Hindu Munnani founder Ramagopalan passes away of COVID-19 in Chennai; veteran RSS pracharak was 94
He was instrumental in taking public the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in the state. Back then, nearly four decades ago, it was an indoor affair
Chennai: Ramagopalan, veteran RSS pracharak and founder organiser of Hindu Munnani and the force behind popularising public celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Tamil Nadu, died in Chennai on Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19.
The 94 year-old leader was not keeping well for some time and had been admitted to a private hospital in Chennai on 26 September with complaints of pneumonia and later tested positive for coronavirus, the Munnani said.
Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, DMK president MK Stalin and state BJP president L Murugan among others condoled the death.
Among the earliest batch of full time workers of the RSS in Tamil Nadu, Ramagopalan took forward the Sangh's field work beginning in the late 1940's along with late RSS stalwarts of the era like "Shivaramji" and Suryanarayan Rao.
Following the infamous Mandaikadu communal riots in the early 1980's in Kanyakumari district, he founded the Hindu Munnani along with former MP, P Thanulinga Nadar (the first state president of the outfit) which over the years evolved as a key front of the RSS in the state.
Ramagopalan gave the Munnani a distinctive style of work that focused on bringing together people on the basis of a slew of public events including the 'Thiruvilakku' pooja to take forward the Sangh's ideology.
He was instrumental in the public celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, which was till then an indoor affair in the state, as a public festival nearly four decades ago.
Ramagopalan was hailed as 'Thennatu Thilakar" (Tilak of the south) by his admirers for organising the festival.
"Sivalaya ottam' (a run to Shiva temples) a form of public celebration of Mahashivrathri, famous in Kanyakumari was extended to other parts of Tamil Nadu by him.
Unlike the parent body, the RSS, the Munnani held regular public meetings on important current topics.
A bachelor, Ramagopalan was known for his simple yet powerful public speeches in Tamil.
He had survived a couple of attempts on his life during his long life.
He shaped and trained a generation of RSS workers including Tamil Nadu BJP's senior leader L Ganesan, who became a 'pracharak' inspired by the leader.
Also, former Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan, a former Munnani office-bearer in his formative years, always had regarded Ramagopala as a guru.
"The first test revealed he had no coronavirus infection, but he tested positive in the second test. And since the last two days, the doctors attending on him tried their best to save him," Kadeswara C Subramaniam, state president of Hindu Munnani, said.
Born on 19 September, 1927 in Sirkazhi in then Tanjore district, Ramagopalan, an AMIE diploma holder, quit his job in the Electricity department and became a full-time RSS volunteer in 1945.
He was responsible for the gradual growth of RSS throughout Tamil Nadu and rose to the stature of regional campaigner (states) of the saffron movement.
He survived an attack on his life at the Madurai railway station in 1984 which left him with severe cuts on his neck and head.
He had always worn a saffron cap since then to cover the deep cut marks.
Murugan also recalled the attack on Ramagopalan, while mourning his death.
In his condolence message, Purohit said he was saddened to know about the demise of Ramagopalan.
"Fondly known as Veera Thuravi (brave saint), he dedicated his entire life span for the welfare of the people of Tamil Nadu. His demise is an irreparable loss to the people of Tamil Nadu and particularly workers and followers of Hindu Munnani," the governor said.
Palaniswami said the Hindu Munnani founder was involved in the freedom struggle and has been a guiding force for the organisation.
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