Birthday: May 28, 1883
Died At Age: 82
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Veer Savarkar
Born Country: India
Born in: Bhagur
Famous as: Independence Activist, Reformer
father: Damodar Savarkar
siblings: Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, Maina Damodar Savarkar, Narayan Damodar Savarkar
children: Prabhakar Savarkar, Prabhat Chiplunkar, Vishwas Savarkar
Died on: February 26, 1966
place of death: Mumbai
Cause of Death: Euthanasia
Founder/Co-Founder: Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha
education: City Law School (1909), Fergusson College (1902–1905), Wilson College, Mumbai, Mumbai University (MU)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, also known as Veer Savarkar, was an Indian independence activist, lawyer, writer, and politician, best known for formulating the “Hindutva” philosophy. Born into a Hindu Brahmin family in Nashik, Maharashtra, India, Vinayak had always been a staunch supporter of the “Hindu nation” theory for India since his early years. At the age of 12, he was one of the rioters who demolished a village mosque in the Hindu–Muslim riots in the area. Following his high-school education, he enrolled at the ‘Fergusson College’ in Pune and began his political activities. He later moved to the United Kingdom to study law and founded the ‘Abhinav Bharat Society.’ He also joined the Indian independence struggle by working with groups such as the ‘Free India Society’ and ‘India House.’ In 1910, he was arrested in London for anti-establishment activities. He made an attempt to escape but was captured and sent to the notorious ‘Cellular Jail’ in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He was later freed in exchange for his promises of renouncing his involvement in the Indian independence movement. He later served as the president of the ‘Hindu Mahasabha’ and fiercely protested against the partition of India in 1947. He was also considered one of the culprits behind the planning of the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, but the charges against him were removed due to lack of evidence.
Childhood & Early Life
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on May 28, 1883, in Nashik, Maharashtra, to Radhabai and Damodar Savarkar. He was born into an upper-middle class Marathi Hindu Brahmin family. He had two brothers and a sister.
His father was a strict disciplinarian and a highly religious man. The kids would read ancient Hindu epics, such as the ‘Mahabharata’ and the ‘Ramayana.’ As a result, Vinayak developed a strong appreciation for the Hindu way of life ever since he was young.
When he turned 6, he attended a local village school. He grew up as a kid who had an insatiable desire to read. He would read magazines, newspapers, and books. History and poetry were his favorite subjects. He wrote a poem and sent it to a Pune newspaper when he was 10 years. The publishers published it without knowing his actual age.
He had developed a strong pro-Hindu stance ever since he was in school. When he was 12, he joined a party of rioters who burned a mosque following the Hindu–Muslim riots in his village.
By the late 1890s, his parents had passed away. Soon, his elder brother, Ganesh, took over as the provider of the family. By then, Savarkar had developed a keen interest in the Indian independence movement and had started following leaders such as Lala Lajpat Rai.
Following his high-school graduation, Vinayak moved to Pune and joined the ‘Fergusson College.’ He then moved to London to study law.
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Involvement in the Indian Struggle for Independence
Vinayak had been a nationalist ever since his younger years, and that sentiment grew stronger over time. While he was still in college in Pune, he supported the use of Indian-made goods and protested against British goods. It was the early 1900s. He also delivered many speeches in his college to bring other young men and women to join him in the struggle.
The entire country was feeling the waves of nationalism in those times, fueled by Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, and many other leaders of the independence movement against the British governance.
A well-read man, he cited many examples from Italy and Germany and enticed young people to do something similar.
He founded an underground group called the ‘Abhinav Bharat Society,’ or the ‘Young India Society.’ Under his direction, the members of the group wrote speeches and books highlighting the ruthlessness of the British government over the Indians. His popularity shot up during that time. He moved place to place, delivering fiery speeches.
In October 1905, he made waves when he collected a pile of foreign clothes and burned them. It was the first demonstration of its kind in the country, but drawing inspiration from the incident, several other such events began making news all over the country.
This act was not seen in a kind light by his college administration, as it was a state-run college. He was forbidden to live in the hostel. However, he later graduated.
He moved to London for further studies, and even there, he carried on with his efforts. He collected a group of young Indian students and formed the ‘Free India Society’ there, to protest against the British rule in India.
His protest turned violent when he began smuggling guns and ammunition to India. He even told his peers the formula to make bombs. Back in India, the ‘Abhinav Bharat’ movement was also becoming immensely popular, as it got in touch with anti-British leaders from countries such as Egypt, China, and Russia.
Vinayak cleared the final barrister exam in London but was not given the degree due to his anti-establishment activities. Later, when he was offered a degree in exchange for giving up his political aspirations, he refused.
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By 1909, the tension between the Indian revolutionaries and the British authorities was at its pinnacle. His younger brother, Narayan, was arrested on the charges of murdering a senior British official. Savarkar was apprehended in London and was sent on a ship to India, where his trial awaited him.
Imprisonment & Later Life
The ship taking Savarkar to India was docked at Marseilles, France. He slipped through a porthole and ran through the streets of France when he was captured by the French authorities. He requested the French to not extradite him as he wanted an asylum in the country, but his request was denied according to the international laws. Soon, he was handed over to the British.
Upon reaching Bombay, his trial began and he was found guilty on many charges. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He was transported to the ‘Cellular Jail’ in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which was one of the most notorious prisons in the world, as it subjected the prisoners to inhuman circumstances.
In jail, he wrote many essays, which were later compiled in books. It was also during his prison sentence that his stand on the “Hindutva” developed.
He was freed by the British in 1921, after he signed a plea for clemency, which had him renouncing all his political activities once freed. He also notoriously wrote apology letters to the British before he was freed.
He eventually moved to Ratnagiri, and holding up his promise to not be involved in the freedom movement anymore, he began promoting the philosophy of “Hindutva.” Thus, he promoted the Hindu way of life among all Indians, which indirectly, separated non-Hindus from his idea of an ideal India.
He was also a strong hater of the ‘Indian National Congress’ and the ‘Quit India Movement.’ Thus, from a fiery freedom fighter, he turned into some sort of a religious leader.
One of the followers of his ideology, Nathuram Godse, murdered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Savarkar was investigated as a potential perpetrator. However, due to lack of evidence, he was freed of all the charges against him.
Death & Legacy
Savarkar passed away on February 26, 1966, at the age of 82, after a prolonged illness. He had refused treatment.
Due to the lack of his contribution to the freedom movement during the last few years of the freedom struggle, he was never part of the discourse of the Indian freedom struggle. He was only remembered for his idea of a “Hindu nation,” which did not find its way into the secular and inclusive state that India went on to become.
The ‘Bharatiya Janata Party,’ a political party, was formed partly based on Savarkar’s ideas of India. The party first came to power in 1998, and hence, Savarkar once again became part of a national political discourse. However, the liberal and secular section in India strongly opposes his theories to this date.