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Monday, February 27, 2012

Remembering the heroic deeds of Veer Surendra Sai

It is 128 years since the death of a great Son of India – quite unfortunate that many of us do not even know about him, leave alone remembering his patriotic deeds.

The  British East India Company was granted a Royal Charter in 1599, operated its own large army, entered India as traders slowly gained entry by deceitful means and then controlled major portions of India.  The East India Company were to trade  in cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt , saltpetre, tea and opium – they became rulers, effectively from 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858, followed by the British Crown assuming direct control of India under British Raj.  The rulers plundered and took away riches of the Nation in abundance – more importantly, they rewrote History suiting their style and ensured that the  heroic patriotic deeds of many Great sons of this motherland were not properly portrayed.

It is more than 64 years since the British left, but still the Indian history is not properly re-written, giving due Credits to the selfless sacrifices of Great Patriots.  In the end, we study history as the legacy of British, read about Viceroys and their administrative set-up but scanty details of our own Noble Freedom Fighters – most of whom are only part of local legend but not known throughout the Nation. 

Perhaps one such is “Veer Sundar Sai”  a great fighter who sacrificed his life fighting against the British and died in obscurity. Surendra Sai has a demi-god status in Western Orissa – the  Kosal region.   As could be easily deciphered,  it derives its name from the Mother of Lord Rama – Kousalya.   Kosala Proper or Uttara Kosala is the kingdom of the celebrated personality of Treta Yuga, Raghupathi Ramar. Rama's sons Lava and Kusha inherited parts of this kingdom. Lava ruled from the city called Sravasti and Kusa from the city called Kushavati. Dakshina Kosala or Southern Kosala was a colony of Kosala kings identified to be the Chhattisgarh state and western Orissa region of India.
Surendar Sai and many of  his associates like  Madho Singh, Kunjal Singh, Airi Singh, Padmanave Guru, Trilochan Panigrahi  resisted the Britishers and successfully protected most parts of Kosal region for some time from the British rule.Most of them died unnoticed fighting for freedom from the Britishers. Many of them were hanged by the Britishers; a few died in the Cellular Jail in the Andamans.

Surendra Sai was born on 23 January 1809 in a Village called Bargaon  in Khinda about 30 km (19 mi) to the north of a town called Sambalpur in the Kosal region. His father was Dharma Singh and he was one of seven children. Surendra Sai was a direct descendant from Madhukar Sai, the fourth Chauhan king of Sambalpur and therefore was eligible as a candidate to be crowned as king of Sambalpur after demise of King Maharaja Sai in 1827.  deceitfully, the  British authorities removed Rani Mohan Kumari, widow of the King,  from power and put Narayan Singh, as the king of Sambalpur, ignoring the  claim of Surendra Sai for succession. Rebellion broke out in the regime of Narayan Singh. In an encounter with the British troops Surendra Sai, his brother Udyanta Sai and his uncle Balaram Singh were captured and sent to the Hazaribagh Jail where Balaram Singh died. King Narayan Singh died in 1849.
By virtue of the Doctrine of Lapse, Lord Dalhousie annexed Sambalpur in 1849, as Narayan Singh had no male successor to succeed him. During the uprising of 1857 the sepoys set Surendra Sai and his brother Udyant Sai free. The resistance to British continued in Sambalpur under the leadership of Surendar Sai. He was supported by his brothers, sons, relatives and some Zamindars.   Surendar Sai espoused the cause of the downtrodden tribal people in Sambalpur by promoting their language and culture in response to the higher caste Indians and the British trying to exploit them to establishment their political power in Western Orissa. Surendra Sai began protesting the British at age 18 in 1827, moved operations to the hilly tracts of Western Orissain 1857 and continued until he surrendered in 1862 and went to Hazaribagh Jail.  He was incarcerated for 17 years and after his final arrest served another  term of 20 years including his detention of 19 years in the remote Asirgarh hill fort until he died.

The Indian Revolution  was suppressed by the end of 1858, but Sai  continued his revolution. The military resources of the British were pulled up against him and the brilliant Generals like Major Forster, Capt. L. Smith and others earned credit in suppressing the rebellion elsewhere in India were brought to Sambalpur to stamp out his revolution. But all attempts failed and Surendar Sai succeeded in foiling strategy of the British for a long time. The British seized the entire food-stock of the rebels but also stopped all resources of the supply of food and other necessaries of life for them. Major Impey abandoned the idea of violent war and cautiously followed the policy of peace and good-will with the approval of the Government of India. Surendar Sai, one of the greatest revolutionaries in history, and a warrior who knew no defeat in his life surrendered with full faith in the honesty and integrity of the British Government.

Sambalpur was one of the last patch of land to be occupied by the British Empire in India, not counting the Princely States. This was largely due to the effort of Surendra Sai. He was a very good swordsman. "Veer" in sambalpuri language means fearless. Later "Veer" became a part of his name and he has been referred as so in history books.   Surendra Sai launched the first freedom movement much before the Rebellion of 1857.  He languished for many years in the prison and eventually died in Asirgarh Jail on 28 February 1884.  Some accounts have his date of death as 23rd  May 1884 also.

Let us remember and salute the great heroic deeds of Veer Surendra Sai

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. Hail the patriotism of this noble person - Surya

  2. Only old timers remember such things........ The Communists have ensured that History is rewritten obliterating all that is good about the Nation and its culture. - Irfan

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