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Nanaji Deshmukh- A Sage and Ascetic

Nanaji Deshmukh-A Sage and An Ascetic !!


Around 15 years back at the Ruparel college foyer in Mumbai  I was witness to a  grand coincidence. It was a programme hosted by Chaturang Yuvak Prathisthan and Pu La Fan club. It was a premium  get together  of doyens of Marathi Litterature.There was Pu La himself regaling the audience with his explicit humor wrapped in reality bytes and brickbats.Then there were Prof Ram Shewalkar the erudite scholar and all  time great exponent  of Modern Marathi Poetry. Smt Shanta Shelke  who with all her humility presented some of the finest contemporary verse written by her.And in this  exclusive gathering of luminaries  was  the most melodious and the most revered music composer in marathi music which embodies the culture and art of maharashtra.That was  shri sudhir Phadke who sang evergreen pieces from his Geet Ramayan.That day the organizers were very fortunate to get a very apt chairperson for such an auspicious gatherings of virtuosos. It was the unique and distinguished Nanaji Deshmukh dressed in Indian couture with white flowing beard .With his radiating countenance emanating the most satvik or purest essence of a sage he guided the audience with his wisdom,  commenting on his life experiences and political philosophy.



That day I understood his stature and persona.Nanaji  the ascetic has left an indelible mark with his footprints in  time which are difficult to erase even if tried by some stubborn musclemen in future. And I say this with conviction when I read about him and his deeds towards the integration of the society in post independence India. Yes Nanaji was a staunch rightist and this writer a staunch leftist but when we talk of humanity and its custodians the dividing lines just vanish in ether. .He is a role model of sacrifice and generosity. A man of highest righteousness and social consciousness .Nanaji treads on the horizon as a stalwart in an image of a friend ,philosopher and guide to those who wish to exhaust  their abilities for betterment of masses. This I write because of the first hand experience I gained at Chitrakoot a place rendered sacrosanct by the presence of Lord Ram during his penance in the forest and due to the fact that Nanaji retired from active political life after denouncing worldly pleasures of power making  chitrakoot as his karmabhoomi.


During our recent visit to Madhya Pardesh we included Chitrakoot in our itinerary  .As we drive we pass through secluded forest area where the traffic thins out as you pass over hills thickly populated  by trees with large leaves the forest of Panna  from Bandhavgarh close to UP border unlike Aarkantak which was close to Chattis Gadh borderIn fact half of the hill where Lord Ram stayed falls in Madhya Pradesh and half in UP. After visiting Khajuraho with its erotic and mind boggling sculpture ,Chitrakoot was a right place of solace. We stayed in the government guest house called Yatri Niwas.This place is right inside the city in the bazaar area ,but it is simple and clean. Every room had frames depicting the events and caricatures in the great epic of Ramayana and I went on a clicking spree trying to document the freehand line drawing that brought out the subtlety of the spirit of the scripture. We went on a holy circumambulation of the holy hillock   barefoot a walk of around 2 hours. Then we went to the Hanuman Dhara  a climb of around 40 minutes and Seetha Gumpha and Seetas Rasoi or kitchen  and then the temple of Devi Anusuya and  of holy sage Atri  on the bank of the beautiful Mandakini River.


Next day a guide from Nanajis ashram arrived and took us to a very exclusive exhibition of Rama and Ramayana and its influence on far and wide nations in Southeast Asia and Indochina. We realized that  Ramayana has played a central role in establishment of civil society in ancient world. The huge paintings by an fine artist  Shri Mhaiskar  depicting events in the epic made us awestruck. Next he gave us the option of visiting Nanaji at his residence or visit his model school and college designed and constructed on the concept of Shaniniketan and  the model Goshala where there is a collection of all types of cows from all over the country and where the visitor can learn their characteristics and agricultural performance in terms of output..There were  rural workshops in neatly constructed sheds where perennial and seasonal trades are taught  for local population  to set up complimentary  cottage industry  for rural upliftment and self sufficiency. None of these were Hitech ,Polluting or Capital Intensive although very ironically  the leftist label the rightist as the agents of Capitalists ..We opted first for his projects as we could see the actual work being done at these places. Education integrated with Agriculture, Veternary Science ,Herbalism and Development. But alas when we finished the tour and went to see him he was indisposed and we could not be given an audience by the great man. Now in retrospect we repent our decision and lament the fact that Nanaji left for his heavenly abode 3 months after we returned from out Madhya Pradesh tour.


Nanaji was born in Hingoli ,Vidarbh  in  eastern Maharashtra in a poor family. He lost his father at a young age. He sold vegetables to gather money to educate himself at Birla Institute  at Pilani.Then he joined the RSS and worked with  pundit Deen Dayal and Jaiprakash Narayan who propagated total revolution. His political philosophy was ‘cooperaton over conflict’ , ‘No power without service of last down trodden man’  and ‘ Progressive Village for progressive Nation’.He was a gifted parliamentarian and his speeches were renowned and scholastic. In 1950 he started ‘shishu Mandeer’ at Gorakhpur whose branches gradually  spread to all parts of India.He was founder member of ‘sanskar Bharati’ and the editor of ‘Rashtradharma’ ,’Panchajanya’ and ‘dainik Swadesh’ .He believed that unless the small villages are improved nothing can be achieved and hence he started a model village’Jaiprakash Gram’ at Gonda.He experimented with  agriculture and  successfully demonstrated that ground water can be lifted by bore wells made of bamboo. Conservation of Cows was uppermost in his mind for the overall development of farming and farmer in rural India. After retirement he came to Chitrakoot and established the Rural University for training artisans for practical trades for making an integrated development of villages possible. We were impressed by his herbal and medicinal formulations from various effluents from Mother cow the Gomutra,The Gobar and Milk.Nanaji donated his body and he died celibate! There are few people whom one never hesitates to touch feet . We could not fall at your feet and get blessed but you will always be remembered by generations as perfect person or Purshottam only next to Lord Ram.Nanaji’s religion was practical and not based on blind faith .His concept of Hinduism was non reactionary and peace-loving. It was his Endeavour to set a standard for those who were initiated or those who dared to be truthful and genuinely pious. With a strong resolution to go back to Chitrakoot  and do some shram daan  to devote time and energy for a noble cause will be a real tribute to the divine soul of Nanaji a real Brahmin whose life is worth emulating!!Long live the memories of our ancestors who worked for our  betterment so that we could stand on their shoulders to gaze at the stars .


Post Script : Now that Nanaji has left for his heavenly abode ,I am worried of his establishments.Hopefully the good work will continue and not interfered by “Gunda & Punda” Mafiosi.The Govt of MP should constitute a committee and get aid from centre to continue the Gramin Experiment.

Posted in Community Concerns, Culture, Education, Politics, Religion, Travel, Work.

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