On Sunday, September 29, 2023, at seven in the morning, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s senior pracharak, former Akhil Bharatiya Bauddhik Pramukh (in-charge for intellectual training), Shri Ranga Hari Ji, breathed his last and departed for his heavenly abode. A towering intellectual warrior of the Hindu intelligentsia, a heartwarming conversationalist who through affection emanated both warmth and soothing comfort, an out-of-the-box thinker and a rashtra-devoted Sangh rishi’s life journey has ended. He was 93-year-old. From the age of 13, when he became a Swayamsevak, he actively participated in Sangh activities for 80 years. Between 1983 and 1993 he served as prant pracharak of Kerala and from 1991 to 2005 he was the Akhil Bharatiya Bauddhik Pramukh. Even after getting relieved from Sangh responsibilities, true to Robin Sharma’s book title – The leader who had no Title – Shri Ranga Hari Ji remained creatively active as a Swayamsevak.
Among the wise and driven karyakartas who sowed the seeds of Sangh’s national thought on the land of Communist-infested Kerala, those who confidently confronted the on-ground challenges posed by the exclusivist and bloody Leftist ideology, while establishing the holistic and national thought espoused by Hindutva, Shri Ranga Hari was an important person. Two hundred and ninety eight karyakartas have succumbed to death in the bloody strife with the brutal Communists. Seventy per cent of these karyakartas were people who were once followers of the Communist ideology and later became Swayamsevaks. Supporting the families and households of all those Swayamsevaks, assuaging their grief and ensuring that they feel like they are still very much within the Sangh’s fold were some of the complex tasks in the aftermath of those shocks. When I once entreated Shri Ranga Hari Ji to explain how one cultivates the heart to bear such weight, he began to sob bitterly. Living through conflict-ridden situations like the one explained above, compelled to make tough decisions, one stands a good chance of getting hardened. However, it was on that day that I got a glimmer of the tenderness and sensitivity that Shri Ranga Hari Ji’s heart was abundant with.
While the struggle with the Communist goons in Kerala was still advancing, a call for initiating the process of dialogues with the Communist Party leaders was made, it was Shri Ranga Hari Ji who made that clarion call. Sangh luminary Shri Dattopant Thengadi Ji was party to one such dialogue. When a Malayalam weekly titled Kesari invited write-ups for a new series, contemplating ways to usher in peace in a conflict-ridden State of Kerala, Shri Ranga Hari Ji wrote to the editor personally, congratulating him for the ingenuity.
To explain serious and obscure topics with examples in a characteristic amusing theatrical style was his peculiar idiosyncrasy. He was a gatherer of Sanskrit shlokas (verses) and subhashitas (epigrammatic poems) and amassed a rich collection of the same. The subhashitas that he managed to read and absorb, which he later quoted in his writings and speeches, were compiled in a book format and published. The title of that book is also extremely pertinent – Sudhi Vaani Sudha Vaani (Intelligent Words – Elixir Words). His methodology and enthusiasm for grasping new languages were extraordinary. During his first tour to Gujarat, he learned to read and write Gujarati in such a short time that I was stunned. He remained committed to consistent reading, fundamental reflection, and discerning deeper meanings. So far, 62 of his books have been published, covering a wide range of subjects.
On the occasion of the birth centenary (2005- 2006) of the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – Shri Guruji Golwalkar – a gargantuan task of collecting the scripts of innumerable lectures delivered by him during a long-standing tenure spanning 33 years (1940-1973), and classifying those into 12 volumes is one of the prodigious contributions of Shri Ranga Hari Ji. Similarly, the nectar of Shri Guruji’s time-tested, immortal thoughts – Shri Guruji – Vision and Mission and the biography of Shri Guruji are the sweet rewards of the intellectual mastery sought as part of the aforementioned birth centenary work.
Shri Hari Ji was adept at thinking out-of-the-box and he encouraged many associates to venture off the beaten track and think beyond their usual limits. He would nurture novel ideas by consistently encouraging individuals to think differently and study deeply.
Deepti Verma, an emerging novelist, penned a beautiful book by the title Panchakanya. Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari—all five are venerable women. The book is written with the intent to highlight the life lessons that millennial girls can imbibe from the lives of those women, and it has gained popularity among young women. Deepti sent the first chapter of the book, titled Ahalya, to Shri Ranga Hari Ji for his feedback. To which his response was as quoted below. Deepti’s age is equivalent to that of Shri Hari Ji’s grand daughter. Yet, instead of merely extending his blessings as a gesture to welcome the modern take on those lives, he wrote “May god bless us all.” This reflects his humility. That letter reads as follows–Su. Shri Deeptiji, Namaskars. Yesterday I read your write-up on Ahalya. In short, it is very fine. I very much enjoyed the original approach and elucidation. I think I can rightly expect, the write-ups on the other four also will be in the same refrain.
I would like to bring to your notice one happy fact. In Kerala, there was a famous lady writer Lalitambika Antarjanam born about 120 years ago. Though she belonged to the orthodox Namboodiri (Kerala Brahmin) community, she has authored a book in Malayalam named Sita Muthal Satyavati Vare, meaning ‘From Sita to Satyavati.’ In that, one piece is on Ahalya. She says in it the whole tragedy was due to a mis-match, the very point you have emphasised. This book is in Malayalam. It was the first book I read wherein a woman evaluates a woman, which by itself is extremely important. I appreciate you have done verily that.
I very much liked the interpretation of your satisfying the thirst and temperament of sisters and mothers of these times tempered by science. Further, I am awaiting the other four as and when completed.
Through your good self.
May God bless us all,
Humour was an inseparable companion of Shri Hari Ji’s life. If, during the free time at the Sangh Akhil Bharatiya Baithak (meetings) one spotted a gathering of Swayamsevaks, with the passersby karyakartas joining in spontaneously and bouts of laughter erupting periodically, then, one could be certain that Shri Ranga Hari Ji was present there. Though his short stature (a little less than about 5 feet), made it impossible to spot him from a distance in such gatherings, the sudden bursts of laughter were an unfailing indicator of his presence.
I used to often cite Khalil Gibran’s poem Your Children. However, I was unaware that I only knew the poem partially until once when I mentioned it at a gathering where Hari Ji was present. He informed me that there is more to the poem that follows after the point where I stopped. During those days, which were not the era of emails, Ranga Hari Ji was stationed in Mumbai. After completing his scheduled travels and reaching his base in Mumbai following a long hiatus of two months, he thoughtfully penned the entire Khalil Gibran poem titled Your Children in a letter and sent it to me. Towards the end of the letter, in his signature humorous style, he added a note that read “Dear Manmohan, sending ‘Your Children’ to one who has none by one who also has none. – R. Hari.” (For those unfamiliar with Sangh cadre, we were both pracharaks and pracharaks do not get married)
Pracharak is aniket (one who doesn’t have a niket or abode), he is certainly allocated a base city which the organisation decides as per the organisation’s requirements. It has already been mentioned that Shri Ranga Hari Ji’s base was Mumbai. While stationed there, he once happened to visit Gujarat and together we visited a well-known industrialist’s house. At the outset of the conversation, the industrialist asked him, “Hari Ji when did you arrive?” He was curious to know the duration of his planned stay in Gujarat; hence he added, “And when are you going to return?” Hari Ji swiftly responded by saying, “I am going to leave for Delhi after three days. Not return. My official base is Mumbai. When I go to Mumbai only then I say I return”. To witness one displaying such presence of mind even in a casual conversation was astounding for me and also quite impressive.
Shri Ranga Hari Ji was an institution. Through his life, conduct and behaviour, he imparted much to many people. Moreover, the content he penned about his death, sensed some years prior to that final moment, is equally inspiring and profound. Sealed letters addressed to the functionaries of the Kerala region were handed over to the prant pracharak and kept safely with an instruction to open those sealed letters only after his departure from the body. In the letters, he wrote, “While still alive a man can do things as he wills but the tasks that must be done once when he dies he cannot do on his own. He relies on others to do it for him. Therefore it is my prayer that – Do not cremate my body in a crematorium allocated for members of a specific caste. Instead, cremate my body where anybody can be cremated. I did not practise caste-based discrimination throughout my life, I wish to maintain the same even after my death. The historic Aiyvaram Matham where the Pandavas performed pinda danam (Hindu ritual of giving homage to the body of the deceased) is located on the banks of the Bharata River in Kerala. My last rite should be performed there. And let my ashes and cremains be immersed in a local waterbody nearby, instead of spreading those across two-three places like that of a celebrity. I have performed my shraadha and pinda danam in Brahmakapal (a holy place in the Himalayas close to the sacred Badrinath shrine), therefore there is no need for anyone to perform these rituals for me. I rest the proprietary rights of all my intellectual works and publications in Sangh. The practice of wrapping the bodies of Communist workers in a red cloth before cremating them in fire is prevalent in Kerala. In response to that the practice of wrapping the dead bodies of Swayamsevaks in saffron cloth before cremating may have gained steam in Kerala. But it is inappropriate. Saffron is the representative of our Guru (the guiding light). So, kindly do not wrap my body in a saffron cloth.” These were the last wishes of Ranga Hari Ji, which he had penned down. He led a life that was worth emulating and even in the process of dying, he illuminated many minds and lit the path for the seeker.
Shri Ranga Hari Ji worded his last prayer in the following three Sanskrit shlokas.
करणीयं कृतं सर्वम् तज्जन्म सुकृतं मम
धन्योस्मि कृतकृत्योस्मि गच्छाम्यद्य चिरं गृहम् ॥ १ ॥
कार्यार्थं पुनरायातुम् तथाप्याशास्ति मे हृदि
मित्रै सह कर्म कुर्वन् स्वान्त: सुखमवाप्नुयाम् ॥ २ ॥
एषा चेत् प्रार्थना धृष्टा क्षमस्व करुणानिधे
कार्यमिदं तवैवास्ति तावकेच्छा बलीयसी ॥ ३ ॥
Meaning – Having completed the tasks assigned to me I am thankful and grateful and today I proceed to my eternal abode. Also, I wish to come back to engage in the same task all over again. I am certain I will feel self-satisfied in doing more of this work along with my co-workers. If I have displayed impudence with this prayer of mine, then, Oh treasure of all mercy! Do forgive me. This ‘work’ is also yours and your wish is paramount.
These measured and hopeful words spoken at the time of one’s passing to another realm stir up my consciousness with the poetry of the gifted Marathi poet Shri BB Borkar.
देखणा देहांत तो जो, सागरी सूर्यास्त सा ।
अग्निचा पेरून जातो रात्रगर्भी वारसा ।
If the words were to be translated they would read as –
That death is beautiful too, like the last glimmers of the ocean-sun, That bequeaths a trail of Fire, to the dark womb
of the ascendent.
A man who scaled heights like that of the mighty Himalayas walked in our midst, we had the opportunity of conversing with him as his co-workers. Ordinary humans like us have been graced with the shower of his affection – all this feels like a dream. My humble obeisances and glories to the great man, resourceful mentor and guide who developed an array of Sangh workers who are single-mindedly dedicated to putting up the fight against the violent Communist ideology at the seat of communism – Kerala.
देखणी ती पाउले जी ध्यास पंथे चालती ।
वाळवंटातून सुद्धा स्वस्ति पद्में रेखती ॥
Glorious are those feet, that march to the goal, On the shifting sands of time, blaze the imprints of a spirited soul.