Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is a legend on his own terms. One of the many freedom fighters actively involved in India’s struggle for independence, Veer Savarkar’s stature is almost mythical in proportion. Starting from his ascension to prominence in the political scene in colonial India to the trail of controversy that followed in the wake of his death, Veer Savarkar is a formidable figure to reckon with, and certainly one of te most influential men to have ever dominated the political scenario of a nation.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born in a modest Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family in Maharashtra, India. He was one of three children born to Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar, residents of the Bhagur village in Maharashtra. He was still quite young of age hen he lost both his parents, following which the responsibility of the family was taken upon by his elder brother, Ganesh. Savarkar was but a teenage boy at this point of time, and his elder brother proved to be a very definitive influence on him.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was a great proponent of Hinduisim and a united Hindu nation. So much so, that he nurtured a dream of creating a unified Hindu nation, and is the father of the term Hindutva. In fact, the very first recorded expression of this desire could be seen in his very childhood. He was only a boy of twelve when he built a gang along with his fellow students, and, along with them, visited the village mosque and looted and pilfered it, to quote his own words, ‘to (his) heart’s content.’
However, the incident can be forgotten as a folly of youth in the light of the future accomplishments of the man. It would be very wrong to hold the incident against him and dub him as a blindly religious man, because, to be honest, he was not a particularly religious person by nature. His views can be more accurately described as disciplinarian. He was a great advocate of atheism, widely notorious for his vocal preaching of the existence of no divine entity. Besides, he also stood apart from the other overtly religious people of his times in the fact that he stood strongly against the caste system all his life.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was a first in many things. He was the first political leader, at a time when the philosophy of the Moderates was very much in vogue, to be completely pro-independence and officially declare Absolute Political Independence as the goal of the country. He had pretty much come into political prominence by 1905, and it was a daring act indeed for a man of his stature to be the first political leader to initiate the boycott of foreign goods; he burned foreign made goods publicly.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is also the first political leader to perform the daring act of organising and hosting ceremonies and events that were open to al Hindus, including those that were previously deemed untouchables. This was a blatant expression of his advocacy for the abolition of the prevalent and unfair caste system.
Veer Savarkar was a great proponent of militarism, a staunch believer in the inability of the Moderate way of protest to gain independence for the country. He became a radical militant activist right when he was in England, a student of law residing in India House. India House was, at hat point of time, a hub for student political activists, and it was here thaat he meticulously studied the Revolt of 1856 and wrote a book on the same, ‘The History of the War of Indian Independence’. The book analysed the tactics used in the revolt and the causes behind the same. The book was banned, but received widespread circulation and popularity through smuggling. In fact, Savarkar is the first historian to have referred to the 1857 revolt as the ‘first war of Indian Independence’.
Savarkar’s radical political activities got him into trouble a number of times. He launched an armed revolt against the Morley-Minto Reforms, an act that got him arrested by the British Police. Savarkar escaped on route to India, jumping through a porthole and swimming across the sea to the shore, but his ally on the shore failed to reach on time and he was re-arrested. He was sentenced to the Cellular Jail in Andaman, the most feared and cruellest of penitentiaries for political prisoners. It was here that a new side of the militant activist emerged. Despite the unbelievable tortures that were inflicted on prisoners in the jail, Savarkar retained his spirit and taught fellow inmates to read and write. It was here, too that he wrote immortal lines; having no pen and paper at his disposal, he scratched his works on the walls of his cell.
Despite his dream of the unified Hindu nation, Savarkar stood strongly against the partition of India upon gaining independence. He staunchly believed that the nation would survive and thrive as a complete nation, with Muslims and Hindus living s a unified whole with separate identities bound under the same constitution. His ideas were highly logical, and he advocated equal rights for both communities and legislative and parliamentary representation in proportion to population.
Even in death, Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar stood out from the rest of the political activists of the nationalist era. He had been taken a political prisoner toward the end of his life by the government of independent India, being accused of making militant Hindu nationalist speeches. Following the arrest, he was released on extraction of the promise to discontinue his activities. However, even in the face of extreme opposition and the risk of being arrested again, he continued to organise events where he delivered speeches on the greatness of the political, social and cultural aspects of Hindutva. His activities continued until he fell seriously ill, which was brought about by his practice of Atmaarpan, which is hailed as the greatest form of yoga, and is a form of passive suicide. In order to achieve this goal, he renounced all nuttition and medicines, and waited for his death.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar wrote an essay titled Atmahatya Nahi Atmaarpan, in which he had detailed his method of committing passive suicide, and justified his reasons for doing so. He claimed in the essay that the purpose of his life had been served, and since he had nothing else to do, he really had no reason to continue living fruitlessly.