Veer Savarkar had a multifaceted personality. He was a writer, poet, politician, freedom fighter, speaker, philosopher, strategist, and hindutva icon. His work in various areas of life is admirable. His love and affection for Bharat Mata and all sections of society can be seen in the tireless work he has done throughout his life.
He was a forward-thinking leader. His broad vision and associated actions to liberate the country from British rule fuelled societal aggression against injustice, exploitation, and slavery under British rule.
He once quoted, “oh! Motherland! Sacrifice for you is life and living without you is death.”
One can comprehend the profound meaning of his quote and his love for his motherland. He was harshly imprisoned for his fight against British rule in order to free his motherland. No one has ever been tortured as brutally as Savarkar, but his faith and commitment to his motherland and society have never wavered.
What Mahatma Gandhi said about Veer Savarkar while he was imprisoned at Andman.
He is clever. He is brave, he is patriot. The evil, in its evil form of the present system of government, he saw much earlier than I did. He is in the Andamans for having loved India too well. Under a just government he would be occupying a high post.” (Source: Young India 18 May 1921)
Those communists and modern political parties who question Veer Savarkar’s integrity should read Mahatma Gandhi’s quote. The dirty politics surrounding his sacrificing his personal life for the sake of the motherland is excruciatingly painful. He is despised by so-called secularists because he was a strong advocate of Hindutva for the betterment of all sections of society.
He has played an important role in raising the voice of the people against British rule. He made every effort to get every Indian to step forward and work and fight together against the British. Through his writing and poetry, he created a wave of togetherness, love for the nation, and strength to fight misrule.
As a high school student, Savarkar began his political activities, which he continued at Fergusson College in Pune. He and his brother founded the Abhinav Bharat Society, a secret society. When he moved to the United Kingdom to study law, he became involved with organisations such as India House and the Free India Society. He also wrote books advocating for complete Indian independence through revolutionary means. The British colonial authorities banned one of his books, The Indian War of Independence, which was about the Indian Rebellion of 1857. In 1910, Savarkar was arrested and ordered extradited to India for his ties to the revolutionary organisation India House.
On the way back to India, Savarkar staged an escape attempt and sought asylum in France while the ship was docked in Marseilles. However, French port officials returned him to the British government. On his return to India, Savarkar was sentenced to two life sentences totaling fifty years in prison and was transferred to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
After 1937, he began to travel extensively, becoming a powerful orator and writer who advocated Hindu political and social unity. He was the president of the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in Mumbai in 1938. As president of the Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar supported the concept of India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). He began militarising Hindus from that point forward in order to liberate the country and protect the country and Hindus in the future.
Savarkar was critical of the decision made by the Congress working committee in its Wardha session of 1942, which passed a resolution saying to the British colonial government: “Quit India but keep your armies here,” referring to the reinstallation of the British military presence in India, which he believed would be much worse. In July 1942, he resigned from his position as president of the Hindu Mahasabha because he was exhausted from carrying out his duties as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, and the timing coincided with Gandhi’s Quit India Movement.
Restricted freedom in Ratnagiri
The Savarkar brothers were transferred to a jail in Ratnagiri on May 2, 1921. During his imprisonment in Ratnagiri jail in 1922, he wrote his “Essentials of Hindutva,” which formulated his Hindutva theory. On January 6, 1924, he was released but was confined to the Ratnagiri District. Soon after, he began working on the consolidation of Hindu society, also known as the Hindu Sangathan. The colonial authorities provided him with a bungalow and allowed him visitors. During his internment, he met people like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar. During his confinement in Ratnagiri, Savarkar became a prolific writer. His publishers, on the other hand, needed to state unequivocally that they were uninvolved in politics. Savarkar was imprisoned in Ratnagiri district until 1937. He was unconditionally released at the time by the newly elected government of Bombay.
During his incarceration, Savarkar’s views began to shift toward Hindu cultural and political nationalism, and the rest of his life was devoted to this cause. Savarkar wrote his ideological treatise – Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? – during his brief stay in the Ratnagiri jail. It was smuggled out of prison and published under Savarkar’s alias “Maharatta” by his supporters. Savarkar promotes a farsighted new vision of Hindu social and political consciousness in this work. Savarkar began describing a “Hindu” as a patriotic Bharatavarsha resident, going beyond religious identity. While emphasising the importance of all Hindu communities’ patriotic and social unity, he referred to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhist as one and the same. He described his vision of a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu Nation) as “Akhand Bharat” (United India), which he claimed would span the entire Indian subcontinent. He defined Hindus as “people who live as children of a common motherland, adoring a common holyland,” rather than Aryans or Dravidians.
Following his release from prison on January 6, 1924, Savarkar assisted in the formation of the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha organisation, which aimed to work for the social and cultural preservation of Hindu heritage and civilisation. Sarvakar, who became a frequent and forceful orator, advocated for the use of Hindi as a common national language as well as against caste discrimination and untouchability.
Another initiative he initiated was to reintroduce Hinduness to those who had previously converted to other faiths. This included the eight members of the Dhakras Brahmin family who had converted to Christianity. Savarkar re-converted the family at a public function and also paid for the marriages of the family’s two daughters.
Savarkar turned his attention to writing, producing the Hindu Pad-pada-shahi, a book about the Maratha empire, and My Transportation for Life, an account of his early revolutionary days, arrest, trial, and incarceration.
In addition, he wrote and published a number of poems, plays, and novels. He also wrote a book about his time in Andaman prison called Majhi Janmathep (“My Life-term”).
In terms of Marathi literature, Savarkar has many firsts to his name. He was the first to compose powadas (ballads) in modern times and to use modern imagery in the powadas. He was the first Marathi journalist to contribute newsletters from foreign countries to the Marathi periodicals Londonchi baatmipatre (Newsletters from London). His taarakaaspahun (gazing at the stars) was the first Marathi poem written outside of India. His Joseph Mazzini is the first book written in Marathi outside of India.
“Saagarapraantalamala” (My heart is tormented, O Ocean), written after his close associate Madan Lal Dhingra was sentenced to death by gallows in London, is one of Savarkar’s songs that almost all Maharashtrians are familiar with.
Here are a few stanzas from “Saagara”:
नेमजसीनेपरतमातृभूमीला। सागरा, प्राणतळमळला
मजवदलासीअन्यदेशिं चलजाऊं। सृष्टिचीविविधतापाहूं
तइंजननी-हृद् विरहशंकितहिझालें। परितुवां वचनतिजदिधलें
मार्गज्ञस्वयें मीचपृष्ठिं वाहीन। त्वरितयापरतआणीन
विश्वसलों यातववचनीं। मी
जगदनुभव-योगें बनुनी। मी
तवअधिकशक्त उध्दरणीं। मी
येईन त्वरेंकथुन सोडिलें तिजला।
शुकपंजरिं वाहरिणशिरावापाशीं। हीफसगतझालीतैशी
भूविरहकसासततसाहुं यापुढती। दशदिशातमोमयहोती
गुण-सुमनेंमीं वेचियलीं ह्याभावें। कीं तिनें सुगंधाध्यावें
जरि उध्दरणीं व्ययनतिच्या हो साचा। हाव्यर्थ भारविद्येचा
O Ocean, take me back to my motherland; My soul is tormented.
I had always seen you,
Washing the feet of my motherland.
You led me to a different country,
To experience the diversity of nature there.
Knowing that my mother’s heart was full of anguish,
You promised her that you would take me back;
I was reassured.
I believed that my experience of the world,
Would help me to serve her better.
Saying that I would return soon,
I took leave of her.
Oh, Ocean, I am now pining for my motherland
Like a doe caught in a snare,
The promise you made was deceptive!
I cannot suffer the separation anymore,
Darkness envelops me everywhere.
I had accumulated flowers of virtues,
In the hope that my mother will be rendered fragrant with their smell.
What use, this burden of knowledge and virtues
If my mother cannot prosper from it?
I miss the love of the mango tree, the flowers in my garden back home the blossoming creepers and the blooming rose… I feel desolate…
Oh Ocean, I am pining for her… Take me back to my motherland
Oh Ocean, I am pining for her…
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the most influential figures in modern Indian history, has been vilified by his detractors, who portray him as a Hindu fundamentalist, while his supporters venerate him as a Hindutva icon. One of the least-discussed aspects of Savarkar’s life, however, is his work as a social reformer, particularly against caste discrimination and untouchability.
Savarkar was a staunch opponent of the caste system, ensuring that children from the so-called lower castes were educated. He gave their parents monetary incentives and distributed slate and chalk to children from these castes. “Once the children are educated together, they will not observe caste hierarchy in later life,” Savarkar said. They will not feel compelled to observe caste distinctions. Furthermore, the government should drop the phrase “special schools for low caste children.” The title itself instils a sense of inferiority in the children who attend the school.”
During Hindu festivals such as Dussehra and Makar Sakranti, Savarkar would visit homes with people from various castes and distribute traditional sweets. He raised a girl from an untouchable community and taught people from untouchable backgrounds to read, write, and recite the Gayatri mantra.
Savarkar founded the first pan-Hindu Ganeshotsav in 1930. The celebrations would be highlighted by “kirtans” performed by the so-called untouchables. Listeners from the so-called higher castes would lavish praise on those who sang these devotional songs. Women’s public lectures and inter-caste dining were highlights of these celebrations. Savarkar was also the driving force behind many Maharashtra temple movements in which untouchables were encouraged to pray, recite Sanskrit hymns, and perform “abhishek” of the Vishnu idol.
The Patitpavan temple was established in Ratnagiri in 1931, with representation from all castes, including the formerly untouchable caste, on its trust. In addition, Savarkar organised community meals in a few temples. On September 21, 1931, the Patitpavan temple hosted the first community meal for women in Maharashtra. There were approximately 75 women in attendance. By 1935, the number had risen to 400.
Savarkar opened a cafe for Hindus of all castes, including untouchables, on May 1, 1933. This was the country’s first pan-Hindu café. He had hired a so called lower caste member to serve food there. At the time, inter-caste dining was unthinkable.
“There is a belief that heredity, birth in a particular caste decides what qualities a person imbibes,” Savarkar said, criticising the practise of caste being determined by birth. A person who possesses none of the qualities expected of a Brahmin…whose seven generations have demonstrated none of the qualities expected of a Brahmin is called a Brahmin because one of his forefathers, perhaps 70 generations ago, possessed those qualities. He or she has the privileges of a Brahmin simply by birth into that family. And a person born into a lower caste family is untouchable simply because some of his forefathers performed a lowly job 70 generations ago. This system of determining caste by birth is so unjust, harmful, and a hindrance to humanity’s progress.” Such a system, according to Savarkar, should be abolished.
Savarkar also discussed how to abolish the caste system and untouchability, saying, “To achieve social revolution, we must first strike at the birth-based caste system and bridge the differences between the various castes” (Samagra Savarkar Vangmay; Part 3, page 641). On July 6, 1920, Savarkar wrote to his brother Narayanrao, “I feel the need to rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability as much as I feel the need to fight against foreign occupation of India.”
In 1931, Savarkar wrote a song about the re-entry of untouchables into temples. It translates as “Let me see God’s idol, let me worship God.” It is said that tears streamed down Savarkar’s cheeks as he wrote the song.
Veer Savarkar should be studied with an open mind and regarded as a model for developing future generations.
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