Swami Sharddhananda Complete Biography part 3


The Patiala Case

On 11th and 12th Oct. 1909 the Patiala police rounded up 75 Aryasamaj members and imprisoned them in a camp to be tried for sedition by a special tribunal. This action by Maharaja of Patiala shocked whole of Aryasamaj. Those who were weak hearted left the membership of Aryasamaj. Many reputed lawyers refused to handle the case. Munshiram took out his lawyer’s license from his drawer, where it had lain for years, and taken up the defense of the accused. (Inside congress p-38)

On 18th Jan. a petition was presented to the Maharaja by the lawyers for the defense, in which the accused affirmed they were never seditious, apologized for any actions that may have given such an impression, and promised to be careful in the future. Even a suggestion came from govt. of India to end this trial as it was becoming more and more embarrassing. On 17th February the Maharaja finally declared in answer to the petition as “it was never meant to infer that every member of the Aryasamaj in India or that society was seditious… I am willing to accept this apology and the assurance given and order that the trial of the accused be stopped and proceedings against them withdrawn”. (Vindication p-231). Although it was a considerable victory for the defense but the last sting of order was that all the accused that were in the employ of the state were summarily dismissed, and also banished from the state. All Indian newspapers condemned Maharaja of detention of aryas for four months on mere suspicion only. Munshiram not only saved Aryasamaj organization in this hour of trial but he also saw it as great opportunity to revitalize the institution.

The encounters with the government proved Munshiram as the real defender of his faith with characteristic passion and enthusiasm. Overall it leads to elevation of Munshiram as strong leader of Aryasamaj at national level.

Munshiram Transformation into Swami Sharddhananda

On 12th April 1917, Munshiram took sanyas in the presence of 20,000 witnesses. The ancient ceremony symbolized the final severance of the bonds of the old life. He performed his own funeral rites and shed the garments characteristic of mahatma Munshiram. The outward indication of the entrance into new state of life was the shaving of head and beard, the assumption of the ochre robe, and the acceptance of a new name. Munshiram expressed himself in his biography (p-451-452) on sanyas “it is faith (shraddha) that was the inspiration of the life I have led so far. Faith has always been the revered goddess of my life. Today also it is faith that has driven me to enter the state of sanyas. That is why, invoking as witness this sacrificial fire, I name Sharddhananda, so that I may succeed in filling my future life too with that same faith”

Normally the candidate named another sanyasi as his guru, who then conducted part of the ceremony, Munshiram declared god to be his guru, and performed all rites himself. He cut of all his ties with family, professional career, power structure of Aryasamaj, personal property. As sanyasi he was totally free individual not answerable to any demands of the social or ritual power structures of Hinduism.

Swami Sharddhananda and Mahatma Gandhi

C.F. Andrews visit to gurukul and friendship with swami Ji brought him contact with Rabindranath Tagore and especially Mahatma Gandhi. When in 1913-1914 Gandhi asked Gokhale to collect funds to support South Africa Satyagraha, the gurukul has responded admirably, by foregoing some extra food and doing manual work at dam construction site students collected 1500 rupees for the fund. Gandhi wrote a personal letter of thanks to Munshiram, telling him how C.F. Andrews description of the gurukul and its principal made him want to visit him soon. When the pupils of the phoenix ashram came to India, they spent several months at the gurukul, and in April 1915 Mahatma Gandhi himself arrived of his first visit. He said, ‘I am worthy of teaching anybody, but I yearn to learn myself from anyone who is a servant of his country. (BIO p-368-373)

Swami Sharddhananda In Politics

Until 1919 swami ji has remained completely aloof from active politics unto that time. He did not have faith in political games. He considered them to be mere show. But when Gandhi ji entered the arena of politics with an approach to politics that included self-denial, the swami was deeply attracted .In response to Gandhi ji Rowlett bill protest (4 March, 1919) his joining of politics was instantaneous, and was sealed in his conversation with the mahatma the following day (Mere pita p-199).Overnight with his son Indra and Dr Ansari he addressed his first mass meeting followed by Bombay, Baroda, Surat, Broach and Ahmadabad.

Brave Sanyasi

On 30th march in Delhi a peaceful hartal turned into violent riots near railway station and chandni chowk leading to death of five persons and fourteen injured. Swami Ji arrived at both places after shooting and a peaceful public meeting was held as papal park. Swami Ji followed by large crowd were walking back home along chandni chowk. On the way group of Manipuri soldiers approached from the opposite direction. Accidentally a shot was fired, and the crowd moved in apprehension and indignation. The swami advanced towards the soldiers who were perplexed and scared by the threatening mass of people. Apparently their officers were not present and they also had difficulty understanding Hindi. They pointed their rifles at the swami, who bared his chest and invited them to fire. Luckily a European officer arrived on the scene and defused the situation. This incident firmly established the swami in people’s mind as an intrepid leader. It also planted in the swami’s mind the firm belief that he was able to control the crowd even in its ugliest mood. He wrote that the crowd could contain itself no longer and was about to rush, when a wave of my hand and a short appeal to their vow stopped them ( INCO p-60). This day was considered as “The Day of Delhi Martyrs”

History in Making

On April 4, 1919 prayers were to be offered at the Jama Masjid for the victims. Muslim dignitaries went to fetch the swami, brought him to the mosque, and requested him to preach to the congregation from the pulpit. It was an unbelievable and never to be repeated scene. A Hindu sanyasi in his ochre robes preaching from the very pulpit of the greatest mosque in India. Even the greatest follower of Hindu Muslim unity mahatma Gandhi did not have opportunity of addressing from Jama Masjid pulpit. It was followed by addressing from Fatehpuri Masjid on 6th April, 1919.

His theme of martyrdom in his famous speech at the Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid was same. Starting with famous Vedic Mantra “OM VISHWANI DEV” he said “O god of the Hindus and Mohammedans. The innocent blood of Hindus and Mohammedans should not flow in vain…grant us patience and perseverance so that we may not be deterred by the sight of the blood of the innocent, but may offer thanks to thee that the innocent were granted power to sacrifice their lives. Their sacrifice has saved the world from bloodshed. Whatever has happened, in that lies thy secret. Grant us power that we may not be afraid of worldly strength; that we may regard military power as worthless and may recognize the piety of the martyrs. May we be prepared to sacrifice ourselves for the freedom and progress of our country. Grant power unto us Asiatics. Give to thirty-two crores of asiatics the strength of sixty-four crores that we may oppose the power of all materialists and bring forth the reign of peace and tranquility.” (Government of India file, political b, may 1919.nos 268-273)

His speech from Masjid had national repercussions. For full twenty days it appeared that Ramraj had set in…Goondas had ceased to exist; every Hindu woman was treated like his own mother, sister or daughter by every Muslim and vice versa. (INCO p-65, 67) Baring his chest to the soldiers and sermons at Jama Masjid, both events had that apocalyptic aura, which aroused in him the faith and commitment of a savior of the people.

Holding Amritsar Session

After the massacre of jallianwala bagh of Amritsar (1919) there was tension in whole Punjab. Congress committee yearly session was earlier planned in Amritsar but due to tension in Amritsar venue it was decided to be shifted to other place. Swami Ji went to Allahabad in congress working committee meeting. He strongly argued that yearly venue of session should not be shifted and should remain in Amritsar. A committee comprising Swami ji, Motilal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malviya ji was appointed to inquiry into Punjab occurrences. (P.Sitaramayya, the history of the Indian national congress 1885-1935 p- 293) Swami Ji tour to Punjab witnessed at close hand the misery and heart break that the excesses of the martial law regime had brought to his homeland. His reluctant decision to accept the office of chairman of the reception committee for the 1919 Amritsar session was partly caused by that experience, but the other reasons that prompted his acceptance clarify his attitude to politics at that time. He himself spelt out these reasons in his opening address at the congress session, “I am not standing on this platform today on account of a political movement, but for the fulfillment of a different type of duty.” the first reason why he was there was that he had been urged to take up this task by the imprisoned Punjabi leaders, and had been implored to do so by the wives of the political prisoners. The second reason he called my ashram and its duties, explaining it thus, up to today this Indian national congress has been carrying out normal political work, but today it has to climb to the summit of religion.

(Quotations from original Hindi texts of the swami’s Amritsar conference address obtained from Gandhi memorial museum, Delhi) This conviction of the religious dimension of the movement had been strengthened by the advice Gandhi ji had given him in a letter saying “my conviction is that as long as we do not enter into the political field with dharmic aims, so long will we be unable to succeed in the pure and true amelioration of India. If you become the chairman of the reception committee, you will be able to introduce dharmic feelings within the congress” (INCO p-103)

Thus we understand that it was a religious crusade that propelled the swami ji to political platform.

Differences with the Mahatma

With the passage of time in political scenario differences between swami ji and mahatma Gandhi appeared on various issues. May it be the difference on participation in hunter commission or about Montague reforms. Swami ji was dissatisfied by no cooperation movement, burning of foreign cloths, bardoli satyagraha, monopoly of Gandhian methods of working, decision without consulting committee etc. etc. These were minor issues but the main difference was on the issue of the untouchability and the Hindu Muslim relations.

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