Shri Guruji was engaged constantly in providing guidance to the Sangh and the nation in one way or the other. Along with it, he also remained regularly in close and extensive touch with various eminent personalities, organizations, well-wishers and Swayamsevaks through letters. The entire correspondence was carried on by himself and with some help from his assistant Dr. Abaji Thatte. The subject of his letters would naturally vary. Perhaps there is no other such personality except Mahatma Gandhi, who has written such copious and varied types of letters. Likewise, there is no leader who has constantly traveled to all the parts of the country twice every year, for thirty long years.
The Signs of Dusk
It was but natural that this superhuman efforts and hard work of Shri Guruji would finally take its toll on his health. By the time Shri Guruji turned 60, his health started deteriorating. In May 1970, a lump was noticed in his chest. It was diagnosed to be cancerous. Even then, he decided to get it treated only after his already scheduled tour of May and June was completed. On 1st July he was operated upon by Dr. Praful Desai at Tata Cancer hospital. Dr. Desai was then unacquainted with the activities of the Sangh. About Shri. Guruji, he wrote, “I was wondering how Shri Guruji would be able to take such an intense and long surgery at 65. But the calmness, courage and cooperation with which he went through the whole procedure, with the smile never leaving his face, it was amazing. He started walking around the very next day.” Shri Guruji asked the doctor as to how long would he live post operation. Getting his reply, Shri Guruji said “Wow! Very good! It means I have a lot of time. I have to work a lot!” Dr. Desai continued the regular check-ups. And soon Shri Guruji was back to his routine, writing letters, touring, meeting Swayamsevaks etc.
In the Thane Camp
Shri Guruji’s travels were on. By the end of 1971, he started feeling seriously unwell. He felt his end was nearing. He decided to have his last discussions with the prominent Swayamsevaks, as per the Hindu tradition. Accordingly, in the Tatvajnana Vidyapeeth at Thane in Maharashtra, run by honorable (now late) Pandurang Shastri Athawale ji, the programme was organized. Shri Guruji was present during the Abhyas Varg (study camp) of the prominent workers deployed in various activities aimed at narturing the true national spirit. There were suggestions that if the Sangh adopted the word “Bharatiya” instead of “Hindu” it would absolve it of the charge that it was communal. Shri Guruji presented the Hindu thought in its positive aspect and removed all the doubts on this issue with reasoning based on historic perspective and his personal experience. Along with this, he also discussed in depth other ideologies and did a comparative study of other belief systems and elaborately explained how the Hindu philosophy alone is capable of ensuring highest standard of welfare for the humanity and yield permanent happiness.
Shri Guruji continued his travels even after the Thane Camp. On 4th February 1973, in Bangalore, he delivered a public address in fluent English, for one-long hour and that too, standing. None in the audience of thousands of Swayamsevaks and other citizens felt that he was about to leave this mortal world so soon. On 25th March, he delivered what was to be his last speech to the important workers from all over the country in Nagpur, on the occasion of Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha. The Swayamsevaks listening to him were wishing that he should finish his lecture soon as he had to struggle to speak every word. But even in this state of failing health, he spoke for 40 minutes. He said, “The single aim of all our different endeavors should be to make our nation stand high commanding worldwide respect for our country.” He emphasized, “Whatever be the atmosphere, tread on your path with this faith that the word ‘Hindu’ will be recognized all over one day.” And he concluded his speech saying, “Vijay hi vijay hai” (ever victorious)
In Nagpur, in May, the Third Year Shiksha Varga of the Sangh was going on. It was impossible for Shri Guruji to make it to the Varga. Hence, in keeping with his strong urge it was arranged that Swayamsevaks province-wise were called into the Sangh karyalaya to meet him. There he got acquainted with them and emotionally appealed to them to carry on the Sangh work whole-heartedly and steadfast. The programme lasted from 16th to 25th May. Later even that could not be carried on. The Swayamsevaks from various parts of the country and other eminent personalities from all walks of life kept pouring in to the Sangh Karyalaya to enquire about his health. On the 3rd of June when the Sanchalika of Rashtra Sevika Samiti, respected Mausi Kelkar called upon him, he meaningfully said, “I am fully ready.” On the evening of 4th June, when the workers attending upon his came with a bottle of oil to give him massage, but it was empty. He jokingly said, “It’s over now! Good. Tomorrow, who will be there for massage?” On 5th June in the morning, he took his bath and meditated sitting on his usual seat. Later at 9.30 in the night, he breathed his last and his soul got liberated from the shackles of the mortal body.
The Moment of Inexpressible Grief
His body was kept at the front of Mahal Karyalaya in Nagpur. On the morning of 6th of June, grief-stricken people thronged the place. The three letters, written and sealed by Shri Guruji were opened and read. The Sanghachalak of Maharashtra province Shri. Babasaheb Bhide read the first letter wherein Shri Balasaheb Deoras was given the charge of Sarsanghachalak. The other two letters were read by Shri Balasaheb Deoras. In the second letter, Shri Guruji had indicated that it was not desirable that a memorial be erected for anyone other than that of the founder of the Sangh, Dr. Hedgewar. In the third, he had humbly written, “If I have ever knowingly or unknowingly caused hurt to anyone, to all of them I tender my apologies with folded hands.” This deeply moved the thousands of people who had gathered there who burst into tears. Shri Balasaheb himself felt choked. An Abhanga (composition) of Saint Tukaram was also mentioned in this letter, the meaning of which is -
O Saints! Please forward my last request
To the God that He might not forget me.
He knows everything; what may I say more.
Tukaram says his head placed on His feet
I may always remain under the shadow of His grace.
His body was given Mantra-agni (fire sanctified by sacred mantra) and cremated by the side of the Samadhi of Doctorji in Reshambag, (Nagpur) on a pyre made of sandalwood. The fire soon consumed his body, which like the sandalwood dissolved into the five elements. Later Bhagwadwaj was hoisted and the gathered thousands sang the prayer of the Sangh in grief-struck tones. And after the utterance of Bharat Mata Ki Jai all the Swayamsevaks returned home, with heavy hearts.
Now Reshambag is home to two great personalities in their chaitanya form Dr. Hedgewar sitting in the form of his image is on the upper floor of Smriti-Mandir and Shri Guruji, like the sage Dadhichi (who sacrificed his body for the welfare of gods and mankind.), as a smriti chinha (a symbolic memory). The statue of Dr. Hedgewar seems to be saying, “My selection was just right. Shri Guruji has spread the glory of the Sangh worldwide.”
Tributes by the Nation
Several saints and eminent personalities paid their homage to Shri Guruji. Acharya Vinoba Bhave said, “Shri Guruji was not in the least narrow-minded. He was always driven by the lofty ideals of national interests. He considered other religions like Christianity and Islam with due respect and always hoped that in Bharat nobody would be isolated.” The Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Puri said, “He was a saint, in white robes.” Jain Acharya Sushil Kumar Muniji said, “Shri Guruji was a giant of a man of our heritage.” Jain Sage Acharya Tulasi said, “He was endowed with the qualities of both a connoisseur and a thinker.” In the Parliament, President V.V. Giri, Speaker Mr. Gurdayal Singh Dhillon and other eminent personalities extolled the qualities of Shri Guruji at length. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said in the Parliament, “We have lost in Guru Golwalkar a famous personality, who was not a Member of the Parliament. He held a respected position in the nation by the force of his personality and the intensity of his convictions.” Shri Shyam Nandan Mishra of the Congress said, “He was a great Karmayogi and Atmajnani.” Shri Samar Guha, a Socialist leader said, “He inspired the qualities of patriotism, dedication and service in thousands of youth of the country.” Another Socialist leader S.M. Joshi said, “Shri Guruji was a sage.” The leader of Akali Dal, Jathedaar Santosh Singh said, “He was a great man, the kinds who are immortals. The Sikh community has suffered a great loss.” Marxist Taki Rahman said, “Though I have never seen him but I have felt the power of his inspiration in those who have faith in the bright future of the country.” Congressman Shri Hatizuddin Qureshi said, “He was indeed a great man, He was not anti-Muslim. The Muslims have been misled that the Sangh is anti-Muslim.” Shri Jai Prakash Narayan said, “Shri Guruji was a spiritually great personality, who awakened thousand of youth to true nationalism.”
All the leading newspapers and journals shed light on the different aspects of the unique personality of Shri Guruji. The Sanchalika of the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, Smt. Mausi Kelkar, and the leaders of Bharatiya Jansangh Shri Lal Krishna Advani and Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee amongst other eminent personalities also paid their homage to Shri Guruji.
Modern Bhagirath, Modern Ganga
In Conclusion, as a harbinger of a new nationhood, Shri Guruji infused a unique intrinsic power into the national life through his unmatched personality and actions. In the words of a senior worker of the Sangh, Shri Baburao Vaidya, “Bhagirath brought down the water of the heavenly Ganga to the earth by the power of his severe penance, and nourished and enriched the land of Bharat. In the same manner, Param Pujaniya Doctorji, brought the life stream of Param Pujaniya Guruji, who was on a spiritual path to Liberation (moksha), for the service of the people of Bharat. Thus, he (Dr. Hedgewar) carried to fulfillment the mission he had started to unite, organize and strengthen the Hindu society.”