Questions and Answers
This section deals with various aspects of Savarkar’s life, thought, actions and relevance in a question and answer format. Questions are raised regarding Savarkar and his place in Indian history. Some of these questions stem from genuine curiosity and willingness to understand. Some questions take the form of accusations born out of outright ignorance or sheer malice. This section aims to address some of these questions.
Savarkar was a poet, novelist, writer of short stories, playwright, historian and a champion of purification of language.
Savarkar composed his first poem ‘Swadeshicha phatka’ at the tender age of eleven years. He composed his poems as a school and college student, in London, in the horrible Cellular Jail in Andamans and while interned in Ratnagiri. Savarkar is the first and probably the only poet in the world to have written his poems on the prison walls with thorns. These poems were committed to memory by fellow prisoners and transmitted to the outside world. Besides composing poetry in conventional meters, he introduced a new meters called vainayak. He also composed blank verse.
Savarkar’s two novels ‘Kaalepani’ and ‘Malaa kaay tyache’ are descriptive and instructive respectively.
Savarkar’s three plays ‘Usshaap’, ‘Sanyastakhadga’ and ‘Uttarkriya’ are notable for their dialogues and dramatic content.
Savarkar’s collection of short stories, public statements and reports are readable.
Savarkar wrote three books on history viz. ‘The Indian War of Independence 1857’, ‘Hindupadpaadshaahi’ and ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’. His ‘History of the Sikhs’ is not available. These books reveal his deep study of and insight into history, penchant for detail and inspirational but well-researched content.
Savarkar has many 'firsts' to his credit, as far as the Marathi literature goes. He was the first to compose powadas (ballads) in modern times and was the first to use modern imagery in the powadas. He was the first Marathi journalist to contribute newsletters to Marathi periodicals -'Londonchi baatmipatre' (Newsletters from London)- from foreign countries. His ' taarakaas pahun ' (gazing at the stars) is the first Marathi poem composed outside Indian shores. His 'Joseph Mazzini' is the first Marathi book written outside India. As an offshoot of his movement of purification of Marathi language, he has introduced many new words in Marathi. Some examples are doordarshan (television), doormudrak (teleprinter), dhwanikshepak (microphone), digdarshak (director), nepathya (screenplay), veshbhoosha (costume), vetan (salary), kramaank (number), vidhi (law), vidhimandal (legislature), sampaadak (editor), keelak rashtra (buffer nation) (*the word dinaank for ‘date’ was coined by Savarkar’s elder brother Babarao). Verily, one can identify two ages of Marathi literature viz. pre- and post- Savarkar.
Savarkar composed the epic poem ‘Kamala’ when he was imprisoned in the Cellular jail in the Andamans. As he had no writing material, he scribbled on prison walls. One Ramhari, a prisoner from Bihar learned the lines by heart. After his release from Andaman Islands, Ramhari went to Calcutta and then straight to Mumbai to see Savarkar’s younger brother Dr. Narayanrao. It was Narayanrao who published ‘Kamala’ and used the pseudonym Vijanavasi (lit: the exiled) for the author of the poem.
Yes, Savarkar did write a history of the Sikhs. The facts of the matter are as follows:
While in England, Savarkar learnt the Gurumukhi script and read Sikh scriptures like the Adi Granth, the Dasam Granth and other works like Panth Prakash, Suraj Prakash and Bhai Bala’s Janamsakhi. He also read histories of the Sikhs, written by British authors, like J.D.Cunningham. Savarkar used to send patriotic pamphlets to the camps of Sikh soldiers. Savarkar may have studied Sikhism and Sikh history to communicate effectively with Sikh soldiers. By the end of the year 1909, London became too hot for Savarkar. Pandit Shyamji Krishnavarma had to sell off India House. Even Bipin Chandra Pal could not keep Savarkar as his paying guest due to angry English mobs. Savarkar had to put up in London slums. There too, British detectives hounded him. Due to deprivation and extreme cold, Savarkar developed a serious lung infection. Dr. Muthu, the Vice President of Pandit Shyamji Krishna Varma’s Indian Home Rule League took Savarkar to his nursing home in Wales. Fortunately, Savarkar recovered in those pre-antibiotic days. He began writing the history of the Sikhs in Marathi, when Dr. Muthu permitted him to work for a couple of hours a day. This book was of about two hundred pages and traced the Sikh history, from the birth of Guru Nanak to the founding of an empire by Maharajah Ranjit Singh. At the behest of his comrades in arms, Savarkar went to Paris in the latter half of January 1910. There, he revised the manuscript of his Sikh history, made its three copies and dedicated the book to his son, Prabhakar who had died in 1909 at the age of four. All the three copies were lost and Savarkar’s history of the Sikhs, the first in Marathi thus remained unpublished.
Veer Savarkar was interned in Ratnagiri from 1924 to 1937. He started to write his memoirs in 1931. Parts of his prologue were published in Hutatma Shraddhanand monthly of Mumbai. British took objection to it. Savarkar's house was searched, but the police could not find the remaining pages. The British considered the memoirs so provocative that the Collector of Ratnagiri told Savarkar, " It is highly objectionable for you to write these memoirs. They contravene your condition of internment - namely that you shall not take part in politics!" Unfortunately that prologue has still not been translated in English. Savarkar started writing his autobiography in 1949, but it only covered his childhood and education. He never found time to complete his autobiography.