Pravin C. Shah - The Man Behind Revival of Virchand Gandhi

Published: 21.06.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

Pravin C.  Shah
Write up on Pravin C. Shah as founder Chair of JAINA, Virchand Raghav Gandhi committee (JAINA, VRG)  (1997 - 2010) and his contributions on VRG and contributions of his team under his chairmanship.

Pravin C. Shah, a civil engineer migrated to USA in 1980. For past 21 years he served as Construction Project Manager in Municipal Corporation of New York.

Past Positions Held:

  • (Founding) Chair Person, JAINA Shri V.R. Gandhi Scholarship/Memorial Committee (from Oct. 1997 to March, 2010) 

Trustee:

  • Board of Trustees, Jain Center of America (JCA), New York. (From 2006 to 2008)

General Secretary:

  • IAAMJV - International Alumni Association of Mahavir Jain Vidyalaya

Member:

  • WJC (World Jain Confederation) Shri V.R. Gandhi Memorial Samiti, since its inception in 2004.
  • Life Member of Jain Digest since 1984.

FOUNDATION OF JAINA VRG SCH. COMMITTEE 

In 1964 Param Pujya Shri Chitrabhanu, Shri Vallabh Nidhi Trust, Shri Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Rasik Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Pannalal Shah, Shri Kora, Shri Dharampriya, Mumbai Samachar played major role in reviving about Shri Virchand Gandhi whereby Shri Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi and Shri Rasik Mohandas Virchand Gandhi handed over all materials, medals related to Shri Virchand 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.

In 1990's major initiative was done by Shri Nemu Chandaria (Institute of Jainology) and Shri Tansukh Salgia (USA) and Padmashri Kumarpal Desai by installing statue of Shri Virchand Raghav Gandhi in Chicago and Mahuva.

Pravin C Shah’s dedication towards 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 anything 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 thereafter with 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 thereby 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)

Pravin C. Shah has remained as its Founding Chair Person (from Oct., 1997 till March, 2010).

He founded Shri V.R. Gandhi (VRG) Scholarship Committee with a view to encourage/promote studies in Jainism and to thereby try to spread Bhagwan Mahavir’s Message, a lifetime goal of VRG which VRG could not finish because of his untimely premature death in 1901 and thereby to revive his Mission and to honor a Great Indian, Humanitarian, Patriot, Reformer to pay homage/tribute and to commemorate 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. (Same was covered in Jain Digest Winter 1997 Edition pa.20).

Summary of Past Projects under his chairmanship:

  1. Shri V. R. Gandhi Scholarship Committee started awarding these scholarships from 2001, that being the 2600th birth anniversary year of Bhagwan Mahavir and co-incidentally the death centenary year of VRG. These scholarships are awarded to Sadhus, Sadhvis and Jains & non-Jains students for their advance research, like Ph. D, M. Phil. M. A. studies in Jainism and for VRG’s unpublished literature at recognized universities or educational institutions. Under Chairmanship of Shri Pravin from 1997 to March, 2010 JAINA VRG had awarded approx. 64 + Scholarships up to Rs. 15,000 each to Jain and non-Jain Students in about 24 Universities/Institutions across India based on merits, irrespective of race, religion to needy students, nearly 50 % of them being non-Jains.

  1. Publication Of Shri V.R. Gandhi Biography Books (In 2001 & 2003

    VRG books were published under the banner of JAINA, VRG Committee in 2001 and 2003. Noteworthy were in 2001, the death centenary of Shri V.R. Gandhi and 2600th birth year of Bhagwan Mahavir, published Gujarati Edition 3,000 books of " Jyotirdharni van Gathai" by Pannalal R. Shah and in 2003 English version, 4,000 Books titled “Glimpses of Jainism and Biography of Forgotten Hero Shri Virchand Raghav Gandhi” respectively. His colleague Shri Chandrakant M. Shah (who was Co-Chair of VRG Committee then) and he had contributed Jainism Article in this book. This English book was ceremoniously released by Shri Chitrabhanu at the JAINA Convention 2003 held at Cincinnati, Ohio. Both the above books were distributed free of cost at respective conventions (i.e. in 2001 at Chicago and 2003 at Cincinnati) at VRG booths and thereafter. 600 copies of books (English version) were sent to several institutions connected to Jain religion and offering studies in Jainism and to Sadhus, Sadvis and Jain Scholars in India.

  2. His family (wife and son) visited VRG family at Mahuva on Dec. 30, 2003.

  3. Series of Important Researches by Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh on VRG were done under his chairmanship such as

    • Letter of Mahatma Gandhi to Miss Emila Mac Bean from Chicago with clarification that she misunderstood him as Virchand Gandhi.

    • News Article on VRG in New York Times, in 1890’s traced and published on JAINA, VRG web link.

    • Mark Twain met Virchand Gandhi on his visit to India. And substantially proved that Mark Twain, father of American Literature was too impressed by Virchand Gandhi & his Jain philosophy & his newspaper Buffalo Express had covered immense success of VRG & on Mark Twain’s Visit to India, VRG displayed his hospitality & accompanied him to Byculla, Mumbai Jain temples on 25th January, 1896. In MARK TWAIN, on, Biblical & Hindu Miracles - G.B. Singh justifies that Virchand Gandhi had met Mark Twain on his visit to India but somehow western researcher in Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Andrew Hoffman mistook Virchand Gandhi as Mahatma Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, at this stage of Mark Twain’s travel, was living in South Africa.

    • Letter of Ms. Charles Howard after death of Virchand Gandhi in 1902.

    • Various references about VRG from Ancient periodicals of missionaries. Eg. The literary world, Volume 51(Page 60, 1895) mentions “Virchand Raghav Gandhi, BA, attacks missionaries in India, charging them with misrepresentation both in regard to the religion and the lives of the natives, and in regard to their own alleged self-sacrificing life”

    • Another important point we discovered.Successive to World religion Parliament, another mega event was organized as World Real Estate Congress. And captivating Virchand Gandhi was acknowledged as an interesting speaker of the session in this event also.

    • Proved that H.S. Olcott had met Virchand Gandhi. H.S. Olcott was lawyer and the co-founder and first President of the Theosophical Society, And author Pyarelal in his book Mahatma Gandhi also brings to our notice that It was Virchand Gandhi who lectured at Blavatsky Lodge, where H.S. Olcott presided function ((Old Diary Leaves- Henry S. Olcott) & they interacted with each other & in his diary he mentioned VRG as a “distinguised Jain”, but Josephine Ransom seems to have mixed up MK Gandhi with Virchand Gandhi & wrongly mentioned that Olcott was introduced to Mk.Gandhi and this time also Mk.Gandhi was in South Africa.

    • Further Research under chairmanship of Pravin C Shah: Old Diary leaves by H.S.Olcott mentions that “A profound impression was created by the discourses of Professor G.N. Chakravarti and Mrs Besant, who is said to have risen to unusual heights of eloquence, so exhilarating were the influences of the gathering. Besides those who represented our Society especially, Messrs Vivekananda, V.R. Gandhi, Dharmapala, representatives of the Hindu Vedanta, Jainism, and Buddhism respectively, captivated the public, who had only heard of Indian people through the malicious reports of interested missionaries, and were now astounded to see before them and hear men who represented the ideal of spirituality and human perfectibility as taught in their respective sacred writings. Said one Chicago editor: ‘We have been for years spending millions of dollars in sending missionaries to convert these men, and have had very little success; they have sent over a few men, and have converted everybody".

  4. In 2006 on June 12, Pravin C Shah was interviewed by Ms. Renu Lobo, ITV & Vision of Asia Anchor Woman, who was impressed by Shri V.R. Gandhi’s life mission. She herself briefed first @ VRG (scholarships, stamps, memorial etc.) and asked Pravin C Shah several questions @ JAINA VRG scholarships and gave him 2-3 minutes to tell @ VRG. This taped interview was broadcast on 3 consecutive days on their different channels.

  5. VRG Booths At Conventions
    VRG Booth were set up at each of the JAINA Conventions starting from 1999 and VRG Scholarship/Memorial Brochures, above mentioned VRG publications along with plenty VRG material were kept to generate Scholarship Funds and to create awareness.

  6. VRG Program at Convention
    At convention 2009 at L.A., CA, 45 minute session of " Remembering Shri V.R. Gandhi" was kept.

  7. Biggest foundation in revival of VRG was laid by founding an alliance of JAINA and WJC due to blessings of Param Pujya Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanu where Pravin C Shah, Prakash Mody, Raksha ben Shah were committee members from JAINA,VRG and from WJC Pratap Bhogilal and Mahesh Gandhi were committee members. At same time two projects were floated such as VRG Memorial Stamps and VRG memorial museum. JAINA & World Jain Confederation under blessings of Param Pujya Shri Chitrabhanu pursued Indian Post Department for Virchand Gandhi Postal Stamp.

    Shri Pravin C Shah is today worldwide renowned as a main pillar in the revival of VRG from 1993 to 2010. He received due support from Shri Prakash Mody (Philatelist) and Shri Mahesh Gandhi (industralist) from 2002 and these three played major role in success of Virchand Gandhi Stamp release from floating concept to make same approved. Government of India has honoured Virchand Raghav Gandhi by issuing his postal stamp on 8 November due to efforts of Philatelist Mahesh Vadilal Gandhi (Mumbai) (2nd main contributor on Virchand 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 Padamsagar Marasaheb. VRG stamp release served as true launch pad and after same today many worldwide know about VRG.Iin 2009 Indian Postal Department approved VRG stamp with First Day cover, Brochure and a Special cancellation. Same was covered by leading TV media & print media and VRG was successfully explored in India.

  8. Government of India, Postal Department, released one beautiful multi-colored commemorative Rs. 5 value Stamps, First Day Cover and Brochure on November 8, 2009 at a grand function held in Mumbai at Bhaidas Sabhagrih, Vile Parle (W), Mumbai where Postal Dept., Govt. of India issued Stamp Albums and Brochure. At this Great Historical Event (an official recognition of paying homage/tribute to Shri Virchand Raghav Gandhi) sponsored by W.J.C. (World Jain Confederation) and JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America), nearly thousand people incl. some dignitaries, religious leaders and others including philatelic V.I.P. Maharashtra ’s Post-Master General, Pujya Naynapadma Sagar who dignified the event by his presence and blessing the occasion and Smt. Rajashree Birla who was the Chief Guest. Shri Kirit Daftary, Past JAINA President and Pravin C. Shah, then Chair, JAINA VRG Committee had attended this Event. On this occasion, an EXCLUSIVE Collector’s Philatelic Special Album (not available for sale anywhere) was released and JAINA had ordered these keep-sake limited edition valuable philatelic materials. It includes official First Day Cover (FDC) with the new VRG Memorial Stamps with special cancellation; a sheet of 15 mint Rs. 5 stamp; a set of four newly issued stamps and the informative-pictorial Brochure.The official Folder priced Rs. 100 contains the block of 4 stamps, FDC with Canceled Stamp and the Information Sheet. This function was hosted by WJC under guidance of Shri Pratap Bhogilal, Shri Mahesh Gandhi, Shri Chetanya Kasyap, Shri Jeetu Kothari, Smt. Illa Shah and others.

  9. Pravin C Shah lectured on VRG in jainology section of Mumbai University. He was fortunate to chair function hosted by Dr. Bipinbhai Doshi, President and Ms.Meenal Katarnikar, Head of the Dept., Jain Academy, Mumbai University at Kalina Campus, Santacruz (E), Mumbai to address Jain Academy students talk about JAINA’s VRG Mission.

  10. On the same day evening to address TO Officials at Aradhana Temple/Derasar, Gowalia Tank, Mumai under Pujya Nay Padma Sagar Mahraj’s blessings and talk about JAINA VRG Mission and emphasizing VRG Memorial at Mahuva. This TO meeting was made possible by his childhood friend Shri Ramanbhai R. Shah, also TO Member.

  11. JAINA VRG published 1500 copies of “A TRIBUTE TO 19TH CENTURY INDIAN LEGEND SHRI V.R.GANDHI” a special booklet, giving the history since VRG’s untimely death in 2001 till Stamp Release Event. This book was edited, designed and sponsored by Mahesh Vadilal Gandhi, Gunwant Barwavlia and Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh.

  12. Pravin C. Shah vigorously followed with JAINA core Committee members and others for getting Drama on VRG in JAINA convention. Gandhi before Gandhi drama. Pravin C Shah tried to help his best as much he can to provide VRG material/information to Pritiben Shah, Ahmedabad, who was inspired of her own to write her M. Phil Thesis on life of Shri V.R. Gandhi in Gujarati. This later on resulted in her writing book “Gandhi Before Gandhi” with Dr. Bipinbhai Doshi. Dr, Bipin Doshi has truly revived Virchand Gandhi and Gandhi before Gandhi play is based on Dr. Bipin doshi and Pritiben Shah book Gandhi Before Gandhi. Rangat Craft Stage drama team under leadership of Sachin c Shah and Chandresh Shah as successfully explored Virchand Gandhi through Gandhi before Gandhi play.

http://www.herenow4u.net/fileadmin/v3media/pics/persons/Pravin_C._Shah/Pravinji_C_shah.jpg

Pravin C Shah proposed following projects under his chairmanship:

  1. Annotation of VRG in World Biographies, Dictionaries like Oxford and so on.
  2. Getting a Documentary on VRG broadcasted on History Channel / Discovery Channel in Documentaries on Discovery of India.
  3. Honoring persons on every two years with VRG ratna Award who alike him are working on Jainism.
  4. Creating a VRG fan club with free VRG membership whereby they would be informed about JAINA,VRG activities through JAINA,VRG ebulletin within every four-six months.
  5. Getting VRG biography in India’s Elementary School Curriculum.
  6. To pursue VRG statue / Chowk at Ahmedabad. A main road in VRG’s memory would be next big event.

Worldwide VRG Contributors and researchers:

Bhagubhai Karbari, Vijay Vallabh Nidhi Samarak, Muni Shri Mulchand Marasaheb, Acharya Vijayvallabhsuri & his desciples, Shri Herbert Warren, Shri Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Rasik Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanu, Shri Bandhu Triputi Bandhu Marahsaheb, Acharya Shri Vijay Ratnasensuri (Raju Marsaheb), Shri Dharampriya, Shri Kantibhai Kora, Shri Mahavir Jain Vidyalay, Vadilal Chitrabhuj Gandhi, Pannalal Shah, Padamshri Kummarpal Desai, Shri Dilip Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Chandresh Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri Kirit Dhiraj Mohandas Virchand Gandhi, Shri K.K.Dixit, Shri Nemu Chandaria (IOJ), Shri Pravin C Shah, Shri Prakash Mody, Gunwant Barvalia, Shri Pratap Bhogilal, Mahesh Vadilal Gandhi, Dr. Bipin Doshi, Smt. Preeti Shah, Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh, HereNow4U team members, Sachin Shah (Drama on VRG) & many more.

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