Swami Achutanand ‘Harihar’, the father of social revolution in North India
Shudras remained slaves, centuries have passed
Centuries have passed by bearing the oppression
Now just think, centuries have passed
improve your condition, centuries have passed
The above lines calling for the awakening of Bahujans are from Swami Achutanand ‘Harihar’. He was the first thinker, poet, playwright, editor, journalist, printer and leader of the Bahujan Renaissance in North India. He is the first modern rebel progressive writer of Hindi language. Swami Achutanand had tried to run such a movement many decades before the rise of the Bahujan movement in Uttar Pradesh in the 80s and 90s. However, his movement remained at the social level. But it contained the seeds of a social power struggle. This movement played its role in increasing the consciousness of the Bahujans, especially the Dalits.
By Dr. Siddhartha
It is a well-known fact that right-wing, liberal and left-wing scholars, historians, critics and writers of the Dwij tradition did not write even a word on any Bahujan thinker, thinker and writer who challenged the varna-caste system. Since the established tradition of knowledge was dominated by these Dwij writers, the result was that even the greatest thinkers and writers of the Bahujan tradition remained a victim of neglect for a long time. The victims of neglect include Swami Achutanand ‘Harihar’, the originator of Bahujan renaissance in North India, thinkers and writers.
Swami Achutanand was a contemporary of Dr. Ambedkar. A serious discussion also took place between the two on the question of caste-caste system and the emancipation of Dalits. At the suggestion of Ambedkar, Achutanand supported him in the struggle for separate electorate for Dalits. The first meeting of the two people took place in 1928 at the national convention of the ‘Adi Hindu’ movement in the then Bombay. Both the leaders discussed the social and political condition of Dalits. Dr. Ambedkar suggested him to take an active part in politics.
Like other heroes of the Bahujan Renaissance, Achutananda also refuted the varna-caste system and challenged the Hindu theology supporting the varna-jati system. He describes the condition of the Shudras in his famous and popular poem ‘Manusmriti Se Jalan’ in these words-
Every day Manusmriti is burning us
doesn’t let you rise up, is pulling you down
Brahmins and Kshatriyas were made officers of all
Telling us to wear old clothes
Plow us with oxen without wages,
abusing and hitting on him, is giving us
Taking forced labor, does not even fill the stomach with food,
The children are starving in agony, what oppression is being done
O Hindu community, listen, it will not be good for you.
Harihar, you are making us cry
Achutanand was born on May 6, 1879 in village Umri, post Sirsaganj, district Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh. His childhood name was Heera Lal. His father Motiram and his uncle Mathura Prasad had joined the British army. His early education was done in the military cantonment. By the age of 14, he had practiced well in Urdu and English. Achutananda was basically brought up by his unmarried uncle Mathura Prasad. Those who are Kabirpanthi by thoughts. He used to recite the verses of Kabir to the child Heera Lal (Achhutanand), which had a deep impact on Achhutanand. The fact worth noting here is that Dr. Ambedkar’s father Ramji Subedar was also a Kabirpanthi. Ambedkar himself considered Kabir as his second guru after Buddha and Jotirao Phule as his third guru.
Under the influence of Kabir’s verses, Achutanand started liking the company of sages and saints. He left home and went with a group of Kabir panthi sadhus and traveled from place to place with them. He kept wandering till the age of 24. Achutananda’s scholar Kanwal Bharti writes that during this time he acquired a lot of knowledge of religion, philosophy and public behavior and also learned Gurmukhi, Sanskrit, Bangla, Gujarati and Marathi languages in this wandering.
In 1905, Achutanand came in contact with Arya Samaji monk Sachchidanand and became his disciple. Started promoting Arya Samaj. His name was changed from Hiralal to ‘Swami Hariharananda’. During this, he did a deep study of ‘Satyarth Prakash’ and Vedas and continued to propagate Arya Samaj till 1912.
During this, he realized that the Arya Samaj was also formed to protect the Brahmin religion and the caste system. Its basic aim is also to maintain Dwij supremacy. Exposing the truth of Arya Samaj, he wrote that ‘it is a pretense of Vedic religion created to save Brahminism from the attacks of Christians and Muslims. Its words are empty boasting and its principles are ludicrous. Its purification is mere deception and the Varna system of virtues and deeds is a false word trap. He is an enemy of history, a murderer of truth and a peddler of falsehood. Its vision is blameworthy, its speech malicious, its establishment thoti and its Vedarth completely fabricated. It does not follow what it says. Its aim is to make Hindus slaves of Vedas and Brahmins by creating enmity with Christians and Muslims. Dr. Ambedkar has presented a similar opinion in the context of Arya Samaj in his book ‘Annihilation of Caste’.
After coming out of Arya Samaj, in 1917 his name was changed to Achutanand in place of Brahminist name Hariharanand. Kanwal Bharti writes that Swami Achutanand ji announced the ‘Adi Hindu’ movement in 1922 to bring awakening in the Dalit society. While clarifying the concept of ‘Adi Hindu’, Swamiji explained the meaning of ‘untouchable’ as ‘untouchable’ i.e. ‘pure’.
He has written that the Aryans defeated the indigenous Mahapratapi kings by deceit and force, snatched everything from them and killed them. After this, by making the natives here Shudras, they destroyed their culture and established their feudalistic culture. We are the children of those original inhabitants. That’s why we are tribal. We have to regain our lost ancient glory in this country :-
We are civilized, most ancient of India, we are entitled
Ha-ha! We were made Shudras, we were Sardars once.
Now is not that era, don’t bear the oppression ‘Harihar’
Now break the chain, why stay in slavery
Achutanand organized many meetings to take forward the ‘Adi Hindu’ movement. Till the year 1930, under the leadership of Swami ji, there were eight national conventions, three special conferences and fifteen provincial meetings as well as hundreds of district meetings. The first annual session was held at Delhi (1923), the second at Nagpur (1924), the third at Hyderabad (1925), the fourth at Madras (1926), the fifth at Allahabad (1927), the sixth at Bombay (1928), the seventh at Amravati (1929) and the eighth session (1930). I happened in Allahabad.
Provincial assemblies were held at Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Meerut, Mainpuri, Mathura, Etawah, Gorakhpur, Farrukhabad and Agra. Thousands of Dalit castes participated in these meetings walking from village to village. Three special meetings were held at Delhi, Meerut and Allahabad. The aim of all this was to ignite the Bahujan Renaissance.
He brought out ‘Pracheen Hindu’ from Delhi for two years in 1922-23 and ‘Adi Hindu’ from Kanpur from 1924 to 32. He had set up a printing press in Kanpur in 1925 under the name Adi Hindu. He used to publish his letters and literature from the same press. He was the first Dalit poet of Hindi, in whose poetry we find the development of the nirgunist ideological tradition of Kabir and Raidas. His surname in poetry was ‘Harihar’.
In his poetry collections, ‘Harihar Bhajan Mala’, ‘Vigyan Bhajan Mala’, ‘Adi Hindu Bhajanmala’ and ‘Adivansh Ka Danka’ are mentioned, at present only ‘Adivansh Ka Danka’ is available. ‘Adivansh Ka Danka’ is a work composed in folk verses, which includes Qawwali, Ghazal, Bhajan, Marsia etc. The tradition of writing plays in Dalit literature also begins with Swamiji. We get two of his plays – Mayanand Balidan and Ramrajya Nyaya. The play ‘Rama Rajya Nyaya’ depicts the killing of Shudra sage Shambuka by King Rama. ‘Mayanand Balidan’ is a play written entirely in verse. This play underlines the practice of human sacrifice existing in Hindu culture. Pro. Chamanlal writes, ‘When the literature of Swami Achutanand ‘Harihar’ came to light, he can be considered the father of modern Dalit literature in Hindi and the poem Hira Dom can be called his later poem.’
He died at Kanpur on July 20, 1933 at the young age of 54. On the death of Achutanand ji, another leader of Bahujan Navjagran Chandrika Prasad ‘Jigyasu’ wrote that ‘there was a niche mind, it is no more. There was a tribal lamp, it is no more.
The author is an independent journalist and Bahujan thinker. PhD in Hindi Literature. Sharp and factual writings on current issues. Das is the author of the important book Samajik Kranti Ki Yoddha: Savitri Bai Phule, published by Das Publications.
Courtesy : Dalit Dastak
Note: This news piece was originally published in dalitdastak.com and used purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights