Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of India’s greatest pro-independence activist and revolutionary breathed his last on this day, 52 years ago.
On Veer Savarkar’s 52nd death anniversary today, here’s a peek into the freedom fighter’s life
Known to his close associates as ‘Tatyarao’, Savarkar had chosen his aim in life at a very young age- liberation of India from the colonial powers. It was a tough life for a boy who came to Pune from his hometown Bhagur, in Nashik district. He was a student of the prestigious Fergusson College in Pune and received education under the stalwarts like Lokmanya Tilak.
A versatile personality
Throughout his life, Savarkar had contributed to around 10 fields. His activities against the British are well known, however, Savarkar was also an eminent lawyer, a poet, a playwright, an author, an orator, and a social worker. In the college days, Savarkar was arrested for collecting a mob of like-minded people and torching the British goods and clothes- an act which was seen as a direct challenge to the then ruling British government.
Supporting the revolt
During his stay in London, where he was a student of Law at the Gray’s Inn, Savarkar penned the book- The War of Independence based on the revolt of 1857 which enraged the British government. In this book, Savarkar, using facts and the references available then proved that the revolt was not just a mutiny as it was projected by the British Government.
Another point that Savarkar proved was that the revolt was a war where the Hindu and the Muslim population of India was united with one goal- overthrow the English government. On March 13, 1910, Savarkar was arrested in London. Thus, he was subsequently sentenced twice to Transportation for Life, to the Andaman Islands. The sentences of Transportation were to be served in succession- a total sentence of 50 years, unparalleled in the history of the British Empire. Savarkar’s spirit remained undaunted in the hell-hole of the Cellular Jail.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was vocal in his thoughts about overthrowing the British rule. Through his writings, he instigated the urge in the minds of the Indian students in England to fight for the motherland. He wrote the biography of a revolutionary he looked up to- Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian politician, journalist, activist for the unification of Italy and spearhead of the Italian revolutionary movement.
Letter of consolation
In 1909, Savarkar wrote a letter of consolation to his dear sister-in-law Yesuvahini. This letter is another proof of his literary skills. Savarkar wrote:
My loving salutations to thee, O my sister
Whose love hath so tenderly nursed me as to make me forget
The early loss of my mother.
Received your letter of blessing, have taken to heart what you hath written
Thy letter gladdened my heart and made me feel truly blessed,
Blessed indeed is this family of ours in as much as it is
Thus privileged to serve the Lord Ram and administer to his Will!
Many a flower blooms and withers away
Who has kept their count or note
But behold, the lotus flower that was plucked by Gajendra’s trunk
And offered at the feet of Srihari and thus withered away there
Became immortal and holy effecting moksha (deliverance)
Thus is our Mother Bharat like the pious Gajendra seeking deliverance
Let her come to our garden and offer our dark blue black lotus flower
And pluck it from the bough to offer it at the feet of Sri Rama.
Blessed indeed is our family tree, definitely touched by the divine
In as much as it is privileged to serve Sri Rama
After release from Andaman, Savarkar was confined to Ratnagiri District, a backward place in Coastal Maharashtra. Savarkar was also asked “to abstain from any participation, public or private, in politics”. However, Savarkar was not someone who would wield under the pressure. Instead of revolution, Savarkar launched a scathing attack on the seven shackles that undermined Hindu society.
Savarkar did his work in the field of social reform in the most difficult circumstances. As he once remarked, “Working in the social field is like walking on a bed of thorns. It is not for the faint-hearted!” Savarkar was someone who examined the institution of caste in a scientific manner. Savarkar felt that the practice of birth-based caste division must have been responsible for the mighty consolidation and amazing stability of the Hindu society under certain circumstances and conditions. While evaluating its merits and demerits, it would be sheer ingratitude to only point fingers at the latter day ill-effects of the institution of caste (1963, Sahaa soneri pane or Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History; SSV 4: 710).
Savarkar’s zeal for social reform stemmed from his abiding faith in humanism. He considered his thoughts in the social sphere to be even more important than his spectacular escape from the ship into the ocean. His activities in the social sphere were no less revolutionary than his exploits in armed struggle.