Sardar A Vedarathanm
(1897 – 1961) – (Tamilnadu)
Sardar A Vedarathanm (Aged 64) known Vedarathanm Pillai as was born on February 25, 1897, in Vedaraniam, Tamil Nadu, India, to salt merchants Appakutty Pillai and Thangam Aachi. He hailed from the Saiva (vegetarian) Pillai community, known for its rich tradition of composing Tamil poetry dedicated to Lord Shiva and managing Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu.
Growing up in a devout and patriotic family, Vedaratnam Pillai was deeply influenced by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, and Rajaji. He was drawn to their principles and became actively involved in India’s Freedom Struggle from a young age. Inspired by Gandhiji’s teachings, he adopted the use of cotton clothes, and he encouraged his family to exclusively wear Khadi (pure cotton). He wholeheartedly participated in the Swadeshi movement, which advocated the boycott of foreign-made goods in favor of locally produced materials.
With the support and blessings of his older brother, young Vedaratnam dedicated a substantial amount of time to the Freedom Struggle. He faced multiple arrests and endured several months in prison as a consequence of his activism. In 1930, during Gandhiji’s iconic Salt Satyagraha march to Dandi in Gujarat, Vedaratnam Pillai and Rajaji undertook a similar march in Vedaraniam, marking the first such event in South India. This act put him and his family at great risk, and as a result, he incurred the wrath of the British Government, leading to substantial penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and the confiscation of his land and property.
In 1931, he attended a meeting of farmers in Tamil Nadu, where he was bestowed with the title of “Sardar” in recognition of his significant contribution to the Freedom Struggle, particularly his role in the Salt Satyagraha. In 1942, when Rajaji and other freedom fighters were arrested by the British, Vedaratnam Pillai ensured that Gandhiji’s teachings and initiatives continued to thrive.
Following the passing of Kasturba Gandhi in 1944, he actively sought donations for several Women’s and Children’s Welfare Centers. In 1946, he founded the Kasturba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam in Vedaraniam, a residential school offering free boarding and lodging to underprivileged girls. For his work in the field of untouchable welfare, he received a gold medal from the Tamil Nadu Government.
Vedaratnam Pillai was elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu three times, and he selflessly donated all of his MLA salaries to the Shri Ramakrishna Mission. He passed away on August 24, 1961, due to a heart ailment while actively participating in the Madras Assembly. The Gurukulam he established to empower young and disadvantaged girls continues its mission of education to this day.
He was a staunch nationalist who opposed regionalism and advocated for the study of Hindi as a unifying language, despite his fondness for Tamil. In honor of his 101st birthday, the Department of Posts issued a special commemorative postage stamp in 1998.