Dr.Hedgewar’s Lasting and Unique Contribution to Nationalism
The long term significance of Dr.Hedgewar’s work was recognised by Veer Savarkar. Speaking in a Sangh camp in 1939, he said,” Our work is like the torrential rain which falls down and flows away. But Dr.Hedgewar’s work is like the farmer who channelises the rain water and makes the best use of it.”
The exponential growth of the number of people working relentlessly to realise Dr.Hedgewar’s vision of a glorious motherland, is living evidence of the enduring quality of his life’s work. Not only has the organisation grown, but it has spread to every section of the society, every nook and corner of the country, encompassing all facets of socio-economic, political and cultural life of Bharat today. And it is still growing.
His unique vision emphasised four aspects of positive nationalism that have relevance even today.
The “Shakha” – Enabling Self-Organization of Society :
Our nation has produced a number of thinkers, reformers and leaders who have worked tirelessly for the glory of our country and sacrificed their all. Dr.Hedgewar is undoubtedly one such stalwart.
However, what makes his contribution special is the fact that he built an organization with an innovative style of functioning viz, the daily RSS Shakha. He insisted that if somebody wants to work for society and nation, on daily basis he should dedicate an hour for the Sangh. The swayamsevaks who come to the Shakha, work to organise and integrate society. Through this, the RSS has established a tradition of ordinary people living extra-ordinary lives for the sake of the nation.
Creating a Hindu Identity over Caste Identity :
Many social reformers were working for eradication of caste inequalities and untouchability by attacking the caste system. Dr.Hedgewar embarked on a new path of not considering castes but only insisting on the unifying factor of Hindutva (Hinduness).
In 1939, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar visited the Sangh training camp ( Sangh Shiksha Varga ) in Pune. Dr.Ambedkar was surprised to find the Swayamsevaks moving about in absolute equality and brotherhood without even caring to know the caste of the others. When Dr.Ambedkar asked Dr.Hedgewar whether there were any untouchables in the camp, the latter replied that there were neither touchables nor untouchables, but only Hindus. Dr.Ambedkar personally asked the castes of the Swayamsevaks in each room and was happy to find that many Swayamsevaks were from the so-called untouchable castes.
One of the participants in the camp was Sri Gangadhar Bagul who later became a Zilla Sanghachalak of RSS, ( District President ). He wrote about the entire discussion between Dr.Hedgewar and Dr.Ambedkar in his autobiography, “Patha Sanchalan” .
The unique order “Ekshah Sampat” (Fall in One Line) symbolizes the profound thinking of Dr.Hedgewar through which he not only made everybody to walk together but also eat together, which was quite revolutionary at that time. The whole RSS functioning is in tandem with this line of thinking. He made Swayamsevaks to identify with the bigger identity of Hindutva as against their caste identity. The success of this practice set by Dr.Hedgewar resonates in the fact that even today nobody is asked about their caste or class, there by eroding the caste divisions among the Sangh Swayamsevaks.
Organisation for Women on National Ideals :
Like Swami Vivekananada, Dr.Hedgewar believed that women can solve their own problems provided they are given education and freedom to organise themselves. He stood up for the respect for women and their rightful place in society. RSS shakhas had only male members. However, on many occasions, he invited women leaders to give talks in RSS Shakhas to enable the swayamsevaks to get a perspective.
He extended support to various organisations working for the cause of women education, consolidation and social transformation. Dr.Hedgewar also approved the formation of Rashtra Sevika Samiti, an organisation run by women that works towards achieving the pristine glory of our motherland.
Shuddha Satvik Prem in the Sangh
The secret of Sangh’s growth has been the unadulterated love that is showered by the seniors. The foundation of this tradition of “shudh saatvik prem” was established by Dr.Hedgewar. He believed that Sangh is one big family and the corner stone of our work is the love for society. Many incidents shared by karyakartas are testimony to this. This was evident even in his last days. In spite of being terminally ill, he wrote a letter to a sick Swayamsevak in Mumbai expressing happiness over his successful surgery. This was on 19th June 1940, just two days before his death.
Dr.Hedgewar’s Philosophy of Life
Personal Piety and Divine Mission of Sangh
Dr.Hedgewar exemplified in his daily life the saying of Basaveshwara: “None is smaller than me and none is greater than a Shiva-sharana (devotee of Shiva).”
In his conception, he was just a servant of the Nation — a Swayamsevak. It was a living faith with him. Describing an ideal public worker, Dr.Hedgewar once said : “He is not like an ochre-robed monk. He does not proclaim, ‘I make no distinction between gold and mud.’ He knows the difference quite well, but he is not enamoured of the glitter of gold. He willingly says, ‘The gold is for the society. I shall be content with mud.’
Dr.Hedgewar was pious by temperament, and cherished deep faith in God. He invariably began his letters, and even entries in the diary, with the sacred syllable OM or SRI. Whenever he started out from his house he would invariably salute God. The Sangh work was for him a Divine Mission and this faith manifested itself in every word that he spoke or wrote. He sincerely believed that he was just an instrument to carry out His injunctions through the medium of the Sangh.
In the letters that he wrote, the inscription at the top carried a saying of Tukaram : “Compassion means protection of the living and extermination of the wicked.”
Sri Damodarpant Bhat, a writer from Madhya Prant wanted to write a biography of Dr.Hedgewar. Dr.Hedgewar wrote to him stating “My life is not important enough to write a biography. Kindly excuse me.”
On another occasion, Shankaracharya Vidyashankar Bharati declared him as “Rashtra Senapati” meaning “General of the Nation”. Dr.Hedgewar came to know about this through newspapers and congratulatory messages. He immediately wrote back stating that he would not like to be called thus and also instructed Swayamsevaks and newspapers not to address him as ‘Rashtra Senapati’.
“Teach Me How to Live “
Dr.Hedgewar was very positive and confident in his outlook. His favourite quote was “Swayameva Mrugendrata”. This is part of the subashit which says that the lion becomes the king of the jungle by his daring and courage.
He believed that the social transformation of our society will come by character building, individual transformation and consolidation of such individuals . During a time when going to jail and dying for the nation were considered as the ultimate objectives of patriotism, he laid emphasis on working for the nation and laying down one’s life only as the last resort. His positive outlook is reflected in an incident wherein he struck down a line in a poster which said, “ Teach Me How to Die”. He changed it with the line “ Teach Me How to Live”.
“Living for the nation” sums up Dr.Hedgewar’s philosophy of life.
Excerpts from the book “Dr.Hedgewar – Seer Patriot and Nation Builder”
Important Links on Dr.Hedgewar :
- Role of Dr.Hedgewar in Freedom Movement
- Life in pictures
- Dr.Hedgewar – Online biography in Hindi ( Downloadable pdf )
- Glimpses of Dr.Hedgewar – What His Associates Said About Him.
- A Short Biographical Sketch
- Dr.Hedgewar – The Epoch Maker : A Detailed Biography ( Downloadable pdf )