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Apostle of Sacrifice
Deshbhakta Karnad Sadashiv Rao Memorial Volume

First published on 27th March 1971 for the Deshbhakta Karnad Sadashiv Rao Memorial Committee.

The Freedom Movement in India threw up an amazing spectrum of personalities across our huge and diverse society - multi lingual, multi religious, multi cultural - 'multi' in every aspect you can imagine, yet united in its goal of regaining sovereignty for the country. This unity of purpose was key to the eventual success of our Freedom Movement, no matter what the travails along the way. Conversely, and sadly, it is divisiveness and a lack of syncretism in our society that hobbles every step in the same country today.

The vast swathe of sentiments generated against the colonial system had its leadership pillars, so to speak, in every part of our country a century back. In the coastal region of Karnataka (then part of Madras Presidency) one name that stands out in collective memory is that of Karnad Sadashiv Rao - a successful lawyer turned social reformer, and principal organiser for the Freedom Movement in the Kanaras. In the language of the day, some called him the "Uncrowned King of Kanaras". Under the influence of the Mahatma, he threw himself wholeheartedly into organising the Freedom movement, and in fundraising for this struggle. Prior to this, he had been active with Kudmul Ranga Rao (more about him here) in advancing the cause of women and widows, in social and education reform especially for girls, combating poverty and working to improve the lot of 'depressed classes', whom Mahatma Gandhi later addressed as Harijans.

Post Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy (1919) when the Mahatma launched the first Satyagraha Movement, Sadashiv Rao was the first in the Kanaras to sign the Satyagraha pledge. He further took up the cause to introduce the region to the Indian National Congress, which had been absent till then in the area. Moving between districts, towns and villages, Sadashiv Rao carried the Congress banner far and wide, gathering workers, farmers and ordinary people to the greater cause of Freedom. For 17 years, till his untimely death in 1937, he remained the heart and soul of the freedom struggle in the region... And he progressively sacrificed his all, body and soul, to the Cause.

It was his activities that brought the national leadership - the Mahatma, Deshbandhu CR Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, C.Rajagopalachari, Sarojini Naidu, the Ali Brothers and many others to the Karnataka region. In many activities, he worked actively with Umabai Kundapur (more about her here​) another icon of the Freedom Struggle in the area. Sadashiv Rao also remained the biggest proponent of Congress' Constructive Program, opening Rashtriya schools, weaving and spinning centres for Khadi, schools for girls, and Khadi Bhandars. In the process, he incurred huge debts, causing immense personal hardship to himself and family. Dr Zakir Hussain, (then) Vice President of India, and himself an eminent educationist, writes in his tribute "He (Sadashiv Rao) was a "Khudai Khidmatgar" of the Kanaras ... always in the vanguard of the freedom struggle, he died a destitute, but left a rich legacy of human endeavour, service and sacrifice".

We feel privileged to bring the life story of this true Deshbhakta to all our readers, and to our community, especially the younger generations. Through his life and actions, Karnad Sadashiv Rao raised the bar of equality, justice and selfless service very high, to help create a new India, which he, sadly, did not live to see.

We bring our hands together to revere a great soul. May his achievements always remain a beacon to us, now and in the future.

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