RSS founder Dr.Hedgewar entry in Dictionary of National Biography.

Entry of Dr. Hedgewar, Founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in the Dictionary of National Biography, Vol.2 - Name of entry – ‘Hedgewar, Dr.Keshav Baliram’


Keshavrao Baliram Hedgewar, a patriot, seer, organizer and founder of the `R.S.S.', was the youngest of the six children of Balirampant and Revatibai (Paithankar). He was born at Nagpur on 1 April 1889. He remained a bachelor.

The Hedgewars were an orthodox Deshastha Brahmin family. Keshavrao imbibed this discipline and profound respect for Hindu traditions. Nagpur cherished memories of the old Bhonsla rulers and of the great Shivaji. They fostered in Keshavrao a love of freedom, intensified by the rising tempo of the political atmosphere since the partition of Bengal in 1905. Deliberately flout¬ing the Risley Circular (1908), he courted rustication, studied in a 'national' school, passed the Matriculation examination of the National Council of Education, Bengal (1909), joined the National Medical College at Calcutta (1910) and took his L.M. & S. degree in 1914. Admitted in his College days among the revolutionaries of Bengal and the Punjab, he organized a centre at Nagpur (1916-19), after he returned there.

He never practised as a doctor. He advocated full political freedom and devoted himself entirely to national work, irrespective of party affiliations, and was equally at home with the revolutionaries, the Congress and the Hindu Maha-sabha. He galvanized the youth of the region, participated in the Home Rule Campaign of Lokamanya Tilak in Vidarbha (February 1918), organized and commanded the Volunteer Corps at the Congress Session at Nagpur (1920), was arrested and gaoled for Satyagraha, both in 1921 and in 1931, carried the `Dindi' Satyagraha (against ban on music before mosque) to success (1923), inspired the Hindus to face Muslim aggression with tact and courage (1927), and presided over the Hindu Yuvak Pa rishad (Poona, 1938). But his greatest achievement was the foundation of the `R.S.S.' on the Vijayadashami day (27 September 1925).

He had found that the people were hopelessly divided and that the methods tried till then for removing this greatest defect were unsuccessful. He realized that Indians lay prostrate before the foreign rulers mainly due to lack of unity and vitality and that they needed to be revived and reinvigorated with a militant spirit. A consciousness of the glorious past of India would revive their confidence and a sense of their bounden duty to regain its independence would help to develop their initiative. He asserted that the Hindus, as the majority community, had a special responsibility. They must develop a strong sense of unity and show a readiness to sacrifice their lives for the uplift and emancipation of India. This teaching has a life-long bearing and he devised a novel type of organization which converted the whole country into a vast continuous and continuing school, harbouring a set of disciplined friendly groups unaffected by any legal or overformal regulations, self-dependent and autofinancing. This he called the `R.S.S.' or the `Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha', i.e. the National Volunteer Union—with all the implications that every one of the three words bear. No person or god but the impersonal Bhagawa Dhwaja (saffron-coloured flag) was the Guru or the preceptor; the members alone raised the needed funds from their own contributions in the form of gurudakshina and the command was vested in the 'SarSangha-Chalaka'. This was his most memorable contribution to the national armoury of India, a nation-wide union of zealous citizens, whose inspiration would be spiritual and whose outlook would be patriotic, yet modern. 

The Sangha was started at Nagpur. The next centre was at Wardha. Slowly evolving its own technique and studiedly keeping aloof from party or sectional loyalties, the Sangha ploughed its lonely furrow and had to face misunderstanding and opposition, both from the people and from the Government. The CF. Government prohibited Government and District Council servants from joining the R.S.S. on the ground that it was communal and political (1932, 1933); but the Government was defeated on that issue by a cut (1885-1949) motion passed with a considerable majority in the C.P. Legislative Council (March I934).

Mahatma Gandhi paid a visit to a camp at Wardha (25 December 1934»), where, with many other admirable things, he discovered that untouchability was surprisingly absent.

The Sangha spread its wings and gathered momentum as its branches were started in the Berars, C.P., Maharashtra, Delhi and the Punjab. It soon spread to U.P., Central India, Mahakoshal, Gujarat, Bihar and Karnataka, as the people realized that it was constructively striving to make the Hindu unconquerable by fostering in him the essential spirit of nationalism and social solidarity. The demands of this growing organization increased its problems and even the iron constitution of the founder began to feel the strain from 1932. Against medical advice, he took neither full treatment nor rest, and worked day and night even when in bed. He was in a hurry to educate his country- men to deserve their freedom, whenever it came.

To this end he sent a clarion call to the hearts of young men to unite in the service of the motherland, not with any limited end in view, but for the sake of building from within, the all- round strength and power that comes from organizing oneself for organization’s sake. He thus occupies a unique position among the nation-builders of India and no wonder is hailed as the idol of the young. He died of high blood- pressure on 21 Jane 1940, at a time when his guidance was needed and even sought every- where in the country, against the background of the Second World War. ‘

[Narayan Hari Palkar-Doctor Hedgewar (Charitra), Poona, 1960; V. R. Shende—Param- pujya Dr. Hedgewar, Nagpur, 1942; Chitrav Shastri—Arvachin Charitra Kosh. Poona, 1947.] 

(S. A. Madan) D. V. Kale. 


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