Veer Savarkar- Arrest and Escape

The trial and execution of Madan Lal Dhingra,  was traumatic for Veer Savarkar in many ways. It was not just a question of losing a close associate. It was the crackdown on him and his associates, that was really traumatic. The British never trusted Savarkar, and had always kept an eye on him. Now with the assassination of Wylie by Dhingra, the British targeted Savarkar even more vehemently than before. Savarkar was isolated, for his support to Dhingra, with most other nationalist leaders distancing themselves from him.  The British Government shut down India House,  Savarkar was forced out, and had to stay for some time at Bipin Chandra Pal’s home in London.

However with increasing pressure by the British Government on him, Savarkar felt it better to leave London. No home to stay, starving on the streets, and followed by detectives at every stage, life was miserable for Savarkar. He wandered seeking shelter, but was turned out at every lodge.  For some days, he sought refuge with a German lady there. Tired and weary, Savarkar left for Brighton, a small seaside town in England, where he stayed  in the company of Niranjan Pal. This is where he composed one of his more well known poems.

Take me O Ocean! Take me to my native shores. Thou promised me to take me home. But thee coward, afraid of thy mighty master, Britain, thou hast betrayed me. But mind my mother is not altogether helpless. She will complain to sage Agastya and in a draught he will swallow thee as he did in the past.

Savarkar still continued his activities at Brighton, he had to get Dhingra’s statement published and propagate it all over. He got the letter published in the Daily News through his friend David Garrett.  Through Shyamji Varma, he got it published in various Irish and American papers, ensuring it reached out to as many as possible. Savarkar was now proving too hard to handle, for other Indian nationalist leaders.  Gandhiji  had earlier met Savarkar at India House in 1909, but disagreed with his methods.  Savarkar believed in open conflict, as he once stated.

We feel no special love for secret organizations or surprise and secret warfare. We hold that whenever open preaching and practicing of truth is banned by enthroned violence, then alone secret societies and warfare are justified to combat violence by force.

Savarkar felt bitter and betrayed after his discussions with Gandhiji, who in turn attacked the revolutionaries and their methods. The ideological conflict between these two would define the contours of the freedom movement in the 20th century.

Savarkar spent his time in the library, reading up books, letters and original manuscripts in the British museum.  Reading up on the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, Savarkar began to pen what would be his magnum opus.  Till then, the 1857 Revolt, was called as a Sepoy Mutiny by English scholars, historians.  Savarkar called it the First War of Independence, and completed his book in Marathi on the landmark event. He sent the manuscript to his brother Baba Rao in Nashik, evading the British who tried their best to get their hands on it. However Savarkar managed to evade them, and get the book published in Holland in 1909. Soon the book was  circulated all over, in China, Japan, India, America, mostly smuggled under a fake name, in this case Charles Dicken’s Pickwick Papers. The translated version of this book would be an inspiration to future revolutionaries ranging from Bhagat Singh to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.

The idea of the I.N.A. and particularly the Rani of Jhansi segment seems to have originated from Savarkar’s proscribed publication on the 1857 Mutiny-K.F.Nariman

P.K.Atre, the well known Marathi author and journalist, called Savarkar, the greatest Marathi writer since Dhyaneswar.  After Dhingra was hanged, the threats to Savarkar grew even more strident. His supporters in India were persecuted and harassed, the stress was taking a toll on his health. He spent some time at Wales in a sanatorium, to recover from the breakdown. And finally with his life now in danger, Savarkar left to Paris in 1910, from where he would carry out his activities again. Along with Madame Bhikaji Cama and Shyamji Verma, Savarkar continued his struggle against the British rule.

However the crackdown on his followers intensified, his brother was exiled to Cellular Jail, his family was destitute and homeless.  The tragic news coming from India upset Savarkar, who was also found guilty in the assassination of Jackson at Nashik.  George Clarke, the new Governor of Bombay, intensified the crackdown further, he was the Collector of Nashik earlier, which explained his stance towards the revolutionaries. Clarke, targeted Savarkar directly, and soon began to build up a case against him. With the warrant coming from Bow Street Court, London in 1910, charges were leveled against Savarkar. Of sedition, waging war against Her Majesty, distributing weapons illegally to his followers. His followers in India were arrested, tortured, some of them even turned informers.

Savarkar’s own son passed away, his elder brother Baba Rao was in Cellular Jail, his younger brother Ganesh was arrested in the Nasik Conspiracy case.  And in 1910, the British Government issued an arrest warrant against Savarkar, for speeches he made some time back in 1906. It was then he took the most critical decision of his life, of leaving Paris for London. It was like walking straight back into the lion’s den. But Savarkar was prepared to face the lion, that was wreaking havoc on his family members and followers. He did not want that others should suffer because of him.

On his return to London in April, 1910, the Magistrate ordered that Savarkar be sent back to India for further trial. The British Government in India had set up a special tribunal just for Savarkar.  In the mean time,some of the Indian and Irish revolutionaries in London attempted to rescue Savarkar from custody. However with details of the plan being leaked out, it failed.  Finally Savarkar was extradited to India aboard the steamer S S Morea.  As it approached Marseilles in France, the steamer had some engine trouble, and had to report in the port there for further repairs. Knowing that this would be a good chance for Savarkar to escape, the British requested the French to keep close surveillance.

Savarkar on the other hand, saw this is a golden opportunity, and was wondering on how to make the escape. He requested permission from a Scotland Yard Inspector Parkar to use the toilet. Inside the toilet, he managed to squeeze himself through the narrow porthole at the top of the water closet, and jumped into the sea. Amidst a hail of bullets from the ship, Savarkar swam ashore, his pursuers chasing him. He dodged his pursuers, and ran for quite some time penniless on the shores of France. He was finally caught, and dragged back to the steamer.  Unfortunately for him, his associates Madame Bhikaji Cama and VVS Aiyar, who were supposed to receive him, were delayed by a couple of hours.

Though the escape was a failure, Savarkar has by now become a legend of sorts, as it’s news spread all over the world. The entire European media praised Savarkar, he became an icon for most of the other revolutionaries now. On the ship, he was now huddled into a tiny cabin, with just about enough space to move around. No sunlight filtered in, and Savarkar had to spend the rest of the voyage, in darkness and heat. With no light and air, he lay huddled, suffocating, hands bound on both sides, unable to move. Calling it terrible would be an understatement, he was carried along like a captured animal, an insult to such a noble soul. He felt like killing himself at times, however managed to survive the ordeal, that would have destroyed a lesser person. Finally on Sept 22, 1910, he reached Mumbai, where another long ordeal would await him.

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Veer Savarkar- Trial of Madan Lal Dhingra.

In the previous post, we had seen the background of Madan Lal Dhingra, his assassination of  Wylie and relationship with Savarkar. We now look at the trial, and the fallout .

Post the assassination of Wylie, Dhingra, was vilified,  repeatedly in the British media. An ex army officer at Broadhurst Gardens, Capt Charles Rollerton, even made allegations that Dhingra assassinated Wylie under the influence of “Bhang”. The psychiatrists who examined him, his land lady however testified that Dhingra seemed absolutely normal, and gave no indication of the act he would commit.  During the interrogation, Dhingra expressed deep regret for the shooting of Dr.Lalkaka, saying he had no reason to shoot him, and it happened as he came in between.

Dhingra was produced before Mr.Horace Smith, the Magistrate of Westminister Police Court, and he told him clearly

” I do not plead for mercy: nor do I recognize your authority over me…”ho

On being sent to the Sessions Court, Dhingra asked in a trial, in which Indians were not allowed.

“If the Germans have no right to rule over England what right have the English got to rule over India ?”

Though Dhingra willed that all his belongings, clothes, books be sold and the money, be given to the National Fund, it was no followed by the London Police. The police said that since Dhingra made no official will, his belongings were the property of the British Government, and they confiscated everything. Sadly Dhingra was disowned by his own family itself. His brother Bhajan Lal, who was in London, condemned him publicly in a meeting. His father publicly apologized and disowned his son. All his family members dropped Dhingra from their surname and adopted Lal, to avoid trouble with the British. The only person who actually stood by Madan Lal Dhingra was Savarkar, who visited him in prison. He was emotionally overwhelmed, when Savarkar told him “I have come here to seek your darshan”. For some one disowned by his family, it meant a lot that somebody out there still cared for him.

The Indian Association held a public meeting on July 5, 1909 to condemn Dhingra’s assassination of Wylie. The meeting was chaired by Aga Khan, and as he was prepared to pass the resolution, one hand raised in protest. It was Savarkar who said “No, not unanimously. There are opponents of the motion as well. Take down my name, Savarkar. I oppose the motion.”

The meeting went into a commotion, after Savarkar’s lone defiance. One of the members Bhavanagiri, tried assaulting Savarkar but was restrained by Aga Khan. A European member named Palmer, hit Savarkar with a stick, causing him to bleed in the eye. A defiant Savarkar refused to back down, sticking to his stand. Surendranath Banerjee was outraged at the assault ” Savarkar had a right to have his say. It was outrageous to attack him” and left the meeting in anger. The police had to rush in and prevent the situation from going out of control. That very night Savarkar wrote a letter to the Times, saying that since the matter of Dhingra was “subjudice”, no one had the right to discuss the case in public and using terms like criminal. It amounted to contempt of the court, the letter was published in the Times on July 6,1909.

Predictably most Indian leaders like Gokhale,  NC Kelkar, condemned Dhingra’s act. Some like Hyndman, said that though Dhingra’s act was not acceptable, the allegations he raised against the British Govt, could not be swept away. The Media now turned their focus on Savarkar, claiming him to be the mastermind of the entire act. His relatives and colleagues in India were persecuted by the Govt, students going to London for studies had to produce certificates from the Local Government.

Dhingra meanwhile had some other admirers like W.T.Stead, editor of Reviews, an admirer of Savarkar, and believed in India’s freedom. Stead himself was arrested and put in prison for three months. In a letter to the Observer, Stead contended that Dhingra had committed the murder in a fit of insanity and hence should be given life imprisonment only. In the meanwhile VVS Aiyar,Nitisen Dwarakadas and JS Master, editor of the Gujarati daily Parsee, met the Secretary of India and requested that Dhingra’s dead body be given, so that they could perform the last rites. Savarkar wanted that Dhingra’s ashes, be sent to various parts of India. On the other hand, members of the Secretary’s Morley Council favored life imprisonment, as they felt execution would rather make him a martyr and ignite the volatile atmosphere even more.

King Edward VII was so infuriated with Dhingra’s act, that in a letter to Morley, he proposed that all Indian students should be barred from studying in England. Morley on the other hand was adamant that Dhingra be executed as it would set an example to potential assassins. This was what Wilfrid Blunt, the British poet had to say

No Christian martyr ever faced his judges more fearlessly or with greater dignity…if India could produce five hundred men, as resolutely without fear, she would achieve her freedom. It was recorded in medical evidence at the trial, that, when arrested, Dhingra’s pulse beat no quicker than normal, nor from first to last, has he shown any sign of weakening.

The Irish supported Dhingra with leaflets titled “Ireland Honors Dhingra” pasted all across the country.

August 17, 1909, Pentonville Prison.

Finally the date had come, many of Dhingra’s friends made a request to meet him for one last time. JS Master, made a request to the Under Sheriff of London and Home Office, stating he was Dhingra’s close friend and needed to meet him. However the request was turned down at both places. Dhingra however remained calm and composed, slept well on his last night, and after performing his chores, was ready for the hanging. As the clock struck nine, Dhingra walked to the gallows. Many of his friends and some from the media were waiting outside, all of them in a state of mourning.

When a Christian preacher Hudson, walked up to him, for the last prayer, Dhingra turned him down, saying he was born as a Hindu and would die as one. Metcalfe, the Dy. Under Sheriff of London, read out the death warrant to Dhingra, asked him the usual questions. Dhingra just ignored, walked calmly to the noose, to Officer Pierpoint who was waiting for him there. The noose was put around his neck, and the levers pulled, the life of a brave revolutionary was snuffed out.

JS Master who attended Dhingra’s post mortem, requested that he be taken the body for funeral rites. Dhingra wanted to be cremated as per Hindu custom, but Master’s request was turned down. And Dhingra’s body was buried in Pentonville Prison itself in a coffin.

On being asked if Dhingra would be considered a martyr, Master replied

“Certainly. He has laid down his life for his country’s good. Whether his idea of this ‘good’ was right or wrong is a matter of opinion”.

“The nonchalance displayed by the assassin was of a character, which is happily unusual in such trials in this country. He asked no questions. He maintained a defiance of studied indifference. He walked smiling from the Dock.”

As desired by Gyan Chand Verma, Dhingra’s last statement was published on a postcard by Sardar Singh Rana in Paris, along with his photograph. The statement was underlined by Vande Mataram, below which it was written “To the sacred and inspiring memory of patriot Madan Lal Dhingra, who died for his country”. The copies of this statement were sent by Rana to Savarkar in London, who in turn sent a large number of them to India. Though banned, neverthless the last statement titled “Challenge” became popular in the public. This was the text of it.

1. “I admit the other day; I attempted to shed English blood as an humble revenge for the inhuman hangings and deportations of patriotic Indian youths. In this attempt, I have consulted none but my own conscience; I have conspired with none, but my own duty.

2. “I believe that a nation held down in bondage with the help of foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise; since guns were denied to me, I drew forth my pistol and fired.

3. “As a Hindu I felt that a wrong done to my country is an insult to God. Her cause is the cause of Sri Ram! Her services are the services of Sri Krishna! Poor in health and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the Mother but his own blood and so I have sacrificed the same on her altar.

4. “The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die and the only way to teach it, is by dying ourselves. Therefore I die and glory in my martyrdom! This war of Independence will continue between India and England, so long as the Hindu and the English races last (if the present unnatural relation does not cease!)

5. “My only prayer to God is: May I be reborn of the same Mother and may I redie in the same sacred cause, till the cause is successful and she stands free for the good of humanity and the glory of God!”

 -Vande Mataram- From the Hindu Jagruti article here on Dhingra

In another note, the Indian revolutionaries in London, paid tribute to him with the following words

“This day, the morning of 17th August 1909, will remain engraved in red letters in the heart of every Indian who loves his Motherland. This is the morning that our great patriot, our beloved Dhingra, is swinging to and fro with his sacred neck in the grip of the execution ropes in Pentonville prison. His high soul is rising from his earthly body but in spirit, he is with us, will remain with us, will guide us in the battle of freedom of our Motherland and his name, written in the history of India, will go down to posterity. The alien oppression of his Motherland he could not bear and he decided to help the movement, which is engaged in freeing Her, by giving his life. “I told you that the English Court has no authority over me. I do not care for my life. You are all powerful. You can do what you like. But remember, that one day we shall be powerful and then we shall do what we like” were his last words when the English judge, who must have been feeling demoralized in his inner heart, told him that his life would be taken…And now our enemies have killed him. But let them remember that they will never; never succeed in suppressing or killing the movement. “Moral force, like gentle tides at the touch of storm, sweeps away hills and lands. The act of a patriot comes like a storm to the moral waves of human society, and sweeping away barriers, leads the cause to success.”

From the Hindu Jagruti article here on Dhingra

Mahatma Gandhi however condemned Dhingra’s action, calling him and other revolutionaries as “anarchists” saying “Is killing honourable? Is the dagger of an assassin a fit precursor of an honourable death?”.

Dhingra, the immortal, has behaved at each stage of the trial like a hero of ancient times. England thinks she has killed Dhingra; in reality he lives for ever and has given the death-blow to English Sovereignty in India .- Lala Hardayal in Vande Mataram in 1909.

Finally on December 12, 1976 in the presence of Natwar Singh, then High Commissioner of India, Dhingra’s coffin was exhumed, and his mortal remains bought back to India.


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Veer Savarkar- Assassination of Wylie by Madanlal Dhingra.


Madan Lal Dhingra

As the British cracked down, more ruthlessly on the revolutionaries in India and England, the anger against their atrocities grew more. It kept growing till the boiling point had been reached, and the time was ripe for an outbreak. All it needed was one single spark to light the flame. And that spark came in the form of a strapping young land from Punjab, Madan Lal Dhingra. Hailing from Amritsar, the sixth born of the city’s Civil Surgeon, two of his brothers were doctors, while two other were barristers.  Coming from a well to do and influential family, Dhingra, could have settled into a life of luxury and comfort.  Yet he was restless, driven by the call for Swadeshi, right from his student days at the Government College, Lahore in 1904. He led the student protest there against having to forcibly wear a blazer made of imported cloth, which led to his expulsion in turn. Having extensively studied about poverty and famines in India,  he felt that only Swaraj( Self Government) was the solution. For some time, he worked as a clerk at a Tanga service in Kalka, Shimla, where his attempts to organize an union came to nought. It was then on the advice of his brother, he went to London, for studying the Diploma Course in Civil Engineering at University College between 1906-09.  A very illustrious institution of learning where Dadabhai Naoroji  was Professor of Gujarati and Ravindranath Tagore studied English Literature.

Like most other Indian students in England, he was a regular to the India House founded by Shyamji Krishna Verma. His initial days, were spent in frolic and fun, and his good looks ensured, he was in the company of women mostly.  The turning point came, at a meeting in India House that was addressed by Savarkar. Apparently Dhingra along with his friends, was making a noise in the adjacent room, that forced Savarkar to intervene.

“What is the matter? You only talk of action and bravery, avoid coming to our weekly meetings. Is this your bravery”

The rebuke by Savarkar had it’s desired effect, and for quite some time Dhingra was not seen around India House. Too ashamed to show his face, and fearful of facing Savarkar’s wrath, he kept away. Until one day, summoning all the courage, he came face to face with Savarkar again at India House.  Savarkar however had moved on from the past incident, and spoke normally with Dhingra.  A much assured Dhingra asked him “Has the time for martyrdom come?”. To which Savarkar replied

“If a martyr has made up his mind and is ready, it is generally understood that the time for martyrdom has come.”

Having made up his mind, Dhingra now joined the National Indian Association, founded by Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose in 1876.  The Association was primarily a gathering of moderate Indian nationalists, who denounced extremism and believed in peaceful negotiation with the British.  Dhingra acted as a double agent of sorts, publicly denouncing Savarkar in front of the British, to win their favor. He soon won the trust of Ms.Emma Josephine Beck, the secretary of the Association, and got to know the timings of visits of important officials. He had a fake “falling out” with Savarkar to convince the British officials, and also left India House. Staying for some time at Ledbury Road, in 1909, he began to plot the assassination of one of the most important British officials, Lord Curzon Wylie.

Dhingra had earlier attempted to assassinate Lord Curzon, the British viceroy universally hated for his Partition of Bengal. However Curzon escaped twice, thanks to late arrival at the venue. His plans to assassinate the ex Governor of Bengal, Bramfield Fuller also came to nought, when the latter turned up late for the meeting. It was then that Dhingra decided to target Curzon Wylie, and not just because of the name. Wylie was one of the top ranking officers in the British Government.  Serving the British Army in 1866, Wylie had entered the Political Department in 1879.  He had earned a distinction for his role in the 1879 Afghan War, and later in Avadh, Nepal and above all in Rajputana.  He was appointed the Political Aide-De-Camp to the Secretary of State for India, but more than anything, he was regarded as the “eyes and ears of the government”.

Wylie headed, the Secret Police, a fact not known to any one, except those in the upper echelons of the British Government. He in turn, was keeping an eye on Savarkar and other revolutionaries at the Indian House. He even appointed an informer, Kirtikar at the Indian House, to get information. Kirtikar was however found out by Savarkar, and gave him all the information about the police operations under force. On the home front, things were not going too well. Savarkar’s elder brother Babarao, was arrested and sentenced for life to the dreaded Cellular Jail in Andamans. His home was confiscated, and Babarao’s wife Yesu died a destitute, homeless on the streets.

The other factor was Savarkar being denied access to the Bar, after he completed his studies in 1906. Savarkar was charged of encouraging sedition by circulating pamphlets, advocating armed revolution and assassination. Given time till May 22, the trial was conducted on May 26, 1909, in camera. New charges were pressed, the letters by Savarkar were examined, and he was disallowed. The deportation of Babarao to Cellular Jail, and Savarkar’s trial, enraged the revolutionaries further, the situation was even more volatile now.

Dhingra knew Wylie personally, having met him earlier on April 13, 1909 based on a recommendation from his brother Kundan Lal.  Dhingra apparently wanted to discuss the letter, but in reality his aim was to get closer to Wylie, win his confidence. The moment came when a meeting of the Association was to be organized on July 1, 1909 that would be attended by a large number of Indians and Englishmen, in honor of Lady Lyall, the wife of Sir Alfred Lyall.  Dhingra met Savarkar on June 29,1909 at Bipin Chandra Pal’s home in London,  discussed the plans of the assassination with him. Savarkar asked Niranjan Pal to type out the statement, Dhingra would make after the assassination, and then gave him a Belgian make Browning pistol.  “Do not show me your face again if you fail this time” said Savarkar to an emotionally overwhelmed Dhingra, as he took his leave.

Accompanied by another revolutionary Koregaonkar, he had an early lunch and tea, left at 2 PM, cradling the revolver in his hands. He also bought a brand new dagger in a leather casket, placing it in his pocket.  It was evening 7 PM, when the function started, Dhingra was dressed in a lounge suit and blue Punjab turban. He placed a Colt revolver in the right pocket of his coat, and the Browning gifted by Savarkar in another. He took a cab, arrived at the Institute, where Koregaonkar came also, with his pistol. When the time came for Wylie to leave, Dhingra approached him on the pretext of talking something. Just at the landing, coming closer to Wylie, Dhingra pulled out his Colt and fired two bullets point blank.  As Wylie reeled, Dhingra fired two more bullets, a Parsi doctor, Cawas Lalkaka, who tried to save Wylie  was also shot.

However Dhingra’s plan to commit suicide however failed , as he was overpowered by the security guards around.  He managed to even bring down one of the guards, but was ultimately subdued, and arrested.  He was taken to the Walton Street Police Station, where the Police Officer asked him if any of his friends knew about this. To which Dhingra calmly replied “There is no need, they will know about my arrest tomorrow in the newspapers”. It was a smart strategy, which ensured none of his friends would be implicated.

I will be covering the trial and execution of Madan Lal Dhingra, in detail in the subsequent post.

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Veer Savarkar- In the den of the British lion

1906 was the year, the All India Muslim League would be founded in Dacca. The roots though were laid by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1886, through the All Indian Muhammadan Educational Conference. It was ostensibly to promote a modern, liberal education for the Muslim community in India, and it drove what was called the Aligarh Movement.  The movement was so called after the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College in Aligarh, founded in 1875, which in future would become the Aligarh Muslim University. More pro-British in nature, the Aligarh movement, aimed to provide a modern, British style education to Muslims, as opposed to the more orthodox Deoband School.  It also simplified the traditional writing style of Urdu, and made it to a more simple style, for the masses to understand. It was at the 1906 session of the All Indian Muhammadan Educational Conference, at Dacca, where the Muslim League would take root. It was also a response to the Congress protest against the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905.

Amidst the backdrop of such a societal churning, and increasing polarization between Hindus and Muslims, Savarkar left for London in the same year. London, one of the world’s greatest cities, the den of the British lion, the very hub of the empire that controlled close to 2/3rd of the world. It was also a refuge for revolutionaries across the world, the Irish, the Russians, the Anarchists and now the Indian rebels.  Savarkar ostensibly went to London for studying law, however his main aim was to organize the revolution, and carry on the freedom struggle from abroad. And for which he needed a meeting spot, a mentor, and financial support.

Shyamji Krishna Verma

All of which was provided by a genial, bearded, soft spoken gentleman with a warm smile, Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma. The soft spoken gentleman, a Sanskrit scholar heavily influenced by Swami Dayananda Saraswati, had a flourishing legal practice in India. A close associate of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he moved to England, where he would set up the India House in 1900. He used his money to fund scholarships for students arriving in London, named after two of his greatest influences, Swami Dayananda and Herbert Spencer. Through the Indian Sociologist a magazine started by him, he began to spread the ideas of nationalism among Indian students in London.

India House London

Image result for India House London

True to his name, Shyamji was the Krishna to Savarkar’s Arjun, guiding him in the battlefield. The Kurukshetra here was London itself, the den of the British lion, where Savarkar began his battle.  Continuing from where he had left off in India, Savarkar established the Free India Society in 1906 in London. It was not an easy task, he had to deal with an entire generation of Indian students, who were more English than the British themselves. Decades of colonial education, had brainwashed the average Indian into believing that British rule was a blessing, and that they indeed bought civilization to a backward nation. Savarkar began to change that, holding weekly meetings explaining the ill effects of British rule. He also organized the anniversaries of great heroes like Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, and grand celebrations of Dussehra, Dipavali.

Bhikaji Cama

Senapati Bapat

Lala Hardayal

Bhai Parmanand

And soon they began to flock to him, from all corners of India, drawn by a single purpose the freedom of India.  From the city of Mumbai, came Madame Bhikaji Cama and Senapati Bapat. From the South came V.V.S. Aiyar and P.T.Acharya. From the plains of Punjab, came Lala Hardayal and Bhai Parmanand. From the North there was Gyanchand Verma, while from Nizam occupied Hyderabad, came Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, the brother of Sarojini Naidu. Men and women from different cultures, regions, backgrounds, but all united by one single desire, an independent India.  However the Muslim students from India in London kept away from India House. When Abdulla Suharwardy wanted to join, Sir Ziauddin Ahmed warned him with the following words

“You know that we have a definite political policy at Aligarh, i.e. the policy of Sir Syed. Do you really believe that the Muslims will be profited if Home Rule is granted to India? What I call the Muslim policy is really the policy of all the Muslims generally – of those of Upper India particularly.”

And so did Asaf Zaki who wrote to Pandit Shaymji that he did not want to antagonize his Muslim friends unnecessarily, by associating with the nationalist. The fact is Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and later the Muslim League had successfully brainwashed Muslims into believing, that freedom would mean a Hindu dominated India, where they would have no space. Barring a few like Ashfaqullah, most Muslims deliberately kept aloof from the freedom movement, and tacitly supported the British too.

On the other hand, Savarkar was going full steam ahead through his pamphlets and books. Being an admirer of the Italian nationalist leader Mazinni, Savarkar translated his autobiography into Marathi. And he got this published by his brother Babarao Savarkar at Nasik, in 1907, and through the book, he began to spread the message of revolutionary struggle for freedom. An admirer of Sikhism, he learnt Gurumukhi, read the Adi Granth and Pantha-Surya Prakash. Though pamphlets which he called Khalsa, Savarkar exhorted the Sikh soldiers to fight for independence against their British masters.

The British used to celebrate May Day in commemoration of their victory over the Indian revolutionaries during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Savarkar countered this propaganda, by calling 1857 as the First War of Indian Independence and decided to celebrate it all over London. Badges were worn, homage paid to the heroes of the 1857 Revolt and soon a wave of patriotism swept over the Indians living in United Kingdom.  The British media bitterly attacked Pandit Shyamji Varma,  and he had to leave for Paris, leaving India House in the care of Savarkar.

The Free India Society in the meantime,  reverberated with highly intellectual discussions on political philosophy, that provided an inspiration to the revolutionaries.   The discussions were read out in India, via letters that Savarkar sent from London, and soon they began to ignite the feelings of nationalism.  With his oratory, intelligence, Savarkar had the India House under his control firmly. Even those who disagreed with his political views, could never find fault with his sincerity and integrity.  Savarkar also had the vision to realize the importance of international engagement.  He got his pamphlets, letters translated into French, English, German, Russian to spread his thoughts wider. He wanted his message to reach out to a global audience, and get their support for India’s freedom struggle. He took the cause of Indian freedom on to the world stage with his speeches and letters.

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He was the one who deputed Madame Bhikaji Cama to the International Socialists Congress at Stuttgart, Germany in 1907, and ensured they moved a resolution on India’s independence. It was at this conference that Madame Cama, unfurled the flag of an independent India, which was designed by Savarkar himself. He also ensured that Indian revolutionaries of Abhinav Bharat were in close contact with those from Russia, Ireland, Egypt and China, all of whom were fighting in their own way against oppression.  Savarkar’s main aim was to forge an anti-British front on global level, against their empire, at a global level.  He had a four point plan to achieve liberation of India, through teaching of Swadeshi, Boycott of foreign goods, imparting a nationalist education, and using armed revolution. He helped in setting up small bomb factories, purchasing arms, adopting guerilla tactics where needed and also spreading the message in the armed forces.

Abhinava Bharat in the meantime, was publishing material desired to ignite the nationalist consciousness.  Senapati Bapat was sent to India to learn about bomb making, while pistols were smuggled  into India through Mirza Abbas and Sikander Khan, which then made their way into the hands of revolutionary groups. On the eve of the 1857 Anniversary,  Savarkar wrote a poem O Martyrs commemorating the heroes. This pamphlet distributed in Europe and India, aroused the consciousness against British rule.  Senapati Bapat meanwhile began to circulate the bomb making manual among important revolutionary hubs in Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal, the North.  One of those so inspired was Khudiram Bose, who threw a bomb at Muzaffarpur on April 30, 1908 at the carriage of a British official, killing it’s occupants. This singular act shook the whole of India.

With a rising nationalist feeling, the British struck back with more repression. Khudiram Bose was hanged, Aurobindo, Senapati Bapat had to go into exile. Some more were sentenced to the notorious Cellular Jail in Andamans, that included Savarkar’s brother Babarao. Savarkar was now regarded as one of the most dangerous of the rebels, a close watch was kept on India House by Scotland Yard.  Savarkar however  managed to win the sympathy and support of the Irish police in Scotland Yard, tactfully. Add to it Abhinav Bharat itself had it’s own agents inside Scotland Yard.

The emotional Bengali calls along the whole world to witness his deeds. The Chitpavan Brahmin whose bent of mind is far practical works in silence. Even as the Bengali did the shouting it was Pune that provided the brains that directed the Bengali extremists.- Sir Valentine Chirol

And this was what actually made him really dangerous.  He was not of the emotional impulsive type, rather he was absolutely cold and calculating. He was the mastermind, the brains behind the scene, that ran the whole operation. Possessed with the power to discriminated logically, and a very balanced mind, mindless rhetoric was not something he believed in. He did not believe in the romantic notion of revolutionary martyrdom. He was more of a realist, who believed in surviving to fight another day. Instead of blind action, for him the timing and purpose was far more important.  When Senapati Bapat wanted to bomb the House of Commons, Savarkar dissuaded him,  as he did not want the British to know that Indians had mastered the art of bomb making. For him revolution without purpose, had no meaning, he believed in planning and results.


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Shiva Temples in Telugu States.

What does one say of a language and a region, that takes it’s name from a belief that Shiva descended on three mountains there? The ancient name of the Telugu states is Trilinga Desa,  meaning the “Land of the 3 Lingas”. It is believed that the Telugu language gets it’s name from this too.  It’s believed that Shiva descended in the form of 3 Lingas located at Kaleswaram in Telangana, Srisailam in Rayalaseema and Draksharamam in Coastal Andhra, which made up the Trilinga Desa. The belief apart both the Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have had a close connect with Shaivism. This is a place, where you have the Pancharamas, the 5 Temples dedicated to Shiva, as well as one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas at Sri Sailam and one of the Panchabhuta Lingams at Sri Kalahasti.

Pancharama Kshetras are so called, after the 5 temples dedicated to Shiva, in Coastal Andhra.  All the Shivalingas at the five temples were derived from a single Linga. Apparently this massive Shiva Linga, was owned by the Asura ruler Tarakasura, which made him practically invincible. It was finally Kumara Swamy who attacked Tarakasura and used his Shakti to kill him. However Kumara Swamy discovered that the torn apart pieces of Tarakasura’s body, would rejoin again and again, frustrating his efforts. It was then Vishnu advised him to break the Shiva Lingam, which Taraka was wearing into 5 pieces.He also cautioned Kumara Swamy, that the pieces of the Linga would again reunite, so they should be fixed to the spot.

Soon Kumara Swamy, used the Aagnesthra, the fire weapon, to break the Shiva Linga, and then Surya fixed those pieces, by fastening them with nails and building temples over them. If one notices the five Shivalingas here have scaly markings, believed to be due to the Agneshtra. Now the five different temples are collectively called as Pancharamas( 5 places of rest).

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Amararamam, is located at Amaravati, in Guntur district, and the reigning deity is Amaralingeswara Swamy. The name comes from the fact that Amarendra installed the Shiva Linga here. Located on the Southern bank of the Krishna River, Bala Chamundika is the consort of Amaralingeswara Swamy. The temple is noted for it’s massive Shiva Linga, that covers two floors.

The temple was developed by Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu, the ruler of Dharanikota, and a devotee of Amaralingeswara. It was also a penace for him, to atone for his act of massacring the Chenchus, in order to put down a revolt. He not only renovated the temple, but also appointed 9 Archakas, provided them with the means of livelihood.

Draksharama located in East Godavari district, near the town of Ramachandrapuram, is also the most picturesque, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.

Shiva here is called as Bhimeswara Swamy, and the Shiva Linga was believed to be installed by Surya himself here.It is believed that Draksharama was where the infamous Daksha Yagna took place, and that is the reason no yagna happens at this temple. It is also called as Dakshina Kasi, and Shakti here is Manikyamba Ammavaru. The pond here is believed to contain the waters of the Sapta Godavari.

The Shiva Linga at Draksharama again is quite tall, and one part of it lies in the basement floor, only the top part is seen.Another legend of Draksharama goes that the outer wall could not be completed in time, to date it still remains incomplete.The Draksharama Temple is one of the oldest in Andhra, dating back to 10th century, built by Bhima, the Eastern Chalukya king of Vengi.

Somarama Temple, Bhimavaram

Somarama located at Bhimavaram, is the 3rd of the Pancharamas, and the Shiva Linga here is believed to be installed by Chandra. The front of the temple has a pond called Chandrakundam covered with flowers.It’s believed that Chandra, got rid of his sins by worshipping Shiva here, and hence the name Somaramam one of the Pancharamas.The unique aspect about the Shivalinga at Somarama, is that it keeps changing it’s color, based on the phases of the moon.During Pournami, the Shivlinga at Somarama turns full white in color, and during Amavasya, it turns a shade of black.A very unique aspect of this temple is that the temple of Annapurna, is built on top of the Shiva temple, which you do not find anywhere. Shakti is worshiped here as Sri Rajarajeswari Ammavaru.

Ksheerarama Temple at Palakollu in West Godavari,is where Shiva is worshipped as Ksheera Ramalingeswara Swamy.It is believed that Upamanyu, son of Kaushika, requested Shiva for desired quantity of milk for ritual, and the Pushkarni overflowed with milk, which also accounts for name of Palakollu(Palu is the Telugu word for Milk).

Temple Complex as seen from the Main temple tower.

It is believed that Vishnu installed the Shiva Linga here, and Shakti is worshipped as Parvati Ammavaru. It is noted for it’s tall gopuram, and the temple itself covers around nine floors. The Shiva Linga here itself is milky white, and the mandapa with 72 black pillars is worth a visit. Palakollu is located on the Gosthani, one of the tributaries of Godavari river, surrounded by lush green paddy fields.

The Kumara Rama temple at Samarlakota, in E.Godavari dist, is the last of the Pancharamas, Shiva Linga here was installed by Karthikeya. Shiva is worshipped as Kumara Bhimeswara Swamy here and his consort is Bala Tripura Sundari. The temple was built during the time of the Chalukya ruler Bhima, hence the name too.The Shiva Linga at Kumara Rama is around 16 ft tall, rises to two floors and is made entirely of limestone.Again the temple is famous for it’s  100 pillar mandapa and an Ekasila Nandi at the entrance.

Kotappa Konda in Guntur dist, is one of the more well known Shaivite temples, the Tirunallu(Jatara) on Shivratri here draws massive crowds. Kotappakonda contains one of the older Saivite temples, dating back to around 1172 AD, located a hill at a height of 1587 feet.Located close to Narasaraopeta in Guntur dist, the Kotappakonda temple received regular grants during Krishnadeva Raya’s time.Surrounded by 3 peaks, Shiva at the Kotappakonda temple is referred to as Trikooteshwara Swamy.

The Kotappakonda temple is surrounded by 3 major peaks,which one can see from any angle, when you climb the hill.It is believed that Shiva imparted the knowledge of Brahman to the other Gods in the form of Dakshina Murthy at Kotappakonda.  As Dakshina Murthy had observed strict celibacy during his stay here, no marriages are conducted to date at the Kotappakonda temple. Trikutaparvam is another name for this place, as it is surrounded by 3 peaks, but people generally prefer to call it as Kotappakonda.

During the Shivratri festival at Kotappakonda, huge rectangular frames called Prabhas are carried in a procession.The temple can be reached through a long trek, that goes to a height of 1587 ft, though a ghat road has been laid too.While many devotees at Kotappakonda still prefer the trek, ghat road has been constructed for benefit of those who can’t walk all the way up.

Bugga Ramalingeswara Temple in Tadipatri, Anantapur is one of the ancient Shaivite temples in Andhra Pradesh.This was built during the 13th century, by Pemmasani Ramalinga Nayaka, the chieftain of Gandikota, and also the military commander of Vijayanagara Empire.

The temple here is known for it’s architectural excellence. The Shiva Linga here  is surrounded by water always, which in a way accounts for it’s name too, Bugga being the Telugu word for water drop. The ceilings of the temple are richly decorated with carvings.

Srikalahasti located near Tirupati, gets it”s name from the fact that a Spider(Sri), Snake(Kala) and Elephant(Hasti) worshiped Shiva here. The temple is one of the Panchabhuta Kshetras, others being Tiruvannamalai(Fire), Kanchi(Earth), Chidambaram(Sky), Jambukeshwara(Water).  Shiva is worshiped here as Vayu Linga, representing the Wind.While the Pallavas built the initial part of Srikalahasti, it was developed in later years by the Cholas and the Vijayanagar rulers.Srikalahasti also contains a shrine in honor of Kannappa, the tribal devotee of Lord Shiva, who had offered his eyes.

Vemulawada in Karimnagar dist of Telangana  has one of the older Shiva temples, dating back to the time of Chalukya rulers. The Rajarajeswara Temple at Vemulawada, Karimnagar is one of the older Shiva temples, dating centuries back. Shiva is worshiped as Raja Rajeshwara Swamy at Vemulawada, also more popularly referred to here as Rajanna, while the tank here is called as Dharmagundam.

Another well known Shaivitie Kshetra in Karimnagar dist is Kaleswaram, where Lord Shiva is worshiped along with Yama here. It is believed to be one of the Trilinga Kshetras , other two being Draksharama and Srisailam.

Here you have Shiva and Yama on the same platform  as Kaleshwara(Yama) and Muktheshwara(Shiva).

While Kurnool is well known for Srisailam, another equally famous Shiva Temple is at Mahanandi. Located amidst the Nallamalla hills, Mahanandi is also famous for it’s huge Nandi statue.

One of the main features of the Mahanandi Temple are the fresh water pools, Pushkarni dotting it.The  pushkarnis  are perennially filled with water, thanks to the springs here.

Alampur is also called as Dakshina Kasi and is noted for it’s Navabrahma Temples. Surrounded by the Nallamala hills, Alampur is a noted Shaivite center down South, and it’s temples constructed in the Chalukyan style of architecture, are worth a visit.

Sangameshwar temple at Alampur

Sangameshwar temple at Alampur

The Navabrahma temples are primarily 9 temples dedicated to Shiva,  dating back to the 7th century AD, built during the rule of the Badami Chalukyas. The Swarga Brahma temple is the most prominent of the lot, noted for it’s very ornate sculptures.

Alampur is also home to one of the 18 Shakti Peethas. These shrines are dedicated to Shakti.  Apparently when a grief stricken Shiva, was walking around with the corpse of Sati on his back, the Gods appealed to Vishnu to save them from his wrath. Vishnu cut the corpse into pieces with his Sudarshana Chakra, and the places where different parts of the body fell are revered as Shakti Peethas.  Alampur is where the teeth are believed to have fallen and Shakti is worshipped here as Jogulamba.  Incidentally another Shaktipeetha is also located on Krishna river at Srisailam, where the neck is believed to have fallen, and she is worshipped as Brahmaramba there.

And from Alampur, the Krishna traverses through some of the thickest forests and valleys, touching the sacred place of Srisailam, one of the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas. Shiva is worshiped here as Mallikarjuna, while Shakti is worshiped as Brahmaramba.  Incidentally Alampur is also believed to be one of the 4 gateways to Srisailam, the others being Tripurantakam( Prakasam dt, AP), Siddhavatam( near Kadapa), Umamaheswaram( Mahboobnagar dt, Telangana). Adi Shankar’s famous Sivananda Lahiri was composed here at Srisailam.

Srisailam is also famous for it’s huge dam and hydro electric project, that is one of the main sources of power for the Telugu states.


Srimukhalingam in Srikakulam dist, has the Shiva temples built in a Kalinga style of architecture, on the banks of the Vamsadhara River.

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Veer Savarkar- In Pune

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It was an irony of sorts, that a college meant to render a more nationalist form of education to fight against British rule, was named after a Scottish Governor of Bombay. Fergusson College was founded in Pune, 1885, by nationalist leaders Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar along with social reformer Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. It began originally as the New English School, and  later Tilak, Chiplunkar founded the Deccan Education Society in 1884.   Shirole, the Patil of Bhamburde village on West bank of Mutha River , now called as Shivaji Nagar, donated 37 acres of land, on a 99 year lease, for just one rupee.  Inaugurated by William Wordsworth, the grandson of the more illustrious poet of the same name, and the principal of Elphinstone College, it would become a crucible of the nationalist awakening in Maharashtra.

Pune, the city sheltered by the towering Sahayadri ranges, where Shivaji Maharaj grew up. The capital of the Peshwas, who built the numerous Wadas, that gave the city it’s distinct character. The cultural capital of Maharashtra, and the Oxford of India, to which aspiring scholars, writers, thinkers, academicians flocked.  It was the city which proved to be the epicenter of the nationalist, social reform movements that shaped Maharashtra in the early 20th century. It was the city that provided the spark to the revolutionary movement, when the Chapekar brothers shot dead W.C.Rand. The city where reformers like Karve, Phule, Ranade, fought for equal rights to women, abolition of untouchability. And on the other hand, Tilak, Gokhale led the agitation against the British rule here.

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It was into such an atmosphere, that Savarkar stepped into in 1902, at Fergusson College. Blessed with a clarity of thought and an ability to articulate, he soon impressed the students, and began to form his own group. They published a weekly called Aryan where Savarkar often wrote articles on nationalism, history, literature. One such brilliant article was Saptapadi, where he dwelt with the seven stages of evolution a nation had to undergo. He also studied Kalidasa and Bhavabuti, and was influenced by Milton and Shakespeare among the English writers. The revolutions in Italy, America influenced him a lot, and he would often give talks on their history.

His speeches on India’s glorious history, and her loss of freedom, enthralled other students, and infused a sense of nationalism in them. In response to Tilak’s call for Swadeshi, he used only those goods made in India. While Savarkar, looked up to Tilak, as a mentor, and guide, the latter saw the fire and spirit in the young boy. It was around this time too that the differences between the Moderates and Extremists in Congress was coming to a head. Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal in 1905, and there was a massive protest against it. While the Muslims welcomed the decision, the Hindus of Bengal rose in unison against. The protests spread all over the nation, and Tilak was at the forefront in bringing it on center stage. Savarkar by now was fully in the struggle, and responding to Tilak’s call, he appealed for the boycott of foreign goods and clothes. He also led the first major bonfire of foreign goods and clothes in Pune. Soon Savarkar, became a name to be reckoned with in Pune’s social and political circles with his activism.

Savarkar’s action however did not go down well with the Moderates, who criticized him in the Indu Prakash, one of their papers. He was expelled from Fergusson by the Principal and fined ten rupees for his act. Savarkar became the first Indian student to be rusticated in this manner, as also the first Indian leader to make a bonfire of foreign cloth. However Gandhi as well as Gokhale, criticized the act, the schism between the Moderates and Extremists was deepening even more. Ironically Gandhi himself would lead the bonfire of foreign made goods, later during the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1921.  These activities did not affect Savarkar’s studies,  he passed the BA exam with distinction, and his fame as a writer was spreading wide now.

His ballads on Tanaji and Baji Prabhu, proscribed by the British, were an inspiration to the youth. Those ballads became popular folk songs in Maharashtra, and soon became an inspiration to the ordinary people, to revolt. One of the essays was on why we should celebrate the anniversaries of great leaders, where Savarkar stated it was our way of paying gratitude to those great men. He stated, that these anniversaries were a mark of remembrance, and were sanctified by our ancient tradition of remembering the ancestors.

Savarkar openly wore his Hindu identity on his sleeve, one of his essays concluded with very prophetic words-“Hindus are responsible for the poverty and disorganization of Hindustan. But if they ever desire to attain prosperity, they must remain Hindus”. This assertion was bold, audacious, and a departure of sorts from the current struggle, that stressed on Hindu-Muslim unity. Around 1904, the Mitra Mela founded by him, changed it’s name to Abhinav Bharat. It was now a society of around 100 select members, and inspired by Young Italy of Mazinni, a leader who was an inspiration to Savarkar.  After his graduation in Pune, Savarkar went to Mumbai for studying law, where he continued his political activites unabated. He began to contribute to a local weekly named Vihari, which soon became an unofficial mouthpiece for Abhinava Bharat. By now he was the leader of the revolutionary movement in Maharashtra, and looked up to by other freedom fighters.


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Veer Savarkar-The Woman in his life

Yamunabai Savarkar(Left) with daughter Prabhat and son Vishwas.

(The second in a part of my series on Savarkar, this time on the woman in his life, Yamunabai Savarkar, aka Mai).

“Behind every successful man is a woman” so goes the common saying. While we are familiar with Veer Savarkar, not many know about the woman in his life, Yamunabai Savarkar or more affectionately known as Mai. Her real name was Yashoda, and she came from a background, totally different to that of Veer Savarkar’s. Where her husband came from a modest family, supported by his elder brother, she came from a rich and influential family. Born to Ramchandra Trimbak aka Bhaurao and Lakshmibai aka Manutai Chiplunkar in Thane district on Dec 4,1888, her real name was Yashoda. Her father Bhaurao Chiplunkar was the Dewan of the principality of Jawahar in Thane District, and she grew up in the lap of luxury. Fondly called Jiji, she was unassuming and down to earth inspite of coming from a very wealthy background. She was friends with Savarkar’s sister in law Yashoda, wife of his elder brother Babarao. The Chiplunkars were good friends with the Savarkar family, and Bhaurao was impressed by Vinayak’s intellect, his erudition, his integrity. It was Savarkar’s Mama, who bought forth  the alliance, and Bhaurao agreed to bear Savarkar’s educational expenses too.  Vinayak in turn, greatly respected Bhaurao, and saw in him the father figure he had missed early in life.

Ramchandra Chiplunkar, his father in law.

Mai and Vinayak entered into wedlock at Nashik in February 1901, she entered into his home and soon imbibed her husband’s nationalism and patriotic spirit. Fond of singing, she lent voice to Vinayak’s patriotic poems and ballads, and make the other women members of the family memorize them. She became a member of the Atmanishtha Yuvati Samaj, a body started for women by Babarao’s wife Yashoda, to inculcate the nationalist feelings in women, and make them politically aware. Their meetings would typically begin with the patriotic songs of Aba Darekar, and then would read out Savarkar’s poems and his anti British articles from the Keshari. The members were required to take the following oath.

In the name of the Motherland, Shivaji Raja who won freedom through war and Bhavani Mata who gives strength, I hereby give witness before Shivaji and Bhavani Durga Devi that I shall use swadeshi goods only, love my country more than my life, strive for my country’s freedom and help those who are doing so.

The ladies of the group wore glass bangles made in India only, and only coarse hand made cloth. They felicitated Tilak’s wife Satyabhama Bai when she visited Nashik, and in 1908, they also raised funds for the defense of him in court.

Bhaurao Chiplunkar bore the educational expenses of Savarkar, in fact he helped him to get admission into Pune’s prestigious Fergusson College. Vinayak in turn would visit Mai, regularly at Jawahar, and his epic poem Kamala was based on her to an extent. They had a son named Prabhakar born in 1905, who unfortunately died of small pox when Vinayak was in London.It was not an easy life for Mai, her husband and his entire family were under constant surveillance by the British. Just 15 days after Prabhakar had passed away, Vinayak’s elder brother Babarao, was arrested and deported for life to the infamous Cellular Jail in Andamans. When Savarkar was arrested, after his epic escape at Marseilles and bought to India for trial, Mai went all the way to Nashik to see him. She had to travel on horseback from Trimbakeswar to Nashik along with her brother to meet her husband in prison. Even worse, fearing the wrath of the British, none of her friends gave her shelter, and she had to spend all the night in heavy rain at a temple in Nashik. She finally met her husband, and they spent around 45 minutes together. When Veer Savarkar was sentenced to life at Cellular Jail, she accepted her fate stoically. However when she saw him in chains at the Dongri prison in Mumbai, she became emotional and almost broke down. It was then Veer Savarkar advised her.

If the Almighty shows compassion, we shall meet again.  Till then, if you are ever tempted by the thought of an ordinary family life, remember that if producing children and collecting a few twigs to build a home is to be called married life, then such a life is led by crows and sparrows as well.  But if a nobler meaning is to be given to married life, then we are blessed to have lead a life fit for human beings.  By breaking our hearth and utensils, golden smoke may ensue from thousands of homes in future.  And did not plague render our homes desolate when we were building them?  Face the odds bravely.

To which Mai replied-“We are trying to do just that.  As far as we are concerned, we have each other.  If you take care of yourself, we shall feel fulfilled.”. Savarkar reassured her that he would take care and walked around with the manacles raised.

After a decade of separation from her husband, she was finally reunited with him in Ratnagiri, and she supported him whole heartedly in his campaign for social reform. When Ratnagiri was stuck by plague in May 1924, his younger brother Narayan bought Babarao and Mai to Mumbai. Vinayak could however not leave Ratnagiri, as the British Govt had placed him under house arrest. Finally in June 1924, he was permitted to go to Nashik, and after he was sometime he was in Mumbai till November, before he had to come back to Ratnagiri. Later they had a daughter named Prabhat in January 1925, and another daughter Shalini who however died in infancy. When Mahatma Gandhi came to Ratnagiri, in 1927, he personally called on Savarkar at his home, as the latter was not feeling well. Mai and Kasturba spent time together, too sharing pleasantries in the kitchen. They had another child, this time a boy named Vishwas in March 1928.

In 193o, Mai chaired a public meeting of women at the Vithal Mandir in Ratnagiri to propagate Swadeshi, that was attended by Dalit women too.Mai also took part in the inter community dining of women organized in 1932, at Ratnagiri, on the occasion of the visit of the Satyashodak leader Madhavrao Bagal. She along with Savarkar organized an Akhil Hindu Yagna, and in 1936 a holy palanquin, was taken out on occasion of Akhil Hindu  Nama Saptah consecrated by Mai.One of the largest inter community dinner was organized for women of all castes at the Patit Pavan Mandir in Ratnagiri, and Mai along with Ms.Mundkur, the wife of the Dy Collector attended it. She was felicitated by ladies of the Chitpavan Brahmin Sangh in 1941,and she later attended an Akhil Hindu Tilgul function, saying “The nation is my home”.

When Savarkar could not attend a Hindu Mahasabha convention in Pune, due to the volatile atmosphere after Gandhi’s assassination, Mai appeared on his behalf. She was felicitated with the traditional sari, a gold necklace, some cash. M.S.Dixit who wrote a small biography of Mai, Shantabhai Gokhale, Godumai Khare, Saraswatibai Kanikar were among those who spoke admiringly of Mai’s sterling qualities. And finally Mai’s thanks giving speech was read out by Sushilabai Gokhale, which said

Hindu sisters!  In my childhood, the secret society ‘Abhinav Bharat’ had several ladies’ branches.  In one of these branches and on the instructions of my late sister-in-law Yesuvahini, I took an oath to sacrifice everything for the glory of the Hindu Dharma and for the freedom of Hindusthan.  Many of my relatives and friends who undertook this sacred mission (vrat) along with me had their homes and family life destroyed due to this.  Many women who lost their husbands for the cause of Dharma in the prime of their youth laid down their lives pining in vain for their husbands.  In the last 4-5 years, several thousands of our Hindu sisters have surpassed Chittod of yore and performed jauhars (self-immolation) in Kashmir, Sind and Bengal provinces.   How can one mention their sacred names that run in thousands?  If I mention only the names of those brave Hindu sisters whom I know without mentioning the names of those brave Hindu sisters, I shall be in a sense committing partiality.  Hence, at the outset, I humbly and gratefully salute thousands of those brave Hindu women who laid down their lives to protect the Hindu Rashtra and Hindu Dharma.  And then, all I say for myself is that the Almighty gave me courage to do my duty to the best of my ability.  What is a Tulsi leaf?   But when it is offered at the Divine feet and dries up, even the saints rub it on their foreheads.  My own condition today is no different.  I am but a bundle of dried flowers and leaves.  I was fortunate enough to have fallen at the Divine feet.  That is why great women like you are felicitating the dried flowers that my life is.  But truly, this felicitation is not of the dried flowers but of the Master himself.  To conclude, my message to the rising generations is that we should protect the freedom and self-rule that we gained through our valour.

Mai soon became a grandmother when her daughter Prabhat gave birth to a son in 1949, and her son Vishwas to a daughter in 1953. However by 1956, Mai soon became ill, and was kept at AK Talwalkar’s Nursing Home in Dadar. Though she came back home, Mai was again struck with lyphoma in 1956 and bought back to Dadar. In the meantime Veer Savarkar’s health too was not good, he had suffered a fracture, and the long time he spent in Cellular Jail had broken him down. Finally she passed away on Nov 8, 1963, Veer Savarkar almost swooned when he heard of it. The woman who had walked with him in life, been by his side in the worst of his times, was no more.”Mai has passed, her life has been fulfilled”. As willed by him, her body was not kept in state, but taken straight to the crematorium. He himself did not attend her cremation, did not desire any public emotion. As he said “I have already bid farewell to Mai. I do not feel up to it to go there.” 

Mai was a simple woman, who walked shoulder to shoulder with her husband, took care of his needs. She was a true Sita of modern times. She ensured his clothes were always neatly ironed, and managed the family within very modest means. Considering she came from a very rich family, she adjusted wonderfully within her husband’s very humble household. She spent time in the garden watering plants just to be with Savarkar. Though he himself was an atheist, and did not perform Puja, he neverthless gave full freedom to Mai to do it, which he just observed. He ensured his numerous public engagements did not burden Mai in her household work. She not only supported him in his social reform campaign, but also took care of a Dalit girl, whom Savarkar adopted and bought into the home. When a mob descended on Savarkar Sadan, after Gandhi’s assassination, she bravely faced it with a stick in her hand. A truly great woman of strength, character and integrity, and the worthy wife of a great man, that was Mai.


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