A True Gandhian


My grandfaher, Late Sri Nadadur Sadhu.Varadachari was a true follower of Gandhiji. N.S.Varadachri as he is popularly known as 'Samy' or NSV among his relatives and friends. He was also popularly known as No Shirt Varadachari among his political friends and circle. NSV was a lawyer (M.A.B.L) by profession and gave up his practice for the sake of country and joined the Gandhian Movement.

Varadachari was the son of N. S.Anantachari and Singarammal. He was born in Tenali near Tirupati on January 25, 1897. He was a student of the redoubtable Rt. Hon'ble V.S. Srinivasa Sastri in the Triplicane Hindu High School and of Dr.Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the Madras Presidency College where he did his Honours in History and Economics. He took his Law degree in 1918 and had his apprenticeship under Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer and K. S.Rajagopala Iyer, leading luminaries of the Madras Bar at that time. But the turning point of his life came when Mahatma Gandhi visited Madras on C. Rajagopalachari's invitation. Late Prof. K. Swaminathan, Chief Editor of the collected works of Mahatma Gandhi says,' Like Bhishma of old, N.S.Varadachari had the courage to take and the strength to keep a self-denying vow. On August 13, 1920, N. S. Varadachari, K. Santhanam and a few other youngsters were among the audience at Jamma Masjid at Triplicane, where Gandhiji pleaded for boycott of foreign clothes, titles, schools, law courts and so on and added almost playfully,' I don't expect you to become fakirs or to give up wearing chappals and shirts and coats.' N. S.Varadachari took up the challenge, asked 'why not?' and in that one golden moment, threw away not only the legal profession, but every item of luxury and every symbol of status. A patriot of purest ray serene, N. S. Varadachari lived a long, austere and noble life, shirtless, shoeless and selfless.'' He was at the forefront of several satyagraha movements led by Mahatma Gandhi and served sentences in various jails for over eight years. A great lover of Sanskrit and a keen student of the Bhagavad Gita, NSV was a wholly home-grown fruit on the tree of Indian culture.

NSV was attracted towards Gandhiji's way of life, his speeches, his vision towards Indian Independence and his plans for satyagraha and ahimsa which he and his followers liked to follow. Once Gandhi visited law college in Madras province.He gave a lecture on how the lawyers should perform their duties in court and how they should fight for the truth and truth only. During the lecture he said that lawyers by virtue of their capacity in arguement could turn truth to falsehood and falsehood could be made a truth. They could get punishment for a person who was not a criminal or cheat or murderer. In that context he asked for volunteers who would would give up their practice and join his movement.The response came from NSV, K.Santhanam, ex-minister and governor and two other persons.

NSV liked Gandhiji's simplicity, truthfulness and religious belief. Once NSV joined gandhian movement he went frequently to Sabharmathi Ashram at Gujarat. He started wearing Khadi dhoti (panachakacham) and khadi Angavastram and tonsured his head. He was made the editor of Young India, a newspaper run by Gandhi. In the Ashram there used to be daily prayer conducted by Mahatma. Gandhi would lead by saying the first line of the Bhagad Gita and everybody would follow him. NSV was among them and he was chanting the Bhagavad Gita. In one of the lines NSV made a mistake which he did not know but which was noticed by Gandhiji. Gandhiji asked him to stand up and repeat the same line twice. NSV repeated the line with a mistake. Gandhiji corrected him. Thereafter NSV taught himself Sanskrit and studied the Bhagavad Gita and many other philosophical works. NSV recited Bhagwad Gita every day and would never go to bed without finishing all the 18 chapters of Bhagvad Gita till his death. NSV was also close to HH. Sri Thirukudanthai Andavan.

My grand father was married to Mrs.Kanakavalli who was the daughter of the Dewan of the Maharaja of Tirupathi. My grandmother gave birth to nine children (3 female and 6 male children). One of them died young due to high fever. Kanakavalli brought up the others almost single-handedly since NSV used to be mostly with the Mahatma. Whenever Gandhi had plans for a satyagraha NSV and other fllowers would also be with him and they were taken to jail along with Gandhi. NSV was imprisoned 10 or 15 times during the British rule and each time he was in jail for 10 days to a month and sometimes longer. My grandmother did not worry about this and in fact supported NSV and his sacrifice to the nation. She was so helpful in nature that she not only fed her children but also her sister's sons who studied and lived in our house at Gandhinagar, Adyar.

After the death of Gandhi NSV was closely associated with Nehru, Lal Bahadur, Morarji, Gulzarilal, Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji and others. NSV was a sitting member of Legislative Assembly from Triplicane constituency for 10 years. When nominations were to be filed for the next assembly elections NSV was denied ticket and TTK was given ticket. The matter went to congress high command and NSV was asked to contest the election from vellore. This was announced only just 10 days before the election and there was no time for poster, pamphlets or publicity. Yet his fame was such that he lost the election just by 500 votes to a local resident who was a doctor. Since NSV lost the election because he was given an unfamiliar constituency, Lal Bahadur and Nanda called him to Delhi to join the Planning Commission. He worked in Delhi for four years and came back to Madras to join Rajaji. He became a member of the Swatantra Party formed by Rajaji and wrote many articles to Swarajya. NSV was also very closely associated with Annadurai and MGR,. MGR trusted NSV so much that he gave the authority to NSV for signing the freedom fighters' pension for those belonging to Tamilnadu.

NSV was a man of simplicity, truth and was true follower of Gandhi. He never craved for advertisement, status, money or power. He lived a simple life. He educated his children and also his relatives' children by allowing them to stay in his house and study and would also pay the fees for their education. Wherever possible he got jobs for a lot of deserving poor people of any community. He always used to travel by bus in the hot sun without chappals and whoever needed his helphad to go along with him in the bus only though they might own a car or travel by auto.

Both NSV and his wife Kanakavalli were kind and helpful and were loved and respected by all his relatives, friends and neighbours.

I have written this article from his speeches and interviews and some parts are from my memory. There are four photographs given below.

August 2009

Mr. N.S. Varadachari, the Congress candidate for the City South Assembly Constituency, is seen with head swathed in a bandage after he was attacked by some miscreants, canvassing votes in Triplicane area, Madras. (The Hindu-18/02/1937)

Mr. N.S. Varadachari, with Gandhiji

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