2017 is the centenary year of the late Narayan Hari Palkar, popularly known as Nana Palkar. His life was dedicated to the mission of RSS. His memories are visible in the service activities conducted at ‘Rugna Seva Sadan’ in Mumbai. Born on August 26, 1918, Nana Palkar was a dedicated and a committed Pracharak, bestowed with qualities of self-less service, mesmerising oratory, poetry, literary skills and above all a distinguished organiser.
Sixty six years have passed since I first saw and heard Nana Palkar! It was the day of “Das Navami”. Early morning, he was speaking in front of an audience of 150 kids at a temple situated in the Ratnagiri Fort. He was then a youth of average height with fair complexion wearing simple clothes. His serene, pious face invited respect at the first sight. He was narrating in a most lucid yet simple language laced with metaphors and similes a story of how Samarth Ramdas established temples and Mutts of Hanuman. How Samarth Ramdas envisaged two aspects of Hanuman's character—one 'Veer Maruti' and the other ‘Daas Maruti’. The one representing as a fighter in the battle of Ram-Ravana and the other was the ‘Daas’ of Lord Rama respectively. His brief sentences would touch the hearts of the audience.
Narayan Hari Palkar
Nana drew a parallel of Sangh and Sangh swayamsevak with these twin aspects of Maruti's character—the one ready to protect the weak from the anti-social elements and the other ready to serve the society in times of distress. There is no dichotomy in these two characters of Maruti, they are the two sides of the same coin, he explained. Of course that was not our age to understand and grasp the meaning of what he told in its entirety, but it remained in our memory. We still remember the couplet from his poem that inspires one for service of the society.
Nana was born on August 26, 1918. He had schooling at the Nutan Marathi Vidyalaya in Pune. He was an
intelligent student which was further honed up with the guidance of stalwart teachers like Mahamahopadhyaya Datto Vaman Potdar, MH Godbole whose life was dedicated to swadeshi, Prof. SM Mate who was committed to eradicate untouchability and so on. He developed interest in reading and later in freedom movement. He was
attracted to the life of Shivaji Maharaj. He was naturally attracted towards the service of the society.
He came in contact with RSS in 1933 and discipline, honesty and selfless-admiration among karyakartas were the obvious attracting points. His thoughts were influenced by Veer Savarkar and Dr KB Hedgewar, the founder of RSS. Soon he became a responsible activist of the RSS. A born poet as he was, Nana's poetry did flourish with the influence of RSS with new thoughts and ideas. He composed many a poems that emanated the message of patriotism, love for the motherland, and service to the society. The background of freedom movement provided him with the right subjects. Even today, his compositions are cherished by the Sangh swayamsevaks.
Nana was a prolific orator as well. He had developed the knack to win the debates with his lucid and simple language, yet penetrating and extensive study with a unique systematic style of presentation with pointed hammering. He might have addressed more than hundred meetings of college students and lecturers and won their accolades.
He passed matriculation in 1936 with distinction. Immediately after joining the College, he suffered with health problems. During recovery, he decided to quit the college and dedicate himself to the service of Sangh which he followed till his last breathe. He was instrumental in taking the Sangh in the far-flung villages in Thane and Pune districts. He was officially appointed in Satara as a Pracharak in 1942. Then considered as a hard nut to crack for the RSS, still he flourished the Sangh work there.
Nana used to give commentaries on the contemporary issues like international situation, the equations that the World War II changed, Muslim fundamentalism in freedom struggle, and the need to organise the youth to overcome the odds. During his stay at Satara he came in close contact with famous freedom fighters and Congress leaders including Baburao Gokhale, Pant Pratinidhi of Aundh, Srimant Shahu Chhatrapti Maharaj, Com Nana Patil, and many others.
The unfortunate murder of Mahatma Gandhi proved a curse for the RSS, but Nana remained unfazed even in those turbulent days and did not lose his faith in the leadership of Sri Guruji and Sangh. With his inspiration, 350 people participated in the satyagraha in 1948. He reorganised the Sangh work after the ban was lifted.
Some of the Sangh activists separated them from the original Sangh work due to some reasons. Nana, however, maintained relations with them. He studied the life and missions of Thakkar Bappa, Vinoba Bhave, Appasaheb Patwardhan, Bhaurao Patil, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, etc to give social orientation to the Sangh work. He made an extensive note on farming, education, health, small industries etc, which later became an edifice for the launching of Jana Kalyan Samiti.
In 1952, he was elevated to the position of Pune Vibhag Pracharak. But that had a toiling effect on his health and which stopped his travel as a Pracharak in 1958. He took to writing and bowing to the directions of Sri Guruji and Eknath Ranade authored the life and mission of Sri Guruji in 1956. Later, he penned books on the life of Maratha warriors Santaji and Dhanaji, Khando Ballal, etc. But his masterpiece was the biography of RSS founder Dr K B Hedgewar, one of the best biographies produced in Marathi. Unfortunately, it did not receive recognition either from literary field or the government. His well researched, graphical book on the Jews and their history and struggle (Israel: Tribulations to the Triumphs in Marathi) won him the laurels of Israeli people and the Government of that country was kind enough to name a road after him in his honour in 1965.
Now his health began to deteriorate. Still, Nana accepted the responsibility of Prant Bouddhik Pramukh. Later, he became Karyawah of Maharashtra Prant. He came in contact with saintly personalities like Sri Gulawani Mahraj, Swami Swarupananda and others. He was not frustrated but his health did not give him the support he needed.
He suffered from jaundice and was admitted to Poddar Hospital. Sri Guruji used to visit the Hospital for three days and keep him in good humour. He even did not respond to the treatment of Pt Ramnarayan Shastri and left for heavenly abode on March 1, 1967 at the age of 49! His life was dedicated at the altar of the motherland forever inspiring others to emulate.
(The writer was closely associated with the late Nana Palkar)