P Parameswaran ji: The divine lamp that never ceases to burn, will continue to guide us
As the legendary poet, Rabindranath Tagore said: Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. For us, Parameswarji is an ever-burning lamp, the divine lamp that never ceases to burn. He will continue to be a light on our path as ever.
Mere words cannot describe the many lives of Shri P Parameswaran. Parameshwarji , as we fondly call him, was an original thinker, a prolific writer, a first-rate poet, an eloquent speaker, and above all, a great human being and an ideal Swayamsevak. He was often called a Rashtra Rishi even by his peers in the Sangh. ‘He was a lamp for our feet, a light on our path’.
A born poet, Parameswarji was an exception among most other intellectuals and thinkers associated with the Sangh who consciously developed their literary skills to meet organisational exigencies. He is indebted to his erudite parents for his inborn talents, be it his natural inclination towards Hindu philosophy and culture or his poetic skills. His father was a known Sanskrit scholar. After passing B.A (Honours) with a gold medal, he chose to become a Pracharak of the Sangh. His close association and contact with the great men of his time, like Swami Agamananda, Kerala Gandhi K Kelappan, Manohardev (who was a Pracharak in Thiruvananthapuram where Parameshwarji studied) and Poojaniya Guruji gave shape to his character and intellect. It is worth remembering that Parameswarji had also met Veer Savarkar at Savarkar Sadan.
An embodiment of modesty and humility, Parameswarji earned respect from all including the ideological foes, that is nearly impossible for a human being with a ‘stigma’ of being Swayamsevak in the most hostile political environment of Kerala, a result of prolonged hate campaign run by the Communist propaganda machinery. Amidst all smear campaigns against the Sangh and Sangh functionaries, even Marxist leaders of his time held high regard for Parameswarji and the leaders of the stature of EMS Namboothiripad and P Govinda Pillai enjoyed a very close relationship with him. He urged Marxists to shun the path of physical violence, inviting them for ideological debates in an attempt to put an end to the political violence in the state.
During my college days, I stayed at the Sangh Karyalaya in Kochi where all senior Sangh Pracharaks make frequent visits. I often recall an incident associated with Parameswarji, which I always cherish. Once, as an inmate of RSS prant karyalaya in Kochi, I happened to walk past Shri Parameswarji’s room, carrying former Communist leader K Damodaran’s book, Indian Thought. Shri Parameswarji called me to his room and asked me to show the book. For a 16-year-old student, it was a rare occasion to show off his choice of the book before an erudite pracharak. I showed him the book. After glancing through it, he asked me: ‘Hope you have studied all the principal texts of Hindu Darsanas?’ I got the hint. He wanted to tell me that one has to become firm on the fundamental principles of a subject before straying out for secondary sources and interpretations. It was a great lesson. He moulded and corrected us mostly in such occasional brief conversations. I consider myself very fortunate to live with Parameswarji, an intellectual giant and a remarkable personality of our times.
As a prolific writer, Parameswarji is best known for his penchant criticism of Communism, Islamism and Evangelism: the three threats to an open society. However, beyond his head-on ideological confrontations with his counterparts in the Communist parties, his scholarly analyses of the spiritual renaissance of Kerala and the lives of Sree Narayana Guru, Sri Aurobindo etc. have to be critically evaluated. The biographical studies on the lives of Sree Narayana Guru and Sri Aurobindo still remain unequalled for content and quality. Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan did a commendable job of compiling his selected articles into three volumes, titled ‘Heart Beats of Hindu Nation’.
In 1957, he was deputed to build the Jan Sangh in Kerala as its State Organising Secretary. In 1968, he became the All India General Secretary and later Vice-President of the Jana Sangh. He underwent two years of imprisonment during the Emergency. In 1977, he stepped back from Politics and entered the realm of social thought and development. He was appointed the Director of the Deendayal Research Institute at New Delhi for four years. In 1982, he returned to Kerala with a new vision. A rare institution builder, he founded the Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, a nation first think tank modelled on the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) after being inspired from his stint in New Delhi. He built its headquarter, Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram, precisely at the location where he attended the first Sangh Shakha.
Parameswarji was not just chronicling the history of the spiritual renaissance movement of Kerala led by Sree Narayana Guru that transformed the society from lunatic asylum to a holy land. Taking a step forward, apart from confining himself to the role of a chronicler, he laboured hard to take forward the legacy of the real spiritual renaissance of Kerala that faced a stumbling block with the spread of Communism, which sought to replace the unifying spirit of the great Hindu movement with divisive agenda of caste and political violence. As a part of that, he organised Vishala Hindu Sammelan, giving the clarion call-“Hindus are one”. He infused a tradition in Hindu society as a custom, observation of ‘Ramayana Month’ in Karkadakam-the last month in Malayalam calendar. In 1998, he also proposed observation of 'a Bhagavad Gita decade', seeking to build an enlightened Kerala.
Parameswarji constantly warned against the imminent disaster, which the budding generation of Kerala is going to face, is that if the vacuum created by Communism is not filled with positive ideas, it will soon be filled with ‘garbage’ because nature does not like empty spaces. He prophetically said: "Without Kerala, Bharat will be incomplete; Without Bharat, Kerala will be dangerous.” Now, the present scenario in Kerala suggests that we are bracing for the disaster, which he warned against. His thoughts on ‘little traditions’ without which one cannot even think of building a national organisation. His scholarly written thesis on Fourth Wave also created ripples in the intellectual realm, not only in Kerala but across the nation.
Among the many intellectual lives Parameswarji lived, journalism has a pre-eminent place. His fame as a social thinker and activist has, in a way, eclipsed his outstanding contributions to the field of journalism. He has been editing various Malayalam and English publications for the last seven decades. He was the editor of Malayalam weekly magazine 'Kesari'. He became the editor of monthly research journal 'Manthan' during his stint with the Deendayal Research Institute, New Delhi. He also edited a quarterly Malayalam research journal 'Pragati'. He has been the chief editor of the monthly 'Yuva Bharathi' and the quarterly 'Vivekananda Kendra Patrika' till he breathed his last.
A real repository of knowledge, Parameswarji left behind a vast literary universe. He has authored dozens of books in Malayalam and English. Among his noted works are ‘Marx and Vivekananda: A Comparative Study’, Sri Narayana Guru, Bhagavad Gita: The Nectar of Immortality, Heart Beats of Hindu Nation etc. Parameswarji was appointed as the member of the Court (Senate) of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 2000. The nation honoured him with Padma Shri in 2004 and Padma Vibhushan in 2018.
My words fail to capture emotions and moments, which I spent with him that I cherish throughout my life. Who will fill the vacuum Parameswarji left behind, is a misplaced question. As the legendary poet, Rabindranath Tagore said: “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” For us, Parameswarji is an ever-burning lamp, the divine lamp that never ceases to burn. He will continue to be a light on our path as ever.