K. B. Hedgewar

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Keshav Baliram Hedgewar
Dr. Hedgevar.jpg
Born (1889-04-01)1 April 1889
Nagpur, British India
Died 21 June 1940(1940-06-21) (aged 51)
Nagpur, British India
Nationality Indian
Ethnicity Maharashtrian
Occupation Physician, Political activist
Known for Founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1 April 1889 – 21 June 1940) was the founding Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Hedgewar founded the RSS in Nagpur in 1925, with the intention of promoting the concept of a united India rooted in indigenous ideology.[1] He drew upon influences from social and spiritual leaders such as Swami Vivekananda, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Aurobindo to develop the philosophy of the RSS.[2][not in citation given]

Early life[edit]

Hedgewar was born on 1 April 1889 in a Marathi Deshastha Brahmin,[3][4][5] family in Nagpur. His parents were Baliram pant Hedgewar and Revati. His father was an orthodox priest and they were a family of modest means. When Keshav was thirteen, both his parents succumbed to the epidemic of plague. He had to suffer great hardships on account of being orphaned but never did he seek any help from others as he had a lot of self-respect. His elder brothers Mahadev pant, and Sitaram pant ensured that he was provided with good education.[citation needed]

When he was studying in Neel City High School in Nagpur, he was rusticated for singing "Vande Mataram" in violation of the circular issued by the then British government. As a result he had to pursue his high school studies at the Rashtriya Vidyalaya in Yavatmal and later in Pune. After matriculating, he was sent to Kolkata by B. S. Moonje (National President of the Hindu Mahasabha) in 1910 to pursue his medical studies. After passing the L.M.&S. Examination from the National Medical College in June 1914, he completed one year apprenticeship and returned to Nagpur in 1915 as a doctor.[6]

Participation in Indian independence movement[edit]

For more details on Indian independence movement, see Indian independence movement.

On his return to Nagpur, the financial condition of his family had worsened. They hoped that Hedgewar would open a dispensary and help his elder brothers. He did not intend to set up a medical practice and had made up his mind to become a political activist. Since his arrival in Nagpur, Hedgewar was busy organising the revolutionaries in Nagpur, under the guidance of Bhaoji Karve. He became involved with social work and also with the Bal Gangadhar Tilak faction of the Congress Party, through which he developed a close association with Moonje who later became his mentor.[citation needed]

In the 1920 session of Indian National Congress held in Nagpur, Hedgewar was appointed as the Deputy Chief of volunteers cadre overseeing the whole function. This volunteer organisation was named as Bharat Swayamsewak Mandal and was headed by Laxman V. Paranjape. He and his colleagues unsuccessfully campaigned for the passage of a resolution declaring 'Poorna Swaraj' (complete self-rule) as the goal of the Congress.[citation needed]

He participated actively in the Non-co-operation movement in 1920 and undertook a brisk tour in village after village in the Central Provinces for mass awakening. He was promptly jailed and sentenced to one year rigorous imprisonment.

He was closely associated with revolutionaries like Nalini Kishor Guha. After his return from Calcutta to Nagpur, he used his contacts to organise revolutionaries with a plan of "armed revolt" which, according to P.L. Joshi was dropped on the advice of Tilak.[7] Hedgewar's revolutionary group was the biggest one and consisted of 150 revolutionaries. G.M. Huddar says Hedgewar's revolutionary group resembled a secret "conspiratorial group" of young men.[8] His plan of armed revolt was not an isolated case of adventurism but it was coincided by his manifesto for Indians Independence which was to be declared from many countries. He postponed his plan on the advise of Dr B. S. Moonje.[9]

After founding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925, Hedgewar kept the RSS away from the anti-British Indian Independence movement. The RSS carefully avoided any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British. The RSS biographer C. P. Bhishikar states,

"After establishing Sangh, Doctor Saheb in his speeches used to talk only of Hindu organization. Direct comment on Government used to be almost nil".[10][11]

When the Congress passed the Purna Swaraj resolution in its Lahore session in December 1929, and called upon all Indians to celebrate January 26, 1930 as Independence Day, Hedgewar issued a circular asking all the RSS shakhas(branches) to observe the occasion through hoisting and worship of its own Bhagwa Jhanda(saffron flag), rather than the Tricolor (which was, by consensus, considered the flag of the Indian national movement at that time).[12][13][14][15] 1930 was the only year when the RSS celebrated 26 January and it stopped the practice from the next year onwards.[13]

Dr.Hedgewar's biographer C.P. Bhishikar states,

"[In April 1930], Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for 'Satyagraha' against the British Government. Gandhiji himself launched the Salt Satyagraha undertaking his Dandi Yatra. Hedgewar decided to participate but did not direct the RSS to join it. He sent information everywhere that the Sangh will not participate in the Satyagraha. However those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited.[10][15]

This tradition was subsequently followed by the next sarsanghchalaks of the RSS, and under Golwalkar, the RSS completely abstained from the Quit India Movement in 1942. The Bombay government(British) appreciated the RSS as such, by noting that, "the Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law, and in particular, has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942".[16] The British Government also asserted that the RSS was not at all supporting any civil disobedience against them, and as such their other political activities(even if objectionable) can be overlooked.[17] Further, the British also asserted that at sangh meetings organized during the times of anti-British movements started and fought by the Indian National Congress, "speakers urged the sangh members to keep aloof from the congress movement and these instructions were generally observed" .[17]

Formation of RSS[edit]

For more details on RSS, see Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Hedgewar actively participated in Indian National Congress in the 1920s. But he got disillusioned with their policies and politics. The outbreak of the Hindu-Muslim riot in 1923 made him ponder over an alternate model of nation-building in India. He was deeply influenced by the writings of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. He considered that the cultural and religious heritage of Hindus should be the basis of Indian nationhood.[18]

Hedgewar and his initial followers during an RSS meeting in 1939

Hedgewar founded RSS in 1925 on the day of Vijayadashami with an aim to organise Hindu community for its cultural and spiritual regeneration and make it a tool in getting the country free from foreign domination.[1][19] Hedgewar insisted on the term 'rashtriya' (national) for his exclusively 'Hindu' organization, for he wanted to re-assert the identity of Hindu with rashtriya. This can be confirmed by the prarthana(prayer) sung at the end of every shakha meeting, along with the slogans of Samarth Ramdas Ki Jai and Bharat Mata Ki Jai.[20] Hedgewar created a female wing of the organization in 1936.[21][22]

His initial followers, among others, included Bhaiyaji Dani, Babasaheb Apte, Balasaheb Deoras, and Madhukar Rao Bhagwat. The Sangh was growing in Nagpur and the surrounding districts. And it soon began to spread to other provinces too. Hedgewar went to a number of places and inspired the youths for taking up the Sangh work. Gradually all his associates had begun to endearingly call him as 'Doctorji.' Upon his urging, Swayamsevaks went to far-off cities like Kashi, Lucknow etc., for their further education and started the Shakhas there too.[citation needed]

Hedgewar had endorsed the idea of militarizing society in accordance with fascist organizational arrangement. In January 1934, Hedgewar chaired a conference on fascism and Mussolini. In March, 1934 Hedgewar held a conference with Moonje and Laloo Gokhale in which the subject of discussion was how to organize Hindus militarily in accordance with the contemporary fascist states of Germany and Italy.[23] A 1933 secret report of British Intelligence titled ‘Note on the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh’ states that:

It is perhaps no exaggeration to assert that the Sangh hopes to be in future India what the ‘Fascisti’ are to Italy and the ‘Nazis’ to Germany.[23][24]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hedgewar Statue at the RSS office in Nagpur

His health deteriorated in later years of his life. Often he suffered from chronic back pain. He started delegating his responsibilities to M.S.Golwalkar, who later succeeded him as Sarsanghachalak of RSS. In January 1940, he was taken to Rajgir in Bihar for the hot-spring treatment.[citation needed]

He attended the annual Sangh Shiksha Varg in 1940, where he gave his last message to Swayamsevaks, saying: "Today, I am seeing a mini-Bharat before me. Let there be no occasion in the lives of any of you to say that you were once a Sangh Swayamsevak some years ago." He died on the morning of 21 June 1940 in Nagpur. His last rites were performed in the locality of Resham Bagh in Nagpur.[citation needed]

Institutes named after him[edit]

  • Dr.Hedgewar Institute Of Medical Sciences & Research (Dhimsr) Amravati[25]
  • Dr.Hedgewar Shikshan Pratishthan Ahmednagar[26]


  1. ^ a b Taneja, S. P. (2009). Society and politics in India. Delhi, India: Swastik Publishers & Distributors. p. 332. ISBN 978-81-89981-29-7. 
  2. ^ N.V.Subramanian (29 August 2012). "All in the Family". News Insight. Retrieved 31 August 2012. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Remembering RSS Founder Dr KB Hedgewar on his 123th Birthday on Yugadi". 
  4. ^ Smyth, Douglas C. (1972). "The Social Basis of Militant Hindu Nationalism". The Journal of Developing Areas 6 (3): 327. 
  5. ^ Goodrick-Clarke,, N. (2000). Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism. New York, NY: NYU Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-8147-3110-4. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Kelkar, D. V. (4 February 1950). "The R.S.S." (PDF). Economic Weekly. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Inamdar, N. R. (1983). Political Thought and Leadership of Lokmanya Tilak. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 370. 
  8. ^ Huddar, G.M. (7 October 1979). "RSS and Netaji". The Illustrated Weekly of India (1). 
  9. ^ Sinha, Rakesh (24 June 1996). "Hedgewar's role in freedom struggle". Indian Express. 
  10. ^ a b Bhishikar, C.P (1994). Sangh Vriksh ke Beej:Dr.KeshavRao Hedgewar. New Delhi: Suruchi Prakashan. 
  11. ^ Shamsul Islam (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. pp. 188–. ISBN 978-81-7495-236-3. 
  12. ^ Chitkara 2004, pp. 251-254.
  13. ^ a b Tapan Basu (1 January 1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Orient Blackswan. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-86311-383-3. 
  14. ^ Vedi R. Hadiz (27 September 2006). Empire and Neoliberalism in Asia. Routledge. pp. 252–. ISBN 978-1-134-16727-2. 
  15. ^ a b Ram Puniyani (21 July 2005). Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times. SAGE Publications. pp. 141–. ISBN 978-0-7619-3338-0. 
  16. ^ Śekhara Bandyopādhyāẏa (1 January 2004). From Plassey to Partition: A History of Modern India. Orient Blackswan. pp. 422–. ISBN 978-81-250-2596-2. 
  17. ^ a b Bipan Chandra (2008). Communalism in Modern India. Har-Anand. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-81-241-1416-2. 
  18. ^ Malik, Yogendra (1994). Hindu nationalists in India : the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Boulder: Westview Press. p. 158. ISBN 0-8133-8810-4. 
  19. ^ Moyser, George (1991). Politics and religion in the modern world. London New York: Routledge. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-415-02328-3. 
  20. ^ Basu, Datta (1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. New Delhi: Orient Longman Limited. p. 18. ISBN 9780863113833. 
  21. ^ Jayawardena, Kumari (1996). Embodied violence : communalising women's sexuality in South Asia. London New Jersey: Zed Books. pp. 126–167. ISBN 978-1-85649-448-9. 
  22. ^ "Hindutva's Other Half". Hindustan Times. April 27, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Hindutva's Foreign Tie-up in the 1930s, Casolari, Marzia, Economic and Political Weekly, Volume XXXV, No. 04, January 22, 2000, Pages 220-221.
  24. ^ "Soldiers of the Swastika". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  25. ^ "Dr.Hedgewar Institute Of Medical Sciences & Research, Amravati". 
  26. ^ "Dr.Hedgewar Shikshan Pratishthan, Ahmednagar.". 

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Further reading[edit]

  • Sinha, Rakesh (2003). Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (in Hindi). New Delhi: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. ASIN B00H1YYO3M. 
  • Bapu, Prabhu (2013). Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial North India, 1915-1930: Construction Nation and History. Routledge. ISBN 0415671655. 
  • Basu, Tapan; Sarkar, Tanika (1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Orient Longman. ISBN 0863113834. 
  • Bhishikar, C. P. (2014) [First published in 1979]. Keshav: Sangh Nirmata (in Hindi). New Delhi: Suruchi Sahitya Prakashan. ISBN 9381500185. 
  • Chitkara, M. G. (2004). Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: National Upsurge. APH Publishing. ISBN 8176484652. 
  • Curran, Jean Alonzo (1951). Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the R.S.S. International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations. Retrieved 2014-10-27. 
  • Frykenberg, Robert Eric (1996). "Hindu fundamentalism and the structural stability of India". In Martin E. Marty; R. Scott Appleby. Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies and Militance. University of Chicago Press. pp. 233–235. ISBN 0226508846. 
  • Jaffrelot, Christophe (1996). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 978-1850653011. 

External links[edit]