Aug 1, 2011

Virchand Gandhi Biography

Virachand Raghav Gandhi (Gujarati: વીરચંદ રાઘવ ગાંધી; 1864–1901) from Mahuva represented Jains at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and won a silver medal. Gandhi was most likely the first Jain & First Gujarati to travel to the United States and his statue still stands at the Jain temple in Chicago. In his time he was world famous personality .

Gandhi represented Jains in Chicago because the Great Jain Saint Param Pujya Acharya Vijayanandsuri, also known as Acharya Atmaram, was invited to represent the Jain religion at first World Parliament of Religions held in 1893. As Jain monks do not travel overseas, he recommended the bright young scholar Virchand Gandhi to be the emissary for the religion. Atmaramji provided 6 months training to VRG . His disciple Param Pujya Vijay Vallabsuri also used to assist VRG & same is traced by Natuji Shah (Europe) and written in book " Jainism: The World of Conquerors". The 29 year-old Virchand Gandhi impressed everyone with his expressiveness, brilliance and tremendous erudition.

Strangers In This Land by E. Allen Richardson mentions this Parliament and Gandhi's subsequent interview with The New York Times.

In 1885 at the age of 21, Gandhi became the first honorary secretary of the Jain Association of India. During this time the ruler of Gujarat levied a tax on pilgrims visiting Mt. Shatrunjay, Palitana. With great courage and risking his life, Shri Gandhi fought against this tax that he considered to be a horrible injustice. In his fight against the tax Gandhi met Lord Reay, the British colonial governor of Bombay, and Colonel John Watson of the Kathiawar Agency. With the help of these two individuals, Gandhi ultimately negotiated an annual fixed payment of Rs.15000, rather than an individual tax on each pilgrim. Because of this fixed payment, Jains could visit their holy shrines freely.[1]

In 1891 Mr. Boddam, an English man, started a factory for slaughtering animals near Mount Sametshikhar, a holy place of Jain pilgrimage. Virchand Gandhi stayed in Calcutta for six months learning Bengali while preparing his case against the factory and was eventually successful in getting the factory closed.

Gandhi was a contemporary to Swami Vivekanand. Swami Vivekanand used to deeply adore Virchand Gandhi . Swami Vivekanand wrote in 1894 while he was in U.S.A. "This man defends his countrymen and religion. People of this country like him very much. But what are they doing who sent him over? They are trying to outcast him."

Herbert Warren studied Jainism under him and adopted the Jain religion. Warren published a book on Virchand Gandhi's lectures titled Herbert Warren's Jainism.

One American newspaper wrote regarding V.R.Gandhi, "of all Eastern scholars, it was this youth whose lectures on Jain Faith and Conduct was listened to with the greatest interest and attention". In Kasadova, he delivered a lecture on 'Some Mistakes Corrected' on 8 August 1894, which prompted the citizens of the city to award him a gold medal. The newspaper, 'Buffalo Courier', recorded the immense success of that lecture.

At Parliament Gandhi said:

You know, my brothers and sisters, that we are not an independent nation, we are subjects of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, 'defender of the faith'. But if we are a nation in all that name implies, with our own government and our own rulers, with our laws and institutions controlled by us, free and independent, I affirm that we should seek to establish and forever maintain peaceful relations with all the nations of the world." "It is an astonishing fact that foreigners have been constantly attacking India and in the face of all this aggression the soul of India has stood vital and watchful. Her conduct and religion are safe and the whole world looks at India with a steady gaze." He added "Cultural distinctions, agriculture, art, artistic skill, literature, good conduct, means of knowledge, science, hospitality, feminism, love, and respect - all these are found in India in quite a different form. If that culture was purchasable, England would have purchased it, adopted it. But it has not happened, it cannot happen.

Virchand Raghav Gandhi corrected the false, twisted and perverse impression of India being the land of Maharajahs, tigers, cobras, magicians, and heathens without any culture or civilization. He spoke as a Jain, but as an Indian first. His approach was the most nonsectarian. He had studied Buddhism, Vedanta Philosophy, Christianity, and Western Philosophy, all of which enabled him to talk on various subjects and present his views with confidence. Gandhi had a clear vision, an unbiased approach, and clarity in his explanation.V.R.Gandhi defended Indian culture, Hindu religion under unjust criticism in the Parliament and elsewhere by elaborating its principles. He praised Mogul emperor Akbar for his being equal to all religions.

Gandhi propagated the relevance of Jain tenets and spread Bhagwan Mahavira's message of non-violence. In total, Gandhi delivered about 535 speeches on Jainism, other religions, and social and cultural lives in India, which all received wide publication. Wherever he went, many literary and spiritual institutions, churches and societies not only accorded him warm welcome but also honored him. He was presented with medals and was requested to prolong his stay. People in U.S.A., and the West in general, liked him so much that they invited him back two more times, in 1897 and 1899 respectively. Every time when he returned from the West, he was felicitated at big welcome functions presided over by dignitaries like Premchad Raychand and the Chief Justice of Bombay, Mahadeo Govind Ranade in 1896 and 1899 respectively.

Today 'VRG' is used to address Virchand Raghavji Gandhi.

VRG translated & published The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ in English from French in 1894 from an ancient manuscript found in Tibet.

The following literature was published by Shri Virchand R. Gandhi or

Complied from his speeches and writings by various authors:

           Title                                                  Year                     Language/ Pages 

Essay - Radva Kutvani Hanikarak Chal 1886 Gujarati 37

 The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ      1894              English 128 
 Savirya Dhyan                                      1902/ 1989    Gujarati 158 
 Jaina Philosophy                                  1907             English 375 
 Karma Philosophy                                1913             English 221 
 Yoga Philosophy                                    1912/ 1993 English 309 
 Herbert Warren's Jainism                     1961/ 1983 English 164 
 Selected speeches of V. R. Gandhi     1963        English   85 
 The Systems of Indian Philosophy      1970/ 1993 English 188 
 Religion and Philosophy of Jainas     1993        English 264

VRG Mission and Interesting Points
In 1964 Param Pujya Shri Chitrabhanuji , Shri Vallabh Nidhi Trust ,Shri Dhirajji Mahandasji Virchandji 
Gandhi , Shri Pannalalji Shah , shri Koraji , Shri Dharampriyaji , Mumbai Samachar played major role in reviving about Shri Virchandji Gandhi whereby Shri Dhirajji Mohandasji Virchandji Gandhi and Shri Rasikji Mohandasji Virchandji Gandhi handed over all materials , medals related to Shri Virchandji Gandhi to Shri MJV , where Shri MJV and its office bearers responsibility is of care taker for spreading awareness about Virchand Gandhi and to utilise same for Virchand Gandhi museum after written permission of all VRG family members and original rights were preserved with Dhirajji Mohandasji Virchandji Gandhi and Rasikji Mohandasji Virchandji Gandhi descendants. And today also all rights on Virchandji Gandhi's Literature and Medals are preserved with VRG descendants as same today also accounts as their ancestral property.

in 1990's major initiative was done by Shri Nemuji Chandaria (Institute of Jainology) and Shri Tansukhji Salgia (USA) and Padmashri Kumarpalji Desai by installing statue of Shri Virchandji Raghavji Gandhi in Chicago and Mahuva.


History of foundation of JAINA's Virchand Raghavji Gandhi committee


Pravin C Shah dedication towards Virchand Gandhi (VRG) started when he read VRG Article written by Padmashri Dr. Kumarpal Desai in Chicago Pratishtha Souvenir when he attended 1st Pratishtha Mahotstav in 1993. He had not heard any thing before of VRG as who he was. There after he started to revive Dead Mission of VRG first locally with Jain Center of America (JCA) New York and there after with Federation of Jain Associations in North America , popularly known as JAINA. His request to JAINA was accepted by JAINA under Presidency of Dr. Dhirajbhai H. Shah and accordingly he was appointed as Chair Person (in Oct., 1997) of newly founded Shri V. R. Gandhi (VRG) Scholarship Committee with a view to encourage/promote studies in Jainism and to there by try to spread Bhagwan Mahavir’s Message, a lifetime goal of VRG (which he could not finish because of his untimely premature death in 1901 at an age of 37) and thereby to revive his Mission and to honor/to pay homage/tribute to this Great Indian, Humanitarian, Patriot, Reformer and to commemorate his (VRG's) historical visit to the West to attend the first ever held Parliament of World Religions at Chicago, U.S.A. in 1893 as a Jain Delegate. (Jain Digest Winter 1997 Edition pa.20) He remained as its Founding Chair Person (from Oct., 1997 till March, 2010).


VRG Postal Stamp


JAINA & World Jain confederation under blessings of Param Pujya Shri Chitrabhanuji pursued Indian Post Department for Virchand Gandhi Postal Stamp. Shri Pravinji C Shah is today world wide renowned as a main pillar in the revival of VRG from 1993 to 2010. He received due support from Shri Prakashji Mody (Philatelist), Shri Pratapji Bhogilal (Industrialist) and Shri Maheshji Gandhi (industralist) from 2002 and all these people played major role in success of Virchand Gandhi Stamp release from floating concept to make same approved. Government of India has honoured Virchand Raghavji Gandhi by issuing his postal stamp on 8 November due to efforts of Philatelist Mahesh Vadilalji Gandhi (Mumbai) (2nd main contributor on Virchandji Gandhi 2002-2010) , Philatelist Pradip Jain (Patna), Philatelist Daulat Jain (Chennai) & on Same day descendants of Virchand Gandhi family attended function. And same function was blessed with Param Pujya Nay Padamsagarji Marasaheb. VRG stamp release served as true launch pad and after same today many worldwide know about VRG.


VRG Researchers & Contributors


Bhagubhai Karbari , Vijay Vallabh Nidhi Samarak , Muni Shri Mulchandji Marasaheb, Acharya Vijayvallabhsuriji Desciples, Shri Herbert Warren, Shri Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi , Gurdev Shri Chitrabhanuji, Shri Bandhu Triputi Bandhu Marahsaheb, Acharya Shri Raju Marsaheb, Shri Dharampriyaji, Shri Kantibhai Kora, Shri Mahavir Jain Vidyalay, Shri Vadilalji Chitrabhuj Gandhi,Shri Pannalalji Shah , Padamshri Kummarpal Desai, Shri Dilip Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Chandreshji Dhirajji Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Kiritji Dhirajji Mohandasji Virchand Gandhi,Shri K.K.Dixit, Shri Nemuji Chandaria(IOJ), Shri Pravinji C Shah, Shri Prakashji Mody, Gunwant Barvalia , Shri Pratapji Bhogilal, Mahesh Vadilal Gandhi , Dr. Bipin Doshi, Smt. Preeti Shah, Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh , Herenow4u team members , Sachin Shah (Drama on VRG) & many more.


Referances:


Virachand Gandhi: The Systems of Indian Philosophy, 1970 English
Speeches and Writings of Shri Virchand R. Gandhi, Editor - Dr. K. K. Dixit, Publisher - Shri Mahavir Jain Vidyalaya Bombay
Savirya-Dhyan first published, Gujarati second edition, 1989 Gujarati
Author- Acharya Shri Shubhachandradev Translator - Shri Virchand R. Gandhi Commentary - Anandnandan Lalan Complied - Shri Pannalal R. Shah Publisher - The Jain Association of India Bombay
Selected speeches of V. R. Gandhi, 1964 English
Selected speeches taken from books 1, 2, and 3. Publisher - Vallabh Smarak Nidhi, Bombay
A tribute to 19th Century Indian Legend : Shri Virchandji Raghavji Gandhi, 2009, English Edited By Gunwant Barvalia, Mahesh Gandhi, Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh (Published by Pravin C Shah Chair & Prakash Mody - Federation of Jain Association of North America, VRG Committee)
Gandhi Before Gandhi, 2009, English, 200 pages, Authors : Dr. Bipin Doshi & Preeti Shah First Edition 1000 copies.
Virchand Gandhi, a Gandhi before Gandhi,(Page 70-81), Authors : Dr. Bipin Doshi and Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh [Published in National Magazine : Eternal India - August , 2010 issue]

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