Raksha bandhan in the Hindu saffron brotherhood

Photo Caption

The conventional wisdom on raksha bandhan is that tying a rakhi symbolises a “sister’s love and prayers for her brother’s well-being and the brother’s lifelong vow to protect her.” But in the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh (RSS), there is a small problem: there are no women, although there are women “volunteers” in the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, which follows the RSS philosophy and ideology.

Here, member of Parliament Prahlad Joshi (right), who is also the president of the BJP Karnataka unit, ties a rakhi to his RSS brothers, in Hubli on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Has RSS infiltrated into IT, media in Karnataka?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should the RSS be banned?

Does our sanskriti sanction regressive MCPs?

When the knicker lobby smells a nice opportunity?

Can chief minister owe allegiance to the RSS?

A picture for the personal albums of the sangh parivar

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15 Responses to “Raksha bandhan in the Hindu saffron brotherhood”

  1. Shemej Says:

    The funniest part was when RSS was founded they never gave membership to non- Brahmins Indians. Initially the membership was restricted to chitpavan Brahmins. Till early 1930s, they thought, even if the British quit India, they would return the power back to the maharajas, peshwas and zemindars. Hence they didnt want to allow other caste members to join RSS. Till this date RSS does not allow internal democracy and all its SarSanghchalaks are appointed from top. And they insist who should be the BJP leaders and chief ministers.

    By 1930s, it became clear that even if the British quit India, they wil hand over the power to a democratically elected group. All of a sudden RSS realized the importance of having majority votes to win elections. They opened up the membership to other caste members too.

    Even now RSS doesnt allow membership to women. And interestingly no women from the family members of RSS leaders protest. This raises some interesting questions. Let us revisit what modern science say about human mind. That the intelligence of a human being is determined by various factors, including the genetic factors. However, the most important factor which determines the intelligence level of an individual is his/her life experience.

    Let me give a widely accepted explanation of what is intelligence:

    “Intelligence is a combination of the ability to:

    1. Learn. This includes all kinds of informal and formal learning via any combination of experience, education, and training.
    2. Pose problems. This includes recognizing problem situations and transforming them into more clearly defined problems.
    and 3. Solve problems. This includes solving problems, accomplishing tasks, fashioning products, and doing complex projects.
    4. Ability to deal with novel situations; the ability to effectively automate ways of dealing with novel situations so they are easily handled in the future; the ability to think in novel ways.

    If this is what is intelligence, naturally those sections who are not exposed to complex life situations, will find it difficult to understand things comprehensively and to de-construct the problem and to come with solutions to that problem.

    We understand that large section of Women relatives of Hindutva activists arguably majority of them are from affluent families (who are mostly conservative families, who restrict women from mingling with the rest of the societies freely.) –

    If we understand what is intelligence, there is no wonder why these women never protest against the discrimination within RSS. This doesnt mean these women are less intelligent. Your intelligence is limited to the area of your exposure. A very intelligent scientist can take not so smart decisions on an economic policy matter. When an individual lacks exposure about the larger society, it is easy to believe what is fed to them by their masters and leaders

  2. kris Says:

    Will Advani tie a rakhi to Modi, probably not.

    Here is an interesting piece – Modi: An outsider in a private club –


    …..the reason why us denizens of Lutyens’s Delhi hate Modi so much is because he is a rank outsider. He comes from the wrong class and caste. He speaks little English. He dares to criticise the Dynasty we revere. And he exhibits a marked disdain for socialism and secularism. These two ideas are sacrosanct for those who have privileged access to that most exclusive of Indian private clubs: Lutyens’s Delhi…..

    He represents an India that has so far been carefully kept outside the closed doors of the Lutyens’s Delhi club. A rough, angry, passionate new India that does not recognise private clubs or their rules and that threatens to tear down the walls that conceal the colonised elite, bred by the British Raj, that continues to control all the levers of political power in India.

    Incredible though this may sound, the entire machinery of the Congress party is currently geared to finding ways of keeping Modi out of national politics. This endeavour has the complicit support of senior BJP leaders and this is why you now so often hear the Congress party’s spokesmen publicly praise Mr Advani as a ‘moderate’ when till just the other day he was considered the man responsible for demolishing the Babri Masjid……

  3. Goldstar Says:

    from the same linked Wikipedia article:

    Rabindranath Tagore & Rakhi
    Tagore’s vision of celebrating Raksha Bandhan was totally different. According to him Rakhi is not only a festival of the siblings but it’s a celebration of mankind and of humanity. He promoted the concept of unity and harmony among all members of the society. He believed that it is the responsibility of all the members of the society to help and protect each other and encourage a harmonious social life. For him Rakshabandhan festival is the celebration of fellow feeling and concern. Especially in today’s context Tagore’s vision is very much applicable as it teaches us to think and care for others. The history behind this festival dates back to the year 1905 when the British empire decided to divide Bengal, a state of British India on the basis of caste and religion. That time Rabindra Nath Tagore arranged a ceremony to celebrate Raksha Bandhan to strengthen the bond of love and togetherness between the Hindus and the Muslims of Bengal and together fight against the British empire. He used the platform of Raksha Bandhan to spread the feeling of brotherhood. It was his vision to spread the nationalist spirit among people from different ethnic groups. His literary works have always transcended race, gender, religion and geographical boundaries. In his works and his beliefs he has always felt that it is important to have freedom of mind irrespective of race, religion and culture.
    According to him if we can think beyond our religion and caste than only we can become true human beings. So to spread this message of love he thought Raksha Bandhan to be the most appropriate day to spread this message. Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan started congregations like Rakhi Mahotsavas. This invoked trust and feeling of peaceful coexistence. The festival for them is a symbol of harmony. The tradition continues as people tie rakhis to the neighbors and close friends. It is a festival denoting National sentiments of harmony. So if we look into the actual significance of this festival in today’s world, which is full of crisis and strife, these kinds of rituals hold the key to peaceful existence. The auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan can be used as a potent tool for social change, which could ultimately envelop everyone in a permanent bond of love and friendship. Tagore used a white threads for Raksha Bandhan thus made white Raksha Bandhan popular among Friends. His poem on Raksha Bhandan: “Banglar mati Banglar jal (May the Earth and Water of Bengal be blessed, O Lord)”.

  4. Vinay Says:

    Considering that Shemej is someone who praises the “socialist model of governance followed in pre-liberalization India”, not even one word of what he says should be taken seriously.

  5. Nimish Says:

    @Shemej Says
    commneting on RSS ideology without experiencing it is an improper act by you. If you really want to know what RSS feels and act about Caste system than be the part of organization first. No one can understand RSS ideology just by sitting outside. So first experience the change and then comment. Also your so called ideas about political intelligence for RSS are very funny.

  6. Shemej Says:

    “socialist model of governance followed in pre-liberalization India”,

    One problem with online forum is, people can spread utter falsehood. When we try to reply this falsehood, some times our post will be rejected by the forum. Or on other occasions, we may not notice the lies put into our mouth.

    I have took pain to explain that the system which India followed is not “socialism” or communism. Forget about Communism. No form of communism existed anywhere in the world according to communists themselves.

    What existed (and what India follows even now) is nothing but State Capitalism. But the emphasis changed since 1991. I have discussed this here- Please avoid putting words into others’ mouth and then ridicule opposition voice.
    See —

    Why India encouraged state capitalism was, Indian corporates didnt have the necessary massive capital to invest on education etc, which would return the profit only in the long term. Hence where ever Corporates can take quick profit, they invested and where ever it require huge capital and can only get benefits in the long term, the Public Sector companies were started.

    This is the arrangement Nehru reached between then Corporates,TAta Birla etc. In turn Govt used the Banking sector to collect resources and passed on to Corporates.

    India never had Socialist economy. In media discussions, Corporate pays some experts to spread such a misconception, to blame the old system, to redirect the anger against the old so that people will start supporting the new phase of Capitalism.It works till the masses realize that too is a fraud.

    Though, in general terms, what central govt follows now is Neo-liberalism, there are aspects of Welfare Capitalism.

    To understand the folly of these well meaning authors here, let me point out one thing– When Obama gave health insurance assistance to USA citizens, remember there was a huge cry “Obama is following Socialism” For average Americans, “socialism” is a foul word. But in USA Capitalist govt implemented almost all welfare schemes that Indian govt implemented for people. See compared to what USA gives to its citizens, India is giving only peanuts.

    Why Johnson administration was never called “socialist” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_B._Johnson_Administration#Presidency_1963.E2.80.931969
    Was Economic Opportunity Act a socialist peace of legislation?

    See, let us not lose our own credibility. I request only one thing. Just copy and paste the words I have given under food_security_bill comment and read a few artilcles on each of these subjects. Please.

    “commneting on RSS ideology without experiencing..”

    I have relatives who were till one year back office bearers of RSS at Taluk level.

    RSS in theory oppose Castes.But I myself have attended functions organized by RSS leaders (not an RSS programme, but Gurupuja of a swamiji), where then Chief minister Yeddyurappa’s banner was tied and the dalits were made to sit on the road side, next to drainage (under the banner) when all others were served food on table and chair. This was in Chamaraja Nagar dist. Even now economic blockade imposed by uppercaste members of the society exists in this area. Almost all these upper-caste members are strong supporters of BJP and RSS. If you have doubt go and ask each of the police stations in the Chamaraja Nagar Dist. (dont ask me. I need to go there again. And let me clarify I dont say the economic blockade was imposed by RSS. But by individuals who happen to be RSS activists)

    Forget about that, what RSS is practising in Uduppi is discussed by the entire country.

    Still I never said RSS is a caste organization. That is a misunderstanding. Even the German Nazis abandoned the race prejudice now. In fact RSS, like any other fascist organisation may change its emphasis. It is possible that RSS may cease to be a communal organization. It can very well consider all the religion with equal eye. But a fascist organization can not abandon its fascist ideology. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was actualy demanding to abandon its Hindutva line.

    Earlier RSS was an organization of Chitpavan Brahmins. Now not. Now it is a Hindutva (Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hindutva is Political Hinduism) organization. Tomorrow it can be a secular Fascist organization. We dont know. But it can never abandon its fascist structure.

  7. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Shemej, Enlightning writeup. Couple of questions:

    If RSS abandons its implicit casteism and explicit religious bigotry, what would be the fascist element left in it?

    BTW do you know what the caste-wise breakup of the leadership of RSS is, the ones who really call the shots? It would be interesting to know for an ‘outsiders’.

  8. Vinay Says:


    Don’t indulge in wordplay now – no one cares about the intricacies of all the “isms” you are speaking about here. The fact is that you praised the model of pre-liberalization India in a previous post, and are basically anti-reform.

    No one is a fool here – everyone knows, and can see around them, that the nation is much better off today than it ever was in history. Everyone – from the elites to the middle classes to the poor – everyone is better off now than they were before liberalization.

    Liberalization has been the best thing to have happened in India’s history, and the nation is better off in all indicators as a result of it. Do you agree or not? First let us clarify this.

  9. Shemej Says:

    AnonymousGuy, No, I dont know inside knowledge of who controls etc. My relative, former Taluka Karyavah– they also dont know such things at national level. May be media guys close to RSS must be knowing. We have some knowledge as published by mainstream magazines. I can share some of them from time to time. But what I know is less than 1%.

    Well, I am discussing a very sensitive subject below. I sincerely apologize if any remarks hurt anyone. Some of these information given are rarely or never published. Just trying to give some hints. Hope it will be published here.

    Let me agree once again, in general terms present RSS tries to build a caste-less society. But the leadership still are influenced by caste supremacy.

    Caste background of RSS SarSanghchalaks:

    Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1925-1930 and 1931 to 1940) – Brahmin from Nagpur. Forefathers are originally from Kandkurti in Bodhan taluka of Nizamabad
    Dr. Laxman Vaman Paranjpe (1930-1931) (when Dr Hedgewar was in jail during Forest Satyagraha) – caste not sure.
    Madhavrao Sadashivrao Golwalkar, called as Guruji (1940-1973) – Brahmin
    Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, called as Balasaheb (1973-1994) – Brahmin.
    Rajendra Singh, called as Rajjubhaiya (1994-2000) – Rajput
    K. S. Sudarshan (2000-2009) – Kannada Brahmin born in Raipur.
    Mohan Bhagawat (March 2009-present) – Karhade Brahmin

    Let us hear from an insider about RSS. “Dr.Sanjeev Kelkar has seen the RSS at close quarters, and at all levels, for the last 43 years. He was brought up in a diehard RSS family in Nagpur. His family had close connections with the founder of the RSS, Golwalkar, Deoras and many others.” And Kelkar, admits that he felt uncomfortable about the ‘covert Chaturvarnya system” that continued to exist in the RSS. According to him, it was “Deoras, tried to change the conservative dispensation of RSS by calling for Hindu unity to include the Dalits.” http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/rethinking-ideologies/article2043381.ece

    Why early RSS leaders believed in Brahmin supremacy?

    Since Chhatrapati Shahu appointed Balaji Vishwanth Bhat as the Peshwa in 1713, till the fall of the Maratha Empire, that position was held by the members of the Chitpavan family. An ariticle in livemint says: Chitpavan Brahmin “members are fair-skinned and unique for their light eyes (like cricketer Ajit Agarkar and model Aditi Govitrikar).”. It is said lowercaste people call Chitpavan Brahmins as “cobras”

    Though other Brahmins looked down on them, Chitpavan Brahmins, who enjoyed the patronage of Peshwas were very aware of their so called “aristocracy”.

    Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vinoba Bhave (all freedom fighters or social reformers) are Chitpavans.

    Nathuram Vinayak Godse, Hedgewar, Guruji Golwalkar, Deoras Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Bal Thakkeray all are Chitpawans.

    Initially other Brahmins didnt consider Chitpavan Brahmins as having equal status as Brahmins and even the Peshwa was denied the rights to use the ghats reserved for Deshasth priests at Nashik on the Godavari. During Peshwas’ rule Chitpavan Brahmins were given many concessions and opportunities which helped them to come up as influent group. As British didnt give special status to them, they started learning English and had high rate of English knowlege during those times. Though, most Chitpavan Brahmins spoke Marathi, their original mother tongue could be different(not sure), as most of these people migrated to Peshwas empire looking for good positions and opportunity under Peshwa rule. Chitpavan Brahmins from Kokan speak a dialect called Chitpavani Konkani in their homes.Interestingly in Dakshina Kannada District there are many Chipavani Kokani speaking people. That could explain after Nagpur, RSS has their second headquarters in Mangalore.

    Chitpavan Brahmins were, by nature (of course with great exceptions) said to be aggressive and according come analysts, this is because they had “Khoti” rights for generations. Khoti right gave uncontrolled rights to “Khots” (type of land owners) to commit acts of all types of cruelties on poor people who lived in the land.

    And what Ambedkar Said about “Khoti” system in his “BILL No. XX OF 1937 TO ABOLISH THE KHOTI SYSTEM”: “The system of Khoti Tenure while it binds the Khot to pay revenue to the Government leaves him free to do what he likes to the inferior holders and this freedom has been so grossly abused by the Khots that the inferior holders are not only subjected to all kinds of exactions but they have been reduced to a state of abject slavery…..”

    Balgangadhar Tilak (himself a Chitpavan) said Chitpavan are not known for doing charity to others and should learn from other sections. (I am sorry, I dont generalize here. Just quoting from past document to explain the history behind a hate ideology. I know most of our present day Chipavan Brahmin friends are more civilized, educated and live in an entirely different era. I respect them.)

    “Commenting on the fact that the Konkanstha contribution to the freedom movement is completely out of proportion to their numbers, the noted historian D.D.Kosambi says “All that can be infered from this is that while a Chitpavan doesn’t think twice about sacrificing his life for the country, he would think atleast a hundred times even before he opened his purse.”:-) ”
    Some nteresting discussions here – http://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology_list.indology.info/1997-June/008408.html

    What we can understand from above is, RSS leaders were Brahmins, they were not Brahmins who were known for scholarship or spirituality. They were aggressive, full of hatred against others, and the ideology which inspired them was selfishness and the eagerness to preserve own vested interests. They were opposed to British because under British, they didnt get the patronage and special status and power that they enjoyed when Peshwas were in power. They hoped when British quit India, Peshwas will come back to power. But they disliked others come to power, as they had better English education and they were well placed under British compared to the rest of the Maharashtra people. If any one reads the speeches of Golwalkar, Savarkar, Naturam Godse and other early RSS leaders, they were full of hatred… animosity…. hostility….

  10. Rastrakoota Says:

    @ Shemej, wow….! thats a real wealth of information!

  11. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Shemej, Informative and interesting. I would still be interested to know if the caste wise breakup of the decision making RSS leadership is ‘completely out of proportion to their numbers’, like it was in the initial years.

    Dont have to apologize for doing objective analysis, it is useful to the subjects of the analysis too if they take it the right way. You are a shining light among Churumuri commentors, rarely make personal attacks and broaden others views on the topic. Compared to you most of us other commentors are filled with hatred and animosity :)

  12. Shemej Says:

    There is no easy definition for Fascism. If I try to explain what is fascism, that will be the best joke. I can copy and paste from online. Even the best political analysts failed to define fascism. But I know one thing– The real meaning of “fascism” is not that simple like when political parties call each other “fascists”. fascism is not just a foul word. It is a very complex political vision.

    There are different types of Fascists, different origins. No simple definition is possible.

    Some one has pointed out the connection between the laziness of people and the emergence of Fascism:

    “…It is easier to accept others’ opinion rather than forming one’s own opinion. Copying others’ …structure of social life and principles are always easier than developing them originally.”

    “Fascism’s one characteristic is that it simplifies matters in the social structure, in such a way that only a single dictator needs to be obeyed. A dictator can impose a clear idea about questions like “which system should be obeyed?”, “Who should rule?”, “What should be the nature of production…” etc

    Read here — http://moronsview.blogspot.in/2010/11/abstracts-from-mnvijayans-writings.html

    What he meant is, when the alertness of the democratic society becomes weak, the society look for a powerful dictator or an authoritarian leader to guide them to new prosperity. Churumuri earlier discussed how masses waited for a “Sanjay Gandhi”.

    What people often forget is that, Fascism is a very popular movement. Fascist parties and its leaders were worshiped by the masses.

    “ಯಾವ ಪಕ್ಷವೂ ಸರಿಯಿಲ್ಲಾರಿ…. ಈ ಊರಲ್ಲಿ ನೀರಿನ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ, current ಇಲ್ಲ, ಬೆಲೆ ಏರಿಕೆಯಿಂದಾಗಿ ಕಂಗಾಲಾಗಿದ್ದೆ. ಈ ಜನರಿಗೆ ಸ್ವಾತಂತ್ರ್ಯ ಹೆಚ್ಚಾಗಿದೆ. ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಕಾಲ ಸರ್ಕಾರ ಮಿಲಿಟರಿ ಅವರ ಕೈಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕೊಡುಬೇಕು…. ಇಲ್ಲಾಂದ್ರೆ ಈ ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರ ಉದ್ದಾರ ಆಗಲ್ಲ….” We hear such comments any number of times. This is an ideal situation for a fascist force to emerge. Fascism emerges as a popular movement when traditional political parties fail to solve serious crisis of the system.

    Even if RSS leave its “its implicit casteism and explicit religious bigotry”, it will still has its Jingoistic/ Ultra Nationalistic views. It will have its authoritarian nature. Its anti democratic style. Projecting powerful leaders. Militarizing society etc. What will prevent RSS from still pointing the finger at an internal or external enemy for all the problems of this nation? Such things will continue, even if it abandon its relgious chauvinism. And for your information, RSS already has a Muslim front – Muslim Rashtriya Manch.

    Here is a definition of Fasicsm — (copied online)

    “Fascism is an authoritarian or totalitarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy.”

    Thanks AG, Rashtrakoota, Vinay, Nimish all for appreciating and critical remarks…

  13. Shemej Says:

    ” you praised the model of pre-liberalization India i… basically anti-reform.”

    As far as I can remember, I have never praised pre-liberalization India. I am not a romantic to praise some thing about the past. I might have commented positive role played by Public Sector. pre-liberalization and post-liberalization India are both pro-Corporate systems. But neo-liberalism is worse…Its primitive accumulation. When everything is looted, nothing will remain. We will discuss then…

    I never opposed reforms. We need continuous reforms. But reform for what? To help whom?

    Neo-liberalism has helped to improve the life status of top 20% hugely. The next 60% life status is no more the same.It improved along with their living cost, and stress, work-pressure, uncertainty (and debt of many in this group)

    Many of the last 20% population’s (if not all of them) life have become worse. You never inquire what happened to thousands of tribals who are evicted to help mining by a foreign or Indian multinational company.. You never inquire what is the source of income of the landless agricultural workers who were employed in the land now allotted to SEZs. The land owners may have got (many didnt) compensation. But landless unorganized workers are not given anything…

    Have you ever seen Girish Kasaravalli’s “Dweepa”? Please…

  14. Anonymous Guy Says:

    I vote for a Shemej column in Churumuri.

  15. vaidya Says:

    Or a link to a Shemej blog. :) I agree with the analysis above. We have started seeing development only in terms of GDP without looking at the long term cost we might have to pay while achieving that.

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