New Delhi: Come Wednesday, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will launch a massive digital exercise to celebrate the 346th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the celebrated 17th-century ruler.
The anniversary of the coronation, celebrated as the ‘Hindu Samrajya Diwas’, is one of six festivals the RSS celebrates officially at the organisational level, the others being Vijaydashmi, Makar Sankranti, Varsh Pratipada Mahotsav, Gurupurnima and Rakshabandhan Mahotsav.
The RSS believes that, with Shivaji’s coronation, a ‘Hindu Samrajya (kingdom)’ came into existence, which is why the anniversary is celebrated.
Since the anniversary this year comes as social-distancing advisories remain in place to check the spread of coronavirus, the RSS will mark it through thousands of online events, including talks, webinars, seminars on various digital platforms.
Chhatrapati Shivaji was crowned as the ruler of the Hindu empire on the ‘Jyeshtha Shukla Trayodashi’, according to the Hindu calendar, a date that falls on 3 June this year.
Under the Gregorian calendar, the date for Shivaji’s coronation is 6 June 1674. Since the RSS goes by the Hindu calendar, the celebrations will be carried out on 3 June across 70,000 shakhas, by more than three dozen organisations backed by the Sangh.
An ideal kingdom
Former RSS functionary Anil Madhav Dave, who led the environment ministry in 2016-17, published an exhaustive book Shivaji and Suraj: 22 original edicts on the art of leadership in 2017, noting how important it is to remember the “swaraj” set up by Shivaji.
RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi both wrote detailed notes for the book in the ‘introduction’ and ‘preface’ sections, respectively. Dave suddenly passed away in May 2017.
“The kingdom and administration established by Shivaji Maharaj in the 17th century remains relevant, ideal and a topic of research for almost all classes and sections of the populace of the country even today,” Bhagwat wrote in the introduction for this book.
Prime Minister Modi wrote in the ‘preface’, “…Shivaji is relevant to us even in this age. Today, when the nation yearns for good governance, it will be relevant to recall that centuries ago, the foundation of the Shivaji’s kingdom was laid on the basis of this very principle of good governance”.
Why did the RSS choose these six festivals?
The philosophy behind this move has been explained in a publication titled Sangh Utsav (Suruchi Prakashan), based on the writings and speeches of M.S. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak of the RSS, and Bala Saheb Deoras, his successor.
“The RSS has chosen these festivals as they synergise with its objectives and name,” the book states. “One must understand here that the Sangh has not created any new festival. But these festivals are of national importance and the Hindu society has been celebrating them since times immemorial.”
There is one exception to this: The ‘Hindu Samrajya Diwas’ was not celebrated at national level until the RSS included it in its list. This fact is acknowledged in the Sangh Utsav, which says, “Hindu Samrajya Diwas is a festival that inspires an awakening in society. That is why Sangh has included it in the list of other traditional festivals.”
“Memories of the great personalities who made sacrifices are associated with these festivals. So we (the RSS swayamsevaks), awaken society through these festivals,” it adds.
More importantly, the celebration of these festivals helps the RSS expand its base. The festivals are generally celebrated at the shakha level. “Once a shakha decides to celebrate the festival, this helps to showcase the RSS’ ideology and work to the local community. It helps to bring the local community closer to the Sangh. Thus, these festivals play an important role in creating a conducive environment for the expansion of the RSS,” the book states.
Hindu Samrajya Diwas
This festival is different from the rest of the festivals celebrated by the RSS.
“While the rest of the festivals celebrated by the RSS are also celebrated by the common people outside the RSS also, it is the only festival which has generally not been celebrated in the society at mass level. In fact, many people even don’t know that a historical event took place, which deserves to be celebrated,” Sangh Utsav notes.
The RSS began to celebrate this festival as it believes that the coronation brought a Hindu kingdom into existence, with Shivaji himself announcing that day, “Hindu self-rule should be established, that is the will of God… This kingdom does not belong to Shivaji but to the dharma.”
According to Sangh Utsav, “The Hindus were at the receiving end when this momentous event happened and it electrified the Hindu consciousness across the country.
“It was the time when Hindus could not even think of being rulers. The morale of Hindus was so low that they couldn’t think of reaching up to that level and they had accepted that only Muslims can become rulers and Hindus can only serve them. In such a desperate situation, Shivaji’s act of setting up a Hindu kingdom boosted the morale of the Hindus immensely.
“So, if we have to move on our path rightly, it is imminent to remember great men like Shivaji who created history.”
This festival is generally celebrated at the RSS shakha by worshipping portraits of Shivaji and his master (Guru) Samarth Ramdas.
The famous letter written by Shivaji to Rajput King Jai Singh is also read on this occasion.
The letter calls upon the Rajput warrior not to shed the blood of Hindus for Mughals and exhorts him to join Shivaji for the greater cause. On this occasion, senior Sangh functionaries also share anecdotal tales of Shivaji’s valour with swayamsevaks in the form of intellectual discourses.
Tributes are offered to Shivaji’s mother Jijabai. Along with her son, Jijabai remains one of the most revered figures for the Sangh Parivar because of the way she motivated her son to fight against the Mughals and set up Dharma Rajya, which may be broadly translated as the ‘rule of righteousness’.
As part of the celebrations, swayamsevaks also sing patriotic songs especially penned for the festival by multiple writers. This year, all this will be done online, but with no less fervour.
The impact of celebrations is expected to get reflected in social media “trends”, also helping the RSS expand its outreach further.
The writer is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra, an RSS affiliate, and author of two books on the RSS.