Intro: This year is the birth centenary of two great RSS functionaries. Both were instrumental in speading the message of Hindu unity and cultural nationalism in Southern part of India, but in diffrent ways.
I just cannot remember the day. But I can definitely recall that on that day Eknathji (Shri Eknath Ranade) was coming to Kolkata from Chennai by a morning flight. I went to the airport to receive him. We were heading towards Vivekananda Kendra Karyalaya. All of a sudden Eknathji asked me, “What do you think? What should I do now?”
So sudden was the question, I was taken aback. If a giant personality like Eknathji asks such a question to a most junior worker like me what should I say? I had no answer for a moment. Then I thought when Eknathji was assigned the work of Vivekananda Memorial, he was Sarkaryavah of RSS and as a Sangh swayamsevak we have been missing him. So much so, the time before the country (1971 or 1972) was also bad so I said we hardly can afford to miss you any more from the Sangh work.
It was my honest and spontaneous reply. As a seasoned ‘karyakarta’, Eknathji immediately read my mind and started explaining the situation. By that time the first phase of the work of Vivekananda Memorial work was over and the then President of India VV Giri had inaugurated the grand memorial of Swami Vivekananda. In a way, the job assigned by Shri Guruji to Eknathi was successfully done. Now, puting forward a question to one and all of his acquaintances was obvious. What is the purpose of setting up of a temple? Should it not become a centre of activities to fulfill the ideal of ‘Serve people, serve God’?
Answer was there in the question itself. But a junior person like me failed to understand that. Because my mind was swayed by the idea that RSS is doing this job. The idea of comprehensive upliftment of the society is very much there in the fabric of RSS ideology and its work. Why then a separate organisation is at all necessary? Then Eknathji went on at length to give me a piece of his mind. I was not quite convinced. Confusion about this was prevailed in my mind for quite some time. Then I had gone through a report of Eknathji’s lecture on this very subject at Bangalore and I was totally convinced by listening his point of view. Let me quote some portions of that lecture. He said:
“Some people ask, ‘Could this stone-structure alone be a fitting memorial to that great patriot saint?’ To them I may humbly say that I myself have never been much of a believer in merely putting stone upon stone. The real urge in the Committee workers, including me, to work out the present memorial-plan springs forth from their faith and confidence that this granite structure would not only be an abiding source of great inspiration to posterity, but should also provide a nucleus a round which, over a period, great activities which the Swamiji preached and envisaged would spring up.
“Kanyakumari is a place, which may be considered as great symbol of purity and unity. It is a meeting point of three oceans. If the Sangam at Prayag is sacred because of the mingling of the holy waters of the three sacred rivers, this holy spot is a Mahasangam where the waters of the Ganga and Sindhu, Narmada and Goda, Krishna and Kaveri ultimately meet in the form of those three oceans the Gangasagar, the Sindhusagar and Hindu Mahasagar.
The place is, in a way, a meeting point of the East and the West also Standing at the topering end of our country, at Kanyakumari we can notice the disc of the sun rising from the sea in the East and taking a dip in the sea in the West.”
“It is again the meeting point of the North and the South. The Goddess Kanya stands there at the southern most tip of our land, with a garland in Her hand to meet Her Lord, Shiva, whose abode is in Kailash, in the regions of the northernmost Himalayas.
“What a unique symbol of unity and purity! I have faith and confidence that the great memorial that is taking shape at that holy spot will, in times to come, generate a powerful current of Swamiji’s thought and will envelop the entire country.”
This lecture of Eknathji led me to understand him from altogether a different angle. His vision was so clear at the same time so down to earth as people of Bharat were eager to accept without any hesitation and time has proved its perfectibility. I was associated with the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at the very initial stage i.e. from 1963 to 1970. I visited Kanyakumari in the year 1963 as Eknathji wanted me to go there to get first hand experience.
Eknathji used to tell one thing that the idea of setting up of a memorial for Vivekananda would be successful only when mass participation in the construction work was assured. He said, through one-rupee coupons money should be collected so that even a poor man could participate in this Mahayajna. Mrs. Kamal Basu, wife of late Jyoti Basu, former Marxist chief minister of West Bengal, collected more that eleven thousand rupees by selling One-Rupee Coupons and deposited them to Vivekananda Rock Memorial Fund.
Eknathji was a perfectionist. When the question of constructing the bronze statue came he had engaged almost all the famous and renowned sculptors of the country. While engaging them he did not give any undertaking as to whose sculpture would be set up at the memorial temple on the rock. He only said the committee which was assigned to do this work selects the statue to be set up there at the Shilamandir. In Calcutta, he engaged Shri Debi Prasad Roychoudhury who was world famous sculptor and whose sculptures of Gandhiji or Freedom Movement of India were set up there in Calcutta, Delhi, Patna and many other places. Eknathji asked me to regularly visit the house of Shri Roychoudhury to watch the progress of the work and report it to Eknathji. Whenever I went to his house, Shri Rouchoudhury used tell me, “It was a mystery that I had accepted the proposal put forward to me by Eknathji. You know this proposal itself was derogatory for me as it had put me on the same rank of other general sculptors, which I was not. But Shri Ranade must have some kind of spiritual power by which he influenced me.” The fact remained that the statue made by him was not put up at the Shilamandir at Kanyakumari. But it was placed somewhere else and in that case Eknathji abided by the condition of contract rules.
Eknathji had faced two almost insurmountable hurdles. Those hurdles were put up by (1) Prof. Humayun Kabir, Central Cultural Affairs minister and (2) Shri Bhaktavatsalam, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Both were very tough personalities. How Eknathji managed those two guys is an interesting history. Recently, some 4/5 months back at a meeting held at Chhatubabur Rsjbati, retired Justice Shyamal Sen of Calcutta High Court, while mentioning the role of Chpalakanta Bhattacharya, former editor of ‘Ananda Bazar Patrika’ and Congress MP said Chapalababu was of great help to Shri Eknath Ranade in collecting signatures of Members of Parliament in support of constructing the grand temple of Swami Vivekananda at the rock at Kanyakumari. Eknathji was in Calcutta at that time to organise opposition against the comment of Humayun Kabir as “temple on the Rock would spoil the scenic beauty”.
Swami Sambuddhananda was the General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission at that time. He asked Debu Maharaj who was looking after the press section of the Mission to accompany with Eknathji and help him out in this campaign. The Press of Calcutta had given all out support to the cause of Vivekananda Temple at Kanyakumari.
In Calcutta the sentiment about Swami Vivekananda was tremendous. But the work started by the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari under the leadership of Shri Eknathji was unknown to them. At the same time Eknathji himself was also not so much acquainted with the prominent personalities of Bengal. Hence he chalked out a unique programme of writing personal letters to all those important personalities regularly apprising them of progress of the work at Kanyakumari.
Apart from this, every time he came to Calcutta he used to meet the chief minister, Mayor of Calcutta, sometimes the Governor of Bengal and the leaders of different political parties and social organizations. Personalities like the great historian Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Speaker of state assembly Keshav Chandra Basu, Principal Dr. Amiya Kumar Majumdar, Bharat Maharaj of Belur Math and several other Swamijis of Ramakrishna Mission etc. Before his visit to Calcutta, every time he used to write letters to all those expressing his desire to meet them.
I know these things because as Calcutta Representative Eknathji used to keep me informed by sending copies of those letters to me. I am fortunate enough to get to work with such a visionary as a representative in Kolkata.
Asim Kumar Mitra (The writer is Kolkata based senior journalist )
Resurgence in Tamil Nadu
In the Nagpur of late 1920s a young 15 year old boy had become a singing sensation. His performances drew large crowds and he was well known throughout the city by the title ‘Sangeet Bala Bhaskar’. The boy was his guru Shankarrao Pravarthak’s favourite student. Pravarthak wanted him to become a singer of great eminence and organised several concerts to show-case the boy’s performances. Unfortunately, for guru, sitting in the front row of one such concert in 1929 was Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the RSS founder. During the course of interactions, the young boy was so impressed with Dr Hegewar and his vision that he gave up his flourishing career in music to become a RSS volunteer. The boy was Yadav Rao Joshi, the architect of RSS’s mammoth organisation in the most challenging regions of the Country—South India.
Intro: An interesting incident regarding his attitude towards Tamil Nadu happened during a meeting of several senior karyakartas in Gadag in 1966. One casual question that came up for discussion was which state in India had the most potential to become a Hindu state. Yadavji surprised everybody by naming Tamil Nadu.