Associates in Social Reforms

Kashinath Laxman (aka Aba) Parulekar

Born in 1888, studied B.Ag. (Present B.Sc. Agriculture) of Pune University. He developed and looked after the family’s ancestral properties at village Parule in present Sindhudurg District. In 1925, he came in contact of Savarkar and became his lifelong follower. He was also involved in the local social and political activities.

 

He worked both in Savarkar’s social reform and Hindutva movements. Worked with Savarkar during his stay in Ratnagiri and since then worked for the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha. Was president of Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha from 1948? Took part in the working of Patitpavan Mandir and was the first President of the temple Trust.  After Bhagojisheth Keer passed away in 1944, a dispute arose regarding the ownership of the Patitpavan Mandir. The trust of the Mandir was not registered, so the entire property was taken over by the High Court receiver from 1948 to 1964. At the instance of LB Bhopatkar, an application was made to the Public Trust Charity Commissioner seeking a status of trust to the institution. The office-bearers were summoned to Kolhapur with the evidence. But they had no money, so they prayed that the Asst. Charity Commissioner conduct the proceedings in Ratnagiri. This prayer was granted and the Asst. Charity Commissioner Apte came to Ratnagiri for the purpose. CK or Bapurao Parulekar represented the office-bearers and was assisted by Gajananrao Damle and Vinayakrao Bhave. The cost of Rs. 5000 towards these was raised by public contribution. Finally the Shree Patitpavan Public Trust came into being in 1954. However the Trust could not be registered as some houses owned by it were yet to pay municipal tax arrears. It was through the efforts of the recovery officer Abasaheb Kane that this formality was completed. As president of Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha, KL Parulekar was a member of the trust appointed by the District Court to look after the Patitpavan Mandir. He donated Rs. 2600 while his wife donated Rs. 1000 to the Patitpavan Mandir. He passed away in 1983.

Shrimant Bhagojisheth Keer

Bhagojisheth Keer was a renowned building contractor in Ratnagiri. He was among those who were inspired by Savarkar's campaign for social reform. He had built a Bhageshwar temple in Ratnagiri fort. On Mahashivratri day in 1928, he invited Savarkar to his temple. Keer explained to Savarkar that he had built this temple because he wished to worship Shiva and being from the lowly Bhandari caste, he was not permitted to touch the idol in other temples. He hence had decided to build a temple where he could freely touch the idol. At this, Savarkar instantly said, " Shethji, you could build a temple because you are well-to-do. You can at least enter any temple. But our ex-untouchable brethren are deprived of their gods, temples; in fact they are unable to have a glimpse of the deity. If they have the same desire as you for a glimpse of the deity should not people like you fulfill their desire. Hence I pray to you to build a temple of Shri Patitpavan where all Hindus can collectively and with equality worship and pray to God. Hearing this, Keer was moved and in a choked voice he said, "What you say will surely happen as per Bhageshwar's wish. After Keer gave his consent, the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha began scouting for a place. They found a suitable plot of land in the heart of Ratnagiri. The plot belonged to one Bhargav Krishna Shevde. The asking price of the plot of land was Rs. 8000. Keer was not willing to pay more than Rs. 6000 for the place. The Hindu Sabha collected public funds to the tune of Rs. 1000 while the moneylenders who owned the land gave a rebate of Rs 1000 in the form of a donation to the Hindu Sabha at Savarkar's request. The land was bought in Keer's name for Rs. 8000. Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtakoti laid the foundation stone of the temple on Sunday, 10 March 1929. Shrimant Bhagojisheth Keer spent a total of around two to two and half lac rupees towards the construction of the Patipavan Mandir. Keer helped Savarkar' s campaign in many ways. Once, the houses of Ramji Laxman Khedekar and Mahadev Babaji Fansopkar (both belonging to the backward Chamar caste) were burned down in a fire. On hearing this news, Savarkar rushed to the spot and made efforts to help the affected families. Responding to Savarkar’s appeal, Keer arranged to provide them roof tiles. Keer also constructed the Hindu crematorium at Dadar, Mumbai. Keer passed away in 1944.

Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtakoti

Born 1879, was a Sanskrit scholar. Obtained doctorate from American University. At the instance of Lokmanya Tilak, took sanyaas and became Shankaracharya of Sankeshwar Peeth in 1917. Developed differences with Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur and had to leave Kolhapur; stayed in Nashik Panchavati. Organized shuddhi programmes and several Hindu conferences. At the inauguration ceremony of the Patitpavan Mandir in Ratnagiri, a Mahar (ex-untouchable) leader PN Rajbhoj performed paadyapuja (ritual washing of the feet) of the Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtakoti. This was an unprecedented event in the history of Hindu society. Was president of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha twice (Prayag, 1924 and Lahore 1936). Died on 29 October 1967.

Vaidya Mahadev Ganpatrao Shinde
(* a vaidya is a Ayurvedic practitioner)

Was an Ayurvedic vaidya by training, had inherited this profession from his father who had knowledge of Ayurveda. When Savarkar was interned in Ratnagiri, many people shunned him for fear of inviting the wrath of the British authorities. Ratnagiri was a stronghold of the conservatives. The elite did not look upon very kindly to Savarkar’s social reform activities. Vaidya Mahadev Ganpatrao Shinde was one of those who stood behind solidly behind Savarkar in his social reform activities. For this, he became the butt of sarcasm and anger of his relatives and friends. The police hounded him. But Vaidya Shinde stood firm.

The Shinde family hailed originally from Partavne area of Ratnagiri. MG Shinde’s father was employed in the police department and rose to be a sub-inspector. He had a great liking for Ayurveda. He would cure many poor people of simple ailments during his travels as a policeman. Ganpatrao Shinde had five sons, of who three were mute. The responsibility of running the family fell on Mahadevrao after his father’s death.
Savarkar and Vaidya MG Shinde first met in 1924. In their very first meeting, Savarkar noticed the word ‘Dr’ written on Shinde’s nameplate. In keeping with his love for reform of language, Savarkar suggested that Shinde use the word ‘vaidya’ instead of ‘dr’. In 1925, Shinde was inducted into the executive of the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha and made its vice-president.

When Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar who was to later found the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) came to Ratnagiri to visit Savarkar, he had stayed at Dr. Shinde’s place. On the next day, Dr. Hedgewar had addressed a small gathering at Dr. Shinde’s place. As Savarkar was interned, he could not visit Nagpur after the founding of the RSS. It was Dr. Shinde who went to Nagpur. There he was given a guard of honour by the RSS swayamsevaks and Dr. Hedgewar himself introduced Dr. Shinde.

When the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha sent a letter of felicitation to Prince of Nepal, HRH Tribhuvan Bir Vikram on the occasion of his twentieth birthday, the correspondence was done from Shinde’s house. Shinde also took upon himself to send 150 rakhis to 150 prominent Hindus throughout the country.

Vaidya Shinde was a member of the Ratnagiri municipality and the District Board. The Muslim members of the municipality wanted to stop the gymnasium started by Savarkar and managed by the municipality. It was Shinde who struck down the proposal of the Muslim members.

Shinde organized the signatures of 500 people on a petition to invite Dr. BR Ambedkar to speak at the Vithoba temple in Ratnagiri but Ambedkar declined citing lack of time. Vaidya Shinde was the secretary when Sant Panchlegaonkar’s speech and discussion of temple entry to ex-untouchables was discussed on 11 September 1929. It was due to the efforts of people like Shinde that the ex-untouchables finally got entry to the Vithoba temple on 13 September 1929.

Vaidya Shinde was the moving force in bringing back to the Hindu fold an actor named Ibrahim and renaming him Ishwardas.

Vaidya Shinde was the president of the Somvanshi Mahar Conference held in Ratnagiri on 09 April 1932.

In 1932, Shinde spoke on behalf of reformists in a debate that took place between conservatives and reformists at the Ganeshotsav.

On 01 April 1933, Shinde signed a letter of greeting to the Maharaja of Nepal on occasion of the Hindu New Year.

The biography of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj was banned in Ratnagiri Jail. Shinde took steps and got the ban lifted. Vaidya M G Shinde passed away in 1948.