Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Savarkar's Heroic Historic Marseilles Leap

Hi, Everyone! Savarkar’s Marseilles leap is my favorite subject of research, and fortunately, I have been able to ferret out all kinds of details about it—two of my favorites are: the actual location where the S.S. Morea was docked and the mapping out of Savarkar’s escape route—I am giving a link below to my articles that give particulars of Savarkar’s Great Escape (as I like to call it) and also the videos that I have made for it. I was not able to include this topic in my book Burning for Freedom. It was beyond the scope of it. I compromised by including it in the introduction. Here it is:




he day—July 8, 1910; the hour—early morning; the place—the harbor at Marseilles, France. As the fingers of dawn curled across the sky, a tiny figure wriggled out of the porthole from the belly of the SS Morea and took the historic leap into the ocean, the cry “Hail! Victory to Mother India!” on his lips. That was the twenty-seven-year-old Vinayak Damodar Savarkar devoted heart and soul from childhood to just one cause: India for the Indians!

By the early 1900s, Indians were brainwashed into being satisfied with their slave status under the British rule. In this ambience, Savarkar—a Chitpavan Brahmin Hindu with the blood of the warrior Peshwas[1] flowing through his veins—was the first freedom fighter to proclaim that nothing less than total independence would do for India. Certainly, more drastic measures were required than the mewling of the Indian National Congress[2] to the British government for mere concessions for India. Savarkar applied his considerable brilliance, intelligence, and charm to the problem. He established Abhinav Bharat, his secret revolutionary society, which spread surely and swiftly within India. In July 1906, at the age of twenty-three, he set off for London, ostensibly to become a barrister. In reality his goals were manifold: studying the British law to circumvent it in his mission; spreading patriotism in the hearts of the intelligentsia of India, the Indian youth studying there; contacting revolutionaries of other countries and making a common cause for freedom of all slave countries; and making the plight of India an international issue.

This young lion was extraordinarily successful in his mission. The British realized the danger Savarkar posed to their empire. But they had only enough proof to make a case against him for supplying arms to India. To doom him for eternity on that flimsy evidence, he had to be extradited to India. The laws there were molded, like putty, to quash the first sign of any threat to the British Empire. They had no grounds for it, though. Desperate, they tangled Savarkar in a concocted charge by using a speech he had given four years earlier in India! A warrant was then issued to extradite him to Bombay, India. He was charged with sedition, waging war against the King of England, and procuring and distributing arms in London and India. After a few gyrations by the courts in London, to circumvent Savarkar’s valid legal appeals that he be tried in England, an order was issued to execute the warrant. Now the Jaws of Hell—the judiciary system of India—could swallow him whole!

And here he was on this day making a final bid to escape just that fate. He swam single-mindedly until he reached the nine-foot high quay wall. At the second attempt—with only the grout between the dressed stone of the wall for toes and fingertips to grip!—he scaled that sheer wall. Incredibly, he had made it …! He now had a right to claim asylum in France. But no—he was not yet safe; his guards were chasing after him down the ramp to the quay. With no time to even catch his breath after that courageous, daredevil escape, he ran for his life—the guards hot on his heels. Seeing a French sergeant, he stopped and tried desperately to communicate his plight to him. But it was too late …! His guards swooped down upon him in French jurisdiction—quite, quite illegally—and dragged him willy-nilly back to the Morea—trampling all over the territorial sovereignty of France in the process.

His escape plan had failed, but in this failure was also success. Such gross miscarriage of justice would not, could not, be swept under the rug. An international hue and cry was raised. Savarkar’s heroic escape and the treachery of the British were exposed throughout the world. But the die was cast. Savarkar was now at the mercy of the British to do with him as they pleased. He was sentenced to a total of fifty years transportation[3] to the Cellular Jail in the remote and dreaded Andaman Islands.

The British had hoped, no doubt, that this was the last they would hear of this Prince of the Revolutionaries. They could not have been more wrong. At sixteen, he had taken an oath to fight for the freedom of his beloved country—Mother India must be freed from the British stranglehold; her honor must be reinstated! And even under the most horrendous conditions, there was never a day, never a moment, that Savarkar swerved from his path.

He suffered within the walls of the Cellular Jail from July 4, 1911, until May 21, 1921; he was then transferred to the Indian mainland jails as the Andaman Penal Colony was closed down. Hard labor, even being yoked to the oil mill like a bullock, was his lot for almost thirteen long years before he was conditionally released—though not set free—from jail on January 6, 1924.

Throughout his life, Savarkar remained ever uncompromising of his principles and duty. He says in his poem, Upon the Death Bed:

Those for the essence of the welfare of the human race,

Only such deeds did I consider to be righteous.

 Joyously have I borne this burden of my duty,

Ever true to my oath have I been.

He stood, unequivocally, for freedom and equality of all people. His ultimate political goal was a World Commonwealth of Nations. Savarkar believed that Hindus could work toward freedom and equality in the whole world. But first they needed to be free themselves.

Hail! Attaining freedom themselves—

To uphold the cause of love and equality,

For the protection of the good people—

The Hindus shall set free the world![4]

To this end he developed and published the concept of Hindutva in 1923—while still incarcerated—and later put forward his basis for a constitution for free India. The heritage and history of Hindustan[5] is age-old, going back thousands of years before the birth of the three great monotheistic religions. The people of Hindustan should feel a sense of belonging to it; Hindustan should be their fatherland[6] and their holy land. That is the crux of Savarkar’s Hindutva. As Savarkar puts it:

O Beloved Hindustan, you are

Our holy land! Our fatherland!

Our honor and our pride![7]

In 1937, Savarkar once again burst upon the political scene of India, free after twenty-seven years of British bondage. India was in dire straits; the political milieu then was one of Muslim appeasement, one of sacrificing Hindu rights. Injustice to anyone was intolerable to Savarkar. Undeterred by adverse publicity, maligning, or misrepresentation by his detractors, he fought to defend the rights of the Hindus; he fought to preserve the integrity of India, to reinstate the honor of his motherland without ripping her heart out or chopping off her arms and legs.

Burning for freedom, his heart beat but one refrain:

“O Goddess of Freedom,

Life is to die for you,

Death is to live without you!”[8]

Savarkar: The Great Escape, Part I

Savarkar: The Great Escape, Part II

Link to my article on Savarkar: The Great Escape:

-          Anurupa

[1] Prime Ministers of the Maratha rulers wielding the actual power.
[2] To be referred to as Congress throughout the novel.
[3] Exile to a penal colony.
[4] Quote from the translation of Savarkar’s poem, Hark What the Future Portends.
[5] Age-old name of India. Meaning of Hindustan is “Land of the Hindus.”
[6] In Hindutva, perspective of Hindustan is pitrubhumi, “the Land of the Ancestors.” Fatherland is the closest English translation of that Sanskrit word.
In the freedom movement, perspective of Hindustan is matrubhumi—motherland—the Divine Mother who gives birth to and nurtures the Hindustanis.
[7] Quote from the translation of Savarkar’s poem, Beloved Hindustan.
[8] Quote from the translation of Savarkar’s poem, Hail to You!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Savarkar arrives in the Cellular Jail

Hi, Everyone! So often people ask me: “But why do you want to write on Savarkar? Why Savarkar?” This question will immediately be answered upon reading my book Burning for Freedom, of course—as one of my literary critics has written, “the author pays unabashed homage to Savarkar in the book” and therein also I have revealed why I am doing so. But for those who have not the opportunity to read it, I will say in short that, even if we were to consider his character alone, Savarkar is greatly estimable as is revealed in every phase of his life. What to say when we have his dynamism, daring, very many talents, magnetic personality, and more thrown into the equation? To me Savarkar is the foremost karmayogi of unparalleled patriotism. From the earliest childhood he was devoted to doing his very best for his beloved Hindustan and never, ever committed any mean or underhanded act, nor held grudges; “country first” was his mantra and he carried it out to the very end, always being true to his country and people.

On this 104th anniversary of Savarkar’s entry into the Cellular Jail, I am writing of that time with quotes from Savarkar’s My Transportation for Life. It does illustrate Savarkar’s qualities very well.

June 27, 2011: A handcuffed Savarkar was taken aboard the S.S. Maharajah and lodged in the dark, dank, smelly area in its belly below the deck which was partitioned off by iron bars. He writes: “Climbing into that steamer to be transported for life was like putting a man in his own coffin. . . .I was being put on my funeral pyre. The only difference was that I felt what was happening to me while my corpse would have felt nothing.”

He was to share this “iron cage” with fifty of the most hardened criminals “inured to filth, cruelty, and crime . . . some even stricken with foul diseases”. The space was so inadequate that there was not even an inch to spare between their beddings. Savarkar writes: “My feet touched their heads, and their feet came up near my mouth. If I turned on the other side, I found that a mouth nearly touched my mouth.” As Savarkar suffered from bronchitis, he was given the only space—one that gave slightly more room and the merest breath of air—located by two casks in the corner over by the partition.

But this was no blessing. A terrible stench emanated from the casks—they were to be used as chamber pots for the convicts to relieve themselves. And indeed, one was actually using it when Savarkar arrived at his spot. Savarkar was greatly respected even by these hardened criminals. His fifty-year sentence made their fifteen years appear negligible. They had taken up the attitude “behold him, he is a barrister . . . what is our grief before him? Brothers, let us not think of ourselves, let us think of him”—and so in shame, the convict was about to leave the cask before his business was complete. But Savarkar would have none of that. Signaling him to carry on, Savarkar said: “The claims of the body cannot be put off. There is no shame in answering the call of nature. In a moment, I may follow you. Do it freely. We cannot help it. We cannot afford to feel ashamed in this wretched condition. I can smell, so you think, but do you not have a nose too? Why then should I feel the stink any more than you do?” At this another convict offered to swap spots with him. Savarkar declined the offer: “Why should I put you in the midst of dirt by exchanging my place with yours? I also must inure myself to this kind of life.” He writes re this incident: “My hearted melted when I heard this. His generous offer was a wonder to me. I said, ‘O my God, even in the hearts of the most sinful ones, thou makest thy abode, turning it into a shrine of worship and prayer. Thou turnest what is dirty and untouchable into the holiest of the holy—the sacred basil pot it becomes when it is no more than a sink of filth and crime.”

The four days journey, especially under these circumstances is indescribable. In addition, what Savarkar had gone through in the past year as the British used all the force of their might—and indeed they needed to do just that!—to aggravate his condition should never be forgotten: the contrived warrant issued for him; his voluntary return to London from the guaranteed safety of Paris and immediate capture; the bending of the laws of Britain to execute the dastardly warrant; his fantastic escape in Marseilles; his kidnap back to the S.S. Morea; the tense journey in close proximity of officers thoroughly aggravated by the spot his escape had put them in; his incarceration (under inhuman conditions) in Indian mainland jails as another farce was dragged out in the courts of India; and the incredible, unheard of sentencing of fifty years of transportation to the dreaded Andaman Islands.

There was one relief in that interminable journey. Some Indian travelers and officers aboard the S.S. Maharajah wanted to express their reverence towards Savarkar in some tangible way by doing something special for him. Not being able to single him out for any special treatment, they arranged for a special meal for all of them. Instead of the dried grams and peas which was the standard food for the convicts for duration of the journey, everyone one was taken out of the “iron cage” to the open deck above—that in itself was a high treat—and given a delicious meal of rice, fish, and more. The convicts expressed their good fortune in having Savarkar in their midst, to which Savarkar would invariably reply: “Well then, it was right, after all, that I was sentenced to transportation for life. You, at least, welcome it, it seems.”

And even here, Savarkar could only think of the good of his beloved country. He writes: “When anyone spoke to me, full of  passion and sincerity, that it grieved his heart to find me in this pitiable condition, my answer to him always was, ‘Then you must be ready to fight. India must be fully armed and ready to fight and win her freedom, whatever the cost of that struggle, whatever the ordeal she has to through to reach the goal.’ From the ordinary sailor to the highest officer of the ship, from the prisoner right up to the soldier, I had become an object of political discussion all around . . . And conviction came to them on matters of which they were never convinced previously.”

July 4, 2011: Upon disembarking at Port Blair, as Savarkar waited for his turn to be taken to the Cellular Jail he was struck by an idea—country first, as always! He writes: “it suddenly struck me that the islands were so located in the Bay of Bengal that they constituted the bastion in the naval fortification of India from the East. As such they had an abiding importance in the future defence of our country.  . . . We must turn this base of defence into a Naval fortress, not unlike the formidable Sindhu Durga in the glorious days of Shivaji.”

Even as Savarkar dreamed on of the future navy of a free India, he was rudely roused and told get on. “I got up, I took the bedding on my head, my pots and pans in one hand, and girding up the chains around my waist, I stood ready for further orders. The mind suffers pain like the body hurled suddenly from a great steep height into the deep valley below. Disillusioned, and consigning to the future the glorious picture I had drawn, I stood up to face the grim reality of the present. I was led from the wharf to go up a steep ascent. With heavy weights on my legs and with bare feet, I could not walk up as rapidly as I wished. . . . we reached the top and saw the main gate of the “Silver Jail” [the actual name of the Cellular jail]. The gate began to grate on its hinges. It opened, I went in, and it was shut behind me. I felt that I had entered the jaws of death.”

And indeed, that’s exactly what it was like.

The main purpose of the Cellular Jail was the housing of 600 convicts in utter isolation that the spirit of the most hardened rogue might be utterly broken within six months. Humanity and rehabilitation of the convicts was not a concept that the British were familiar with then. A diabolical plan, one that was successful beyond their wildest dreams, was developed and executed.

Indeed, just being incarcerated there, day in day out was enough to break the toughest convict. For the political prisoners, the unhygienic conditions, the beatings, insults, and excruciating hard labor crushed their soul. Six months was considered the outside limit by the authorities to house the most hardened rogue, Savarkar spent almost ten years within the walls of this monstrous torture chamber—many of them without even getting a glimpse of the world beyond.

I had the good fortune to pay homage to Savarkar, and all the political prisoners incarcerated there, at the Cellular Jail. It is a never-to-be-forgotten experience. Several months after that it occurred to me that there is precious little information on the architecture of the Cellular Jail and wrote an article on it. I also drew sketches (from memory) to illustrate the stark, brutal reality of the Cellular Jail. I am giving the sketches as well as the link to my article here:

- Anurupa Cinar


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No Rights for Savarkar in Free India

Hi, Everyone! Savarkar is a fifty-year veteran of the Indian freedom struggle. His contribution to the freedom struggle is tremendous. Yet he received no glory, no recognition when India gained freedom. At the very, very least he should have received some rights as a citizen of free democratic India. He didn’t get that either.

On the flimsiest of excuses, a mere trumped up order of the Commissioner of Police, he was arrested from his home on February 5, 1948 in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. They had no charge they could make against him, but saw fit to throw him in jail and keep him in isolation nevertheless. It was an unforgivable action taken by Nehru’s government.

Below is the excerpt from my Burning for Freedom which covers this shameful episode.

“Savarkar had issued his statement condemning the assassination of Gandhi. But the media painted Savarkar as the mastermind of the Gandhi-murder plot. Daily vituperation against him poured out. It didn’t seem to matter to anyone that there was no evidence, nothing to support this assumption! The Government went on a spree of making arrests. This government persecution struck fear in the hearts of many. Police were also making sweeping searches in Savarkar Sadan. These were grim days. Savarkar issued another statement, reiterating his view that anarchy was the great enemy of a newly independent nation.

February 4: Deputy Police Commissioner Nagarwala came to Savarkar Sadan with the State doctor, Dr. Mehta. Savarkar had to undergo a medical check-up and was declared fit—even though he was running a temperature at the moment and had been ailing the last two years.

February 5: At dawn, the familiar banging on the door was heard. Narayan, Gajanan’s brother who was taking over his duties in his absence, opened the door.

“We are here to arrest Mr. Vinayak Savarkar as a measure of preventive detention under the Bombay Public Security Measures Act!” announced Officer John Claus.

“Preventive detention …! What do you mean?” exclaimed Narayan.

“The Government of Bombay claims that Mr. Savarkar is promoting hatred by inciting Hindus against Muslims.’ He is also ‘inciting persons to commit acts of violence against Muslims and persons who are endeavoring to bring about unity between Hindus and Muslims.’ He is, therefore, acting ‘in a manner prejudicial to the public safety and peace of Greater Bombay’ and so must be detained.”

Narayan was chilled to the core. What a concocted reason for detaining Tatyarao…! The provisions of this Act were very nasty too. If charged with conspiracy to murder, the sentence was severe—perhaps death or transportation—and conviction was much easier to obtain for it than for a charge of abetment to murder. It would be a trial without a jury with only fifteen days time for appeals. Oh God! Oh dear God, he thought, the Government really wants to vanquish Tatyarao!

On shaky legs he went to wake Savarkar up. He was awake and getting his stuff together. Savarkar, very calm, very controlled, very remote, walked down the staircase toward Claus. Vishwas, Narayan, and Mai trailed behind him. Each wanted to hang on to Savarkar, prevent him from being taken—rail … rant … something! But Savarkar scorned a display of emotions at this time. Yes, this arrest, this whole persecution of him that the Government was indulging in, was a great insult, a great injustice; but neither he nor his family would dignify it with a protest or an emotional outburst. That was that! And so the little troop came down the stairs with whatever composure they could muster.

Just as Savarkar was about to step out, he stopped short. “Excuse me, sir. I would like to use the toilet,” he said.

Claus was taken aback; a vision of Savarkar’s historic escape from the bathroom porthole of the SS Morea shimmered before his eyes.

Savarkar gave a wry laugh, reading his mind. “Do not worry, sir. My request is not a ruse. I am too old now to pull off a stunt like that! Nor is there any reason for it.”

Claus looked sheepishly at the floor. A few minutes later, Savarkar was ready to get into the police van.

“I am a second-timer you can say, sir,” he said to Claus as he stepped in.

“What do you mean, Mr. Savarkar?” asked Claus, puzzled.

“I am an old hand at going to jail, you know. For fourteen years I was in prison in British India, and now I get to experience jail in free India too.”

Claus was discomfitted. He was not enjoying this duty—at all. The door of the van slammed shut and the van moved off, taking Savarkar to the same jail as Keshu and Gajanan.

Now Mai and Vishwas held each other and cried helplessly, as the van whisked Savarkar into the faint light of the dawn. His family, friends, associates, and even his lawyer would not hear from him again for a long, long time—until March 23, in fact.”


Thursday, August 14, 2014

I love my India

Hi, Everyone! On the occasion of this Independence day of India, I am just going to let a collection of my favorite Indian patriotic youtube videos speak for me:

 Jahan Dal Dal Pe Sone Ki

Jan Gan Man

Vande Mataram  

 Jayostute (part II)

Ab Tumhare Hawalein Watan Sathiyo

Ay Mere Watan Ke Logon

Taqat Watan Ki Humse Hain

 Ye Hindustan Mera

 Ay Watan

 I Love My India

 Ay Mere Pyare Watan

 NaMo NaMo

Vande Mataram!!!

- Anurupa

Friday, June 13, 2014

Babarao Savarkar excerpt 1 from Burning for Freedom

Hi, Everyone! As a tribute to Babarao (Ganesh) Savarkar (June 13, 1879 – March 16, 1945) on his birth anniversary, I am posting an excerpt on him—one of the scenes I utterly enjoyed writing—from my novel on Savarkar Burning for Freedom:

“We work with him on the freedom plan and make sure the rights of the Hindus are not sacrificed, then.” Babarao checked his watch. “Oh well, let us wait and see! The older kids must be home from school now. I am going to take them all, even little Chapala, to the beach. Baby Nima is only a few weeks old—it will give Vahini a break.”

The little troop headed for the beach. Just as they were about to turn into the beach lane, they heard shouts: “Babarao! Babarao!”

They stopped, surprised. Two figures were coming toward them practically at a run.

“Mohite! Namaskar,” said Babarao.

“Ah … Babarao … ah … namaskar!”

Mohite, of a plump figure, was somewhat out of breath with the short sprint. “We just missed you at the house. My friend here, Kambli, wanted to speak to you.”

“Well, let us get to the beach first, shall we? The children can play as we talk.”

At the beach, Babarao warned the children to stay close and away from the water. The currents didn’t make it safe to go in.

“Babarao,” said Ashok, “we will build Shivaji’s fort!”

Babarao beamed. “That’s my boy! Go for it.”

The older boys scavenged for some coconut shells to dig with. Prabhat watched over the little ones; no easy job, what with the twinkle-toed Harsh and the ‘I love to eat sand’ Chapala! Babarao settled down on a rock outcropping as the kids began the serious work of building a fort.

“Now, Kambli, what is it you want to talk about?”

Kambli was obviously a Congress member—wearing khadi and sporting the oval cap popularly known as the ‘Gandhi topi,’ a Congress member uniform.

“Well, Babarao … well …,” he said, smoothing his clipped mustache nervously. Unlike Tatyarao, who was soft-spoken and in control, Babarao was known to be excitable. His grip on the stick looked a little ominous—not, of course, that there was ever a time when he had used it on anyone. But he wouldn’t like today to be the first time! How stern Babarao looked; those sharp, deep-set eyes and thick eyebrows—quite ferocious!

Babarao banged his stick in the sand. “Kambli! We don’t have all day! Get on with it!”

Kambli came to with a start. “Babarao … I don’t think it behooves you to call the Mahatma a traitor.”

Babarao’s eyebrows snapped together; a wave of anger rushed to his head. He strove to master it. It wasn’t the first time anyone had said this to him, and it won’t be the last! Kambli stepped back two paces.

“I don’t say it without proof, Kambli! You have read Karandikar’s articles on the Gandhi-Muslim conspiracy?”

“Yes, yes I have.”

“Oh, you are a doubter then, are you?”

Babarao jumped up, groped in his jacket pocket, and whipped out a piece of paper. “Here, read this. I keep it in my pocket just for people like you. You will at least believe the evidence of your eyes, won’t you?”

“We-e-ell,” Kambli opened his mouth to argue.

Babarao rustled the paper impatiently. Prudently, Kambli took it. That paper was a cutout of an article written by Swami Shraddhananda, a religious Hindu leader. In the months before he was murdered, he had written a spate of articles exposing the shenanigans of Congress. One of the articles was particularly noteworthy. The Swami had met Maulana Mohammad Ali, leader of the Khilafat Movement, Gandhi’s bosom buddy. Mohammad Ali mentioned to him a plan they had been hatching to get King Amanullah of Afghanistan to invade India and overthrow the British. That the Muslim hordes from the north should subjugate Hindustan would be the very worst fate. The Swami was horrified, but there was more. As proof, Mohammad Ali showed him a draft of the telegram that had been sent to the King. To the Swami’s horror, he recognized the writing to be the distinctive writing of Gandhi …!

Mahatma of the Indians secretly betraying India to the age-old enemy, Afghanistan …! The Mahatma, who swore against secrecy, publicly reviled the revolutionaries for their secret operations, himself plotting and scheming, not for the freedom of his country, but to deliver her into more monstrous hands than the British …!

Swami Shraddhananda saw fit to publicize this atrocity in an article.

“Ye-e-s,” Kambli was saying, still looking at the paper, “indeed, I have to believe my eyes”—he looked up straight into Babarao’s eyes—“even so, you are unwise to say such things about the Mahatma. He is the uncrowned King of India. Are you not afraid of being entrapped and thrown into jail, of being sent to the gallows?”

Babarao laughed sarcastically. “I have been down that road with the British—and without fear. All the might of the British didn’t divert me from my cause, from truth and justice—you think fear of the Mahatma will do the trick? Ha!”

This squashed Kambli; he and Mohite took their leave. Babarao took a deep breath to calm himself. The kids were getting a bit tired too.

“Who wants to hear the stories of our great kings?”

“Me!” cried everyone.

Little Chapala climbed on to his lap. His pristine clothes were all sandy now, but he didn’t mind. They spent a pleasant hour. The kids listened raptly. Babarao always had wonderful stories and never tired of recounting them. Stern taskmaster he undoubtedly was; everything had to be just so! But when it came to kids his heart was mush.

*   *   *
Read the first chapter here
- Anurupa Cinar
Author, Burning for Freedom, a novel on Savarkar

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Savarkar's Swadeshi Drive, 1898

Hi, Everyone! One of Savarkar’s traits that make him such a remarkable person is that he had pride in his nation, people, and country and his thirst to free his motherland from slavery from a very early age.

He also had the courage, strength, and capability to vocalize it and organize a revolution toward that goal. It was in 1898 that he took the formidable oath for the cause—at the tender age of fifteen. It was in that same year that he wrote a poem advocating swadeshi.

In 1898, India was far, far away from such a concept, indeed! It was extremely remarkable that a young boy of fifteen should recognize that the British were looting the wealth of India, taking raw materials from her, and bringing back a finished product to make a whopping profit off the Indians and wiping out all their arts. In 1898, Savarkar went beyond recognizing this to urging his fellowmen to do something about it: adopting of swadeshi goods!

His poem, Swadeshicha phatka, which I have translated as Swadeshi Stroke, is a masterpiece! It is most excellently conceived and written.  Besides the general rhymes, meter, and tone, I really love the way he has rhyming words or repetition of sounds in the same line while portraying its import:

“आर्यबंधु उठा उठा कां मठासारखे नटा सदा

हटा सोडूनी कटा करूं या म्लेंछपटां ना धरूं कदा”

मलमल त्यजुनी वलवल चित्तीं हलहलके पट कां वरितां ?”

कामधेनुका भरतभूमिका असुनि मागे कां ती भिक्षा ?”

My translation, of course, does not do justice to Savarkar’s poetry, but I do hope that it does justice to the content of it. The lines 31-40 are missing from it as I was not confident that I had grasped the meaning. I shall add them at a later date.

On an aside, to enjoy this poem to the fullest, you must listen to the excellent musical rendition of it by Swardish Bharat Balvalli. I listen to this song many times a day! The CD is available here:

So here I put before you Savarkar’s Swadeshicha Phatka  and my translation of it on the occasion of his birth anniversary:

                          Swadeshi Drive
आर्यबंधु उठा उठा कां मठासारखे नटा सदा
हटा सोडूनी कटा करूं या म्लेंछपटां ना धरूं कदा
काश्मीराच्या शाली त्यजुनी अलपाकाला कां  हो भुलतां
मलमल त्यजुनी वलवल चित्तीं हलहलके पट कां वरितां ?
राजमहेंद्री चीट त्यजोनी विटकें चिट तें का घेतां
दैवें मिळतां वाटि इच्छितां नरोटी नाहीं का आतां ?
नागपुरचें रेशिम भासे तागपटासें परि परक्या
रठ्ठ बनाती मठ्ठ लोक हो मऊ लागती तुम्हां कश्या ?
येवलि सोडून पितांबरांना विजार करण्या सटिन पहा
बेजारचि तुम्हि नटावयामधिं विचार करतो कोणि हा   १०
केलि अनास्था तुम्हीची स्वतः मग अर्थातचि कला बुडे
गेलें धनची नेलें हरूनी मेलां तुम्हि तरि कोण रडे ?
अरे अपणची पूर्वी होतों सकल कलांची खाण अहा
भरतभूमीच्या कुशीं दीप ते कलंक आतां अम्ही पहा
जगभर भरुनी उरला होता नुरला आतां व्यापार
सकलही कलाभिज्ञ तेधवां अज्ञ अतां आम्ही थोर
निर्मियली मयसभा अम्हिंचिना पांडव किरिटी अठवा रे
मठ्ठ लोक हो लाज कांहिंतरि ?  लठ्ठ असुनी शठ बनलो रे
आम्रफलाच्या कोईमध्यें धोतरजोडा वसे तदा
होते जेथें प्रतिब्रह्मेची, धिक् अम्हि जन्मुनि अपवादा २०
हे परके हरकामीं खुलविति भुलविति वरवर वाचेनें
व्यवहारी रीत असे बराबर सदा हरामी वृत्तीनें
कामधेनुका भरतभूमिका असुनि मागे कां ती भिक्षा ?
सहस्त्र कोसांवरुनी खासा पैका हरतो प्रभुदीक्षा
नेउनि कच्चा माल आमुचा देती साचा पक्क रुपें
आमच्यावरी पोट भरी परि थोरि कशाची तरी खपे
पहा तयांची हीच रीत हो मिती नसे त्या लबाडिला
नाना कर्में नाना वर्में देश असा हा लुबाडिला
निमुलीं हातांमधलीं फडकीं फडकत नाना ध्वज वरतीं
हडेलहपसे करुनि शिपाई निघत सवारी जगभर ती  ३०
याला आतां उपाय बरवा एकी करवा मन भरवा
ओतप्रोत अभिमानें हरवा देशी धंदे पट धरवा
परके वरवर कितीहि बोलति गोडगोड तरि मनिं समजा
सुंदर म्यानीं असे असिलता घातचि होइल झट उमजा
रावबाजि जरि गाजि जहाले राज्यबुडाऊ तरि मुख्य
सख्य असें परक्यांचे यांचे गोष्ट हृदयिं ही धरुं लख्ख
वैर टाकुं या यास्तव लवकर खैर करो परमेश्वर ती
निश्चय झाला मागें अपुला परदेशि पटें ना धरुं तीं
चलाचला जाउं या घेउं या देशि पटांला पटापटा
जाडेंभरडें गडे कसेंही असो सेवुं परि झटाझटा            ५०
ना स्पर्शूं त्या पशूपटाला मऊ वर, विखारचि भावूं
घेऊं खडतर अंतीं सुखकर धर्माचि मानुनियां जाऊं
आजवरी जरि भुललों खुललों तत्कपटाला अविचारे
जाउं द्या चला गतगोष्टींचें स्मरणची नको हेंचि बरें
द्रव्यखाणि ही खोरें घेउनि परकीं पोरें खणती रे
एकचित्त या करूं गड्यांनों वित्त जिंकुं तें पुनरपि रे
विश्वेश्वरि ती नारायणि ही यमहरिहर अदि सुरवरिणी
कर्मसिध्दिसी दावो नेउनि मोद देति निजभक्तजनीं
दर अज्ञानी रजनी जावो सांग प्रकाशो रवि थोर
वरावयाला रत्नपटाला करो आर्य ते रण घोर       ६०
कवितारूपी माला अर्पी आर्य बुधांला सार्थक हा
भक्तांकरवीं मन देवासी सेवायासी अर्पण हा
Wake up, O Arya Brothers,
Ever you are dressed like a fop
Put aside this obstinacy
Plot to never touch foreign cloth
Lured by trifles as you are
Kashmir shawl you forgo
Why fancying the cheap stuff
Precious mulmul you let go?
Rajmahendri chintz giving up
Cheap quality chintz you favor
When God has given you a bowl
Why the coconut shell you prefer?
Nagpur silk to jute you liken
O Ye Fools! But how come
The rough foreign fabrics
As being soft you welcome?
You look to trousers made of satin
N’ matchless pitambar you dismiss
Beffuddled, in the throes of bedecking
You utterly fail to grasp this  II 10 II
By this treachery that you fostered
Art is lost, wealth looted n’ taken away
So even upon your death
Who shall shed tears, pray?
We were the seat of all arts fine
In the days bygone, oh
In the shining beacon of our Bharatland
Just look at the blot we are, lo
No more is the trade
That once worldwide was in full spate
Ignoramuses when connoisseurs of art
Now we are great?
Oh do dwell upon the great Pandavas
Recall they built the Mayasabha for us
Oh Fops, have some shame
Though replete, you became foolish thus
Two dhotis could then be
Packed in a mango seed
Fie! Where existed utopia, we were born
And took exception, indeed!  II 20 II
Lure us with their flattering speech
Do these foreign master of all trades
Their modus operandi may seem correct
But always their attitude is base
Our Motherland is a Kaamdhenu
Why should she be begging for alms, aye?
From thousands of miles away
The British our wealth shanghai
Taking away our raw materials
They give it a fine polished form, lo
Live off us they do
But whose greatness goes?
Look, ‘tis this very style of theirs
With no end to their skullduggery
With various acts and denunciations
They looted so much our country
Now all kinds of flags wave o’er us
Our hands of children’s shawl bereft
The procession of marching troops
Off to the wide world it left  II 30 II
For this there is but one answer
Let immense pride soak afresh
Into every corner of your mind
And support our local business
Sweet though the foreigners glib words
But one thing is very plain
Beautiful the sword’s sheath may be
The sword is bound to give pain
Though we had many heroes and brave ones
Responsible they are for our country’s plight
For they surely befriended the foreigners
Hold this thought in your hearts tight
Let’s quickly be rid of antipathy
May we be blessed by God
Long ago we took an oath
Never to touch the foreign cloth
C’mon! C’mon! Let us go
Get the local cloths, quickly-quickly
Thick n’ coarse, however it may be
We will don it in a jiffy  II 50 II
Softer though it may be
We will not touch that cloth so beastly
Dharma it is to embrace the local
Difficult now, will bring joy ultimately
Enchanted n’ deceived by fabrications
So thoughtlessly we were though
Let it be, it’s better not to
Dwell over things past so
With spades in their hands
These foreigners dig our gold mine
Folks, come together and single-mindedly
Take over our lost wealth fine
Vishweshwari, Narayani, Yama
Vishu, Shiva, n’ Suvarini
May they bless our acts to fruition
And delight their devotees many
Let every ignoramus advise the mighty sun
To shed light that night begone
Let such Aryas fight fiercely to
Maintain their bedecked foppish tone
I offer unto the wise Aryas
My garland of this purposeful rendering
That dedicatedly in the service of God
They may fulfill this offering