V. S. Srinivasa Sastri

V. S. Srinivasa Sastri bigraphy, stories - Moderate Indian National Congress Leader from Madras Presidency.

V. S. Srinivasa Sastri : biography

22 September 1869 – 17 April 1946

Valangaiman Sankaranarayana Srinivasa Sastri () CH PC (22 September 1869 – 17 April 1946) was an Indian politician, administrator, educator, orator and Indian independence activist. He was acclaimed for his oratory and command over the English language. Srinivasa Sastri was born to a poor temple priest in the village of Valangaiman near Kumbakonam, India. He completed his education at Kumbakonam and worked as a school teacher and later, headmaster in Triplicane, Madras. He entered politics in 1905 when he joined the Servants of India Society. Srinivasa Sastri served as a member of the Indian National Congress from 1908 to 1922, but later resigned in protest against the Non-Cooperation movement. Sastri was one of the founding members of the Indian Liberal Party. In his later days, Srinivasa Sastri was strongly opposed to the partition of India.

Srinivasa Sastri served as a member of the Madras Legislative Council from 1913 to 1916, Imperial Legislative Council of India from 1916 to 1919 and the Council of State from 1920 to 1925. Sastri also functioned as India’s delegate to the League of Nations, as member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and agent to the Republic of South Africa.

He gained worldwide fame for his prowess in the English language. Sastri was a close follower of Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He was also a close friend and associate of Mahatma Gandhi who addressed Sastri as his "elder brother" in writings. Sastri was made a "Companion of Honour" in 1930. In 1921, the Freedom of the City of London was conferred on Srinivasa Sastri followed by the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1931.

Silver-Tongued Orator of the British Empire

Srinivasa Sastri was known for his mastery over the English language and his oratory. As a student, he once corrected a few passages in J. C. Nesfield’s "English Grammar". Whenever he was on visit to the United Kingdom, Sastri was often consulted over spellings and pronunciations. His mastery over the English language was recognized by King George V, Winston Churchill, Lady Lytton and Lord Balfour who rated him amongst the five best English-language orators of the century. The Master of Balliol, Arthur Lionel Smith swore that he had never realized the beauty of the English language until he heard Sastri. while Lord Balfour remarked that listening to Srinivasa Sastri made him realize the heights to which the English language could rise. Thomas Smart conferred upon Sastri the appellation "Silver Tongued Orator of the British Empire" and he was so called all over the United Kingdom. Srinivasa Sastri’s inspirations were William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Harvey, Victor Hugo and Valmiki – Indian sage and the author of the Hindu epic Ramayana.


Relation with Mahatma Gandhi

During his tenure in the Servants of India Society, Sastri developed a close attachment with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi often addressed Srinivasa Sastri as his "elder brother" in all their correspondences. However, despite their friendship, during his tenure as President, Srinivasa Sastri opposed Gandhi’s presence in the Servants of India Society. When Gandhi sought Sastri’s advice before launching his non-cooperation movement, he counselled him against it. In his later years, Sastri sternly advised Mahatma Gandhi against accepting the Muslim League demand for partition.

Srinivasa Sastri corrected mistakes in the manuscript of The Story of My Experiments with Truth, the English translation of Gandhi’s autobiography and also successive issues of the magazine Harijan that was edited by Mahatma Gandhi.

On Sastri’s death, Gandhi paid a tribute to Sastri in a condolence message in the Harijan.

International delegations

Srinivasa Sastri was a part of the delegation of Indian moderates who visited England in 1919. He was also a part of the Indian delegation to the Imperial Conference (1921) and the Second session of the League of Nations in 1921. As a member of the Viceregal council, Srinivasa Sastri was also a part of the British delegation which participated in the Washington Council of Limitation of Disarmament. During one of his speeches on "The Political Situation in India", he was accused of being a British agent and attacked by a mob and had to be hastily escorted away by mounted police.