Some are born great, being born in rich and famous families. The families of the three previous Sarsanghachalaks of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, however, had no such background of greatness or fame. Shri Guruji was born in a very ordinary family. His original surname was Padhye. The Padhyes belonged to a place called Golwali in Konkan in Maharashtra. Padhye means a practising priest. The family first migrated from Konkan to Paithan and later shifted to Nagpur. It was Shri Guruji’s grandfather Balkrishnapant who first came to Nagpur. This migration ended his connection with the priestly profession; so out of the surname Golwalkar Padhye only Golwalkar remained.
Shri Guruji’s father Sadashivrao lost his father at a very young age. So he was forced to give up education and take a job. For long years, he suffered the pangs of poverty. He got a job in the Post and Telegraph Department at Kamti near Nagpur. Shri Guruji’s mother, Laxmibai, was from the Raikar family of Nagpur. Sadashivarao was known as Bhauji and Laxmibai as Tai. The couple had four sons, but the first two died as babies of just an year old. The third was named Amrit, but he too fell a prey to typhoid at the age of fifteen.
In The Mother’s Lap
Shri Guruji was the fourth offspring. He was born in the Raikar house in Nagpur at half past four in the morning on Phalgun Krishna Ekadashi (Vijaya Ekadashi) Vikram Samwat 1962, that is, February 19, 1906. He was named Madhav, but everybody in the family called him Madhu, a endearing name of his childhood. Out of a total of nine children of Tai-Bhauji only Madhu survived and naturally became the darling of his parents’ love and hopes. When Madhu was just two years old, Sadashivrao left his job in the Post and Telegraph department and became a teacher. He got a teacher’s job in a village of Chhatisgarh by name Saraipali. Saraipali is at a distance of 90 miles from Raipur and 60 miles from Raigarh. In those days, there were no means of transportation, so one had to either walk or travel on horseback. Madhu had to pass his childhood in an area that we now call as most backward and cut off from modernity. But when God wishes to fashion an excellent life He gifts that person with some extra benefit that can overcome adversity, provided of course, the individual is worthy of it. Shri Guruji possessed such worth since childhood in ample measures so he quickly assimilated the samskars (the good cultural influences) inculcated in him by his parents.
While Bhauji was a sincere and self-respecting teacher of sterling character, Taiji was a very pious housewife and an ideal mother. Madhu’s education began when he was just two years old. Whatever Bhauji taught, Madhu learnt it with ease. Taiji had not gone to school but she had a treasure house of stories capable of inculcating healthy samskars. Madhu had an excellent memory and took advantage of that whole storehouse of knowledge. In his speech at Pune as Sarsanghachalak, reacalling what samskars he had imbibed as a child first he said, “When I remember my childhood, my mind is filled with many sweet memories. All those events pass in succession before the mind’s eye. I used to be woken up early in the mornings. My mother used to busy herself with household chores, but at the same time chant stotras and the names of God. Tai’s melodious voice would fill my ears and heart. What a deep and noble impact those
melodious tunes sung in the peaceful and elevating moments of the morning must have made on my young mind!”
Many incidents of Madhav’s childhood days indicate that a razor-sharp-intellect, insatiable hunger for knowledge, extraordinary memory, willingness to alleviate the sufferings of others, extreme forbearance, absence of ego, purity of mind and such other exceptionally high qualities were developing in him right from those days. He was drawn to every good quality and had a deep-felt urge to acquire it. People came to know about these Shri Guruji’s invaluable qualities specially when he became the Sarsanghachalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But his early life-story makes it clear that all these qualities had originated and developed even during his student days. For instance, serious reading, exceptional memory and the capacity to memorise and mastery over Hindi and English were among the qualities acquired during his early years. Right from the primary school stage he did extensive reading. He was a voracious reader and had read Shakespeare in full while still in the middle school. He also used to narrate to his fellow-students the stories of these plays in a most fascinating manner.
In the class, Madhav used to read some book while the teacher was teaching another one, but he was at the same time mindful of what was being taught. Once when the teacher saw some other book in Madhav’s hands, he thought the boy was not paying attention to his studies. So in order to teach him a lesson, the teacher stopped a boy who was reading a lesson and asked Madhav to read from that point onward. Without a moment’s hesitation, Madhav took up the text-book and began to read from the point where the first boy had left off. Both the students and the teacher were amazed. The teacher’s ploy to teach Madhav a lesson had obviously failed.
Bhauji taught Madhav English right from his primary school stage. The boy made such rapid progress in the language that even when he was in the fourth standard he wrote letters in English to his maternal uncle in Nagpur. Father’s job was in the Hindi territory, and because of his frequent transfers to places like Raipur, Durg, Khandwa and so on, Madhav became quite familiar with those territories and at home with Hindi. Marathi, of course, he knew well, as it was his mother-tongue. As a result of living in a variety of places, he came into contact with people speaking a variety of languages. His mind became broadened and the thought took root that all Bharatiya languages were his own.
As the Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shri Guruji had to make innumerable speeches all over the country. His oratory was powerful and inspiring. This quality too had developed in his school days. Even as a child, he had won prizes in elocution competitions. He lived a full life as a student – played a lot, studied a lot, helped his friends as much as he could, was modest and carried out happily all the household chores expected of him, and shared the joys and sorrows of others. The foundation of the future life of unique achievements was in fact laid in this period.
Later on, Shri Guruji’s father had once said, “That Madhav could prove highly capable in later years, was clear from the qualities he displayed in his school days, but we had no idea that he would become so great. Now I do not grieve that among my children
only Madhav survived, because in the form of Sangh Swayamsevaks we have thousands of children. “On such occasions, Bhauji’s eyes would shine with pride over his unique son. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that the qualities of selflessness, dedication to duty, piety, hard work and pursuit of knowledge which were manifest in Shri Guruji’s life became possible only because of the noble samskars that his parents had inculcated in him. Shri Guruji too had, on many occasion, gratefully referred to their noble ideals.
There is an incident showing Bhauji’s spirit of dedication and determination in pursuing a worthy goal. He was only a matriculate when he became a teacher. Many years had since passed. But he decided to graduate himself. It was twenty years after matriculation that he passed the Intermediate examination, and it took him another seven years to become a graduate! He discharged his responsibility as a teacher with due diligence, but in his spare time he also continued the mission of imparting knowledge. Mother Taiji was also of such a determined nature that in 1934 she performed a padayatra of nearly a thousand miles from Prayag to Alandi in the company of a saintly person named Shri Babaji Maharaj, and bathed the Samadhi of the saint Dnyaneshwar with the holy Gangajal brought from Triveni Sangam at Prayag in U.P. During this pilgrimage her back was scorched in an accident, but she bore the agony with equanimity and kept on walking.
A Telling Incident
As the father was transferred from place to place, Madhav’s schools also kept on changing. Madhavrao passed his matriculation in 1922 from the Jubilee High school at Chanda (now Chandrapur). Bhauji wanted him to go to the medical college and become a doctor. So despite heavy financial burden he got Madhavrao admitted to the science branch of Fergusson College at Pune. Admission to the medical college was possible only after passing Intermediate in science. In the meanwhile, however, the Government of Bombay had announced that admissions to its colleges would be restricted to those domiciled within that province. In those days, however, Madhya Pradesh and Berar did not form part of that State. As a result, Madhavrao had to leave the college after three months and return to Nagpur. Bhauji’s dream of making his son a doctor remained unfulfilled.
On returning to Nagpur, Madhavrao got admitted to the science branch of Hislop College, a missionary institution, and passed Intermediate in 1924 with merit. During the first two years at the college, he became known as an excellent sportsman and also a scholarly student. Here is a memorable event of this period. Prof. Gardiner once made a reference to the Bible in the class. As it was a missionary college, study of the Bible was compulsory. Madhavrao had made a deep study of the Bible also. Even in his speeches as Sarsanghachalak and during conversations, sometimes he used to make references to the Bible as well as to the life of Jesus Christ. When he saw that Prof. Gardiner was wrong in giving that particular reference he stood up and said, “Sir, you are giving the wrong reference.” and quoted the right reference from his memory. The professor was amazed, but how could he stand a student being more knowledgeable about the Bible than him? So he called for a copy of the Bible to check up and found that Madhavrao was right. The book contained the reference exactly as Madhavrao had quoted it. The professor accepted his mistake sportingly and patted Madhavrao on the back.
During these two years, Madhavrao frequently absented himself from the class to read some other books. Whether at school or at college, he never read for just passing examinations. Although he would read and read to satisfy his hunger for knowledge, he never neglected his studies. The well-known blind flutist Shri Sawlaram was his bosom friend and he also learnt the art of playing on the flute from him.
After passing the Intermediate Examination, Madhavrao entered new phase of his life, which was to have an altogether new and reaching impact on his future life-pattern. It commenced with his admission into the Banaras Hindu University.