Swami Shraddhananda

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Fast Facts
Other Names and Nicknames: 
Munshi Ram, Munshiram, Lala Munshi Ram, Mahatma Munshi Ram, Brihaspati
Vedas, Arya Samaj
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
Place of Birth: 
Talwan village, Jalander, India
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
Ancestor Gurus: 
Other Related Gurus: 
Swami Darshanananda, Mahatma Hansraj, Swami Agnivesh, Swami Ramdev


Swami Shraddhanand (1856-1926) was an Indian educationist and a Arya Samaj missionary who propagated the teachings of Swami Dayanand which included the establishment of educational institutions, like the Gurukul Kangri University, and played a key role on the Sangathan (consolidation) and the Shuddhi (re-conversion) a Hindu reform movement in 1920s.

Once upon a time Mahatma Gandhi visited the Gurukul Kangri University and wrote in his autobiography about the Educationist Munshi Ram (who was called Swami Shraddhananda after embracing renunciation in 1917)- जब मै पहाड़ से दीखने वाले महात्मा मुंशीराम जी के दर्शन करने और उनका गुरुकुल देखने गया , तो मुझे वहाँ बड़ी शांति मिली । हरिद्वार के कोलाहल और गुरुकुल की शांति के बीच का भेद स्पष्ट दिखायी देता था । महात्मा ने मुझे अपने प्रेम से नहला दिया । ब्रह्मचारी मेरे पास से हटते ही न थे । यद्यपि हमे अपने बीच कुछ मतभेद का अनुभव हुआ , फिर भी हम परस्पर स्नेह की गाँठ से बँध गये । गुरुकुल मे औद्योगिक शिक्षा शुरु करने की आवश्यकता के बारे मै और दूसरे शिक्षकों के साथ मैने काफी चर्चा की । मुझे गुरुकुल छोड़ते हुए दुःख हुआ । -
--महात्मा गांधी, सत्य के प्रयोग, आत्मकथा (The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi)

He was born on 22 February 1856 in the village of Talwan in the Jalandhar District of the Punjab Province of India, and was the youngest in the family of Lala Nanak Chand, was a Police Inspector in the East India Company administered United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). His given name was Brihaspati, but later he was called Munshi Ram by his father, a name that stayed with him till he took Sanyas in 1917, variously as Lala Munshi Ram and Mahatma Munshi Ram. His school education began at Varanasi and ended at Lahore. His early education was interrupted because of his father's frequent transfer to Mirzapur, Banda, Mathura and Bareilly etc. After many efforts he passed mukhtari exams and started his studies to become a well known lawyer.

His first meet with Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati was when Swami Dayanand visited Bareilly for giving lectures, as his father was there for the arrangements and security as some prominent personalities and British officers were present there so he asked Munshi Ram to attend the lectures. Munshi Ram went there with the intention of spoiling the arrangements but watching and listening him he was influenced by Dayanand's courage, skills and strong personality. After completing the studies Munshi Ram started his practice as lawyer.

In 1892, when Arya Samaj split into two factions over making Vedic education the main stay of the curriculum at the DAV College Lahore, he left the organization and formed Punjab Arya Samaj, and in 1902 established a Gurukul in Kangri near Haridwar which is now a recognized University known as Gurukul Kangri University. Previously in 1897, after the assassination of Lala Lekh Ram, he became his successor, and headed the 'Punjab Arya Pratinidhi Sabha', and started its monthly journal, Arya Musafir.

Pundit shyamdass of Amritsar throw a debate on Vedas which Munshiram accepted and handled the debate effectively. This led him to ascend to leadership level. Munshiram started weekly saddhrmpracharak in Urdu for propagation of Vedic philosophy. He published his first track on varnavyastha. He started morning nagar kirtan (street preaching) and organized samaj anniversary in which Lala Saindas, Gurudatta, Lala Hansraj and two Swamis were part from Lahore delegation. The successful function put Jullundur aryasamaj branch on map. The main influence on Munshiram character was that he not only emerged as a leader but also most of his time apart from lawyer practice was devoted to the missionary zeal of aryasamaj. His engagements kept him away from dark company of friends.


Women education was first bold step taken by Munshiram in field of social enlistment. Once he was reading book at his home when he heard song from his daughter mouth saying Christ is your lord Krishna, Christ is your lord rams. This stroked him and he started thinking that Christian missionary schools were diverting minds of youth to their sects.in 1889 he withdraw his daughter from the Christian school, and decided that the jullundur aryas should set up girls school of their own. In 1889 he started an important series of articles about female education in the second issue of saddhrmpracharak entitled ADHURA INSAF or half justice in which he pleaded for the education of women on the basis of equal rights of males and females (HIST 1 P-200). His thought was influenced by the revolutionary teaching of SATYARTH PRAKASH in which SWAMI DAYANAND has advocated female education. Indeed swami dayanand was first to roar like lion in public platforms for female education giving evidences of women rishis like Gargi and Matraiyi.The opposition was strong, and the going very hard; the first three attempts fell through mostly on account of the lack of pupils. The maximum resistance was by staunch Hindus who thought that it would be a real havoc if females would chant Vedic mantras. Locals protested against both of them and even tried for physical abuse many a times. Even Christian missionaries were indirectly involved as they were loosing green pastures of conversion to aryasamaj. But finally in July 1891, firm foundations were laid and the school was off to a good start. The tribune of 16th march 1892 reported the opening of a refuse fund, and its issue of 6th July of same year reported with praise that about forty girls had been enrolled. Girls were given incentives of cloths and money to attend school. tribune 6 Feb.1895 reported that the school had nearly a hundred pupils in 1895 in march a boarding house was inaugurated, the kanya ashram , and by the end of the same year it had attracted girls not only from Punjab but also from north-west provinces and even from Poona. (Arya dharma p- 215) this showed that some people were now ready to trust the school even with the moral education and protection of their daughters. The Indian social reformer (dated 18 Nov. 1917) commented with high praise that it was the first such institution on India pioneering female education. In June 1896 devraj and Munshiram finally attained their goal. They inaugurated kanya mahavidyalaya high school for girls. They really transformed it into major institution of female education.


Our country was eloped in childhood marriage and natural epidemics lead to rising of brigades of child widows who had never even seen the faces of their grooms. SWAMI DAYANAND in SATYARTH PRAKASH first advocated remarriage of widow. Following his message people started widow remarriage but so called staunch Hindus opposed this move. They were ready to keep an innocent girl for whole life either at their home or in Banaras, Mathura to land up in prostitution or sexual exploitation but not ready to remarriage her. In those days female was considered as a curse. Aryasamaj started widow remarriage with missionary zeal. In 1895 one Diwan Sant Ramdas arranged the remarriage of his daughter, who had been married in early childhood, but had been widowed long before that marriage could be consummated. Many orthodox Hindus argued that this remarriage of a widow was against Hindu dharma, and chopra community of akalgarh published a treatise pressing for the total excommunication of the diwan. Munshiram undertook his defence. He published a pamphlet entitled kshatra dharm palan ka gair mamuli mauka (an unusual opportunity to defend the dharma of the khatris) first he showed that the harsh condemnation was ear from universal among the Hindus. Next he accused the Hindus community of incest, abortion. Adultery, drunkenness and theft committed by high caste Hindus without ever calling upon their head even the faintest threat of sanction from their caste. He supported widow remarriage and supported his claim by texts from Vedas and Manusmriti. Pamphlet closed with a passionate appeal to all Hindus to do all they could to accept remarriage of widows in all cases where the Hindu religion allowed it. Munshiram struggled for his whole life for the upliftment of widows. At last in 1925 he got success in his mission. At a regional widow remarriage conference held in his own town of Jullundur, addressing as chairman of conference, he passed resolution of disapproval of marriage of boys before they were twenty- five years old and of girls before the age of sixteen, such unions were in violation of the shastras. It was also stated that no widower should marry a virgin, nor should a widow marry a bachelor, and that the marriage of virgin widows should be celebrated in exactly the same manner as that of virgin brides. Moreover, children born from the union of widow and widowers should enjoy the same legal rights and privileges as those born in the first marriage. These were indeed revolutionary resolutions, worthy of the radicalism of swami dayanand himself.

In 1915, upon his return from South Africa, M. K. Gandhi stayed at the university campus and met Swami Shraddhanand, it was during this visit that Swami Shraddhanand gave Gandhi, the title of Mahatma (great soul), after that he was best known around the world as Mahatama Gandhi to this day.

In 1917, Swami Shraddhanand, till now known as Mahatma Munshiram took sanyas, left Gurukul to jump full- fledged into Hindu reform movements and the Indian Independence movement, working with Congress, which he invited to hold its session at Amritsar in 1919 when due to Jalianwala tragedy no one in the Congress Committe agreed to have a session at Amritsar. Swami shraddhanand presided that session at Amritsar. He joined the nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Act, in the same year, defiantly protested in front of a posse of Gurkha soldiers, at the Clock Tower in Chandni Chowk, after which he was allowed to proceed. In early 1920s he emerged as important force in the Hindu Sangathan (consolidation) movement which was a by product of the now revitalized Hindu Maha Sabha.

Swami Shradhanand was the only Hindu Sanyasi who addressed a huge gathering from the minarates of the main Jama Masjid New Delhi, for national solidarity and vedic dharma starting his speech with the recitation of ved mantras.

He wrote on religious issues in both Hindi and Urdu. He published newspapers in the two languages as well. He promoted Hindi in the Devanagri script, helped the poor and promoted the education of women. By 1923, he left the social arena and plunged whole-heartedly into his earlier work of the shuddhi movement (re-conversion to Hinduism), which he turned into an important force within Hinduism. In late 1923, he became the president of Bhartiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha, created with an aim to reconvert Muslims specially 'Malkana Rajputs' in western United Province, this antagonized the Muslims against him irrevocably and brought him in direct confrontation with Muslim clerics and leaders of the time, and on 23 December 1926 he was assassinated by a Muslim fanatic named Abdul Rashid, who entered his home at Naya Bazar, Delhi, posing as a visitor. Upon his death, Gandhiji moved a condolence motion at the Guwahati session of the Congress on December 25, 1926.



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