Born On: February 22, 1889
Born In: Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh
Died On: June 25, 1950 in Patna
Career: Social Reformer, Revolutionary
Sahajanand Saraswati was a freedom fighter who just also happened to be an ascetic interested in political, social and economic reforms. Swami Sahajanand's social and political activities began in the province of Bihar but spread far and wide to gain considerable momentum. He was an exceptional scholar in Sanskrit and Hindi and was also a social reformer. He was immensely loved by the 'common man'. To honour the memory of this great man, the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp in his name and the 'Indian Council of Agricultural Research' even has an award instituted in his honour. Read on to know more the life and times of Sahajanand Saraswati.
Swami Sahajanand Saraswati was born in Deva, Dullahpur, Ghazipur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh in the year 1889 to Brahmins of the Bhumihar clan. He was known as Naurang Rai in his early days. Being the youngest among six brothers, Naurang Rai was raised by his aunt after his mother's early demise. Beni Rai, Swamiji's father was primarily a cultivator and the small zamindari that the family held, provided just enough to get Swamiji through high school. Needless to say, Swamiji passed through school with flying colours and exhibited brilliance at a very tender age. He was deeply inclined to religious texts and spent hours on them trying to find solace in the bargain. However, he was a sceptical of conventional and popular religious practises - he showed interest in renouncing worldly goods and finding spiritual consolation by taking the road less travelled, which was the road to become a 'Saadhu' or a monk. Obviously, his family did not agree with this decision and forced Swamiji to get married. Unfortunately, his bride passed away in the early 1906 and in 1907, Swamiji gave up on the name Naurang Rai and took on his popular name Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. Till the year 1914, he was zealously completing works on religion, politics and social affairs. As he immersed himself in these activities, he realised that his calling in life was to do greater good for those who were weak and helpless - he chose the farmers!
Swamiji's first public activity began from the modest 'Bhumihar Brahmin' platform and only after that did he join the Indian National Congress (INC) under the mentorship of Mahatma Gandhi. Although he joined INC as a devoted Gandhian in 1920, he, over a period of fourteen years, got disillusioned with the hypocrisies of the Gandhians in the jail where he spent about 15 years himself. The final break came in 1934 when he got disgusted with Gandhi's own attitude towards the earthquake victims in Patna and his appeasement of the wily landlords who were making things impossible for the calamity-affected peasants. This is when he broke his 14-year-old association with Gandhiji. Swamiji was quick to understand that the plight and suffering of the poor was mostly due to the cruelty of the landlords in terms of rent-collection. However, Gandhiji told him that the Zamindars were working to remove the difficulties of the peasants and that they were managed by the INC who would definitely help the poor. Post this disillusionment, Swamiji always thought of Gandhiji as a scheming politician who defended the wealthy class and took shelter under pseudo spiritualism, non-violence and fake religiousness. He broke out of party politics but stayed on as a member of Congress. He then dedicated himself to mobilising the condition of the peasants and, by the end of the decade, became the foremost leader of the farmers.
Swamiji along with the Congress Socialists formed the All India Kisan Sabha. With Subhas Chandra Bose, he also organised the Anti-Compromise Conference against the British and the Congress after which he worked with the Communist Party of India during World War-II. He finally went on to form an `independent' Kisan Sabha. In spite of these political forays, Sahajanand remained essentially a non-party man and his loyalty was only to the peasants for whom he was the most articulate spokesman and forthright leader. While others raised eyebrows when they saw a monk taking part in the troubles and problems of the poor, Swamiji said that 'Mendicants are selfish, living away from society; they try for their own salvation without caring for others. I cannot do that, I do not want my own salvation apart from that of the many destitutes. I will stay with them, live with them and die with them.
Swamiji's greatest contribution to the society was the uprooting of the Zamindari system. The foundations of Kisan movement which he initiated radicalised and gained tremendous momentum which was enough to formally serve a legal death sentence on the merciless Zamindari system.
Swami Sahajanand Sarawasti passed away on June 25, 1950 in Patna, Bihar.
A few noteworthy books written by Swami Sahajanand Saraswati are 'Bhumihar Brahmin Parichay' (Introduction to Bhumihar Brahmins); 'Jhootha Bhay Mithya Abhiman' (False Fear False Pride); 'Brahman Kaun?' (Who is the Brahmin?); 'Brahman Samaj ki Sthiti' (Situation of the Brahmin Society) in Hindi. He also wrote 'Brahmarshi Vansha Vistar' in Sanskrit, Hindi and English. Many literary works written by Swamiji have been translated to English to help garner a wider audience towards his work.
Awards & Accolades