Pandurang Shastri Athavale

Pandurang Shastri Athavale

Pandurang Shastri Athavale
Born (1920-10-19)19 October 1920
Roha, Maharashtra, India
Died 25 October 2003(2003-10-25) (aged 83)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Other names Dadaji[1]
Occupation Activist Philosopher, Spiritual Teacher, Spiritual Leader
Spouse(s) Nirmala Tai
Parent(s) Vaijnath Shastri Athavale

Pandurang Shastri Athavale (19 October 1920 – 25 October 2003), also known as Dadaji, which literally translates as "elder brother" in Marathi, was an Indian activist philosopher, spiritual leader, social revolutionary[2] and religion reformist, who founded the Swadhyaya Parivar (Swadhyaya Family) in 1954.[3] Swadhyaya is a self-study process based on the Bhagavad Gita which has spread across nearly 100,000 villages in India,[4][5] with over 5 million adherents.[6] He was also noted for his discourses on the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas and the Upanishads.

Early life

Pandurang Vaijnath Athavale was born on 19 October 1920 in the village of Roha in Maharashra (konkan) India. He was one of five children born to the Sanskrit teacher Vaijanath Athavale and his wife Parvati Athavale.[7]

When Athavale was twelve years old, his grandfather set up an independent course of study for the young boy. Thus, Athavale was taught in a system very similar to that of the Tapovan system of ancient India. In 1942, he started to give discourses at the Srimad Bhagavad Gita Pathshala, a center set up by his father in 1926.[7]

Athavale read diligently in the Royal Asiatic Library for a period of 14 years; at a young age, he was well-known to have read every piece of non-fiction literature (ranging from Marx's philosophy to Whitehead's writings to ancient Indian philosophy). In 1954, he attended the Second World Philosophers' Conference, held in Japan. There, Athavale presented the concepts of Vedic ideals and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Many participants were impressed by his ideas but wanted evidence of such ideals being put into practice in India. Nobel Prize–winning physicist Dr. Arthur Holly Compton was particularly enchanted with Athavale's ideas and offered him a lucrative opportunity in the United States, where he could spread his ideas. Athavale politely declined,[7] saying that he had much to accomplish in his native India, where he planned to demonstrate to the world a model community peacefully practicing and spreading Vedic thoughts and the message of the Bhagavad Gita.

Swadhyaya Parivar

Pandurang Shastri Athavale receiving the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, from HRH Prince Philip at a public ceremony held in Westminster Abbey, May 6, 1997
Main article: Swadhyaya Parivar

Swadhyaya is a process based upon Vedic philosophy, and the members of the Swadhyaya Parivar are called "Swadhyayees". Over the years, Rev. Athavale's followers (Swadhyayees) have taken his message of the indwelling God and God's love for all to millions of people, transcending caste, social, and economic barriers. Rev. Athavale personally visited tens of thousands of villages (on foot and rented bicycle), and his adherents have followed suit to roughly 100,000 villages across India. In these villages, Rev. Athavale started various experiments Prayogs to uplift the downtrodden, including cooperative farming, fishing and tree-planting projects in the spirit of collective, divine work ("God's work"). Swadhyayees aim to take the message of the Bhagavad Gita to every corner of the globe. Today, Swadhyaya has spread to numerous countries in the Caribbean, the Americas, Asia, Middle East and Africa. The divine parivar, or family, has extended to many millions. Per Rev. Athavale's vision, Swadhyaya aims to create "Universal Brotherhood under the Divine Fatherhood of God."[8]


Rev. Athavale died at the age of 83 of cardiac arrest on 25 October 2003, in Mumbai, India.[9] He was cremated on the evening of 26 October at Tatvajnana Vidyapeeth (see below) in the Thane district, where hundreds of thousands of mourners had paid their respects to him over a period of 24 hours.[10] Subsequently, his ashes were immersed at Ujjain, Pushkar, Haridwar, Kurukshetra, Gaya, Jagannath Puri, and lastly at Rameshwaram.[11]


Tatvajnana Vidyapeeth is a philosophy institution created by Rev. Athavale in 1958, which annually admits postgraduate students who desire a rigorous curriculum consisting of Vedic and world philosophy instruction. Prior to entering into married life, postgraduate youth study a broad variety of religious and spiritual subjects, while living in and experiencing an atmosphere modeled after the ancient "Tapovan" system of education originating thousands of years ago.[12]

In 1991 Shyam Benegal created and directed the film Antarnaad (The Inner Voice), based on Rev. Athavale's Swadhyaya movements or Prayogs, starring Shabana Azmi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda, among others.[13] In 2004 Abir Bazaz directed the documentary Swadhyaya, based on the life and works of Rev. Athavale.[14][15]


Awards & Prize

He was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1997[16] and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, along with India's second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan Award, in 1999.[17]


Further reading

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