Badarka is a non-descript village near Unnao that holds so many secrets and stories in its fold. It was once the hometown and birth place of our freedom fighter Shri Chandra Shekhar Azad.
Uttar Pradesh played a very important role in the fight for freedom against the British. Not only did the land produce many courageous freedom fighters but was also witness to some of the most important events which led to the hard-earned freedom of India.
To learn more about the much revered freedom fighter, fondly called Azad (Free), it is necessary to visit his native place. As you go through the 12 km long dusty lanes of Badarka, from Unnao, there is a memorial en route built in his memory. A statue of Azad is built at one end of the large ground. The statue had the typical pose of Azad showing him rolling one end of his moustache with pride and machismo.
REMEMBERING THE MARTYR
Every year the villagers and thousands of patriots from across India, head to this ground to celebrate Azad’s birth anniversary over 3 days on January 6, 7 and 8. This tradition was started by Azad’s mother in the year 1932, an year after he was martyred. The first event was a grand one and was graced by other freedom fighters, friends of Azad and politicians. In subsequent years, politicians like Smt. Indira Gandhi, foreign delegates like Professor Nakamura (from Tokyo University in 1973) and many former Chief Ministers and Governors have visited the place and paid their respect. Professor Nakamura from Japan along with a dozen more delegates made a visit to Badarka. When he visited this place, he was so moved by the story of Azad that he vowed to build a statue in his memory in Tokyo University which he did.
The first Azad Memorial ever was built in 1958 in Badarka. According to the folklore, such was the pull of Azad, the memorial attracted huge crowd from across India in those days and even today on special occasions.
HOUSE OF THE HERO
The first sight of the house of Azad humbles you. What is now a memorial was originally a hut made up of mud and wood. The memorial was built in 1985 with the effort of then Chief Minister Shri Narayana Dutt Tiwari. To think such a great freedom fighter had such modest beginnings makes you reflect at your own life. Certainly, greatness should never be defined by privilege but ‘karma’. A metal gate, which is never locked, guards this commemorative memorial. Amidst this, stands tall the statue of Jagrani Devi, mother of Azad! On the walls, slogans evoking the freedom struggle are painted.
STORIES FROM THE PAST
There is a plaque in the memorial which mentioned Azad as ‘Son of Lion’ (Singh Shaavak). The story goes like one day when Azad was studying under a makeshift open air school, covered only with a ‘chappar’, he saw some British officers harassing the locals, mainly from a particular community. They bundled up all the belongings of a person and when he protested, the ‘daroga’ (Inspector) beat him up, turning his body red with blood. Little Chandu, as Azad was fondly called, could not bear the sight and the rebellion in him made him hit the cops and run away. When the furious cop team reached his home, his petrified father asked what had happened. Azad described that he did not like what he saw and hit back. That was one of the first instances when Azad displayed valour and fearlessness.
A WALK ON THE PATH OF FREEDOM
When Azad was 13 years old, his family moved to Alirajpur, where someone hired his father as a gardener. Azad was disinterested in living in a remote tribal area and said yes to a merchant who asked him to accompany him to Mumbai. Azad took up the odd job of painting a ship and later washing dishes at a tea shop. Once, a Sanskrit teacher Shri Nand Kishore Gupta, saw him washing dishes. He convinced him to come to Varanasi and offered him shelter, food, education, clothes and a monthly allowance at Benaras Sanskrit Vidyapeeth. He did move to Benaras and at the tender age of 15, he along with the students of his college, participated in a march chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Long Live Mother India) and Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution). Azad was leading the march with a flag in his hand. The situation went out of control when the British tried to stop the march and asked him to throw away the flag and retreat. He was arrested and taken to the magistrate. What happened next is history. Here is what Azad answered to the questions by the Magistrate.
Name : ‘Azad’(free)
Father’s name : ‘Swadheen’ (free)
Address : ‘Jail’
The magistrate, furious with his replies, ordered 15 lashes! Leather belt, dipped in hot oil was whipped on his exposed body. Not one to flinch, he cried, ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ at each lash. His blood soaked body was dumped on the road. His pictures and story were carried in newspapers of that time. This event made him a household name.
Shri Sampoornanad, a close family friend,took care of his medication. Later, when Azad recuperated, he addressed crowd at a public meeting. It is said that the crowd was so huge that they had to put a chair above a table on a cot so that everyone could see him. From the stage, he declared, “We are free (Azad) from today onwards!! The British will never be able to kill us.” Years later, he stuck to his words when he shot himself as British officers attacked him.
Other important places related to Azad
A man who revolutionised the Indian freedom movement against the British rule, Chandra Shekhar Azad is a name that echoes long into eternity. Several parks, roads and institutions are named after him in India.
WHITE PALACE OF BADARKA
The British gave this name to the 500-year-old fort, built by the Mughal emperor Jehangir. It is visible from Azad’s house in Badarka. According to historian Shri Lakhpat Rai Sharma, Jehangir buried valuable treasure in the cellar of this mysterious fort. The British tried to recover that treasure by attempting to demolish the palace. Built over an area of 4 hectares, the fort has 7 stories, 4 above the ground and 3 below it. It is said that the fort has a 25 km long tunnel. As per the folklore, Azad used to sit and plan the next missions here along with his friends. They used to escape from the tunnel when British Officers attacked the fort.
‘Kakori Kaand’ is still etched in the conscience of people of India, even after 91 years have passed. Members of HRA (Hindustan Republican Association) overpowered the train heading towards Lucknow and looted the money which belonged to the British. The campaign was led by revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil. Other legendary freedom fighters like Ashfaqulla Khan, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakhshi were a part of it amongst others. The event took place on August 9, 1925 near Kakori station, few minutes away from Lucknow. Except Azad, all other involved were arrested.
CHANDRA SHEKHAR AZAD PARK
Formerly called Alfred Park, it was built by the British in Allahabad. However, it is now known as the park where Azad breathed his last. He chose to end his life under a tree rather than surrendering to British when attacked by them. Built in 1870 to mark Prince Alfred’s visit to the city, with an area of 133 acres, Chandra Shekhar Azad Park is the biggest park in Allahabad. It is surrounded by Tagoretown, Civil Lines and the University of Allahabad. The museum nearby houses the .32 bore colt pistol which Azad owned. A public library attached to the park contains books and valuable manuscripts.
Written By & Photos: Abhinav Singh