Get Involved

Multifaceted Nationalist & Revolutionary

Multifaceted Nationalist & Revolutionary

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s ideas on Hindutva that define cultural and civilizational unity defined his struggle for Bharat’s independence

Dr Shailendra Kumar Pathak

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, fondly remembered as Veer Savarkar, stands as an iconic figure in Bharat’s struggle for independence from British imperialists. His life, marked by intellectual brilliance, fierce nationalism and unwavering courage, resonates beyond borders of Bharat, inspiring generations around the world. The multifaceted persona of Savarkar is tale of his journey from a young revolutionary to a visionary leader of Bharat’s freedom movement.

Born on May 28, 1883, in Bhagur village of present-day Maharashtra, Savarkar was imbued with a spirit of nationalism from an early age. His formative years were shaped by deep sense of pride in Bharat’s cultural heritage and fervent desire to free his motherland from colonial shackles. A brilliant student, Savarkar got his early education at Shivaji Vidyalaya in Nashik, Fergusson College, Pune and later, pursued higher education in England where he got acquainted with revolutionary ideas and plight of colonized people across the globe.

Academic excellence notwithstanding, activism led to his expulsion from college. But, without giving up, he persevered, securing funds to pay fines and excel in his examinations.

Known for fiery speeches and patriotic ballads, Savarkar’s influence grew, prompting invitations for lectures across Maharashtra. He fostered network of Abhinav Bharat, envisioning collaboration with revolutionaries abroad. His departure to London, facilitated by Shivaji Scholarship, underscored his rising prominence, hailed as a skilled orator at youthful age of twenty-two, leaving profound mark on path to Bharat’s freedom struggle

Savarkar’s return to Bharat marked beginning of his involvement in struggle against British rule. His seminal work, “The First War of Indian Independence,” challenged colonial narrative and redefined Bharat’s struggle for freedom as a unified, nationwide movement. As a prolific writer, Savarkar utilized his literary prowess to galvanize support for the cause, inspiring countless Indians to join the fight for independence.

Central to Savarkar’s ideology was Hindutva which centred on cultural and civilizational unity of Indian subcontinent. This ideological position defined as Hindu nationalism is different from European view that’s more sectarian and divisive. While his advocacy for Hindu nationalism has been debated intensely, Savarkar’s vision transcended faith boundaries, envisioning an inclusive Bharat where every individual enjoyed equal rights and opportunities.

Savarkar’s contributions to Bharat’s independence movement were not confined to the realm of ideas. He actively participated in revolutionary activities, organizing underground networks and mobilized support for armed resistance against British imperialists. His arrest in 1909 following Nasik Conspiracy Case where a British aligned magistrate was neutralised marked beginning of years of incarceration and hardship. Notwithstanding unimaginable torture and suffering that he was subjected to at infamous Cellular Jail in Andaman, Savarkar remained steadfast in his commitment to freedom.

After prison release in 1924, Savarkar continued his efforts to advance cause of Indian nationalism. His advocacy for social reforms, educational empowerment and women’s rights underscored his progressive outlook and commitment to building a vibrant and inclusive society.

Savarkar’s legacy extends far beyond his role as a freedom fighter. His writings, including “Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?” and “Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History,” continue to shape public discourse and influence political thought in contemporary Bharat. While his life remains an enigma, there is no denying that he left an indelible mark on pages of history.

His visionary foresight illuminated paths yet untrodden, rendering him a figure of multifaceted brilliance. Every facet of his being, every moment of his existence, was devoted unwaveringly to the nation’s service. His intellectual prowess knew no bounds, traversing realms of poetry, biographies, dramas, rational treatises and seminal works on social reform, including the scourge of untouchability and the imperative of purification and reconversion.

In his fervent crusade against colonial tyranny, he ignited flames of inspiration by igniting foreign garments, rallying the youth towards fervent patriotism. Establishing connections with revolutionaries worldwide, he brought injustices of British rule to global stage, while fearlessly addressing and rectifying social maladies within Hindu society. Simultaneously, he envisioned and advocated for the transformative role of Hindu organizations in shaping the nation’s political destiny. Savarkar’s legacy transcends time, a beacon of enlightenment and action for generations to come.

Social Revolutionary

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, renowned for his advocacy on Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra, also embodied essence of a social revolutionary. Dhananjay Keer, in his biography of Ambedkar, distinguishes a social reformer and a social revolutionary, highlighting that while a reformer rebuilds existing structures, a revolutionary dismantles the old to rebuild anew. Savarkar, far from being merely a reformer, actively engaged as a social revolutionary.

Scientific Temperament:

Savarkar rejected dominance of religious texts in society, advocating instead for a foundation based on scientific principles. He emphasized necessity of embracing practical and scientific values over blind adherence to religious doctrines. In his essay ‘What is the Real Sanatan Dharma?’ Savarkar challenged the notion of considering religious texts as immutable truths, asserting importance of accepting truth based on empirical evidence rather than tradition. His vision encompassed a nation grounded in scientific rationality, essential for both societal progress and individual well-being.

Critic on Caste & Beliefs

A vocal critic of caste system, Savarkar denounced notion of caste being determined by birth, contending that one’s occupation, not lineage, should dictate caste classification. He adamantly opposed the idea of caste-based discrimination, condemning it as a hindrance to societal advancement. Savarkar attributed the perpetuation of casteism to the belief in mythological texts, rejecting their validity in shaping social hierarchies. He advocated for the abolition of caste-based discrimination and proposed practical measures to bridge caste disparities, stressing the importance of evaluating individuals based on merit, not lineage.

Seven Indigenous Practices:

Savarkar vehemently opposed ‘sapta-bedya’ or seven restraints imposed by tradition, advocating for their abolition to foster societal equality. He advocated for equal access to religious texts, freedom in choosing professions, eradication of untouchability, unrestricted foreign travel, religious conversion, freedom in dietary practices, and elimination of caste-based restrictions in marriage. Savarkar recognized these practices as impediments to social progress and called for their elimination to ensure equality and freedom for all.

Patitpavan Mandir

Savarkar’s commitment to social reform extended beyond rhetoric to tangible actions. He spearheaded the movement for temple entry for untouchables, challenging entrenched social norms. The establishment of Patitpavan Mandir symbolized his unwavering dedication to equality, serving as a beacon of inclusive worship. Through initiatives like community dining and educational programmes, Savarkar fostered unity among diverse communities, transcending caste barriers.

Humanism as Driving Force

Contrary to claims portraying Savarkar’s social reforms as a means to political ends, his actions were driven by a profound sense of humanism. His commitment to eradicating casteism and untouchability stemmed from genuine desire for societal equality, transcending partisan motives. Savarkar’s insistence on prioritizing social reform alongside political freedom underscores his belief in the intrinsic value of human dignity and equality.

Savarkar’s social reforms garnered praise from luminaries across spectrum. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar commended his efforts in challenging caste-based discrimination, recognizing the need for structural reform beyond mere abolition of untouchability. Maharshi Shinde lauded Savarkar’s dedication to social transformation, acknowledging the profound impact of his initiatives. Other leaders like Prabodhankar Thackeray and prominent Dalit figures lauded Savarkar’s inclusive vision and tireless advocacy for social justice.

Pioneering & Legacy

Savarkar’s legacy is marked by a series of groundbreaking firsts that illuminate his pioneering spirit and unwavering commitment to Bharat’s freedom struggle. He was foremost political leader to boldly proclaim Absolute Political Independence as Bharat’s ultimate goal in 1900.

In an act of defiance, he became the first Indian political figure to publicly set fire to foreign (English) clothing in 1905, symbolizing rejection of colonial subjugation. Displaying a remarkable foresight, Savarkar spearheaded the organization of an international revolutionary movement for Bharat’s independence in 1906, laying the groundwork for global solidarity in the fight against British rule.

He faced unprecedented repercussions for his nationalist activities, becoming the first Indian law student denied admission to English Bar in 1909. His arrest in London not only stirred legal complexities for British courts but also became a seminal case referenced in interpretations of Fugitive Offenders Act and Habeas Corpus.

Savarkar’s groundbreaking contributions extended to academia, as his historical work on the 1857 War of Independence was banned by British authorities before its publication in 1909. His audacious escape and subsequent arrest on French soil in 1910 captured international attention, elevating his status as a symbol of resistance on the world stage.

In a remarkable display of poetic resilience, Savarkar composed verses on prison walls using thorns and nails, memorizing over ten thousand lines of poetry that he later transmitted to Bharat through fellow inmates. He was the trailblazing force behind eradication of untouchability in Ratnagiri, achieving within a decade what many thought was impossible.

Savarkar’s progressive initiatives included the establishment of inclusive Hindu festivals and inter-dining ceremonies, culminating in creation of the “Patitpavan Mandir” and a cafe open to all Hindus, including former untouchables. His unwavering commitment to Bharat’s freedom led to unparalleled punishment, as he became the first political prisoner sentenced to Transportation for Life twice, an unprecedented sentence in the annals of the British Empire.

In a final act of profound sacrifice, Savarkar embraced death voluntarily through Atma Samarpan in 1966, embodying the highest ideals of Yogic tradition.

Through his groundbreaking actions and unyielding spirit, Savarkar left an indelible mark on Bharat’s struggle for independence and the global fight against oppression.

(Author is a Delhi based researcher and formerly, an Assistant Professor of Political Sciences)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *