Historically, a hero is known as somebody who’s form, beneficiant, and powerful. Somebody who defeats evil and triumphs, in the long run. However real-life heroes not often emerge in such stark black-and-white phrases. It’s their inherent humanity that makes them complicated and attention-grabbing as characters.
Kodi Ramamurthy Naidu is one such hero.
A wrestler and weightlifter, he was additionally a circus supervisor and lauded all around the world for his power and bodily prowess. The strongman was lauded with titles like ‘Kaliyuga Bheema’ and ‘Indian Hercules’. However there’s extra to his story than what first meets the attention.
Gaining a lot recognition for his work, he’s mentioned to have donated giant sums of his earnings to the Indian freedom motion.
The highs and lows of his life element his perseverance and outlook on the world round him. Right here’s a narrative that’s inspiring and baffling in equal measure, that challenges one to humanise this hero and discover a honest steadiness between the person and the legend.
Discovering his old flame
Kodi was born in Andhra Pradesh’s Veeraghattam in 1882 however misplaced his mom at an early age. As a baby, he spent most of his time outdoor and exhibited an curiosity in bodily coaching and gymnastics. He had little curiosity in research and often received into tussles together with his father about his research and his future.
Legend has it that after disagreeing together with his father about what profession he would finally pursue, he ran away to a forest, dwelling there for per week. When he did return, he was accompanied by a tiger cub.
Quickly after he was despatched to his uncle in Vizianagaram. His uncle, who was a police officer, seen his power and determined to inspire him. He despatched Kodi to a number of bodily coaching colleges within the metropolis. Right here he learnt totally different gymnastics and bodily health strategies, together with kushti (wrestling), and shortly he turned a longtime pehelwan (wrestler) within the area.
After this, his uncle despatched him for additional coaching in Madras. When he returned as an expert wrestler, he began instructing at a neighborhood school and continued coaching in his free time. His information about Vayu Stambhana (air resistance) and Jala Stambhana (water resistance) deepened and made him a preferred wrestler throughout the state.
In 1911, at his debut public present, Kodi exhibited his power to an viewers that included authorities officers. He allegedly carried out feats like letting motor vehicles drive over his chest, breaking iron chains tied round his chest just by flexing his muscle mass and permitting elephants to step on his physique. This present was a success and he rapidly turned a sensation.
Kodi began performing usually all around the nation. Among the many individuals whose consideration he’d attracted was viceroy Lord Minto who is claimed to have challenged him. To show his power, he held the Viceroy’s automobile with iron chains whereas the officer tried to drive it ahead however couldn’t succeed. After this, his title unfold far and vast.
At an Indian Nationwide Congress assembly efficiency, he impressed nationalist chief Madan Mohan Malaviya, who seemingly helped him get to London to showcase his skills. Hearsay has it that his portrait held on the partitions of Buckingham Palace after he impressed the royal household together with his efficiency.
All through his life, he was difficult the colonial presumption that Indian males weren’t as robust as British males.
A circus grasp
Not lengthy after, he began a circus firm with a pal named Potti Panthulu. The circus began travelling all via the subcontinent and later via Europe. Stories recommend that with the crores he earned via the circus, this grasp of power is claimed to have donated giant sums of cash to the Indian Independence battle.
There’s, nevertheless, some deal of questionable thriller surrounding Kodi.
As circus supervisor, he’s mentioned to have left his performers stranded in Europe. Authorities information round 1911-12 embody indignant letters between officers about discovering methods to assist the performers again, additionally accusing Kodi of his abandonment of them.
One letter, written on 23 October 1911, by an official in Marseilles states: “Sir, I’ve the honour to report that the next, who state that they’re British Indians, viz: Panduth Biddu, of Lahore, Nanik of Lahore, Harkisha, of Lahore, Ralna of Madras, Dakari Lingh of Patna, are at current in misery at Marseille, and I request permission to ship them to Bombay on the lowest doable price. Their papers are within the possession of Ramamurthy, of Madras, who introduced them to Europe as a performing troupe. They travelled in England and on the continent and have been left at Marseille by Ramamurthy, on September twenty third final. He paid their board and lodging in Marseille for a month, and left for Colombo, promising to ship them cash, which he has not carried out. They’re now destitute, and on my arms”.
The performers have been first despatched to England after which again house with the assistance of the India Workplace.
Information don’t reveal Kodi’s cause for abandoning his performers, however it seemingly had no impact on his profession. Information on the British Library reveal that whereas he was fined, there was no restriction on him, and he continued as a circus supervisor.
Whereas most of his life is shrouded in thriller and one relies upon largely on rumours and oral historical past to piece collectively this life story, there’s a darker aspect to Kodi that challenges the notion of him as a mighty Indian hero. It’s one which should be spoken about and investigated in additional depth, to get a rounded image of this strongman, thought of in league with legends like Bheem and Hercules.
A High-quality Specimen by Anirban Ghosh, Indian Categorical, 26 February 2017
Indian Hercules by BMG, The Hindu, 12 August 2002
Edited by Yoshita Rao