(Veer Savarkar has been one of my heroes. One of the most fascinating, multi talented personalities ever. Freedom fighter, nationalist, activist, thinker, writer and sadly a very misunderstood personality too. Here was some one who braved the worst form of imprisonment at Cellular Jail for not one year, two years, but a whole decade. Imagine spending ten years in a hellhole, that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man.
There is so much about Savarkar to be told, his fight for independence, his Hindutva philosophy, his stay in Cellular Jail.This series of mine is to show case the truth behind Veer Savarkar, who is being portrayed by the Leftists as a traitor, when he was not. This will be a long series covering his entire life, works, philosophy in detail).
Bhagur is one of these sleepy, small towns in Maharashtra, a small dot on the map, a town where every one knows each other. Located in Nashik district, adjoining the Army cantonment of Deolali, the town lies astride the Darna River. The Balakwade Gymnasium here was the crucible in which many a great Maratha warrior was forged during the rule of Shivaji Maharaj and later the Peshwas. Navji Balawkade who took part in the conquest of Sinhgad and Lohgad, Sardar Bhaoji Balakwade, Yesaji Balakwade who took part in the epic battle of Kazi Gadhi, and rescued Nashik from the clutches of the Mughals.Currently the town is much like any of the small towns in the countryside, a smattering of homes, narrow streets, some shops, a lazy sleepy air.
There would be nothing unremarkable though about the person born in one of the homes there on May 28, 1883. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, better known as Veer Savarkar to many, was born on that auspicious date to Damodarpant Savarkar and Radhabai, the second of four children. Coincidentally the year in which he was born had seen, the passing away of two great icons of nationalism- Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Vasudev Balwant Phadke. Born as Mool Shankar in Gujarat, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, invigorated the sleeping Hindu masses with his clarion call of “Back to the Vedas”. Leading a crusade against social evils, he urged Hindus to rediscover the roots of their glorious religion, and rise against the oppressive British rule. He founded the Arya Samaj, which would be a nursery of sorts for many a great freedom fighter like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Swami Shraddhanand from there. Vasudev Balwant Phadke who led the first major armed revolt against the British, passed away in a prison cell in Aden, pining for the freedom of his motherland.
Veer Savarkar would combine the fierce, revolutionary zeal of Phadke, with Swami Dayananda’s intelligence and exploration of Hinduism, to forge an identity of his own. He was a fierce fighter, and also a brilliant thinker and writer, who would forge a new ideology in Hindutva. Savarkar was a Chitpavan Brahmin, a community that gave us freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Phadke, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, as well as reformers like M.G.Ranade and Dhondo Keshav Karve. The great Peshwas of Pune also were from the same community. . It’s believed that Parashuram, the sixth avatar of Vishnu, was searching for Brahmins, to do the penance ritual after his slaughter of the Kshatriyas. Finding no Brahmins, he found around fourteen bodies washed up on the sea shore, burnt them, breathed life into them, and bestowed the status of Brahmin on them. As they had emerged from the funeral pyre( Chit) and purified by it( Paavan), it also became the name of the community.
To understand Savarkar more, however one needs to look into the context of the era when he was born. The year in which he was born was the one where Robert Louis Stevenson enthralled readers with Treasure Island and a fictional character named Pinocchio was born, who would capture the imagination of the children. It was a year in which the Krakatoa volcano would erupt with a massive explosion, and the resulting tsunami would wipe out 163 villages and kill more than 38,000 people.
India was at the cusp of a great social and political upheaval, after the 1857 Revolt had been brutally crushed by the British. Savarkar incidentally called it the First War of Independence, and his book on it, was banned by the British Government as being too seditious. The crushing of the 1857 Revolt, meant that the British were now the sovereign masters of India. It also meant they created a whole educated class, that believed anything Indian was inferior, and it was the Western civilization that was the greatest. Caught between a self loathing, educated class, indifferent to the plight of her people, and the ordinary masses, who were drained of their spirit, energy, and had become a victim to casteism, superstition, ignorance, India was passing through her darkest phase. The British had physically destroyed India, ruined it’s economy, and worse had brainwashed a whole lot of people, into believing they were actually civilizing India.
The educated classes had become slaves of the British rule, the masses were drained of spirit, and meekly accepted their oppression, putting it down to their destiny. The darkest times, however often throw up some of the greatest heroes, and it was then during the late 19th century and early 20th century, that the awakening took place. “Arise, Awake and Stop Not till the Goal is Reached”, thundered a young monk named Swami Vivekananda from Kolkata, and showcased the greatness of Hinduism to the West, and to fellow Indians. “Back to the Vedas” roared Swami Dayananda Saraswati, as he urged Hindus to go back to their roots and discover the greatness of their ancient civilization. And inspired by the clarion call, a lawyer by name of Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak would defiantly proclaim “Swarajya is my birthright” in the court. He would also begin the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav, to promote unity among Hindus, and ignite the spirit of nationalism.It was an era of nationalist awakening, of a consciousness arising among people of the glories of ancient India and Hinduism. It was an era, that would lay the foundation for the nationalist movement, which would rise like a tidal wave against the entrenched British establishment.
Like most of the Chitpavan Brahmins, Savarkar’s ancestors originally hailed from the Konkan region. During the Peshwa rule, they were one of the more prominent families, and also had the Jagirdari of Rahgur, a small village in Ahmednagar district. Known for their eminence in Sanskrit scholarship, his ancestors were widely respected and also enjoyed the honor of being carried in the palanquin. His father Damodarpant, took pride in his roots, and the glorious past of ancient India, while his mother Radhabai was a pious and beautiful lady. Vinayak was the second of four children, he had an elder brother Ganesh, a sister Mainabai and the youngest of them all Narayan. His parents would recite several passages from the Mahabharat and Ramayan, as also the stories of Shivaji, Rana Pratap and the great Peshwas. The stories of the great heroes, as also the moral values of the epics, left a deep impression on Vinayak’s mind, and he would draw inspiration from them later in his life. Being a bright student, he excelled in studies at school, and was a voracious reader. He was writing poems at an age of just ten years, and newspapers in Pune published them, not even knowing they were written by a small boy. An insatiable thirst for knowledge, an elephantine memory, a voice that impressed listeners, made Vinayak a remarkable personality. For all his intelligence and knowledge, Vinayak however was as normal as any school going child, full of mischief and who loved to play.
In June 1893, communal riots broke out in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, between Hindus and Muslims, and later in Mumbai too. The reports of the atrocities of Muslims on Hindus reached Vinayak, who vowed to pay back, his blood boiling with anger. Leading a bunch of school mates, he attacked the local mosque, broke it’s windows, it was his initiation into direct action. The seeds of political activism and revolution were laid in him at that instant. Though the Muslims hit back, Savarkar along with his friends managed to beat them back. Soon he was training and organizing a group in the village.
It was around this time that Vinayak moved to Nashik, which then was in the throes of a revolutionary movement. A deadly plague had struck Pune somewhere in the end of 1896, and by January 1897, the entire city was engulfed in an epidemic. The British adopted draconian measures to combat the epidemic in March 1897. Barging into private homes, examining the occupants, forcibly removing personal possessions, segregating families into camps. The high handedness of the British officers, and their rough measures, infuriated the people of Pune, who had to bear the brunt. It was around this time, Balkrishna, Damodar and Vasudev also called as the Chapekar brothers, assassinated the commissioner W.C.Rand , unpopular for his draconian measures.
The assassination of Rand by the Chapekar Brothers was carried out on the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s rule. And the brothers were hanged for their act, a spark that would set aflame the fire of the revolutionary movement in India. The sacrifice of the brothers would inspire generations of revolutionaries to come against the oppressive British rule. Vinayak was one of them, who resolved to not let their sacrifice go in vain, and dedicate his life to the freedom of Indian from the British rule. Meanwhile he continued to impress the teachers with his intelligence, knowledge and eloquence at Nashik. The way he managed to get the words flowing, the depth of his knowledge and his outspoken views , made him a born leader and speaker.
Along with his friends Mhaskare, Page and Baburao, he formed the Mitra Mela in 1900 that would strive to inculcate a nationalist feeling among people, and play a role in driving out the British. He initiated youth choosen by him for their revolutionary ideal into the group. Soon this group would become the destination for revolutionaries in Maharashtra, drawn to it like bees, seeking the nectar of nationalist spirit. It would later become the well known Abhinav Bharat Society in 1904, a hub for revolutionary activity in Central and Western India, and also spreading it’s activities abroad to England, France, US, where Indians were either studying or working. The motto of Abhinav Bharat was revolution by armed forced to drive out the British and secure freedom for India.
Spreading knowledge about the oppression of the British rule, as well as the glory of India, Vinayak, invigorated the youth and planted the seeds of nationalist thought in their minds. Soon the Mitra Mela, was a major presence in Nashik, and used major religious festivals like Ganesh Puja, Dussehra to propagate it’s nationalist ideology among people. The Mitra Mela members also endeared themselves to the people of Nashik, through a plethora of social service activities. Any one was welcome into the Mitra Mela, with no distinction of caste or creed. Through his poems Savarkar aroused the feelings of patriotism and revolution among the masses. One of those poems was sung at Raigad Fort in the presence of Tilak by a group of ballad singers.
However Savarkar still managed to do well in his academics, emerging into a top class debater, an eloquent speaker and a first rate writer. He was more inspired by the extremists in Congress especially the Lal-Bal-Pal trio of Lala Lajpat Rai, Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, which in a way molded his own ideology too. The extremists rejected any dialog with the British Government and demanded nothing less than Purna Swaraj, instead of merely pushing petitions. Enrolling in the prestigious Fergusson College in Pune in 1902, that was founded by Tilak himself, Savarkar plunged himself headlong now into the freedom struggle. He also had ample assistance from his brother Ganesh, affectionately called as Babarao, who took over the family responsibility, when his parents passed away. It was Babarao, who was his main pillar of support in his student years, who stood by him always.