Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

RSS a unique Organisation

Justice Dr. M. Rama Jois

I have been extremely fortunate in coming into contact with this great organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 60 years ago, in 1944, when I joined high school at Shimoga and began to attend the Sangh Shakha named after Chatrapati Shivaji. Thereafter on account of participation in all activities of the Sangh, I acquired knowledge of the life and work of Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of RSS and personal acquaintance of Param Poojaniya Guruji, the then Sarsanghachalak and the noble ideology of the RSS, and many other prominent leaders of RSS. I have been immensely benefited by the moulding of my character and inculcation of patriotism and discipline by the RSS. I say with firm conviction and sincerity that Dr. Hedgewar was a genius and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a unique organisation both of which have no parallel. Elaborating this point in the first instance I shall give a brief account of the life and work of Dr Hedgewar and thereafter explain the uniqueness of the organisation.

Founding of RSS

Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS was born on Ugadi day [New Year's Day] in 1889 at Nagpur. He was a born patriot. Even when he was studying in primary school, he refused to eat sweets distributed on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria on June 22, 1897. When he was studying in Neel City High School, Nagpur, he was rusticated for singing "Vande Mataram" in violation of the circular issued by the then British government. As a result he had to persue his high school studies at Yeotmal. He participated in the freedom struggle under the leadership of the Indian National Congress and participated in the Non-cooperation Movement of 1921 and was jailed. He was released on July 12, 1922. After making an in-depth study of our history, he came to the conclusion that lack of patriotism and disunity among the Hindus was the reason for our defeat at the hands of foreign invaders and enslavement under foreign rule. He, therefore, felt that unless a sense of patriotism, selflessness, sterling character, national consciousness and sense of unity, selfless service, self-realisation and discipline were inculcated in a substantial number of individuals, it would be impossible to uplift the nation and secure political freedom.

After making an in-depth study of our history, he came to the conclusion that lack of patriotism and disunity among the Hindus was the reason for our defeat at the hands of foreign invaders and India's enslavement under foreign rule.

He, therefore, decided to start a unique organisation to solve the problems. He took a vow to remain a bachelor and devote his entire life and energy to the aforesaid noble cause. For this purpose, he founded the "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh" on Vijayadashami day September 27, 1925. He evolved a unique technic which was unprecedented, simple and inexpensive. He selected a group of young boys who would assemble in an open field every day for one hour. During that time, in addition to playing national games, he began to inculcate in them a sense of patriotism, unity, discipline, love for the country and selflessness, by singing of patriotic songs and narration of stories of patriots. He appealed to the youth to spare one hour a day for the Nation by attending the Shakha (the meeting). He visualised that the one hour programme in the Shakha would ultimately transform the youth to devote greater time and energy in the service of the nation. He, therefore, undertook the Himalayan task of organising the Hindus, who despite having a common cultural bond and fundamental unity had come to be divided into various castes, religions, regions and language groups.

Bharat Mata as common deity

Dr Hedgewar felt that it was necessary to have a common deity to be worshipped by all and a common ideal which all should strive to achieve and a common prayer (mantra) for all. He declared that irrespective of castes, religions and languages, etc, we are all children of Bharatmata who shall be the common deity to be worshipped by all of us and the common ideal of all shall be to strive for all-round progress and development of the nation and for taking the nation to the pinnacle of glory. These two ideals were incorporated in the common prayer to be sung by all the members at the Shakha every day. The first line of the prarthana says "Namaste Sada Vatsale Matrubhume"Oh my beloved motherland salutation to theeand the last line of the prayer says "Oh God, please give us strength and bless us to enable us to take our nation to the pinnacle of glory" (param vaibhavamnetu metat swarasthram) and concludes with the all unifying slogan "Bharat Mata ki jai" (Victory to Bharat Mata). Having decided about the common deity to be worshipped, common ideals to be achieved, a common prayer to be made and the common slogan, Dr. Hedgewar started contemplating on who should be placed in the position of Guru.

Bhagwadwaj as Guru

It is well known that in our culture the highest place is given to the Guru and he is regarded as equal to God. It is the Guru who with the instrument of his intellect and wisdom opens the eyes of his disciples and enables them to proceed from darkness to light. Therefore, every year the people worship their Guru on Guru Poornima day. Dr Hedgewar wanted to choose a Guru befitting the divine task of national reconstruction.

What Dr Hedgewar did is comparable only to what Guru Govind Singhji did in respect of Sikhism, who put an end to a human person being a Guru and substituted the Guru Granth Sahib in place of a living Guru.

After founding the RSS, he announced that the members have to perform guru pooja on the specified day and offer gurudakshina which alone shall be the financial resource of the Sangha. The Swayamsevaks began to think as to who could be installed in the position of Guru other than Dr. Hedgewar himself. But on Guru Poornima day there was a surprise. Dr Hedgewar declared that Bhagwadwaj under whose auspicious presence Shakhas were being held every day shall be the Guru. He stated that Bhagwadwaj represents our glorious history and cultural heritage. It reminds us of Sri Rama, Sri Krishna and Gitopadesha and also reminds us of great empires like the Maurya, Gupta, Vijayanagara, etc. It also represents the gurus of all religions and religious sects born in the country. It reminds us of Mahavira, Buddha, Shankara, Basava, Tiruvaluvur, Ramanuja, Madhwa-charya, Guru Nanak, Guru Ramdas and Vidyaranya under whose guidance the great Vijayanagara empire was established. It also represents those who fought valiantly to protect the freedom and honour of motherland such as Maharana Pratap, Chatrapati Shivaji, Guru Govind Singh and Rani of Jhansi. Further it also represents our cultural heritage, all good values of life of great heroes and saints. More than all the saffron colour of Bhagwadwaj has been the symbol of sacrifice.

He said he was not in favour of placing any human being in the place of Guru, as it is quite possible that on account of some pitfall or shortcomings in him, which is natural in human beings the followers might get disappointed or frustrated at some point of time. He also indicated that he was placing Bhagwadwaj, which represents the noble ideals of the RSS in the place of Guru as he desired that there should be "tatvanishta" (loyalty to ideals) and not "vyaktinishta" (loyalty to any individual).

What Dr Hedgewar did is comparable only to what Guru Govind Singhji did in respect of Sikhism, who put an end to a human person being a Guru and substituted the Guru Granth Sahib in place of a living Guru. Thus Guru Govind Singh transformed an inanimate object into a powerful Guru who is guiding the entire Sikh community. Similarly, Dr Hedgewar transformed Bhagwadwaj an inanimate object into guru. He said it is only after a Bhagwadwaj is presented to a shakha after it is well established that it becomes a recognised shakha and that only after hoisting the Bhagwadwaj in a Shakha, activities of national learning commence and all functions of RSS commence.

Metamorphosis through shakha

In order to transform an ordinary individual into an extraordinary patriot ready to sacrifice everything in the service of the motherland and in order to completely erase selfishness, ego and divisive factors such as high and low castes, rich and poor, he invented a simple inexpensive technique called Shakha, a method of get-together for one hour at a specified place and time every day. His appeal was simple in that he asked the youth to spare one hour out of 24 hours for the Nation. Accordingly, he attracted a handful of youths for attending Shakha which was comparable to ancient Gurukulas. Shakha programmes were such as would bring about an all-round development of an individuals i.e. physical, mental, moral and intellectual. Physical fitness through physical activities solely comprising of national games and physical exercises, character building, inculcating patriotism through stories of heroes, saints social reformers, etc, as also through patriotic songs and intellectual development through periodic Bhaudhiks. The whole process was called Samskara. Important aspect of programmes of Shakha has been to treat Bharatmata as the common deity, Bhagwadwaj as the common Guru and Sangha prarthana as the common mantra for all the swayamsevaks. Through this methodology Doctorji sought to demolish all fissiparous tendencies afflicting the nation. The prarthana contains an oath by every swayamsevak that he will lay down his life in the service of the nation. There is also a prayer to God to confer invincible physical strength and excellent character and finally blessings of almighty is sought to enable them to take the motherland to pinnacle of glory.

Doctorji also said that one hour Shaka was to initiate Swayamsevaks to inspire them to dedicate themselves to the noble and onerous task of nation building. But moulding of character of swayamsevaks was a whole time job after shakha hours to be performed by the Karyakartas of the RSS. He advised and encouraged swayamsevaks to undertake higher education and for that purpose to go to different places in the country. He said higher educational attainment by Karyakartas would confer better suitability and capacities to spread the work of the RSS and going to different places was necessary to spread the work of RSS throughout the country.

(The author is a former governor of Bihar.)


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