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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्

SHRADDHANJALI TO SWAMI SHRADDHANAND ON HIS MARTYRDOM DAY - 23 December 1926

AUM
SWAMI SHRADDHANAND: A SPLENDID PERSONALITY
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Swami Shraddhanand bared his chest to bayonets of army soldiers officered by the British and dared them to fire on him before shooting the common men agitating against the British oppression. The episode of dare devilry was a page from the real life of the Arya ascetic in ochre clothes leading a demonstration against the Rowlatt Act in Chandni Chowk in front of the town hall, Delhi. It was a deliberate act of defiance of the mighty British empire where the sun did not set but the Man of God never cowered before men of might. He was made of sterner stuff physically, mentally and spiritually.
EPITOME OF MORAL COURAGE
Shraddhanand Sanyasi, as he called himself after entering the fourth ashram, was born in Talwan village, Jullunder district of the Punjab on 22 February 1856, a little over a year before the first war of independence began to drive out the East India Company that was ruling India. Of course, the sepoy mutiny, as the British historians termed it, had no impact on the erstwhile kingdom of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, as an average Punjabi was happy with the rule of law brought in by the Company administrators headed by Chief Commissioner Lawrence. Even the father of our Arya sanyasi, Lala Nanak Chand joined the East India Company’s police force in the United Provinces and earned a name as a Kotwal of Benares and Bareilley where he had made arrangements for the smooth religious congregations and discourses of Swami Dayanand Saraswati who changed the course of life of the errant Munshi Ram (pre-sanyas name of Swami Shraddhanand).
The vicissitudes of life of young Munshi Ram make his personality a subject of study for the youth all over the world. Gibbon the historian wrote “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” but in the case of Munshi Ram, it was the Fall and Rise of a Man from waywardness to becoming a Mahatma and a Sanyasi Martyr.
Munshi Ram, being the youngest child of an influential police officer had his way everywhere. He got what he wanted to have from his doting father and loving mother who was affectionate to a fault. No wonder he was a spoilt brat who spent more time in gratifying himself with worldly pleasures than devoting time to scholastic pursuits. The Epicurean philosophy of life – eat, drink and make merry – led him to a wasted youth. He had, however, the courage to confess it in his short autobiography, Kalyan Marg Ka Pathik. Reading is believing.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati was the catalyst for a 360 degree change in life of the young man who had gone astray. It was no one else but his own father who had encouraged young Munshi Ram to attend the Vedic discourses of Swami Dayanand Saraswati that were making waves in Bareilley both among the Indian and the English communities. Munshi Ram, 23, was impressed but not convinced. He continued to be an agnostic. The great founder of the Arya Samaj finally told Munshi Ram that he would become a Believer in God when God would so inspire him. Nevertheless, the short encounter of three days or so left such a deep impression on Munshi Ram that eventually he became an Arya Samajist, a believer in the Vedic education and the founder of the illustrious Gurukul Kangri. Munshi Ram had the courage to say good bye to his friends who enjoyed their cup of wine and a nudge at the nautch girls. He did not look back and never regretted his decision to jettison the old baggage and acquire a new one comprising the Vedas, the Satyarth Prakash and what have you.
Munshi Ram was a lover of Nature. Once while on a professional visit to Suket principality in Himachal as a Mukhtar, he opted to sleep in a well ventilated room in a rather secluded haveli with broken window panes. One night a tiger came visiting while Munshi Ram was asleep. It put its paws inside the room through the broken glass panes and the paws landed on the cot. The tiger could not pull the paw out and remained groaning until morning when Munshi Ram helped it out and it disappeared into the jungle with a low growl. Another man would beat a hasty retreat but not Munshi Ram who continued to sleep there on following nights until it was time to return home. His physical courage was an outcome of his moral courage.
HIS FAMILY LIFE
No man is an island. Man is a social being and his personality is shaped and chiselled by members of his immediate family, his colleagues, his social company and indeed the education that he receives. In a joint family of yore, influences of parents and in some cases grandparents played a major role in making the personality of the new generation. Munshi Ram was no exception to it. Lala Nanak Chand, being a busy police officer, had little time to oversee the educational progress of his youngest son. It needs no underscoring that the schooling of Munshi Ram suffered a big blow. He passed his entrance examination in three attempts. His undue interest in novels of Sir Walter Scott prevented him from delving deep into the books of the prescribed subjects. Thus he could never obtain a bachelor’s degree and this lacuna kept on hanging on his head like the sword of Democles. Never mind, what he missed here, he compensated in the realm of religion. His sermons from the pulpit of the Arya Samaj were listened to and admired.
Shiv Devi, that indeed was an important name in Munshi Ram’s life. She was extremely devoted to her husband and stood by him through thick and thin. In the traumatic phase of his life, when he came home drunk and vomited, she cleaned him, comforted him and ensured that he ate nutritive diet to tend to family and profession. She bore him four children, two daughters and two sons before bidding good bye. Just before breathing her last, she implored her husband, Munshi Ram, to marry again but not to neglect her four children. He made a solemn promise to bring up the children well and kept his word. A widower at the age of 35, he did not marry again and groomed his children well. The sons, Harish Chandra and Indra were the first two graduates from Gurukul Kangri and the daughters raised their own families post marriage. Unfortunately, Harish Chandra disappeared mysteriously while on a professional trip to Europe. Mahatma Munshi Ram was indeed shocked but did not let depression have the better of him. The Arya Samaj and the Gurukul were of utmost importance to the Mahatma.
Indra Vidyavachaspati became a renowned journalist and made a name in Hindi news publishing. He edited the Tej and Arjun, dailies that shaped public opinion. His book on Swami Shraddhanand, MERE PITA, is a goldmine of information on the life and times of the great educationist, freedom fighter and a pioneer of Hindi news journalism. Pt Indra Vidyavachaspati also wrote the history of the Arya Samaj in Hindi in two volumes. This was the last wish of Swami Shraddhanand and his son, Indra fulfilled it.
Swami Shraddhanand was a great believer in the Vedic philosophy, Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam. Indeed he had his own immediate family but he paid attention to his duties as a Sanyasi for whom the whole world is his family. Of course, the narrow boundaries of caste, creed, region and religion were mere words meaning nothing. An Arya sanyasi transcends these boundaries that limit the scope of thinking. For Shraddhanand Sanyasi ,the philosophy of life was defined by this mantra :
Ayam Nij Parovati Garana Laghu Chetsam, Udaar Charitanam Tu Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam.
GURUKUL KANGRI
The sad and tragic demise of Dayanand Saraswati Swami on 30 October 1883 at Ajmer had given a rude shock to all Arya Samajists all over. However, the Punjab Aryas got over it and took positive steps to continue the Vedic mission of the founder through proper education of the new generations. Accordingly a sum of Rs 8,000 had been collected in Lahore and with the free services rendered by selfless men like Hnsraj Ji and other fresh graduates, the DAV School started functioning in Lahore from 1st June 1886. But some Aryas committed to bring in Vedic education where the Anglo element was subservient to Vedic thought, planned to commence Gurukuls as they were in days of yore. Munshi Ram Ji was at the forefront and had the support of Pt Gurudatt. It was estimated that an amount of Rs 30,000 would be needed to launch a Gurukul that would be fully residential and educate sons of Aryas and others through the Hindi medium. With his dedication to the cause so sacred and dear to his heart, Munshi Ram Ji roamed all over to spread the idea of ancient education system, collected Rs 40,000 and only then crossed the threshold of his house in Jullunder. He had achieved the impossible. The Gurukul commenced functioning in Gujaranwala in 1900. The promoter of the concept, Munshi Ram was , however, not happy with the location. He wished to have the Gurukul in sylvan surroundings in the lap of Nature beside a river as the ancient Vedic gurukuls were.
A dedicated Arya Samajist, Munshi Aman Singh, donated the entire village of Kangri situated on the banks of river Ganga in a thick wooded area near Haridwar. It was a dream come true. The Gurukul was relocated there lock stock and barrel in 1902. The trials and tribulations of a new system of education in a new location in a deep jungle with Guru-shishya relationship yet to develop and logistics problems galore staring in the face, it was the courage of conviction of Mahatma Munshi Ram that the Gurukul Kangri sailed through to success. The cooperation was perfect and the teething troubles were got over with ease. Munshi Ram ji would get concerned if a Brahmachari fell ill and would visit him every now and then until he recovered. If one was away from the Gurukul for some time swimming across the Ganga, he would not rest until his return. As the Acharya and Adhishthata he ensured a perfect amalgam of the ancient and modern without sacrificing the basic values of Vedic thought. Indeed some gurus parted company when lanterns were introduced in place of earthen lamps or periods were allotted for teaching subjects like Science and English but the Acharya did not compromise on principles.
Lala Lajpat Rai, the doyen of progressive Aryas visited the Gurukul to express solidarity between the College and the Gurukul streams of the Arya Samaj. He said that the DAV was like his own child and his love for the Gurukul was akin to that of a lover for his beloved. His words were greeted with thunderous applause and the unity of the two streams was hailed as a precursor of many great events to take place in the field of Ved prachar.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Gurukul Kangri more than once and loved the peace and calm there away from the hustle and bustle of Haridwar. He lauded the idea of imparting Vedic education in Hindi medium as a befitting reply to Lord Macaulay’s English education for Indian children.Gandhi Ji made a specific mention of Mahatma Munshi Ram writing him a letter in Hindi to invite to the Gurukul and addressing him as Bhai Ji. Gandhi Ji commended the role of Gurukul Brahmcharis in working as coolies to earn and save money to be donated to the Satyagrah movement in South Africa.
Ramsay Mcdonald, then leader of opposition in Commons and later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was so impressed with Mahatma Munshi Ram that he cited his personality as a living model for sculpting or painting an image of Jesus Christ.
A positive aspect of these high profile visits to the Gurukul was the turning away of the needle of suspicion to the alumni being trained as violent revolutionaries to drive away the British by force3. Indeed the fire of freedom was ignited in every heart of Guru and shishya alike when they read the Satyarth Prakash of Dayanand Saraswati where he had placed self rule above the best kind of foreign rule.
Indeed Mahatma Munshi Ram nursed the Gurukul with all love and affection and donated just about all his worldly possessions, not forgetting his two sons enrolled among the first batch of Brahmcharis, to the sacred cause. The seedling planted by him grew to be a banyan tree in due course of time to make the Arya Samaj proud of it.
THE SHUDDHI MOVEMENT
A piece of writing on Shraddhanand Sanyasi would be incomplete without a mention of the Shuddhi movement that he promoted, encouraged, lived and died for. It may be explained at this juncture that the great sanyasi was not a Muslim hater. Not at all.
Pt Indra Vidyavachaspati has written explicitly that many of Swami Shraddhanand’s friends were votaries of Islam. His personal physician whom he trusted immensely till the end was Dr Ansari. In the last few days of his life, Swami Shraddhanand was down with pneumonia and had become weak. When invited to address the session of the All-India National Party at Guwahati in Assam, Swami Shraddhanand requested to be excused owing to indifferent health. He added an important sentence that Indra Ji had written in his own hand :
“On Hindu-Muslim unity depends future wellbeing of India.”
Swami Shraddhanand had launched the Shuddhi movement to welcome back in the Hindu fold those Malkana Rajputs of Agra-Mathura region who had been forced by the then Muslim rulers to convert to Islam but now voluntarily wished to return to their ancestral faith. Shraddhanand Ji had the full support of Maharana of Mewar and Pt Madan Moha Malviya of the Congress party. Gandhi Ji had, however, reservations on this issue. The Shuddhi movement was a success. One Asgari Begum of Karachi travelled to Delhi to meet the august sanyasi and be converted to the Vedic dharm along with her children. She was renamed Shanti Devi. Her former husband had filed a case against the asctic but lost the legal battle. Unfortunately, the Muslims hardened their attitude towards the reformer. One may recall that it was the same sanyasi who was invited by the Muslim citizenry to the Jama Masjid to address them from the pulpit and he had commenced his address with recitation of a mantra from the Rigved. When he ended the exhortation with Aum Shantih, the congregation had responded with Aamin. Now that the same sanyasi wished the Hindus to be strong numerically, physically and morally, the Muslim community leaders like Shaukat Ali and Mohd ALI PICKED HOLES IN HIS PROGRAMMES.
A conspiracy was hatched by elements who did not wish to see Hindus gain strength. One Abdul Rashid was despatched with a revolver to assassinate the great leader of men of all faiths. The criminal did it and was tried by a court of law and was hanged by the neck till death.
The Vedic mission of Swami Dayanand Saraswati was carried on by Swami Shraddhanand with success. May the mission go on and achieve success day after day with the help of new generations.

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