Vasudev Balwant Phadke

Vasudeo Balwant Phadke (About this sound pronunciation (help·info)) (4 November 1845 – 17 February 1883) was an Indian revolutionary and is widely regarded as the father of the armed struggle for India’s independence. Phadke was moved by the plight of the farmer community duringBritish Raj. Phadke believed that ‘Swaraj’ was the only remedy for their ills. With the help of KolisBhils and Dhangars communities in Maharastra, Vasudev formed a revolutionary group called as Ramoshi. The group started an armed struggle to overthrow the British Raj. The group launched raids on rich English businessmen to obtain funds for their liberation struggle. Phadke came into limelight when he got control of the city of Pune for a few days when he caught the British soldiers off guard during one of his surprise attacks.

Early years

Vasudev was born on 1845-11-04 in Shirdhon village of Panvel taluka based in Raigad district in Maharashtra state in a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family. As a child Vasudev preferred learning skills like wrestling, riding over high school education and dropped out of school. Eventually he moved to Pune and took the job as a clerk with military accounts department in Pune [1] for 15 years. Krantiveer Lahuji Vastad Salve a then prominent social figure based in Pune was the mentor of Vasudev. Lahuji Salve, an expert wrestler operated a TALIM (training center for wrestling). Lahuji preached the importance of independence from British Raj. Lahuji belonged to the Mang community, an untouchable community, taught Vasudev the importance of getting backward castes into mainstream freedom movement.[2] It was during this period that Vasudev began attending lectures byMahadeo Govind Ranade which mainly focused on how the British Raj policies hurt the Indian economy. Vasudev was deeply hurt by how this was leading to widespread suffering in the society. In 1870, he joined a public agitation in Pune that was aimed at addressing people’s grievances. Vasudev founded an institution, the Aikya Vardhini Sabha, to educate the youth. While working as clerk, Vasudev was not able to see his dying mother due to the delay in approval of his leave. This incident enraged Vasudev and happened to be the turning point in his life [3]

[edit]Co-founder of Maharashtra Education Society

Three social reformers and revolutionaries Phadke, Laxman Narhar Indapurkar and Waman Prabhakar Bhave in 1860 formed the Poona Native Institution, which later came to be known as Maharashtra Education Society. Later he established the Bhave School in Pune through this and thus set the foundation for the nation’s education. The society runs Abasaheb Garware College, MES Perugate Bhave School, Vimalabai Garware School and Rani Laxmibai Girls’ Military School and other such 51 educational institutes in six districts.[4]


In 1875, after the then Gaikwad ruler of Baroda was deposed by the British, Phadke launched protest speeches against the government. Severe famine coupled with the evident apathy of the British administration propelled him to tour the Deccan region, urging people to strive for a free republic. Unable to get support from the educated classes, he gathered a band of people from the Ramoshi caste. People from the KolisBhils and Dhangars were also included later. He taught himself to shoot, ride and fence. He organised around 300 men into an insurgent group that aimed at liberating India from British rule. Vasudev intended to build an army of own but lacking funds they decided to break into government treasuries. The first raid was done in a village called Dhamari in Shirur taluka in Pune district. The income tax which was collected for British Raj was kept in the house of local business man Mr. Balchand Fojmal Sankla. They attacked the house and took the money for the benefit of famine stricken villagers. There they collected about four hundred rupees but this led to his being branded as a dacoit. To save himself Vasudev had to flee from village to village, sheltered by his sympathisers and well-wishers, mostly the lower class of the society. Impressed by his zeal and determination, the villagers of Nanagaum offered him protection and cover in the local forest. The general plot would be to cut off all the communications of British forces and then raid the treasury. The main purpose of these raids was to feed famine-affected farmer communities. Vasudev performed many such raids in areas near Shirur and Khed talukas in Pune.

Meanwhile, the leader of Ramoshi, Daulatrav Naik, who was the main supporter of Vasudev, headed towards the Konkan area on the western coast. On 10-11 May 1879, they raided Palaspe and Chikhali, looting around 1.5 lakh rupees. While returning towards Ghat Matha, Major Daniel attacked Naik, who was shot dead. His death was a setback to Vasudev’s revolt: the loss of support forced him to move south to the Shri Shaila Mallikarjun shrine. Later, Vasudev recruited about 500 Rohilas to begin a fresh fight.[5]

[edit]Capture and death

Vasudev’s plans to organize several simultaneously attacks against the British Raj nationwide were met with very limited success. He once had a direct engagement with the British army in the village of Ghanur, whereafter the government offered a bounty for his capture. Not to be outdone, Phadke in turned offered a bounty for the capture of the Governor of Bombay, announced a reward for the killing of each European, and issued other threats to the government. He then fled to Hyderabad State to recruit Rohilla and Arabs into his organisation. A British Major, Henry William Daniell and Abdul Haque, Police Commissioner to the Nizam of Hyderabad, pursued the fleeing Vasudev day and night. The British move to offer a bounty for his capture met with success: someone betrayed Phadke, and he was captured in a temple after a fierce fight at the district of Kaladgi [1] on 20 July 1879 while he was on his way to Pandharpur.[6] From here he was taken to Pune for trial. Vasudev and his comrades were housed in the district session court jail building, near Sangam bridge, which now happens to be the state C.I.D. building. His own diary provided evidence to have him sentenced for life. While in prison, he was given water in a leather container. He raised his voice against this too, as his religion prohibited him to consume anything associated with animals. As punishment, he was given the hard work of pushing the oil mill to filter out 25 pounds of oil. Even in all of this, he attempted to escape. On 12 October 1880, he managed to break free and escape, only to be caught again soon. He was now sent into solitary confinement. Here, he was ravaged by tuberculosis, which finally took his life. But his escape was too short lived: he was recaptured and put back in prison.Vasudev was transported to jail at Aden, but escaped from the prison by taking the door off from its hinges on 13 February 1883. Vasudev then went on a hunger strike to death. On 17 February 1883 Vasudev breathed his last breath as a result of his protest hunger strike.[7]


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Vasudev sought help from many prominent people of his time to help achieve his goals. One of these was Swami Samarth Maharaj in AkkalkotSolapur district of Maharastra. Swamiji saw this revolution with a different perspective and said that the time was not right for an armed revolution and then asked another devotee to place Phadke’s sword on a tree, indicating that Phadke shouldn’t fight the war, but Phadke took the sword from the tree and left


Vasudev became known as the father of the Indian armed rebellion in that he provided the inspiration for fellow freedom fighters. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay‘s famous patriotic novel Anand Math incorporated various contemporary acts of patriotism performed by Vasudev during his freedom struggle. As the British government didn’t like this, Bankim had to print up to 5 editions of the book to tone down these stories.[8]

Through the means of armed revolution, and by bringing the social masses together, taking the fight to the British, Vasudevrao’s feats in the freedom struggle seemed almost akin to those of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Innumerable revolutionaries and freedom fighters, inspired by his work and sacrifice, took the freedom struggle ahead in their own right.

In 1984, the Indian Postal Service issued a 50 paise stamp in honour of Phadke.[9] A chowk in South Mumbai near Metro Cinema is named in his honour.

The Thanale-Khadsamble caves where Vasudev took refuge to escape from British, are about 8 km from Nadsur village near Pali.[10]

A Marathi movie directed by Gajendra Ahire titled simply “Vasudev Balawant Phadke” was released in December 2007

[edit]See also


  1. a b Report on the Administration of the Bombay Presidency. p. 36.
  2. ^ O’Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology:: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and low caste protest in nineteenth-century western India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 110. ISBN 0-521-52308-7.
  3. ^ Khan, Mohammad. Tilak and Gokhale: A Comparative Study of Their Socio-politico-economic Programmes of Reconstruction–. p. 3.
  4. ^ “Celebrations as MES turns 150” (in English). DNS Syndication. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  5. ^ mahan bharatiy krantikarak pratham parv 1770–1900 – by jhambare
  6. ^ Hunter, William. The Imperial Gazetteer of India. p. 391.
  7. ^ Rigopoulos, Antonio. Dattātreya: The Immortal Guru, Yogin, and Avatāra : a Study of the Tranformative and Inclusive Character of a Multi-faceted Hindo Deity. p. 167.
  8. ^ Das, Sisir (1991). A History of Indian Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 213. ISBN 81-7201-006-0.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Gunaji, Milind (2003). Offbeat Tracks in Maharashtra. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. p. 228. ISBN 81-7154-669-2.

About janamejayan

A Viraat Hindu dedicated to spread the message of Paramacharya of Kanchi
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