Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar
A great Hindu organizer and the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
A man who believed that Hindus were the sons of the soil of India and were the primary community of India, and that the existence and future of the country was dependant on the existence and future of the Hindus, Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar worked towards this all his life as an organizer and activist. He relentlessly strived towards his goal through the medium of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is considered one of the largest single organizations in the world known for its highly disciplined work culture and organizational structure.
Dr. Hedgewar was born in Nagpur on 1st April 1889. With strong patriotic inclinations as a child, he took part in the armed struggle against the British as a youth. While in school, he had angrily thrown away the sweet distributed in honour of the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria’s crowning. Later, he was expelled from school for vociferously proclaiming Vande Mataram (Hail be the motherland). With the intention of taking part in the independence struggle, he deliberately went to Kolkata for higher education. Later, on returning to Nagpur, he took active part in many revolts and movements through the Indian National Congress, and was imprisoned several times for the same.
Throughout this period he witnessed and experienced the Hindu community closely and was intrigued by one question: How could such an ancient culture, with a rich history, have been subjugated by the British? This question made him introspect: the Hindus in this country are divided and at loggerheads with each other over personal quarrels, and prioritize personal interests over national interest; he deduced that this was the reason why the country was enslaved. Though there were many organizations like the Congress, none of them had a nationalist ideology. With a view to formulate the nationalistic ideology, Hedgewar established the RSS in 1925 on the day of Vijayadashmi (a day of celebrating victory as per the Hindu almanac). While amassing the Hindus, he deliberately used Rashtriya (National) while naming it rather than Hindu because he firmly believed that Hinduism and Nationalism are one and the same in the Indian context. Deciding that the organization’s goal was to amass this national community and take the nation towards prosperity and glory, he commenced his work.
Hedgewar realized through several examples in the country that there are many great men with great ideologies whose great work grinds to a halt on their demise, or their organizations tend to stray from the original purpose. He therefore established the RSS with a radically different ideology, organizational structure and work ethic, and it is due to these strong foundations that the RSS is still active even after eighty three years.
Along with his comrades in the independence uprisings, he started the first Shakha (unit) of the RSS in a dilapidated Wada in Nagpur. He worked towards the ultimate goal of creating cultured people and thus the nation, through the medium of the RSS. Dr. Hedgewar was a an excellent organizer, guide and leader. It was through his inspiration and guidance that India was benefited by such great leaders like Golwalkar Guruji, Balasaheb Devsar, Bhaiyyaji Dani, Eknathji Ranade (the sculptor of Swami Vivekanand Memorial), Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, etc. Dr. Hedgewar traveled extensively throughout the country for fifteen years from 1924 to 1940, recruiting and developing good volunteers and party workers, one man at a time.
Excellent leadership, sacrifice, service, devotion, far-sightedness, discipline and steadfast, complete commitment towards work were some of the facets of his personality. He passed away on 21st June 1940. One year before his death, he left a legacy of instructions to his Sangh volunteers concerning the administration and work ethic of his organization, thus giving the Sangh a definitive work culture and a set of directives for achieving the goal after his demise.
Dr.Hedgewar instilled a work culture in the RSS, like their devotion to the Bhagva (saffron) flag, priority to ideologies over individuals, communal decision making process, full-time dedicated volunteers, daily Shakha (gathering every evening by members of all ages for games and singing nationalistic songs) and doing away with the custom of having a head, secretary, founder for an organization.
Hedgewar had graduated in medicine. He did not have the support of his parents, and the financial situation at home was quite impoverished. But despite this state of affairs, Dr. Hedgewar thought only of the national interest at all times and never of his family.
The foresight and capability of Dr. Hedgewar is established by the fact that the RSS has spread to almost all the States of the country and all fields of social life.