Belagavi, a charming little town in Bombay Province then, played a significant role in India’s fight for independence. The city was a hotbed of revolutionary activity, and it’s impossible to discuss the country’s history without mentioning the YALGI family. The Yalgis were primarily gold and silver merchants.
It’s rare to find a family that has contributed as much to the freedom struggle as the YALGI family. Thirteen members of the family were imprisoned during the fight for independence, a feat that is unparalleled in the country’s history.
Despite their immense sacrifices, the YALGI family has not received the recognition they deserve. Their contributions to the freedom struggle have been overlooked for far too long.
The YALGI HOUSE was the epicenter of several non-violent and revolutionary movements in the state. It has remained at the forefront of social service and active politics since the days of Tilak.
Late Shri. Govind Rao Yalgi was the driving force behind the family’s patriotic spirit. His passion for the freedom struggle was contagious, inspiring the entire family to join the fight.
Thirteen members of the Yalgi family, including Vithu Kaka, followed the teachings of Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi from the Vang Bhang Movement in 1905 to the Quit India Movement of 1942. Despite facing numerous arrests, imprisonments, and physical, mental, and financial losses during India’s struggle for independence, the Yalgi family remained the backbone of all freedom movements in the district.
Their ancestral home, Yalgi House, served as the epicenter of all political activities in the area, attracting great political leaders such as First Hon’ble President Shri. Rajendra Prasad, Former Prime Minister Shri. Morarji Desai, Shri. Vallabh Bhai Patel, and many others. Even the Lion of Karnataka, Shri Gangadhar Rao Deshpande, and the then MP, Barrister Nath Pai, stayed as family members in their ancestral house, with Nath Pai Ji even breathing his last at Yalgi House.
Today, Vithu Kaka, at 97 years old, remains a baton holder of the great family values that have been imbibed in every family member.
About the Yalgi’s from Belagavi
Govindrao Yalgi was a devoted follower of the great revolutionary Lokmanya Tilak. In 1906, he was arrested for picketing in front of a liquor shop, but Tilak paid his fine and released him from jail, urging him to continue his work against British rule. Along with Hanmantrao Deshpande, Govindrao founded the Mazini club in Belgaum to train young people in revolutionary activities, including experiments with explosives, bomb-making, pistol shooting, and even wrestling pole training.
In 1905, Govindrao started the Ganeshotsav festival in Belgaum on Tilak’s advice, with the Ganesh idol established in the open space in front of his house. The following year, Tilak attended the festival and was taken in a huge procession led by Govindrao. Due to the massive crowd, the Ganesh idol was moved to Zenda Chowk, where it is still worshipped today. When the British banned Tilak’s speech in a public place, Govindrao arranged a private venue overnight for the event.
Govindrao was a regular attendee of Congress sessions and had a dream of organizing one in Belgaum in 1924. Sadly, he passed away in 1923 before he could see his dream come true. Mahatma Gandhi presided over the 1924 Congress session in Belgaum and paid homage to Govindrao before the session began.
Krishna Rao Yalgi
Krishna Rao Yalgi was a prominent figure in the Indian freedom movement, alongside his elder brother Govindrao Yalgi. His valuable suggestions and guidance were sought after by many freedom fighters, and he generously provided financial assistance to numerous revolutionaries. In 1924, Yalgi demonstrated his leadership skills by overseeing the construction of the Congress well (Pampa Sarovar) in Belgaum, which was designed to meet the water requirements of the representatives attending the Congress session.
Despite his contributions to the cause of Indian independence, Yalgi was not immune to the consequences of his actions. He was imprisoned during the 1942 Quit India Movement.
Jeevanrao Yalgi was a prominent figure in India’s fight for independence. He played a crucial role in the Salt Satyagraha of 1930, which was led by Gangadhar Rao Deshpande. However, Jeevanrao’s activism did not stop there. In 1932, he was arrested for violating a ban on public speaking. Undeterred, he continued to fight for India’s freedom and joined the Quit India Movement in 1942. Unfortunately, this resulted in his arrest once again. He was initially held at Hindalga Jail in Belgaum before being transferred to Nashik jail. Ultimately, Jeevanrao was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Ramabai Yalgi was a remarkable woman who played a significant role in India’s freedom movement. She was married to Jeevanrao Yalgi, a man who breathed an air of nationalism and patriotism. Inspired by her husband and other family members, Ramabai joined the fight for freedom.
In 1941, Mahatma Gandhi selected Ramabai as one of the satyagrahis, a group of individuals who were committed to nonviolent resistance against British rule. She was sentenced to nine months in prison, where she met Mrudulaben Sarabhai and Maniben Patel, two other prominent figures in the freedom movement.
Gajananrao Yalgi In 1938, Gajanan made history as the first pilot from Belgaum to join the independence movement, even after being selected for the prestigious Royal Air Force (RAF). Despite the allure of a promising career in the RAF, Gajanan remained steadfast in his commitment to the cause of Indian independence. His decision to join the movement was a bold and courageous one, and it paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.
Vithalrao Yalgi pursued a Diploma in Electrical Engineering, as it was his passion. However, his life took an interesting turn when he met the great Mahatma Gandhi at the tender age of nine. In 1936, Vithalrao’s father took him to see Gandhiji, who had come to Tilakwadi. The young boy was thrilled to meet the iconic leader, who made him sit on his lap and asked for his name in Hindi. Vithalrao, who was not fluent in Hindi, simply replied with “Vitthal.” Gandhiji chuckled and said, “I know one Vitthal from Pandharpur,” before handing him a fruit.
This encounter left a lasting impression on Vithalrao, and he was determined to meet Gandhiji again. So, at age 15, he and his friends Gajanan Yalgi and Damodar Vishu Kamat decided to hoist the tricolor atop the Belgaum Native General Library. Despite the rain and slippery tiles, the trio climbed the building and hoisted the flag at midnight. The police were on patrol duty, but they failed to notice the daring feat. It was only the next morning that they saw the flag, but they were unable to remove it.
Vithalrao’s passion for freedom and his love for his country was evident from a young age. His father’s friend, Pundalikji Katagade, a renowned freedom fighter, found him at a gathering with Gandhiji and brought him home the following day.
The Yalgi family’s next generation was comprised of several brave individuals who played a significant role in the Quit India Movement. Dattopant, Venkatesh, Dr. Anant, Vasant, Gajanan, Hanmant, Arvind, Vithal, and Malati Yalgi all took part in various activities to protest against British rule. These included looting post offices, distributing bulletins, derailing goods trains, setting fire to police outposts, public speaking, and chanting “Vande Mataram” in a louder voice. They even trained the youth to prepare bombs to make the British government panic. Barrister Nath Pai (Ex M.P.), Bhau Pai, Sham Pai, Govind Walawalkar, Govind Karekar, Vishnu Shinde, Abanna Deshpande, Kasegaonkar Vaidya, and Bhalchandra Deshpande were among those who accompanied the Yalgi brothers in carrying out these activities.
Vithal Yalgi, along with Gajanan Yalgi and Damodar Kamat, hoisted the tricolor on the lightning pole of the building of Native Library (now called Sarvajanik Wachanalay), which was a risky task. The tricolor flew there with pride for several days, as it was a difficult task for the British to bring it down. All Yalgi brothers were imprisoned in 1943, where they faced the brutality of the British government.
While the men of the Yalgi family were in prison, the women and children faced financial difficulties but bravely persevered without losing their self-esteem. In addition to their involvement in the freedom movement, the Yalgis also participated in the Goa Liberation Movement.
Vasant, Gajanan, Arvind, Vithal, Mandakini, Sudha, and Vijaya are siblings who played an active role in the Goa Liberation Movement. Unfortunately, Mandakini was injured during a police firing incident at that time.
Disclaimer: The editor of AAB is the grandson of Shri Vasantrao Yalgi.