Rashmi Rekha Das

Even as people from all walks of life had come together to fight against British rulers, a few of them struck fear into the heart of the British empire. Veer Surendra Sai was one of them who played an important role in getting our motherland liberated from British rule. 

Despite his fierce struggle against the colonial rule, many are still unaware of the sacrifices made by the freedom fighter.

With Odisha paying rich homage to one of the greatest revolutionary freedom fighters Veer Surendra Sai on his birth anniversary, let’s know more about his life and the contribution of the great patriot.

Sai was born in his ancestral home at Sambalpur district in 1809. Being a descendant of Madhukar Sai, Sambalpur King of the Chauhan dynasty in the 16th century, Sai led a valiant struggle against the British. 

Between 1808 and 1817, Sambalpur was occupied by the Marathas. After the Third Anglo-Maratha War, the British restored Sambalpur to the Chauhan kings but as mere puppets. 

Following the death of the Sambalpur King without an heir in 1827, the British then put his queen Rani Mohan Kumari on the throne. 

In 1833, they removed the Rani and old Zamindar Narayan Singh became the Sambalpur King. 

Through the Doctrine of Lapse, Sambalpur was annexed by the British in 1849 when Narayan Singh passed away without an heir.
Surendra Sai, who was trained in guerrilla warfare and horsemanship, was chosen by many as their leader. He was supported by the Zamindars as well as the tribal people.

In an open attack on the British in Sambalpur, Sai was arrested and imprisoned for 17 years, from 1840 till 1857.

In 1857, during the Sepoy Mutiny, sepoys from the Ramgarh battalion broke open the Hazaribagh jail where Sai was kept and freed him and others.

He reached Sambalpur and acquired a fighting force of about 1500 men. He fought against the British through guerrilla warfare from 1857 to 1862. 

In 1864, Sai was finally caught by the British with the help of a spy who betrayed the freedom fighter.

He was kept in jail for 20 years during which he lost his eyesight. He breathed his last in jail on February 28, 1884.
The contribution of Sai in the freedom struggle is unmatched.

With a vision to make people aware of the legacy of legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai, the Hirakud Wildlife Division has decided to develop a first-of-its-kind Veer Surendra Sai Memorial at Bargarh district.