Today we remember one of the greatest Indian freedom fighters- Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Born this day, the 28th of May, in the year 1883, Veer Savarkar started taking part in nationalist activities while still a teenager.

While a student in England he wrote ‘The Indian War of Independence’ on the Freedom struggle of 1857, which was immediately banned by the British government. Arrested in 1910 for connections with a revolutionary group, he was then sentenced to two life terms imprisonment.

Not only was he a great freedom fighter and revolutionary, but an accomplished poet and writer, too. He was also a staunch advocate of religious reforms.

His love for his country is evident is many of his poems. Here is the link to his famous poem-‘ Sagara pran talamalala’ in which he implores the ocean to take him back to his Motherland. It has been wonderfully rendered by the Mangeshkar siblings-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yKu1lOvMeA .

We also remember today Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, who died this day, Jyeshta shuddha 7 ( 17 June, 1858). Rani Laxmibai was one of the leaders in the War for freedom of 1857.

Rani Laxmibai was merely eighteen years old when her husband, Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi, died. Governor-General Lord Dalhousie refused to accept the claim of their adopted son to the throne, and annexed Jhansi.

When the Soldiers’ Revolt against the British started, Rani Laxmibai re-established herself as ruler of Jhansi, and determined to fight the British. At the young age of 22 years, she died, trying to defend her country from the British oppressors.

Why do we remember these, and other great personalities from our history?  Why do we read the biographies of Guru Teg Bahadur, or Shivaji Maharaj or Ahilyabai Holkar?

Why do we remember the great revolutionaries, literary giants, creators of epics and reformers of society?

There are those who think that there is no need to be acquainted with the lives and deeds of people from our history. They think that the past is outdated and should be forgotten.

Times have changed. Situations have changed. Our lifestyles have changed. However the core values that are needed to sustain human society have not, and will not change.

Courage in adverse situations, a sense of justice, truthfulness, mercy, faith, empathy – these and many other values will never be outdated. They were essential in the past, and continue to be essential. In their absence, the degeneration of human society is certain.

We can learn the importance of courage from Rani Laxmibai, patriotism from freedom-fighters like Veer Savarkar. A study of the life of Ramshastri Prabhune shows us the way to fearless Justice.

These personalities were not flawless. But it is up to us to decide what to learn from them, and what to discard.

Is it really necessary for every generation to re-invent the wheel? Perhaps we should, instead,  identify the exceptional and positive qualities of the personalities from our history, accept these imperishable values from our past, and try to adapt them to the present times.

These are difficult times that we live in. Corruption, self-centeredness and egotism are rampant. Every is just “looking out for number 1”.  We do not care what happens to our neighbours as long as “we” are not affected.

So how to effect a positive change in society?  If a substantial and long-lasting positive change is to take place, then ordinary members of society, like ourselves, will have to change ourselves for the better. And the first step of this change could be for us to cultivate the qualities of those historical personalities we respect and admire.

Perhaps we could learn from the sacrifices they made, and the courage they displayed in their brilliant lives.

जलते जीवन के प्रकाश में अपना जीवन तिमिर हटायें |

And illuminate our own lives and those of others, too, in our society.