K. B. Hedgewar

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Keshav Baliram Hedgewar
Dr. Hedgevar.jpg
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar

(1889-04-01)1 April 1889
Died21 June 1940(1940-06-21) (aged 51)
NationalityBritish Indian
Other namesDoctorji
OccupationPhysician, Political activist
Known forFounder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1 April 1889 – 21 June 1940), also known as "Doctorji" within his organisation, was the founding Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a prominent member of the right wing party Hindu Mahasabha.[1] Hedgewar founded the RSS in Nagpur in 1925, with the intention of promoting the concept of a united India rooted in Hinduism ideology.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Hedgewar was born on Pratipada, Chaitra, Shukla Paksha, Vikram Samvat 1946 (1 April 1889) in a Marathi Deshastha Brahmin[4][5][6] family in Nagpur. His parents were Baliram Pant Hedgewar and Revati, a couple of modest means. There were originally from a village called Kandurti in Andhra Pradesh, and Hedgewar's forefathers had moved to Nagpur a few generations back. The couple had six children - three daughters and three sons, Mahadev, Sitaram and the youngest, Keshav. When Keshav was thirteen, both his parents succumbed to the epidemic of plague.[7] His elder brothers Mahadev Pant, and Sitaram Pant ensured that he received a good education.[citation needed]

He studied in Neel City High School in Nagpur. Then, he did his high school studies at the Rashtriya Vidyalaya in Yavatmal and later in Pune. After matriculating, he was sent to Kolkata by B. S. Moonje (a member of the Congress who later became the national President of the Hindu Mahasabha) in 1910 to pursue his medical studies.[8][9] After passing the L.M.S. Examination from the National Medical College in June 1914, he completed a yearlong apprenticeship and returned to Nagpur in 1915 as a physician.[10]

Formation of RSS[edit]

Hedgewar actively participated in Indian National Congress in the 1920s, but he became disillusioned with their policies and politics. The outbreak of the Hindu-Muslim riot in 1923 made him ponder over an alternate model of nation-building in India. He was deeply influenced by the writings of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. He considered that the cultural and religious heritage of Hindus should be the basis of Indian nationhood.[11]

Hedgewar and his initial followers during an RSS meeting in 1939

Hedgewar founded RSS in 1925 on the day of Vijayadashami with an aim to organise Hindu community for its cultural and spiritual regeneration and make it a tool in getting the country free from foreign domination.[2][12] Hedgewar insisted on the term 'rashtriya' (national) for his exclusively 'Hindu' organization, for he wanted to re-assert the identity of Hindu with 'rashtriya'. This can be confirmed by the 'prarthana'(prayer) sung at the end of every shakha meeting, along with the slogan of Bharat Mata Ki Jai.[13] Hedgewar created a female wing of the organization in 1936.[14][15]

His initial followers included Bhaiyaji Dani, Babasaheb Apte, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, Balasaheb Deoras, and Madhukar Rao Bhagwat, among others. The Sangh was growing in Nagpur and the surrounding districts. and it soon began to spread to other provinces. Hedgewar went to a number of places and inspired the youths for taking up the Sangh work. Gradually all his associates had begun to endearingly call him 'Doctorji.'[16] Upon his urging, Swayamsevaks went to far-off cities like Kashi, Lucknow etc., for their further education and started 'Shakhas' there.[citation needed]

Political activities post formation of RSS[edit]

After founding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925, Hedgewar started the tradition of keeping the RSS away from the anti-British Indian Independence movement. The RSS carefully avoided any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British. The RSS biographer C. P. Bhishikar states, "After establishing Sangh, Doctor Saheb in his speeches used to talk only of Hindu organization. Direct comment on Government used to be almost nil."[17][page needed][18]

When the Congress passed the Purna Swaraj resolution in its Lahore session in December 1929, and called upon all Indians to celebrate 26 January 1930 as Independence Day, Hedgewar issued a circular asking all the RSS shakhas (branches) to observe the occasion through hoisting and worship of the Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag), rather than the Tricolor (which was, by consensus, considered the flag of the Indian national movement at that time).[19][20][21] 1930 was the only year when the RSS celebrated 26 January and it stopped the practice from the next year onwards.[19] However, such celebration became a standard feature of the freedom movement and often came to mean violent confrontation with the official police.[19] C. P. Bhishikar states,[22]

[In April 1930], Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for 'Satyagraha' against the British Government. Gandhi himself launched the Salt Satyagraha undertaking his Dandi Yatra. Dr. Hedgewar decided to participate only individually and not let the RSS join the freedom movement officially. He sent information everywhere that the Sangh will not participate in the Satyagraha. However those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited. [23][24]

Hedgewar emphasized that he participated in the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930 in individual capacity, and not as a RSS member. His concern was to keep the RSS out of the political arena.[25]According to Hedgewar’s biography, when Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha in 1930, he sent information everywhere that the RSS will not participate in the Satyagraha. However those wishing to participate individually in it were not prohibited.[26]


His lack of enthusiasm in Independence Movement is heavily criticized by Anti-RSS groups. According to some sources, Hedgewar was actively discouraging RSS cadres to not join the movement which was led by Gandhi.[27]

“..there was the movement in 1930–31. At that time many other people had gone to Doctorji (Hedgewar). This delegation requested Doctorji that this movement will give independence and Sangh should not lag behind. At that time, when a gentleman told Doctorji that he was ready to go to jail, Doctorji said: ‘Definitely go. But who will take care of your family then?’

That gentleman replied: ‘I have sufficiently arranged resources not only to run the family expenses for two years but also to pay fines according to the requirements’.

Then Doctorji told him: ‘If you have fully arranged for the resources then come out to work for the Sangh for two years’. After returning home that gentleman neither went to jail nor came out to work for the Sangh.”

— Undoing India the RSS Way, Shamsul Islam [27]

Death and legacy[edit]

Hedgewar Statue at the RSS office in Nagpur

His health deteriorated in later years of his life. Often he suffered from chronic back pain. He started delegating his responsibilities to M. S. Golwalkar, who later succeeded him as Sarsanghachalak of RSS.[28][29]:50 In January 1940, he was taken to Rajgir in Bihar for the hot-spring treatment.[18]:189

He attended the annual Sangh Shiksha Varg in 1940, where he gave his last message to Swayamsevaks, saying: 'I see before my eyes today a miniature Hindu Rashtra."[29][19]:25 He died on the morning of 21 June 1940 in Nagpur. His last rites were performed in the locality of Resham Bagh in Nagpur, which was later developed as Hedgewar Smruti Mandir.[29][30][31]

Hedgewar was described as "a great son of Mother India" by former President of India Pranab Mukherjee during his visit to Hedgewar's birthplace in Nagpur.[32]

Institutes named after him[edit]

  • Shree Keshav Co operative Credit Society Ltd. Junagadh, Gujarat.
  • Dr. Hedgewar Institute Of Medical Sciences & Research (Dhimsr) Amravati[33]
  • Dr. Hedgewar Shikshan Pratishthan Ahmednagar[34]
  • Dr. K. B. Hedgewar High School Goa[35]
  • Dr. Hedgewar Aarogya Sansthan, Karkardooma, New Delhi, Delhi 110032[36]
  • Hedgewar Hospital, Aurangabad.


  1. ^ Kumar, Sumit (10 May 2016). Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. Mumbai: Prabhat Prakashan. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ a b Taneja, S. P. (2009). Society and politics in India. Delhi, India: Swastik Publishers & Distributors. p. 332. ISBN 978-81-89981-29-7.
  3. ^ N.V.Subramanian (29 August 2012). "All in the Family". News Insight. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Remembering RSS Founder Dr KB Hedgewar on his 123th Birthday on Yugadi".
  5. ^ Smyth, Douglas C. (1972). "The Social Basis of Militant Hindu Nationalism". The Journal of Developing Areas. 6 (3): 327. JSTOR 4189906.
  6. ^ Goodrick-Clarke,, N. (2000). Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism. New York, NY: NYU Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-8147-3110-4. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  7. ^ John Zavos (2000). The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in India. Oxford University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-19-565140-9.
  8. ^ Koenraad Elst (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: ideological development of Hindu revivalism. Rupa & Co. p. 144. ISBN 978-81-7167-519-7.
  9. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (1999). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s : Strategies of Identity-building, Implantation and Mobilisation (with Special Reference to Central India). Penguin Books India. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-14-024602-5.
  10. ^ Kelkar, D. V. (4 February 1950). "The R.S.S.". Economic Weekly.
  11. ^ Malik, Yogendra (1994). Hindu nationalists in India : the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Boulder: Westview Press. p. 158. ISBN 0-8133-8810-4.
  12. ^ Moyser, George (1991). Politics and religion in the modern world. London New York: Routledge. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-415-02328-3.
  13. ^ Basu, Datta (1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. New Delhi: Orient Longman Limited. p. 18. ISBN 9780863113833.
  14. ^ Jayawardena, Kumari (1996). Embodied violence : communalising women's sexuality in South Asia. London New Jersey: Zed Books. pp. 126–167. ISBN 978-1-85649-448-9.
  15. ^ "Hindutva's Other Half". Hindustan Times. 27 April 2014.
  16. ^ Partha Banerjee (1998). In the Belly of the Beast: The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India : an Insider's Story. Ajanta Books International. p. 42.
  17. ^ Bhishikar, C. P. (1994). Sangh Vriksh ke Beej: Dr. Keshav Rao Hedgewar. New Delhi: Suruchi Prakashan.
  18. ^ a b Shamsul Islam (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. pp. 188–. ISBN 978-81-7495-236-3.
  19. ^ a b c d Tapan Basu (1 January 1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Orient Blackswan. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-0-86311-383-3.
  20. ^ Vedi R. Hadiz (27 September 2006). Empire and Neoliberalism in Asia. Routledge. pp. 252–. ISBN 978-1-134-16727-2.
  21. ^ Ram Puniyani (21 July 2005). Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times. SAGE Publications. pp. 141–. ISBN 978-0-7619-3338-0.
  22. ^ Seshadri, H. V. (1981). Dr. Hedgewar, the epoch-maker: a biography. Sahitya Sindhu.
  23. ^ Bhishikar, C. P. (1994). Sangh Vriksh ke Beej: Dr. KeshavRao Hedgewar. Suruchi Prakashan. p. 20.
  24. ^ Ram Puniyani (6 July 2005). Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times. SAGE Publications. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-81-321-0206-9.
  25. ^ Christopher Jaffrelot (1996). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics. Penguin India. p. 74. ISBN 0140246029.
  26. ^ Islam, Shamsul (2006). Religious Dimensions of Indian Nationalism: A Study of RSS. Media House. ISBN 9788174952363.
  27. ^ a b Islam, Shamsul (2002). Undoing India the RSS Way. Media House. ISBN 9788174951427.
  28. ^ Golwalkar, M. S. A bunch of thoughts. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  29. ^ a b c Pralay Kanungo (1 January 2002). RSS's tryst with politics: from Hedgewar to Sudarshan. Manohar. ISBN 978-81-7304-398-7.
  30. ^ "Nagpur: RSS founder's memorial Smruti Mandir gets tourism status". www.timesnownews.com.
  31. ^ Bhishikara, C. P. (1999). Shri Guruji: Pioneer of a New Era. Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana. p. 165. ISBN 9788186595169.
  32. ^ "Pranab hails Hedgewar as 'great son of India'". Business Standard. 7 June 2018. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  33. ^ "Dr.Hedgewar Institute Of Medical Sciences & Research, Amravati". Archived from the original on 5 November 2014.
  34. ^ "Dr.Hedgewar Shikshan Pratishthan, Ahmednagar".
  35. ^ "Dr. K. B. Hedgewar High School, Goa".
  36. ^ "Dr.Hedgewar Aarogya Sansthan, Karkardooma, New Delhi, Delhi 110032".

Further reading[edit]

  • Sinha, Rakesh (2003). Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (in Hindi). New Delhi: Publication Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. ASIN B00H1YYO3M.
  • Rakesh Sinha's Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (in Telugu) by Vaddi Vijayasaradhi. ISBN 8123011865.
  • Bapu, Prabhu (2013). Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial North India, 1915-1930: Construction Nation and History. Routledge. ISBN 0415671655.
  • Basu, Tapan; Sarkar, Tanika (1993). Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. Orient Longman. ISBN 0863113834.
  • Bhishikar, C. P. (2014) [First published in 1979]. Keshav: Sangh Nirmata (in Hindi). New Delhi: Suruchi Sahitya Prakashan. ISBN 9381500185.
  • Chitkara, M. G. (2004). Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: National Upsurge. APH Publishing. ISBN 8176484652.
  • Curran, Jean Alonzo (1951). Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the R.S.S. International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  • Frykenberg, Robert Eric (1996). "Hindu fundamentalism and the structural stability of India". In Martin E. Marty; R. Scott Appleby. Fundamentalisms and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies and Militance. University of Chicago Press. pp. 233–235. ISBN 0226508846.
  • Jaffrelot, Christophe (1996). The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 978-1850653011.

External links[edit]