Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar

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Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar


Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was the first Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh that he had founded in September 1925. Dr. Hedgewar initiated several works in the pre and post independence period helping towards social causes and building and strengthening Hindu unity in Bharat

Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar

Father Baliram Pant Hedgewar
Date of death 21st June, 1940
Death place Nagpur
Mother Revati Bai
Birth place Nagpur
Date of birth 1st April, 1889
Founder Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

Early Life

The Hedgewar family originally hailed from Kandkurti village in Telangana- a village with a population of just over two thousand. They were Deshastha Brahmins of the Shakala branch, belonging to the Ashwalayana Sutra of the Rigveda. Their Gotra was Kashyapa, and learning and transmission of the Vedas was their sole preoccupation. Keshav was the fifth of six children of a very poor family in Nagpur. His father was a Hindu priest. When he was 13, when both his parents died the same day in one of the epidemics of bubonic plague that periodically swept India.

Arrival at Nagpur 

Keshav came to Nagpur after completing the Matriculation examination. By that time he was completely immersed in public activities. Close to Nagpur is a place called Ramtek, identified as the Ramagiri described by the poet Kalidasa in his ‘Meghadoota’. The annual fare at Ramtek is a mammoth and colourful affair. Keshav had, by then, developed close intimacy with the revolutionaries. He kept himself informed of the activities of the underground activists in various provinces. One such revolutionary from Bengal went by the name of Madhavdas Sannyasi. He had been asked to proceed to Japan by the Krantidal, and had come to Nagpur en route. After completing the medical course at Calcutta, Keshavrao returned to Nagpur. Everyone expected that Keshavrao would begin his medical practice. But even after the lapse of several days Keshavrao showed no such signs. On the contrary he set up camp in the upstairs portion of the house of Tatyaji Phadnavis and engaged himself in various public activities. Seetaram Pant, Keshavrao’s immediate elder brother, had also been staying there and carrying on his profession as a priest. It was at this time that there was a recurrence of plague in Nagpur. He engaged himself in organizing various kinds of social and political activities. At that time the followers of the Lokmanya Tilak school dominated the Nagpur Congress and had formed the ‘Rashtriya Mandal.’ The various political activates in Nagpur were all organized through this Mandal. Doctorji was one of those in its forefront. But he was younger and also more extremist in his views and actions than its leaders.

Birth of the RSS

The idea of establishing the Sangh became gradually crystallized in Doctorji's mind. It now only remained to translate that concept into actuality. Doctorji chose the sacred day of Vijaya Dashami, 1925, for the historic occasion) That day was, indeed, very auspicious for launching the work, since Vijaya Dashami traditionally symbolized the conquest of good over evil. Founding the Sangh was the first step in the future victorious march of the Hindu Nation – from the individual to collective life, from subservience to invincibility. About 1520 young men gathered in Doctorji's house on that day. Chief among them were Bhauji Kawre, Anna Sohni, Vishwanathrao Kelkar, Balaji Huddar and, Bapurao Bhedi. Doctorji announced to the gathering: " We are inaugurating the Sangh today." He elicited the views of all of them in regard to the activities of the Sangh. "All of us must train ourselves physically, intellectually and in every way so as to be capable of achieving our cherished goal," he declared.

Sangh and its work

The activities of the Sangh continued to grow steadily. Doctorji was constantly on the move. Even his manner of propagation was unique. In an age when publicity is supposed to be the life-breath of any movement, he evinced but little interest in it. Doctorji believed in Rabindranath Tagore's dictum: "Till we achieve something solid, let as remain anonymous: let us be in the background and away from limelight.'Doctorji concurred with Tagore's analysis of a serious social failing of ours: "But the mental composition of our people is not suited to such withdrawal. They do not pursue even the most elementary day-to-day tasks (which deserve no public attention at all) to their successful conclusion, but work with one eye on loud and vulgar publicity." Doctorji therefore concentrated on transformation of the hearts of people, and kept the character-forming activity of the Sangh away from the glare of publicity and propaganda.[ref]

The following was the text of the government circular issued by the chief minister of the Central Provinces, E. Gordon, on 15th December 1932: "The organization called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is, in the opinion of the government, undoubtedly of a communal nature and its participation in political movements is increasing. Association with such an organization by the government servants is or likely to become a hindrance to impartial discharge of their duties. Government has, therefore, decided that government servants should not become members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh nor participate in its activities."

Doctorji immediately set about to counteract the mischief sought to be created by the order. He invited distinguished people from different fields to preside over Sangh functions. Programmes for mobilizing public protest were organized. Doctorji began a crusade for propagating the Sangh philosophy from countless platforms.

Doctorji said: "The Sangh is aloof from politics. It is striving to strengthen the Hindu society and has hatred for none.

Sangh PAN-India Expansion under Dr. Hedgewar

Doctorji started training a few Swayamsevaks to undertake study tours of different provinces and organize the movement there. Familiarity with the language of the new area and capacity to get used to the atmosphere of those places were essential for the Swayamsevaks. Doctorji therefore insisted on Swayamsevaks' learning Telugu, Hindi, Bengali and other languages. It was an advantage that Nagpur had a confluence of Hindi and Marathi. Doctorji himself began using Hindi in the Nagpur Shakha. He deputed some workers to spread the Sangh activities in the Mahakoshal sector. Whenever a Swayamsevak expressed a preference to go to a Marathi area, Doctorji used to tell him, "How can you sit in your own area merely because you don't know other languages? Go to a new area and start the work. You will get to know the language automatically. Is it possible to learn swimming without stepping into the water?" In 1935, Doctorji despatched a fresh batch of Swayamsevaks to Khandesh and Mahakoshal.

Doctorji bestowed much thought on the organizational aspects and streamlining of activities of the Sangh. He defined the responsibilities of the office-bearers of the Sangh, the conventions to be followed in the daily Shakha, etc., and saw to it that the same methods were adhered to in all the Shakhas. In fact, officers were appointed precisely to ensure smooth and streamlined working. Doctorji had extensive exchange of views with his close associates in 1927 concerning the rules and methods.

Death

Doctorji had not been keeping well for some time. Many also knew that he was bedridden. But till the night of Thursday, 20th of June 1940, it did not occur to anyone — not even to those who were constantly by his bedside — that this sickness would prove fatal.

Doctorji spent every ounce of his energy for the realization of his one allconsuming dream of seeing the Hindu Nation become invincibly powerful and shine in its full and effulgent glory; and this, he was convinced, could be achieved only by nurturing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to its full stature. In his total self-offering to this mission of his life, even the most malicious eye could not detect the slightest speck of selfishness. He was like the self-effacing and self-sacrificing sannyasin who dedicates himself totally at the altar of human service. True, Doctorji did not wear ochre clothes. Nor did he shy away from the mundane world. But his mental horizon transcended narrow personal and domestic confines and encompassed the entire Hindu people. He remained a lifelong celibate with a view to serving the country's cause to the utmost of his capacity. But he never made a show of it. He mixed freely and equally with all others in society and strove to change people's attitudes by his personal example and friendly persuasion.[ref]

Succeeding Leadership

On 21st of June, 1940, Doctorji died, and the RSS saw a new phase of rebuilding and strengthening under the new leader, Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar (guruji).

The Early RSS Team From Left Appaji Joshi, Dr KB Hedgewar Guruji and Buban Rao Pandit at a meeting held at Sindi in 1938. Vithal Rao Patki and Balasaheb Deoras are also seen standing
Dr. Hedgewar with Guruji Golwalkar & others

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