Shriram Sharma (20 September 1911 – 2 June 1990) was a social reformer, a prominent philosopher, a visionary of the New Golden Era, and founder of “All World Gayatri Pariwar”, which has its headquarters at Shantikunj, Haridwar, India. He is popularly known as Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya by the members of the Gayatri Pariwar.
He pioneered the revival of spirituality and creative integration of the modern and ancient sciences and religion, relevant in the challenging circumstances of the present times.
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya was born on 20 September 1911 as the son of Pt. Roopkishore Sharma and Mata Dankunvari Devi in Anwalkhera Dist. Agra, India.
Right from his childhood, he showed the yearning and deep commitment for the welfare of common masses when he took a brave step of nursing an old “Dalit (outcaste) and untouchable woman, suffering from leprosy against the strong disapproval and displeasure of his family. She used to work in their household and was called Chapko. Child Shriram was curious about her prolonged absence, when she did not show up for a few days. So he set out in her search towards the outskirts of the village. Dalit (outcaste) and untouchables’ settlements were usually constructed on the outskirts of the villages. He found her in a terrible condition, screaming out in pain and agony, the screams suppressed due the lack of energy. Being devoid of food for many days,her condition was worse than that of animals—stripped of all human dignity. Everybody in that village including her family members had completely ignored her and left her to her fate. This situation of the old lady had shaken child Shriram. He decided to do all that was possible to help this old woman. He immediately called the local physicians and vaidyas (traditional Ayurvedic physicians), procured the medicines, did the dressings of her leprosy wounds. He took out time daily to bathe her, to apply medicine, dress her wounds and feed her. This was particularly remarkable during those days when the untouchability was very much prevalent and fear of leprosy disease was at its peak in the society. This particular event in his early life was significant as it showed his concerns and unadulterated love and affection for the whole of humanity. It highlights his belief in the “Karma”, or the theory of Right-Action in life.
The Great freedom fighter and founder of Banaras Hindu University, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya solemnized his sacred thread ceremony (Yagyopaveet) and initiated him in Gayatri Mantra.
At the age of fifteen, his Spiritual Guru, a Himalayan Yogi, Sarveshwaranandji had appeared in his vision during the worship in the astral body. As per Sarveshwarandji’s instruction, Shriram performed twenty-four mahapurashcarañas (2.4 million recitation) of Gayatri Mantra each for twenty-four years. He visited Himalayas four times for higher spiritual attainments. At the same time he took active part in Indian freedom movement and was sent to jail thrice.
Young Shriram had started participating in Indian freedom movement at an age of just 12 years. He created Baal Sena (children’s army) to oppose British government and help victims. Worried by his increasing participation in movement, his family members tried to stop him, but he left home in the midnight, walked for 12 hours and reached Agra. There he joined volunteer camp of Indian National Congress. Fellow freedom fighters nicknamed him as “Matt” (the Intoxicated, obsessed, completely devoted to the idea of a Free India) on account of his dedication and devotion.Many of his revolutionary writings and poetries were published in Hindi newspaper Sainik (soldier) with nickname of Matta.
After hanging of Bhagat Singh, he was arrested for breaking prohibitory orders in April 1931 in Agra but released soon. Undeterred by this, he announced a flag procession in village Parakhi near his home village Awalkhera. Government again issued prohibitory orders. Police attacked on procession with batons. Shriram became unconscious and had to be carried to hospital. Doctors were astonished when they found that a piece of cloth from flag was still stuck between his jaws which he has taken into his mouth to save from the police.
In 1933, he left for Kolkata to attend Rashtriya Adhivation (national meet) of Congress, but arrested and sent to Asansol jail with other national leaders such as Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya, Swaruparani Nehru, Devdas Gandhi, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai etc. At the age of 25 years he was again arrested on charges of flag hoisting on government establishments and transferred to many jails. He was released after almost one year.
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry, Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram at Tiruvannamalai, Santiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore and worked with Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. During his participation in Indian freedom movement, he came in close contact with eminent national leaders. In 1935, he embarked upon the task of social upliftment through spiritual means with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1946, he married Bhagwati Devi Sharma, and ever since, the saintly couple dedicatedly pursued the goal of spiritual upliftment of humankind.
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya (revered as “Gurudev” by his disciples) was a great devotee of Goddess Gayatri. He successfully practiced and mastered the highest kinds of sadhanas described in Hinduism. He had deciphered the hidden science of Tantras. He had attained the supreme knowledge of the philosophy and science of the Gayatri Mantra and yoga. He pioneered experiments on simple sadhanas, which could be easily pursued by the common masses.
To help people, his aim was to diagnose the root cause of the ailing state of the world today and enable the upliftment of society. He recognized the crisis of faith, people’s ignorance of the powers of the inner self, and the lack of righteous attitude and conduct.
Realizing the potential of inspirational literature and its importance in sparking an intellectual evolution, he had chosen writing as the principal mode towards uprooting the evil tendencies and blind faith from people’s minds and arousing the indwelling wisdom, strength and spiritual bliss.
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya initiated the movement of VICHAR KRANTI (Thought Revolution) with the very first issue of Akhand Jyoti. By 1960, he had compiled and translated the 4 Vedas, 108 Upanishads, 6 Darshanas, 18 Puranas, Yogavasishtha and various Aranyakas and Brahmanas with lucid commentaries to enable the masses to understand the knowledge contained in them. The translation was also aimed at eliminating misconceptions, superstitions and blind customs, which were propagated in the medieval era by misinterpretations of the Vedas and other scriptures. This contribution to the world of knowledge and human culture was highly acclaimed and appreciated by scholars like Dr S Radhakrishnan, Acharya Vinoba Bhave; the distinguished title of “Vedmurti” was conferred upon him in its recognition.
Understanding the modern day psychology of the people, and recognizing the non-relevance, in the present times, of the mythical characters and the background of life depicted in the Puranas, he wrote “Pragya Purana” in the narrative and conversational style of the ancient Puranas to preach the eternal principles of happy, progressive and ideal life with practical guidance relevant to the modern age.
He wrote many books on almost all aspects of human life, whether it be the elucidation of the esoteric aspects of the subtle science of spirituality, research directions on brain and consciousness, discussions on child psychology and family institutions, guidelines on mental, emotional and physical health, and cheerful attitude in daily life.
His discourses manifested similar perfection of eloquence. The simplicity of language in his orations and his ability to establish a rapport with the audience is said to have had a hypnotizing effect on the listener’s mind. The spiritual radiance and integrity of his character, faultless synchronicity of his deeds with the principles he preached and the purity of his sentiments added to the motivating power of his pen and voice.
On the completion of the 24 Mahapurashcharans, Pt. Shriram Sharma established Gayatri Tapobhumi at Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India in 1953. He organized a grand 1008 Kundi Yagya in 1958, which served as a base to launch the Yug Nirman Yojna, a global movement for moral, cultural, intellectual and spiritual refinement and reconstruction. The objectives of this movement are to reform the individual, the family and social values of mankind and to change the current ideologies and concepts of morality and social structure for a better tomorrow.
Through various activities at Mathura, including the performance of yagnas on large scale, Acharyaji gathered a team of dedicated men and women. Thus the organization called “Gayatri Pariwar” was born.
As per the plans projected under the Yug Nirman Yojna, the mission has contributed to the upliftment of the personal, familial and social aspects of human life. Its major activities include mass awareness and education on cultural values through small and large scale Gayatri Yojnas and collective projects of social transformation with people’s voluntary participation. Propagation of ideal marriages without dowry and extravagant shows has been a significant and trend-setting achievement, especially in the Indian context. Other achievements include upliftment of the social status of women and an integrated and self-reliant development of villages.
According to the pressing need of the present times, he developed Shantikunj, as spiritual center for implementing the teachings of Rishis into practice. He established Brahmavarchas Research Institute at Haridwar, a center for inter communion of science and religion. The prime aim of establishing the Brahmavarchas Research Institute is to establish the ancient Indian Yogic Philosophy as the science and art of living.
Acharyaji pioneered the resurrection of the rishi culture by simultaneous renaissance and expansion of the reformative and constructive endeavours of the leading rishis of the Vedic Age. He reviewed the immortal contributions of the divine culture of India to the rest of the world and endeavoured for nurturing and re-establishing the foundational elements of the Indian Culture and the roots of its divine nature in new scientific light through several activities of the Gayatri Pariwar.
As a part of his intensive study of the Indian culture and religious philosophy, he rediscovered the sociological and psychological importance of pilgrimage. He taught how the ancient glory and the real purpose of the tirthas (sacred places of pilgrimage) could be revived in the present times for the welfare of the masses.
Establishment of Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya (the Divine Culture University) inaugurated in 2002, under the auspices of Shantikunj is an instrument for the revival of the Divine Indian Culture as per his vision
Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya was convinced that modern man could not be persuaded to accept the values of life patronized by ancient spirituality until and unless these were proved to be scientifically viable for the welfare of the individual and the society. This was indeed a Herculean task, given the trends of intellectual and scientific evolution over past millennium and almost simultaneous deterioration of religion and culture, which had resulted in a near total neglect of spirituality in the human life and the emergence of blind faiths, misconceptions, and prejudices. The Brahmavarchas Research Institute founded by him in 1979 near Shantikunj stands as a living example of how the idea of scientific spirituality could be implemented and researched in the modern laboratories.
During 1984–1986, he carried out the unique spiritual experiment of sukshmikaraña, meaning sublimation of vital force and physical, mental and spiritual energies. He authored a special set of 40 books (termed Revolutionary Literature or Krantidharmi Sahitya) highlighting the future of the world and conveying the message of the dawn of the New Era of Truth during the 21st Century.
Acharyaji died on Gayatri Jayanti (2 June) 1990. In 1991 Government of India released a postage stamp in his honour inscribed Sri Ram Sharma Acharya.
Thereafter, his soulmate Bhagawati Devi Sharma guided the series of Ashwamedha Yagyas, which accelerated the pace of global expansion of the movement. She died on 19 September 1994.