About RAJGURU the revolutionary

  • Shivaram Rajguru of Maharashtra was one of the 3 hanged that day, the other two being Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev Thapar. Rajguru was 23 years when hanged. Know his life story.  

March 23 Lahore central Jail - In barrack number 14, some revolutionaries were having discussions and suddenly one man said,


I am, like you, proud of what I have accomplished. I have come to realize this truth only after challenging death. If we are able to show even a glimpse of the freedom to our fellow nationals by sacrificing our lives, they would be able to walk on that path by themselves. This death, then, would be blessing for us.” That man was Shivaram Hari Rajguru.


British rule of India was one of the darkest chapter of our history. They damaged India from within. Indian became independent of the British but for this she lost many heroes. Some of them became idols and known to each and every Indian. But many of them are unknown. Shivram Hari Rajguru is one of them.


Rajguru was born to Hari Narain and Parvati Devi on August 24, 1908 in Khed (Maharashtra). His father died when he was only six years old. His elder brother Dinkar joined government service due to the sudden demise of his father. Shivram was a bright child. He had mastery in Sanskrit and was a trained wrestler.


Shivaram, in his youthful zeal, decided to devote himself to the freedom struggle. He started developing physical and mental strength by vigorous exercises like wrestling, and swimming in Bheema river, a habit that he cultivated during childhood. He toughened up so much that once he broke a hot lamp glass between his fists. He was quiet adept with sling shot, which served to refine his accurate target practice.


After marriage his brother Dinkar and family shifted to Pune. Dinkar’s pro-British Government servant attitude was in absolute contrast with Shivram’s nationalist zeal. Due to this major difference relations between the brothers worsened. In 1924, during a heated argument Dinkar asked his brother Rajguru to leave the house if he could not change his attitude towards the British and concentrate on his studies instead. 


This proved to be a god sent opportunity for Rajguru to break free from family ties without feeling guilty and devote himself to Bharat. He immediately touched the feet of both his elders and walked out.


Shivram left home at age of 16, with patriotic zeal and a pledge to uproot the tyrannical British rule. From Pune he went to Kashi where he met an old family friend Pandurang Pant who very kindly made arrangements for his earnings and living.


Drastic changes now took place in Rajguru’s lifestyle. His day started at 5.a.m. After morning routine activities, bath and washing of clothes he returned to his room by 6.30 a.m. Then after going for Madhukari (bhiksha) in five houses at around 10.a.m. he attended classes from 12.30 to 2.p.m. After an hour’s rest, he resumed with revision and home work. Six to 8.30 p.m. he took leisure strolls and then dinner. He retired to bed usually by 8.30.


Then many Maharashtrian laureates resided at Kashi. He received education at Sangved Sanskrit School from Ved Murthy Baba Patwardhan. Due to his intellect, he was a favourite student and obtained a Madhyama (degree) in Tarkashastra (branch of Sanskrit education).


But in all of this Rajguru did not find way of revolution, for which he had left his house. Suddenly, one day a friend Savargaonkar arranged a meeting with Baba Rao Savarkar. This was life changing moment for Rajguru.


Impressed with his patriotic zeal Baba Rao directed Rajguru to join Hanuman Vyayam Prasarak Mandal, a voluntary cultural organization in Amravati (Maharashtra). The mandal was established in 1914 by Vaidya brothers, Anant Krishna and Amba Das, with the dual objective of developing physical and mental strength by promoting sports and culture and boosting national zeal among the youth. Rajguru borrowed money from Shri Prakash, close aide of Babarao Savarkar and left for Amravati.


There Rajguru joined the summer camp for physical training, organized at Pannalal Garden and started rigorous training. He soon acquired the degree of Vyayam Visharad (Master of Physical Training). At times, he indulged in adventurous acts like roaming in dark in the forest and jumping into the well. He also learnt shooting with a gun, and soon mastered its use.


After this calm period Rajguru left for Kashi where life took a different shape.  Vaishampayan, at that time, was working as head clerk in the office of Jhansi, but in reality was an under-cover revolutionary and a close aide of freedom fighter Chandrasekhar Azad. He, on Azad’s instruction, had come to Kashi to find new recruits and strengthen communication links. 


Vaishampayan was deeply influenced by Rajguru’s self-confidence, determination and love for the nation. He told Shivram that he too belonged to Maharashtra and was trying to gain entry in some revolutionary group, while staying at Kanpur. Rajguru informed him that he held similar views and was keen to join such a group, if Vaishampayan found any. “Once Rajguru was seen touching a hot iron rod with his hands and when Chandra Shekhar Azad inquired about this insanity, he smiled calmly and said that he was testing himself if he can bear police torture.” 

Chandrasekhar Azad.

On the recommendation of Vaishampayan, Azad contemplated that the youth deserved a chance and agreed to interview Rajguru at Kanpur. In the interview, Azad was highly impressed by Rajguru’s attitude, self-confidence, honesty and agreed to make Rajguru part of his team. Rajguru’s joy knew no bound as his life-long ambition was being fulfilled.


He was assigned a codename Raghunath and also referred as M. Rajguru and fellow revolutionaries lived in DAV college hostel, Kanpur. At that time, DAV College was a hub of revolutionaries and nationalists.


The first task assigned to Rajguru was to take care of Delhi resident, Hassan Nizami who was creating headaches for society and revolutionaries, in particular.  He and Shiv Verma went to kill Hassan Nizami. They observed that he stopped his car and was going into his home. Rajguru shot but by mistake shot the father-in-law of Hassan Nizami.


During this period he met with Bhagat Singh, who later became a close friend. Around the same time revolutionary cadres who were scattered all over were trying to work together. Young revolutionaries from all over India, arranged a meet for further action and works. It resulted in the formation of the Hindustan Socialist Republic Association. “He was also an accurate shooter which earned him the title of the gunman of HSRA.


The British under cover of The Government of India Act 1919, was mercilessly suppressing the voice of hapless Indians all over. Under such circumstances, on November 8 1927, the Viceroy announced that a high level Commission had been appointed by the British Prime Minister. The members would tour India and submit a report to the Government, including suggestions on administrative Reforms.

Lala Lajpat Rai. 

This commission was opposed all over India. The Lahore unit of revolutionaries, arranged a huge protest against this commission under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai. Protests were vigorous. British cop Scott ordered a lathi charge on unarmed people. Saunders and other officers attacked protesters. They injured Lala Lajpat Rai seriously. Lalaji was hospitalized for treatment. After eighteen days, Lalaji succumbed and died on November 17, 1928. The nation mourned his death.


The Lahore unit of revolutionaries were anxious to avenge the death of Lalaji. They finally decided to do so by killing Scott. Everybody volunteered but Sukhdev Thapar was chosen by the group as the coordinator for this mission.


Sukhdev named Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Jai Gopal as his accomplices to accomplish the task. At around 4 p.m., Jai Gopal stood with a bicycle on the road in front of Police Headquarters, pretending to do some repairs. Rajguru and Bhagat Singh were standing slightly away from the main gate. Gopal saw a European Police Officer, wearing a felt cap, start a red coloured motorcycle. The confusion was still persisting, was he Scott?


He mistook John Saunders for James Scott and made the fateful signal to Rajguru. Saunders started moving slowly towards the main gate. As he (Saunders) neared, Rajguru at once fired. The shot was accurate. The bullet pierced the chest and John Saunders collapsed on the ground, with one leg under the running motorcycle. Bhagat Singh immediately realized that they had picked the wrong man but had no option. He fired several shots at Saunders to make sure that he was dead. They escaped narrowly after a close chase by police.

Tridev of Rajguru, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev.

Arresting the killers proved to be a big challenge for the British government. They started fierce investigations but in vain.


After this, revolutionaries planned to bomb inside the Assembly to oppose the tyrannical laws. Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, threw bombs in the Assembly and got arrested. After this, all revolutionaries met at Delhi for further planning. This was the last meeting between Rajguru and Azad. After this, Rajguru returned to Jhansi and later to Amravati.


He joined the summer camp at the gymnasium, maintained by Hanuman Prasarak Mandal to continue with exercises. He started motivating youth in nationalistic thinking. One day he abruptly left the place as he suspected the presence of detectives amongst the followers. Thereafter, Rajguru lived in Akola, Washim for a short period and finally returned to Pune with the help of Babarao Saheb. Here he met his mother and brother, albeit after a long time.  


His elder brother Dinkar was now living at 408 Narain Peth. Rajguru often visited the house for meals. Once Dinkar and his mother saw a gun in the coat pocket (as Rajguru had gone out after hanging the coat on the peg) and were terrified. On return, mother asked Rajguru, “How did you come to possess it? A Pandit looks better holding noble books in his hands, not the guns.”


Rajguru, with all seriousness, replied, “Mother, When the religion or the nation is in trouble, only arms are useful. The British are inflicting all sorts of insults and injuries on us and I do not expect them to refrain from such activities merely by requesting them. If you remember, even in Vishnu Sahastranaam, one of the names for Lord

Vishnu is Sarv Praharanayuddh (one who always remains decorated with arms).”


After returning from Kashi he planned to kill the Governor of Bombay with the help of his revolutionary friend Savargaonkar. The plan failed due to large police presence.  


In the meantime, Rajguru came in contact with Sharad Keskar, nephew of a renowned Congress leader. In reality Keskar was a police informer and had been hired by British Intelligence to track Rajguru. Keskar wanted more information about Rajguru’s arms and ammunition, so he said that for killing the Governor they needed a gun, being proficient in lathi work was not sufficient. Rajguru told him everything, without knowing that Keskar was an informer.  


Rajguru was eager to kill the Bombay Governor. Keskar informed him about the Governor’s visit to Race Course to attend a function related to Governor’s Cup. Keskar was under the control of Holland, D.I.G., C.I.D., Bombay through Kavthalkar, a local C.I.D. Officer. On Holland’s orders, the Lahore Police escorted Jai Gopal to Race Course, Pune, while keeping his face under veil.


Rajguru, totally unaware of the conspiracy, returned from a funeral and after taking bath, left for the Race Course alone without even informing Savargaonkar. The place had heavy police security and Rajguru was unable to penetrate it. The police and Keskar identified Rajguru as the killer of Saunders and on 30 September, they arrested Rajguru and Savargaonkar by raiding their room. The Lahore Police escorted Rajguru and Savargaonkar from Pune to Lahore.


“All of them along with other 21 co-conspirators were tried and found guilty for the murder of Saunders.  During the court proceedings Rajguru, to annoy the judge, deliberately replied in Sanskrit. When the baffled British judge used to shout at him, he used to have a good laugh and nudge Bhagat to translate.”


At Lahore, Bhagat Singh and other colleagues were on hunger strike inside the jail. To support them both stopped taking meals right from the start of their journey. The news about their arrest had already spread like wildfire throughout the country. People flocked in hundreds and thousands at all railway stations to catch a glimpse of their heroes, Rajguru and Savargaonkar. Despite being famished because of no meals both greeted people with patriotic slogans, followed by similar echoes from the crowd.


All the revolutionaries in jail, started hunger strike against the evil and partial treatment of government towards the revolutionaries. On thirteenth day, they were forcefully feed.  In the meantime, Chandrasekhar Azad tried to rescue them from jail, but failed. The days were passing and changing the fate of our revolutionaries.


On December 7 1930 Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death. As per provisions of solitary detention for death sentence of the Jail Manual Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were to be transferred to separate cells. They embraced each other warmly and started their journey to their respective barracks.


The Tridev were hanged at 7.33 p.m. amidst deafening shouts of patriotic slogans, from inside and outside the Jail. The light of their life was extinguished, but their sacrifice ignited the torch of freedom.


“As a tribute to him, his birth place Khed was renamed as Rajgurunagar. His ancestral home is now known as the Rajguru Wada.” Rajguru was 23 years old when  hanged. 


In the sacred yagya of freedom struggle, Shivaram Hari Rajguru became the unknown Ahuti. His works, deeds and his patriotism will inspire our youth for ages.


To read all articles by author



1. Rajguru the invincible by Anila Varma 

2. Without fear by Kuldeep Nayyar 

3. Dictionary of martyrs of India's freedom struggle

4. Struggle for freedom by R C Majumdar


Also read

1. Freedom Struggle in Punjab

2. Lala Lajpat Rai gave a fillip to the Independence Movement

3. About Bhagat Singh

4. Lal Pal Bal, tridev of India’s freedom movement in the early 19th century

5. Remembering Rajguru

6. Little known facts about Rajguru


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