Acharya Dada Dharmadhikari - A free and truly liberated Gandhian thinker

By Arvind A. Deshpande

Shri Shankar Trimbak Dharmadhikari, better known throughout the world as Acharya Dada Dharmadhikari, was verily Mahatma Vidura of our times. Those familiar with the epic character in Mahabharata will recall that Mahatma Vidura did not have power, weilded no authority, possessed no wealth. Yet every powerful person felt humble before him, and bowed to him and sought his advice. So too Dada never coveted power or office, shunned wealth, office, titles and his only asset was 'human kindness, goodness'. And yet, the tallest in the land, Gandhi, Vinoba, Jayprakash Narayan sought his views when they faced real dilemmas, personal or in public life.

Not that he withdrew from activism to lead a seer's life. He headed the C. P. Provisional Congress Committee, became a member of the legislative assembly and later the constituent assembly and president of Sarvodaya conference. Yet no public figure rejected the honorary degrees, titles, like padmabhushan, chief ministerial chair as Dada did.

Born on June 18, 1899 at Multapi, district Baitul, Madhya Pradesh, Dada's family was known for its learning and scholarship as also for the study of Vedanta. His father Shri T. D. Dharmadhikari was a district and sessions judge, known for incorruptibility, integrity and probity.

Dada studied at the Indore Christian College and later at Morris College in Nagpur. But left his studies half way to join the freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi. He however spent a year in studying vedantic works of Adi Shankaracharya.

Dada had always claimed that the great persons who influenced him in life included Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Kishorilalbhai Mashruwala, Jamnalal Bajaj and J. Krishnamurthy. Dada imbibed the vision, thinking, principles, conduct from all these personalities. His was a razor sharp intellect, discretion, with 'bhakti' of Gandhian wisdom, insights and revolutionary spirit.

His life-long passions were not fame, name or power, but human relationship, enlightenment of youth, women and total transformation of society. He lectured every section of society in Gandhian concepts of truth, love, nonviolence, trusteeship. J. P. had in him the most outstanding commentator, crusader of his vision of total revolution.

Human relations, human resource development are the 'in' concepts today in this computer age. Yet, Dada anticipated today's experts decades ago.

He married Damayantibai early in life and she was his companion in the Quit India movement and in jail too. Those who have seen them together, their family life testify that it was one of those rare cases of togetherness and union of heart and mind which is barely comprehensive to our generation living in chaotic and morally unstable times.

Dada's greatest contributions are not only his books, talks but the pure human touch. Any one who came in touch with him or his writings, concedes that he was an extraordinary civilizing influence. He refrained from going abroad, but that was their loss.

He took part in every moment launched by Gandhiji. He was imprisoned in 1930, 1932 and 1942. A thinker, philosopher and very good orator and writer. He knew Hindi, Marathi, English, Gujarati and Bengali. He was awarded 'Gandhi Award' of the Rashtra Bhasha Prachar Samiti for his valuable contribution to Hindi literature. Refused to accept honorary directorate or padmashree or padmavibhushan award, because he wanted to live an unlabelled common man.

A true Gandhian, dedicated to the cause of humanity and nationalism and had engaged himself in studying, thinking and propagating the Gandhian thoughts with the relevance to the existing universal problems. From early days in his public life, he had close relations with Vinobaji. Dada participated in Vinobaji's Bhoodan (land-gift) movement. He was closely associated with Jayprakash Narayan, a revolutionary, versatile writer and a powerful orator. He was universally acknowledged as one of the best interpreters of Gandhian philosophy.

His philosophy centered around human values. He was a highly respected social philosopher and free thinker, and unlike others, was also active in public life. He had a rare ability to communicate his patently unorthodox ideas in an easy and simple style laced with a subtle sense of humor. He was an expert in putting across, the most fundamental postulates in way that immediately go home and touch your heart.

His analysis had contemporary relevance to what can be described as human values. He believed in inspiring each one to think independently and rationally. His thoughts on status of women were revolutionary. He was particularly pained to see they do not enjoy equal status and regarded not only as second class citizens but also as second class human beings.

He wanted women and young men to participate in total revolution, so as to bring about a revolution in all walks of life. He believed that youth has a revolutionary mind and the future of this country and the world depends on their active participation. Youth is the hope of the world, the seed of the future classless society of all humanity.

He passed away in Sevagram, Wardha on December 1, 1985. But his life, which itself was his message - love all, learn to trust and do wrong to none, will live on and his fragrant memory cherished to the edge of doom.