Showing posts with label sarsanghchalak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sarsanghchalak. Show all posts

Hinduism - What Is The Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh Or RSS?


Dr. K. B. Hedgewar formed the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh  ("National Volunteer Corps," afterwards RSS) Hindu nationalist movement in 1925.

The RSS has adhered to Hindutva values from its founding, believing that Hindus are a nation despite geographical, linguistic, and cultural distinctions.

The RSS has long been known as a cultural and character-building organization that has avoided direct political action for most of its existence, yet wielding tremendous power via its numerous linked groups.

RSS training emphasizes devotion, obedience, discipline, and commitment to the Hindu nation's growth, but it discourages the formation of independent thinking.

The daily meetings of its local units, known as shakhas ("branches"), are at the center of its program.

Members, known as svayamsevaks ("volunteers"), spend part of their time at these meetings playing games, part of their time doing martial arts drills (including sparring with sticks), and part of their time debating and learning RSS beliefs.

A full-time RSS worker known as a pracharak ("director") administers the shakhas in any particular region, serving as a bridge between the local units and the RSS leadership and overseeing RSS operations in his area.

The RSS is an aristocratic group whose self-proclaimed objective is to offer leadership for a resurgent Hindu India.

The majority of its members will never get beyond the local level, but those that do are astonishingly efficient and successful leaders.

Although the RSS has avoided direct activity in order to protect its self-proclaimed cultural focus, it has had a significant impact via the development of allied organizations for which it has supplied leadership.

From labor and student unions to service groups, religious organizations like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, these organizations may be found at every level of Indian society.

The RSS has produced some very successful leaders, but it has also sparked a lot of debate.

One explanation for this is that it is a very authoritarian institution modeled after the Hindu joint family.

All power is concentrated in the hands of a single supreme leader, the sarsanghchalak, and it is passed down from there.

In this regard, the RSS is very undemocratic, and many of its critics, notably in politics, have expressed concern about it being the controlling hand behind its associated groups.

Other critics have expressed concern about the organization's anti-Muslim and anti-Christian tone—non-Hindus were not permitted to join until 1979—a tone based in Hindutva ideology.

Finally, I have a social reservation regarding the RSS.

The RSS has always condemned untouchability and claimed that there are no caste disparities inside its ranks; in line with its Hindutva traditions, it declares that all of its members are Hindus and Hindus exclusively.

However, opponents have pointed out that the majority of RSS members are from the brahmin and other privileged castes, and that all of the RSS's leaders are brahmins.

These opponents argue that such apparent denial of caste distinctions is a ruse to maintain brahmin power and hide who the RSS genuinely represents.

For more information, see Walter K. Andersen and Shridhar D. Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron (1987); K.

Jayaprasad, The RSS and Hindu Nationalism (1991); Daniel Gold, "Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truth to Hindu Nation," in Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby (eds. ), Fundamentalisms Observed (1991); Tapan Basu et al. 

Hinduism - Who Was Dr. K. B. Hedgewar?

Dr. K. B. Hedgewar (1889–1940) was the founder and first supreme leader (sarsanghchalak) of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which he established in Nagpur, central India, in 1925.

The RSS is a conservative Hindu organization that was founded with the explicit objective of providing leadership for a revived Hindu India.

For the most of its existence, the RSS has described its mission as cultural rather than religious or political.

Dr. Hedgewar's persona and the RSS are closely related to the tumultuous years after World War I, and the great dislocation in Indian society that accompanied the struggle for freedom.

Hedgewar had been active in the independence struggle as a young man, and had even backed Mohandas Gandhi's Congress Party for a period.

However, by the early 1920s, he had lost faith in Gandhi's tactics.

He was also inspired by Hindu nationalist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, whose core theory was that Hindus constituted a nation despite significant geographical, social, linguistic, and religious distinctions.

In 1925, during the Vijaya Dashami (Dussehra) holiday, Hedgewar founded the RSS to aid in the creation of the Hindu country by uniting Hindus who had previously been divided by caste and class.

This day is noteworthy because any activity launched on Vijaya Dashami, according to common Hindu belief, would definitely succeed.

Hedgewar was the RSS's leader until his death, fifteen years after it was created.

The RSS was established to preserve Hindu interests as well as to develop a leadership cadre.

On one level, it aimed to do this by cultivating more forceful, tough members and teaching them how to employ traditional weapons like the wooden staff.

On a different level, the RSS has a long history of humanitarian work with refugees and natural disaster victims, and one of its purposes is to serve the Hindu community.

In any event, the RSS has a reputation for being anti-Muslim—non-Hindus were forbidden from joining until 1977—and many of its members see Muslims as foreigners in India, if not outright enemies.

Hedgewar maintained the RSS firmly out of politics throughout his life, and his claim that it was a cultural and character-building organization enabled it avoid being outlawed by the British.

The RSS extended from Maharashtra to other regions of India under the umbrella of a cultural group, assisted in part by worsening Hindu-Muslim relations in the years leading up to India's independence in 1947.

See Walter K. Andersen and Shridhar D. Damle's The Brotherhood in Saffron (1987); Tapan Basu et alKhaki .'s Shorts and Saffron Flags (1993); and Christophe Jaffrelot's The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India (1996) for further details. 


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