Once called ‘Small Bombay’, Chirala, a coastal town in Andhra Pradesh famous for huge varieties of sarees as well as export of hand made cloths, cashew nuts, fish etc, has got more to it. Till date, freedom struggle has always been a glorious chapter in the pages of national history. The patriotic fervour of the nation was reflected in huge measure in Andhra Pradesh- Chirala and Perala, the two tiny villages, amongst the prominent sites for freedom struggle. The state government celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Quit India Movement at Chirala in 1992. Late Andhra Ratna Duggirala Gopala Krishnaiah ran a parallel government there and was the first south Indian to be elected as the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee.
The two villages had a population of 15,000 with a revenue of Rs 4,000. With the sheer intention of collecting Rs 40,000 as tax, the then Madras government decided to upgrade them to the status of municipalities in 1919. As a result, the locals under Krishnaiah started a no-tax campaign, which resulted in mass arrests. During the protests, Krishnaiah met Gandhi at Vijayawada, and was given two alternatives, either to continue the struggle by staying put in the village and face governmental repression, or move out of the village en mass which would automatically mean the disappearance of the municipal legislation. They organised Ramadandu, a volunteer corps with strict discipline and red uniform, and moved the people to another town. About 13,000 people left the villages and lived at a camp, Ramnagar, for eleven months in the height of summer. The campaign literally shook the legislature but fizzled out once Gopalakrishnaiah was arrested. While Non-Cooperation Movement lasted hardly for four months at Barodli under the patronage of Gandhi, the Chirala movement went on for 11 months.
Apart from this, the town Chirala has undergone significant changes in terms of development. It was regarded as a health resort by Britishers, with the opening of the Edward VII Coronation Memorial Hospital in 1906. Dr Baer, an American, also opened the Dr. Baer Missionary Hospital in 1912 when Chirala and its neighbouring villages did not have medical facilities except at Guntur, the then Chirala’s district. The Europeans also started a tobacco curing factory of the ITC in 1923, opening job opportunities to labourers. Presently, the town provides employment at least to 25,000 to 30,000 artisans. A co-operative spinning mill also was started in 1959.
The other prominent struggles that the state witnessed were the revolt in Rayalseema in 1800, Rampa Revolt in East Godavari district led by Alluri Sitharama Raju in 1921, ‘Simon Go Back’ campaign in 1927 in Vijayawada and Ongole, Civil Disobedience Movement and Salt Satyagraha in Dendulur district of West Godavari in 1930, the Left movement at Tenali in 1938, ‘Quit India’ movement in Tenali, Bhimavaram and Guntur, and ‘Join India’ movement in Hyderabad and others.
Not only Chirala and Perala, there are a number of historical places to visit in and around Chirala. Motupalli, the ancient port functioned during the times of Satavahanas (BC.320) and the idols of Mallikarjuna Swamy and the Kodandarama Swamy were believed to have been installed by Sage Agastya.
How to reach there
By Air: It is approximately 102 km away from Vijaywada Airport. From there, you can take a taxi.
By Rail: The nearest railway station is Guntur Junction, which is 60 km away and connects to maximum number of main stations in India.
By Road: Chirala is approximately 329 km away from Hyderabad which takes approximately six hours to reach there.
Where to stay
Chirala has hotels that fit every budget of travellers as it is a commercial and religious centre. Prominent hotels include Hotel Taaz, Hotel Saptagiri which are listed with APTDC.