Shri Dattopant Thengadi with the saints in Haridwar
During a meeting of senior saints in Haridwar when Thengadiji was requested to speak on Arth Tatva in Bharatiya life, he spoke extempore for 50 minutes. That day I visualised as if we were listening to the discourse of modern Chanakya having extraordinary command over the Vedic knowledge on economy
Swami Avadheshanand Giri
My association with Dattopant Thengadiji began in the early 1980s. During Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement there used to be frequent meetings of the saints to plan different activities for the movement. Senior saints, top spiritual and social leaders attended meetings at different places on the initiative of VHP’s Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal. There were big conventions of the saints in Delhi, Karnawati, Udupi, etc.
The Ayodhya movement basically began on October 7, 1984 for the liberation of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. The activities began seeking unlocking of the Janmasthan. Once there was a big meeting of senior saints in Haridwar for Ram Mandir. During that meeting, I requested Dattopantji to speak on artha tatva. We have accepted four Purusharths—Dharma, Artha, Kaam and Moksha in our culture. We have not ignored the artha. We may not be consumerist unlike the West, but we have surely been innovative in materialistic progress. Deeply and innovatively we have studied, researched and thought over money that has not been done in any other way of life. There is huge diversity in our culture. Our artistic view is unparalleled. Look at the incomparable ancient architectural and Vastu marvels that are still found in various parts of our country. The food diversity found in Bharat is found nowhere in the world. This whole cultural diversity is based on artha. So, I requested Thengadiji to speak on the artha tatva. He readily agreed. Initially, it had been decided that he would speak for 10-12 minutes. But when he started speaking, it was so convincing that Thengadiji spoke extempore for about 45-50 minutes. Even the eminent saints wondered over his depth of knowledge on artha tatva. Saints from different sects and representatives of almost all the Akharas were present there. They listened to Thengadiji very attentively. That day we experienced his extraordinary oratorical power, eloquence, intellect, knowledge and in-depth study on a particular topic. That day I thought as if we were listening to the discourse of a modern Chanakya or a visionary saint having extraordinary command over the Vedic knowledge of economy was speaking.
The main source of his information was the tea shops at street corners, which he easily found anywhere he went in the country. He analyzed every issue with the eyes and mindset of the common men. That understanding came from his live contact with the common people with whom he mingled as if he was one among them. The man who sat in the Rajya Sabha and founded the largest labour organisation of the country never hesitated to sit with the ordinary labourers, tea vendors, shoemakers, roadside barbers, etc. He was indeed an ‘Ajeya Purush, ‘Ajatshatru’, very humble and simple. I had in him the darshan of the great rishi who deeply thought over artha while sitting in the mountain caves.
How much tax should a ruler collect from the people or what should be the taxation plan of the state? Thengadiji explained that very perfectly. He said during the Vedic era both the Yati (saints) and the Raja (rulers) were similar. The ruler should charge the tax from the people as a honeybee absorbs honey from the flower. In that process, the flower does not feel exploited or cheated. No matter the butterflies took away its pollen grain, the honeybees took away its honey, or the Humblebee disturbed him, there is no change in its shape, size, softness, fragrance, attraction or fascination. The taxation system of the king should be like that. Thengadiji treated the workers as ‘tapasvi’ who thought for welfare of all.
While remembering him during his birth centenary year, I would surely say that Thengadiji advocated the age-old Bharatiya thinking, which believes that everyone’s rights, privacy, self-respect, freedom and autonomy should be protected. He ensured that the rights of an individual are not infringed and nobody’s privacy, freedom and labour are insulted. By mobilising the ordinary workers and artisans he accumulated not only the ‘Shram Sampada’ (labour wealth) of the country but also the ‘Bauddhik Sampada’ (intellectual wealth). He is indeed an epoch maker. His was not just a chapter or page in history, but a complete era. He is not merely a story, he is a complete saga.
On behalf of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, which is a representative body of all the saints belonging to all sects in Bharat, I recall with utmost respect his contribution to the national life of Bharat. On behalf of the Juna Akhara also, which has about 15 lakh sadhus, I pay my respect to the great rishi of this land. As president of the Acharya Sabha, I would like to say that Thengadiji was a ‘Chaitanya Purush’. He was surely an ‘Adhyatma Sampanna’ (spiritually accomplished) human being.
As part of his birth centenary, many seminars, symposiums, lectures and other activities will be organised across the country. But I would like to emphasise that the reminiscences of the persons who worked with Thengadiji should be compiled extensively. Most of them will now be at a ripe age. Somebody should sit with them and gather their experience. This compilation is direly needed because this treasure of experience will be very useful for the generations to come. His life should be studied in totality so that we could know how an ordinary person created and shaped the largest labour organisation of the country and changed the vision of the labourers from self-centeredness to the nation-builders. The positive change that we see in the country during the last five decades is because of the ‘tapasya’ of three visionaries—Shri Guruji, Pandit Deendayalji Upadhyaya and Thengadiji. He was a man who knew reading ‘Lok Manas’. He mingled with everyone as if he was one among them. In him, I have had darshan of a great rishi of Bharat.
(The writer is Juna Peethadhishwar and president of Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha. As told to Dr. Pramod Kumar)