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
flouting 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 Punjab, he organised 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 Mahasabha. 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 jailed 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 Parishad (Poona,
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 postrate 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'Sar-Sangha-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 C. P. 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 motion passed
with a considerable majority in the C. P. Legislative
Council (March 1934).
Mahatma Gandhi paid a visit to a camp at Wardha
(25 December 1934), where, with many other admirable
things, he discovered that untouchability was
The Sangha spread its wings and gathered momentum
as its branches were started in the Beras, C.
P., Maharashtra, Delhi and the Punjab. It soon
spread to U. P., Central India, Mohakoshal,
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
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 countrymen 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-building of India and no wonder is hailed
as the idea of the young. He died of high blood
pressure on 21 June 1940, at a time when his
guidance was needed and even sought eveywhere
in the country, against the background of the
Second World War.