Way back in 1960s, Dr Shambhu Nath Kapil Dev, the then MP from Trinidad and Tobbago was on tour to Bharat. He was much at pains to observe the erosion of Hindu ethos and life values among the Hindus living in Trinidad since centuries. He came with a hope that the then Government of Bharat would help him tide over this social problem. But he was disappointed. Someone advised the visiting MP to seek audience with the then Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar (Guruji). Accordingly, he met Guruji at Belgaum in Karnataka and shared his concerns with him.
It was at this meeting that the seeds for a worldwide organisation of Hindus were planted.
Prior to this, the late Shivram Shankar alias Dadasaheb Apte, who was a Pracharak of RSS, used to tour the entire country and abroad as a journalist. He would observe the plight of Hindus in various countries. Coupled with this the challenge of conversion of Hindus to alien religions was faced at home. Justice Niyogi Committee Report had amply highlighted their nefarious anti-national designs way back in 1957, Shri Apte wrote three articles in 1961 in Kesari projecting the problems of the Hindus abroad and thus attracting the attention of the Hindus of Bharat to them. He also suggested forming a worldwide organisation of the Hindus. It was a happy coincidence that SwamI Chinmayananda of Chinmay Mission also felt the similar need for the global Hindu organisation and he expressed his desire in his article in Tapovan Prasad in November 1963.
Against this background and in view of Dr Shambhu Nath Kapil Dev’s visit, Guruji entrusted the responsibility of examining and exploring the possibility of such global organisation for Hindus to Dadasaheb Apte. Shri Apte, after delegating the responsibility of Hindustan Samachar to other colleague toured the entire country meeting intellectuals, religious heads, social luminaries and others to garner support for this epoch-making idea.
He met in course of his tour Shankaracharyas of Kanchi Kamakoti and Sharada Petham, KM Munshi, Sant Tukdoji Maharaj, Chandrasekhar Shastri (Who later became Shankaracharya of Govardhan Petham), Dr Sampoornanand, Shri Kushak Bakula of Laddakh, Justice BP Sinha, Babu Jagjivanram, Jain Sadhu Muni Sushil Kumar, Gyani Bhupendra Singh, Dr Hajariprasad Dwivedi, Dr Acharya Vishwabandhu, Sadguru Jagjit Singh Namdhari, Prabhudatta Brahmachari, Sir Sitarm Rai, Sri Prakash, Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Jugal Kishore Birla, Yogiraj Maharaj of Swami Narayan Sect and others. Apte consulted nearly 600 individuals in Bharat and 40 institutions abroad and discussed with them the idea of global Hindu body.
As a result of this massive effort a meeting of selected 150 people was held on August 29, 1964 in (Bombay) Mumbai at Sandipani Sadhanalaya where the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was officially formed. Prominently present on this occasion were RSS Sarsanghchalak Shri Golwalkar, Dr KM Munshi, Sant Tukdoji Maharaj, Swami Shankaranand, Brahmachari Dattmurthy, Master Tara Singh, Gyani Bhupendra Singh, 151-year-old Yog Shiromani Sitaramdas Maharaj of Ramtek, General Secretary of Hindu Mahasabha VG Deshpande. Swami Chinmayananda chaired this historic session.
Setting the goal of VHP Guruji said that the objective was to reinvigorate the dormant pride of our dharma, sanskriti among the Hindus who have settled abroad. This effort is not aimed at establishing a new order or confined to any particular sect. It is not a narrow, parochial effort too.
Taking clue from Guruji’s exhortation Shri Apte clarified further, saying that though we have accepted oneness of human beings, religions like Islam and Christianity do not accept the existence of other ways to realise the supreme reality. Communism is relatively new ideology that is again opposed to religion. These three forces have targeted the Hindus. Thus, the situation at national and international levels demands that Hindus be organised to save their own culture, dharma and sanskriti. This congregation is expected to formulate certain parameters for the Hindu society at home and scattered abroad.
Mysore Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodiyar was crowned as first president of the VHP while Sir CP Ramaswamy Ayyar became its Vice-President. At the first meeting held at Acharya Lokesh Chandra’s residence on Decembar 22-23, 1964, it was decided to hold First World Hindu Conference with the blessings and cooperation of revered Dalai Lama, Emperor of Mangolia and Buddhist scholars of Japan. Later at a meeting on May 27-28, 1965, it was decided to form VHP units in countries where Hindus were in a sizeable number.
Organising the first World Hindu Conference at Prayag in 1966 was a real challenge for the nascent VHP. The tradition of such conferences is not new to Bharatiya milieu. There had been in the past records of such congregations where social, cultural, spiritual and such aspects of the societal life were discussed, amended according to the changing scenario and requirements of the time. Such a practice of reviewing the traditions and mending them suitably for the society to accept changes easily made the Hindu society eternal.
The first such historically recorded conference was held during the period of Emperor Harshvardhana in 680 AD in Paryag. It was the time Bharat started confronting foreign invasions, the tradition that continued till 1947, This renewed attempt of VHP was aimed at rejuvenating the Hindu tradition of discussion and debate and to cleanse the mindset of the Hindus polluted by the western education and liking for western lifestyle.
Accordingly, the first World Hindu Conference began on January 22 ,1966 on the banks of holy River Ganga in presence of Dharmacharyas, Shankaracharyas, Mahamandleswars, and social and religious leaders drawn from all sects of Hindu society, The Dalai Lama, then President Dr S Radhakrishnan, King of Nepal, UP Governor Vishwanath Das, Bihar Governor Anant Shayanam Ayyangar, Vishweshteerth Maharaj, Sant Tukdoji Maharaj, congratulated the VHP. Scholars and Intellectuals from USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, Germany, France, Poland, Switzerland, Finland, Japan and countries of south and east Asia expressed happiness on this event.
The resolution passed in this first conference is relevant even today. The VHP has always concentrated on protection of temples, cow protection and welcoming those who have converted to other religions into their original fold. The historic slogan Na Hindu Patito Bhavet (No Hindu can ever be considered fallen) had a very good impact and gave impetus to ghar-vapasi programme. Eradication of untouchability was another area where VHP concentrated. In the 1970 Pandharpur session of VHP, Dadasaheb Apte had said that we need to eradicate this social scourge. Our great seers and acharyas have always opposed the system of caste-based discrimination. Now we have to imbibe this in our daily life.
Among the notable regional meetings were the ones held in Assam where Hindus leaving in deep jungles and high hills participated along with their urban counterparts. The North-Eastern region of Bharat is very sensitive and has been the target of the anti-Hindu forces since long. The presence of Naga Rani Gaidinliu, and other leaders from Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Mizoram was a very encouraging omen. Guruji was present for all the three days at Jorhat conference which proved a historical milestone.
The VHP meet at Udupi in Karnataka in 1969 was yet another historical event which was presided over by R Bharnayya, a retired member of Karnataka Public Service Commission. It was at this conference that the saints and acharyas gave a slogan of Hindavah Sodara Sarve and Na Hindu Patito Bhavet meaning all Hindus are brothers and a Hindu can never fall. This was a clear cut message for eradicating the centuries old evil of untouchability.
The VHP organised a number of regional conferences in the ensuing years spreading its message of equality of Hindus of all sects, thus reinstalling self- pride and self-confidence in the Hindus. Similarly at the global level the VHP started its work in the USA, the UK, Surinam and Mauritius.
Shri Apte toured 30 countries, visited 140 meetings in 117 cities to initiate VHP activities. He also toured countries in company of Swamy Gangeswaranand to establish Ved Mandirs at 88 places in the world. On June 12, 1977 Apte delegated his responsibility to Sanskrit scholar Rajabhau Degwekar and retired to Pune till he left this mortal world on October 10, 1985.
The Second World Hindu Conference was held on January 25-27, 1979 in presence of VHP President Maharana Bhagwat Singh of Mewar, and Rajabhau Degwekar, Vishnu Hari Dalmia. His Holiness Dalai Lama inaugurated the meet which was also attended by RSS Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras who succeeded Golwalkar in 1973. The then Industries Minister of Mauritius Dayanand Basantrai, Naga Rani Gaidinliu, Mahadevi Verma, Dr Karan Singh and other luminaries of Hindu society attended the meeting. The Conference accepted six resolutions.
From the beginning of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement to the making of Ram temple in Ayodhya, VHP has come a long way in the history of Independent Bharat and in the last 58 years it has carved niche for itself in the Bharatiya society and Hindus abroad through its multifaceted activities of social welfare and nation building.
(This article was first published Organiser in 2014)