Path to Unity: How Savarkar's Temple Bridged Caste Divides

In 1931 Swantara Veer Savarkar laid the foundation for the first temple allowing untouchable people. We are talking about the Patit Pawan Mandir in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. Read more on how the resilience of Savarkar paid off.

Hitanshu Bhatt
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patit pawan mandir

A social reformer who worked for the upliftment of the so-called untouchables and the weaker sections of society back then did something revolutionary. At the time of the British era, many castes such as Mahars, Chamars and Bhangis and Valmikis were considered untouchables and were not allowed to blend in with the upper cast of society. They were not allowed in ceremonies, religious places, certain educational institutes and even a few public gatherings. Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar stood up to this injustice and took up a stand for the Dalit (untouchable) people. 

He did a lot of social work to curb these restrictions and give them equal standing in society making schooling compulsory for Dalit kids by distributing chalk and slates and giving monetary incentives to their parents, organising mass haldi-kumkum gatherings of Hindu women and ensuring that women from untouchable castes applied kumkum to women of higher castes, giving complimentary passes of his plays to untouchables so that they may freely mingle with people of other castes, organising tours of Ratnagiri town and port, giving monetary assistance to raise a musical band of the untouchables and starting restaurants open to Hindus of all castes. Amidst all these works, the one which stood out as an exemplary work of reformation was the building of a first-of-its-kind temple in India which offered an unrestricted right to any member of the Hindu Community to enter the sanctum of the temple and worship the idols. 

The Patit Pavan Mandir 


The idea that the untouchables were not allowed to enter a sacred place of worship like a temple pricked Savarkar the most and so he wanted to build a temple where people of every caste or sub caste could enter. He discussed this idea of Patit Pawan - ‘Patit' in Marathi refers to the lowest, humblest man in society and 'Pawan' refers to purified, enlightened, and fulfilled meaning a place acting as a purifier of the humble with a businessman from Ratnagiri named Shriman Bhagojisheth Keer who himself was from the Bhandari caste. He agreed to build the temple and the foundation stone was laid on 10 March 1929 by Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtakoti. 

The temple was built over the next two years at a cost of around Rs.1 lakh all largely borne by Shriman Bhagojiseth Keer. Savarkar had planned to consecrate the idols at the hands of Bhagojiseth who was a Bhandari by caste and hence traditionally debarred from performing Vedic recitals and puja. Breaking the norm, the deity of Lord Lakshmi Narayan placed in the sanctum allowing individuals from all caste, sub caste, race and backgrounds of society to worship. 


There was a condition that the temple would have trustees from every sect; Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and untouchable communities which would give equal rights to all Hindus to perform rituals in this temple. The opening ceremony of the temple on On 21 February 1931 was attended by saints such as Shankaracharya Dr Kurtakoti, Masurkar Maharaj, Panchlegaonkar Maharaj, Chaunde Maharaj, Godhade Maharaj; Dr ND Savarkar, Dr Velkar and Lalji Pendse from Mumbai; Upadhye from Nagpur; Gopalrao Desai from Bhagur; Kesari representative RG Bhide, Lavante with reconverted Hindus from Goa, leaders of Arya Samaj, Chamar leader Rajbhoj from Pune and Chavan from Malvan, Mahar leader Subhedar Ghadge and Patade from Pune and other Mahar and Chamar leaders from different towns. 

The next day on 22 February 1931 learned Brahmins under the leadership of Shri Ganeshshastri Modak, a disciple of Masurkar Maharaj performed the havan and the idols of Shri Vishnu-Lakshmi were duly consecrated by the Shankaracharya. Thus marking the beginning of a caste reform envisioned by Veer Savarkar. The temple is still one of the most significant examples of Swantantra Veer Savarkar’s work for the then-considered lower sections of society nestled in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra and it stands as a symbol of Savarkar’s lifelong commitment to social reform.

Swatantra Veer Savarkar Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar Shriman Bhagojiseth Keer. Shankaracharya Patit Pawan Mandir in Ratnagiri