Swami Shraddhananda Complete Biography Part 1
Good persons are born Good ,this saying applies almost on all of the great personalities of this world. very few among the great ones are like Swami Shraddhananda whose initial days of life were in complete darkness like a sun covered by the clouds while as the clouds of ignorance shattered his life shined like a sun to set a perfect example for those who are still in darkness and wants to get inspiration from the great onces.
This is a series of article on Swami Shraddhananda for the readers to know about his great life , his great works and his beliefs.
He was born on 22 February 1856 in the village of Talwan in the Jalandhar District of the Punjab Province of India.
Age Of Darkness
Munshiram (Swami Shraddhanand) youth was full of ups and downs. His father Shri. Nanakchand was gifted police inspector post as rewards of his service to Britishers in 1857 revolt against freedom fighters. The police job was honoring but family was engaged in constant moves between Benaras, Mirzapur, Banda, Mathura and Bareilly. This disturbed the studies of Munshiram and instead of pursuing good in studies he landed up in company of rich friends who engaged him in cruel clenches of lust, alcohol, bhang, pan, meat eating, gambling etc. the young mind was easily influenced by his environment “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, was his motto. At last he passed mukhtari exams and started his law practice to become a well known lawyer. This was a period when the son of a pious father landed up in atheism. Munshiram used to visit every night to a temple. One day the police prevented him and other devotees from entering the temple. A noble lady was doing her prayer, and nobody was allowed inside until she finished. Munshiram was terribly upset, started thinking seriously about temple and idol worship. He was assailed by grave doubts. At this stage he met a catholic priest. Under his influence he started going to church, and decided to prepare himself for baptism. This plan however came to an abrupt end. One day he went to visit The Father, but he was not in his room. Munshiram, on looking inside, saw to his horror another father in what seemed to him a compromising situation with a nun. After this his feet’s never turned to the church in his life. (AUTO P-34-35) When his father nanakchand was posted in Banaras a girl died at home of a Muslim lawyer, as there was a suspicion of murder, the remains of the girl was held by the police for a post mortem examination. Another Muslim lawyer trained at Aligarh College and with help of Sir Syed Ahmed khan’s influence managed to have the investigation stopped. Case was transferred to Allahabad and his father was duly acquitted. This lead to his father’s transfer to Ballia. This experience leads Munshiram to turn away from Islam. (AUTO P-21) Munshiram joined his father for a while in Mathura. Here he had a close experience of corrupt Hinduism. He saw the disgusting gluttony of the chaube Brahmins to whom his devout father donated a feast, and during a visit to the temples of gosains, he witnessed the attempted rape of a young female devotee by one of these sensuous pontiffs of the Krishna cult (AUTO P-43) As the atheism grew in him as his life drowned in alcohol. His lot of time was wasted in friends circle, reading novels, playing chess neglecting his studies.
Encounter With The Revolutionary Yogi
At this grave moment the light of hopes arrived in form of Swami Dayanand visit to Bareilly. His father was in charge of police arrangements for his lectures and public debate with Rev. Scott. He asked Munshiram to visit and attend his lectures. Munshiram went with his friends in order to spoil the arrangements but when he saw Rev. Scott and other eminent personalities attending his lectures he was deeply impressed. He was impressed by his strong personality and his skill in controversy. He even secretly shadowed the swami on his regular early morning walk and watched him in meditation. Perhaps he was hoping to find a chink in his armour. He admired the fearlessness of dayanand, who shrugged aside veiled threats that he would prevented from lecturing if he attacked Christianity, and dared to harshly condemn a high official for keeping a courtesan. He reports that he had two private discussions with the swami on the subject of the existence of god. He confessed to the swami that he could not counter his logic, but that his arguments nevertheless had not given him real faith in god’s reality. The swami smiled and answered, “Look, you asked questions, I gave answers that were a matter of logic. When did I promise that I would make you believe in god? Your faith in god will only come when the lord himself makes you a believer.” (AUTO P-51-54)
Wife Shivadevi Contribution
Munshiram rewarded in his autobiography contribution of his wife in the period of darkness with deep respect. Once evening he drinks heavily with his friends and while he was vilely drunk, he found himself within the establishment of prostitutes. Somehow he got out, stumbled home and was helped by an old servant inside, where he collapsed in a drunken stupor. His young wife sat with him through that night, without food, cleaning and comforting her husband. When he finally emerged from his alcoholic daze, he realized the callousness of his behavior in contrast with the spontaneous and natural dedication of his wife. The next day, when an enormous bill arrived from the liquor shop, Shivadevi simply offered her bridal ornaments, the most precious possession of a Hindu wife, in payment. Munshiram was shamed once more into another attempt of ordering his pitiful life. (AUTO P-55)
Last Night Of Darkness
Once in Jullundur Munshiram went for drinking with his friends. On that particular night one of his friends was too paralyzed to get by himself. Munshiram somehow dragged him to home. Once they had arrived, they got on the bottle again until finally Munshiram sent his companion to bed. Shortly afterwards he heard a shriek, and found his friend was about to rape a young girl of the house. Munshiram got the girl safely sway, and felt suddenly blindingly sober. He looked at himself in utter disgust, and resolutely broke the last bottle in front of him, never to touch alcohol again in his life. (AUTO P-63)
Almighty god was making him now a believer.
Excess Of God Grace Overpowered Him
After completing his law studies Munshiram started practicing as a lawyer in Jullundur. He also joined Aryasamaj and was influenced by Lala Devraj personality. One of his first religious decisions was his total abjuration of meat eating. From childhood meat had been part of his diet, as was the case with many of his friends. The decision was a sudden one, brought on by the gruesome sight of a butcher boy’s basket full of meat, after the reading of the chapter on diet in the SATYARTH PRAKASH. That evening Munshiram stunned his dinner companions by throwing his plate of food, which included some meat, against the wall in a typical gesture of defiance and finality. In fact, he admitted that it was for lack of real courage that he had to make this gesture so dramatically. He felt he did not have the strength of character to say farewell to meat in a quiet and composed fashion.
From Atheism To Theism
Munshiram apart from practicing as a lawyer engaged slowly in work of local Aryasamaj. He soon visited Lahore aryasamaj and was deeply influenced by the young scientist pt. Gurudatt Vedic legacy. The aryasamaj was in its infancy and local Hindus started agitating against it. In 1886 a panchyat of learned Brahmins was called to declare aryas of Jullundur as outcaste. However the four prominent Brahmins involved happened to be very vulnerable as upholders of dharma, they either had a concubine, were known gamblers, or secret consumers of liquor and meat. Devraj and Munshiram visited one of them and made clear that if they participated in the panchyat, their conduct would be publicly exposed, on the day of the meeting the pundits judged it safer to stay away and the threat to samaj collapsed.