Like all regions of India, even Maharashtra suffered from social evils due to misinterpretation of the religious scriptures by their custodians, the Brahmins. Activists, authors and even ordinary citizen became social reformers to create awareness and enforce changes. Today on the last day of 2023 we shall explore the life and times of Sane Guruji and his incredible contribution to the greatness of Maharashtra.
Life and times
Born in Palgad village near Dapoli, Ratnagiri District on 24 Dec 1899, Sane Guruji’s childhood was quite well off. His father was a revenue collector who evaluated crops on behalf of the govt. They were allowed to keep 25% of collection as commission. their family fortunes changed and they had to face a lot of financial hardships. His mother died which he was 18 due to lack of medical facilities and maybe due to their financial condition.
Sane Guruji faced extreme hardships all though his education years right from school to college. Finally he could finish his graduation and post graduation from New Poona College in Marathi and Sanskrit literature. After finishing his education he choose to join the teaching profession.
A life on old school influencer
Social reformists use numerous ways to influence people into a change. Amongst all these methods, the teaching profession is the most powerful because it is still the most respected even today.
Between 1924 to 1930 he worked in rural schools spreading moral values among his students. During this period he discovered himself as a fiery orator too. His teaching career abruptly came to an end when Mahatma Gandhi started the Dandi March in 1930 and he joined the Independence Movement. From that day on he because a staunch supporter of Mahatma Gandhi.
An author and a poet is born
We all look for some inspiration to write. Sane Guruji wrote under the most difficult of situations and circumstances. Between 1932 and 1942 he was arrested and imprisoned eight times for participating in different agitations launched by Mahatma Gandhi. He spend time in jails at Dhule, Nashik, Yeravada, Jalgaon and even Trichinapally. He learnt languages like Tamil and Bengali. It was his firm belief that language and literature will bring about national integration.
Sane Guruji worked hard to spread the influence of Indian National Congress in rural Maharashtra especially Khandesh. His legacy still remains in the form of a strong Congress presence in rural Maharashtra even today.
Sane Guruji wrote around 135 books most of which were written during his incarceration in prison and time in between. Almost all his books are literature for children. It is fascinating how he must have divided time between being a political activist, freedom fighter and writer between the 15 years till his death.
Fasting for social reforms
Everyone knows Sane Guruji for the best known literary work, Shyamchi Aai. However this one incident is his most fascinating achievement.
To bring about awareness on the issue of untouchability, Sane Guruji travelled throughout Maharashtra for four months, terminating his journey at Pandharpur. There he undertook a fast to open the famed Vithoba Temple for untouchables. That fast lasted 11 days till the temple authorities allowed his request. He fasted from 1st May to 11th May 1947.
Such is the impact of this activism that each year the admirers of Sane Guruji come together at Pandharpur to commemorate this event in his memory.
There are no records as to how many times he fasted, but one can assume that he did it drawing inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi. His last fast was after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi after which he fasted for 21 days.
Remembering a legacy
As the generations roll by, the idea of fasting for social reforms might not gain any traction. It is just the literature and his amazing achievements for what Sane Guruji will be remembered.
The day he started his fast, 1st May 1947 was an ekadashi. A huge crowd had gathered at the site of his protest fast. Towering figures from Maharashtra like Acharya Atre, Thakkar Bappa, Senapati Bapat stood with him. Such was the polarization for such a sensitive topic that even Gandhi wrote to him asking to stop the fast. In return, he replied that if the British could be vanquished, why can’t this gathering be swayed. Finally when the temple doors were open by the administration it was a victory of perseverance powered by a fast.
Postal Stamp Image taken from India Postage Stamps Website.
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