Goparaju Ramachandra Rao

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Goparaju Ramachandra Rao
Born November 15, 1902; 112 years ago (1902-11-15)
Chhatrapur, Odisha, India
Died July 26, 1975(1975-07-26) (aged 72)
Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India
Nationality Indian
Other names Gora
Known for social reforms, atheist activism
Religion None (atheism)[1]
Spouse(s) Saraswathi Gora
Children 9

Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (nickname: Gora)[2] (1902 – 1975) was an Indian social reformer, atheist activist and a participant in the Indian independence movement.

Early days[edit]

Gora was born on 15 November 1902, into an orthodox Telugu Brahmin family in Chhatrapur, Odisha, India. He pursued a botany degree, eventually earning his Master's in botany at Presidency College in Madras. He married Saraswathi Gora in 1922, when she was only 10. He taught botany at various institutes at Madurai, Coimbatore, Colombo and Kakinada, for fifteen years.[3]

Life and work[edit]

Gora started his activism against superstition in 1920s. He and his wife publicly viewed solar eclipses, as there was a superstitious belief that pregnant women should not do so. They stayed in haunted houses to dispel the myths around such places.[4][5]

Gora used to run a monthly program called "cosmopolitan dinners" every full moon night, where people of all castes and religions gathered together.[1][6] Gora insisted on staying in a Harijan locality whenever he was invited to address a village. He also conducted several inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. One of his own sons and daughters married spouses from untouchable castes.[4]

In 1933, he was dismissed from the PR College in Kakinada for his atheist views. In 1939, he was dismissed from the Hindu College in Machilipatnam for the same reason.[3]

Atheist Centre[edit]

Main article: Atheist Centre

In 1940, after his dismissal, he and his wife founded the Atheist Centre, in a small village called Mudunur in the Krishna district.[2][7] The Atheist Centre was (and is) heavily involved in social reforms.[7] On the eve of Independence in 1947, they moved the Atheist centre to Vijayawada.[2] In 1941, he published his first book on atheism in Telugu, Atheism: There is no god (Telgu: Nasthikatvamu: Devudu ledu).[3]

Throughout the 1940s, he worked in the Indian independence movement. In 1942, Gora along with his wife and eldest son were arrested during the Quit India Movement. Their 18-month son had to accompany his mother to the Royavellor jail.[5]

Gora and Gandhi had several discussions, some of which have been recorded in the book An Atheist With Gandhi.[3] Gandhi supported Gora's anti-untouchability reform movement, and remarked that he wished Gora would succeed in producing a Tuskegee in India.[8] Tuskegee in Alabama, United States, is an important site in Africa American history where Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee University.

In 1949, Gora got his eldest daughter, Manorama, married to Arjuna Rao, who belonged to the Dalit community.[5] The marriage was held in Sevagram, in presence of Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1960, the marriage of his eldest son, Lavanam, with Hemalata, the daughter of Gurram Jashuva, was also held in Sevagram.[3] He and his wife established two periodicals called Sangham and Arthika Samata.[5]

In 1952, he contested in the parliamentary elections to propagate his idea of party-less democracy. In 1967, he also contested in the assembly polls.[5]

World Atheist Conference[edit]

Gora visited several nations in 1970 and 1974.[3] He was in touch with the American atheist, Madalyn Murray O'Hair.[4] On 5 October 1970, O'Hair mentioned Gora and his Atheist Center on her radio show. In 1970, when Gora stopped in United States during his tour, he met O'Hair. They decided that a World Atheist Conference should be held every three years. Gora offered to host the first one in 1972. O'Hair was not able to attend as her visa was not approved in time.[9] The first World Atheist Conference was held on 1972. After the event, Gora published a book in English called Positive Atheism.[3] Gora organized a pork and beef dinner on 15 August 1972, as the dishes are considered sacrilegious in some religions.[3][4]

Death[edit]

Gora died on 26 July 1975 in Vijayawada. His autobiography, completed a few days before his death, was published in 1976.[3] The Atheist Centre continued under the guidance of Saraswathi Gora, until her death in 2006 on 19 August.[10]

Family[edit]

Gora had nine children.[11] His eldest son, Lavanam,daughter Mythri and another son Vijayam, continued to organize the World Atheist Conference. Mythri chairperson of Atheist Centre and Vijayam is the current executive director of the Atheist Centre.Famous physician Dr.Samaram is his son.[2]

His daughter, Chennupati Vidya, is a social worker. She was elected to the Lok Sabha, of the Parliament of India, in 1980[12] and 1989.[13]

Political views and philosophy[edit]

Gora supported partyless democracy.[4][14]

Gora was a Gandhian and believed in Sarvodaya (progress of all). He rejected historical materialism and considered Marxism a 'fatalist philosophy'.[15]

He believed that atheism allows a person to surpass the barriers of castes and religions. It allows a person to understand that his/her actions are directed by free will and not Karma,[1][16] fate or divine will. This in turn would allow Harijans to be liberated, as they would no longer believe that they are fated to be untouchable.[1][6]

Recognition[edit]

In 2002, India Post, the postal department of the Government of India, released a postage stamp of five rupee denomination commemorating Gora's birth centenary.[2]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Atheism: There is No God (1941)
  • An Atheist With Gandhi (1951)
  • Partyless Decomcracy (1961)
  • We Become Atheists (1975)
  • Atheism: Questions and Answers (1992)
  • Positive Atheism (1972)
  • The Need of Atheism (1980)
  • I Learn (1980)
  • An Atheist Around The World (1987)

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Dale McGowan Ph.D. (7 September 2012). Voices of Unbelief: Documents from Atheists and Agnostics. ABC-CLIO. p. 246. ISBN 978-1-59884-979-0. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Johannes Quack (22 November 2011). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 89, 338. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dr. G. Vijayam. "Atheist Movement in Andhra Pradesh". Atheist Centre. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Phil Zuckerman (21 December 2009). Atheism and Secularity. ABC-CLIO. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-313-35182-2. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e B. Suguna (1 January 2009). Women's Movement. Discovery Publishing House. p. 145. ISBN 978-81-8356-425-0. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Dale McGowan (25 February 2013). Atheism For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 132–134. ISBN 978-1-118-50921-0. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Nick Harding (3 February 2012). How to Be a Good Atheist. Oldcastle Books Ltd. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-84243-685-1. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Nico Slate (15 January 2012). Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India. Harvard University Press. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-674-05967-2. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Bryan F. Le Beau (1 March 2005). The Atheist: Madalyn Murray O'Hair. NYU Press. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-8147-5172-5. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "Saraswathi Gora passes away". The Hindu. 20 August 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Ramesh Susarla (26 September 2011). "Atheist varsity, research centre to open in Vijayawada". The Hindu. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  12. ^ "Women Members of Seventh Lok Sabha". National Informatics Complex. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  13. ^ "Members Of Ninth Lok Sabha". National Informatics Complex. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  14. ^ Sadhna Sharma (1995). States Politics in India. Mittal Publications. p. 503. ISBN 978-81-7099-619-4. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Dr. Abraham Kovoor (1 March 2000). Gods, Demons & Spirits. Jaico Publishing House. p. 7. ISBN 978-81-7224-216-9. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Jack Huberman (3 March 2008). Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Nonbelievers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound. Basic Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-56858-419-5. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 

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