Chempakaraman Pillai

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Chempaka Raman Pillai
Born 13 August 1893
Trivandrum, India
Died 28 May 1934
Other names Sangeeta Kumari

Chempakaraman Pillai, also known as Venkat and "Sangeeta Kumari", was an Indian-born political activist and revolutionary. Pillai lived in Germany for most of his active years, and died in Berlin in 1934.

Early life[edit]

Chempakaraman Pillai was born in Trivandrum, capital of the former kingdom of Travancore in the modern state of Kerala. Raman had a sister named Pappathi Ammal. She married a sculptor named Chatrapathi Pillai. Chatrapathi Pillai's sculpture, Kuravan Kurathi, is in the Trivandrum Museum. Pappathi Ammal had four daughters; one of whom still resides in Trivandrum.

In Europe[edit]

Pillai attended a technical institute, pursuing a diploma in Engineering. After the outbreak of the First World War, Pillai founded the International Pro-India Committee and based its headquarters in Zurich. In September 1914, Pillai appointed himself President. During the same period an Indian Independence Committee was formed in Berlin by a group of Indian expatriates in Germany. This group was composed of Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhupendranath Dutta, Punnackal A. Raman Pillai, Taraknath Das, Maulavi Barkatullah, Chandrakant Chakravarty, M. Prabhakar, Birendra Sarkar and Heramba Lal Gupta.

In October 1914, Pillai moved to Berlin and joined the Berlin Committee, merging it with his International Pro-India Committee as the guiding and controlling institution for all Pro-Indian revolutionary activities in Europe. Lala Har Dayal was also persuaded to join the movement. Soon branches sprang up in Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Washington, as well as in many other parts of Europe and the America.

War activities[edit]

The Indian Independence Committee ultimately became involved in the so-called Hindu-German Conspiracy along with the Ghadar Party in the United States of America. The German Foreign Office under Kaiser Wilhelm II funded the Committee's anti-British activities. Chempakaraman Pillai and A. Raman Pillai, both belonging to Travancore and both students at German universities, kept to work together on the Committee.

Pillai was the first to raise the "Jai Hind" slogan; and he later joined with INC chief Subhash Chandra Bose.

Many of Chempakaraman' letters to A. Raman Pillai, then a student in the University of Göttingen, kept by Raman Pillai's son Rosscote Krishna Pillai. The letters reveal some aspects of Chempakaraman life in Germany between 1914 and 1920. In July 1914, Chempakaraman Pillai called upon Indian soldiers in the British Indian Army to rise in revolt and fight against the British.

After the end of World War I and Germany's defeat, Chempakaraman stayed in Germany, working as a technician in a factory in Berlin; when Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited Vienna, Chempakaraman met him and explained his plan of action.

Foreign Minister of Provisional Government of India[edit]

Chempakaraman statue in Chennai

Pillai had the privilege of being the foreign minister of the Provisional Government of India set up in Kabul, Afghanistan on 1 December 1915, with Raja Mahendra Pratap of Kabul as President and Maulana Barkatullah as Prime Minister. However, the defeat of the Germans in the war shattered the hopes of the revolutionaries, and the British forced them out of Afghanistan in 1919.

During this time, the Germans were helping the Indian revolutionaries for their own motives. Though the Indians made it clear to the Germans that they were equal partners in their fight against the common enemy of British imperialism, the Germans wanted to use the revolutionaries' propaganda work and military intelligence.

In 1931, Pillai married Lakshmi Bai of Manipur, whom he met in Berlin. Unfortunately they had a short life together, as Pillai soon fell ill. There were symptoms of slow poisoning and he went to Italy for treatment. He passed away on May 28, 1934. Lakshmibai bought his ashes to India in 1935 after they were ceremonially immersed in Kanyakumari with full state honours.[1]


  1. ^ Retrieved 6 August 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Rose, N. Daniel (December 27, 2007). "A Forgotten Freedom Fighter". The New India Express.