person who could occupy his place. The Government also took repressive measures against those who built sheds on government lands. People returned to their homes in the municipality at the end of eleven months and reconciled themselves to its constitution. Though the movement failed, the qualities of courage and fearlessness they developed stood them in good stead in the subsequent stages of the freedom movement.
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