Swami Kalyandev (June 21, 1876? – July 14, 2004) was an Indian-born ascetic who was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, for his years of social work in the villages of India.
Kalyandev ji Maharaj was born as Kaluram in Kotana village in the district of Baghpat in a family of Jangid Vishwakarma Brahmins, Uttar Pradesh to Bhoi Devi, wife of Pherdudatt.Th He grew up in the village of Mundbhar near Sisauli in the Muzaffarnagar district. In his youth he travelled to Ayodhya and Haridwar with few belongings and begging along the way to sustain himself. At Haridwar, he heard of Swami Vivekananda’s visit to Khetri. He travelled to Khetri to meet Vivekananda.
On his return from Khetri, Kalyandev became the disciple of Swami Purnananda of Muni Ki Reti, Rishikesh. Purananda named him Swami Kalyandev. Kalyandev did tapasya in the Himalayas for a few years but then decided to help the poor people of his region. Kalyandev established almost three hundred schools and medical facilities for the villagers. His work covered western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi and elsewhere. The institutions include technical and vocational schools, an ayurvedic medical college, middle schools, high schools, girls’ schools, junior high schools, primary schools, clinics and dispensaries, eye clinics, Sanskrit schools, workshops, students’ homes, dharmashalas, schools for the deaf and dumb, blind schools, yoga instruction centers, old age homes, asylums for old cows, orphanages, martyrs’ memorials, and other religious and spiritual centers.
Swami Kalyandev also helped rebuild dilapidated and neglected religious and historical sites. He renovated a monument in Shuktal, sixty kilometres north of Meerut, associated with the great sage Shuka, the son of Veda Vyasa and the narrator of the Bhagavata. There the swami also established the Shukadeva Ashrama and Seva Samiti. At Shuktal, there is an 80 foot statue of Hanumanji. He also renovated parts of Hastinapur, the old capital of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Many places of pilgrimage in Haryana have also received his attention.
Swami Kalyandev met Mahatma Gandhiji in 1915. He was acquainted with luminaries such as Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr. Sampurnanand
In 1982, he received the Padma Sri award, and in 2000, the prestigious Padma Bhushan. He was also awarded an honorary D.Litt. by Meerut University. In the late 1980s, Vishwanath Pratap Singh came to Shukatal to pray along with his wife and Swamiji told him to do his first rally near Bhayla. VP Singh’s career had taken a nosedive and Swamiji’s advice essentially brought him back to political centrestage culminating in his becoming the Prime Minister of India. In 2002, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister of India, had printed The Seer of Three Centuries: Swami Kalyandev.
During an interview, Swami Kalyandev said his inspiration came in 1893, when he met Swami Vivekananda in Khetri, who said to him, “If you want to see God, go to the huts of the poor. And if you want to attain God, then serve the poor, the helpless, the downtrodden and the miserable.” Kalyandev stated that to attain God through service of the poor is the mantra I received from Swamiji.
Swami Kalyandev died in India on July 14, 2004, his age has been disputed due to the uncertainty of his birth date.