August is Month Dedicated to Forgotten Indian Patriot Shree Virchand Raghavji Gandhi

Posted: 05.03.2013

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Virchand Gandhi, a Gandhi before Gandhi

August is month dedicated to Forgotten Indian Patriot Shree Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (VRG - August 25, 1864 – August 7, 1901), who captivated 1893s’ first ever world religion of parliament organized in Chicago.

As for all Indians, August 15, happens to be a day dedicated to Indian Patriots, August also happens to be the birth and death month of Gujarat’s legend Virchand Raghavji Gandhi.

When people speak about Hindu philosophy one eminent name emerges in front of them, that is of Swami Viveka-nanda and everyone knows that Swami Vivekananda received his recognition primarily for his speech in the first-ever World Parliament of Religions in 1893, where he represented Hinduism. But people hardly know that one more Indian legend at the same event boldly expressed his patriotism by defending Indian culture and Hinduism and represented Jainism — he was Virchand Raghavji Gandhi. His captivating speech was appreciated.

A true patriot is someone, who feels or voices expressions of patriotism, love, and devotion to one’s country. VRG displayed his patriotism, love and devotion for mother India and its spiritual heritage. His speech echoed the true spirit and culture of India. He received equal attention, as did Swami Vivekananda. Hence it is pain-ful that today many do not know about this legend, who was contemporary to Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda. Bhagubhai Kar-bhari, a renowned scholar, who was editor of Prajabandhu, Patriot and Samlochak newspapers, wrote in 1910 that Virchand Gandhi was felicitated with a silver medal at the parliament. VRG delivered 535 lectures mainly in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Washington DC, in the USA, England, France, Germany and other European countries and was nationally and internationally felicitated with many medals. His captivating speeches were on the fundamentals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Indian culture. He also spoke on a plethora of subjects like Indian international trade system, Indian economic and industrial outlook, real estate, ancient history of Indian civilization, science of eating, yoga, concentration, hypnotism, astral vision and astral body, occultism and vegetarianism.

He may be truly called as father of USA’s NRI Gujaratis,  who was first Gujarati to visit the USA when he was just 29 and died at the early age of 37 due to lung hemorrhage. But in short life span,  so-called lion of the season, VRG’s immense success was covered by the following list of leading US newspapers, and periodicals like New York Times, St. Joseph Gazette, The Jamestown New York, Editors Bureau, Chicago Daily Sun, Chicago Herald, Chicago Suburban Star, Light of Truth, Cincinnati, Buffalo Times, The Illustrated Buffalo Express,  Morning Star, Buffalo Evening Times, Buffalo Express, Buffalo Courier, The Evangelist, Evening Post, Rochester Democrat Chronicle, and The Rochester Herald.

At all the places he was well listened, felicitated and presented with medals. He knew 14 languages and was great scholar in teachings of all world religions and was first in world to translate Unknown Life of Jesus Christ from French to English, a manuscript found from Tibet.  VRG was only son of Mahuva’s (Gujarat) business tycoon Raghavji Tejpalji Gandhi. Virchand Gandhi was a visionary too. He talked about economic and political freedom five decades before India became independent. In one of his speeches to the American public, he declared: “You know, my brothers and sisters, that we are not an independent nation, we are subjects of Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, the “Defender of the Faith.” But if we were a nation in all that that word 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 for ever maintain peaceful relations with all nations of the world.” Today this statement appears as a prophecy that Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) proved in attaining India’s freedom with peaceful means.

Currently a drama based on his life called Gandhi Before Gandhi has performed 200 shows worldwide and in recent past the government of India had issued commemorative postal stamps to honor this legend.  In those days, sea voyage was considered unholy and VRG had to face unjust criticism. At the same time, his vegetarianism in the Amer-ican cold surprised Swami Vivekananda, who wrote from 541, Dearborn Avenue, Chicago, to the Shree Hari-dasji Desai, Diwan of Junagadh in 1894, “Now here is Virchand Gandhi, the Jain, whom you knew well in Bombay. This man never takes anything but mere vegetables even in this terribly cold climate and tooth and nail tries to defend his countrymen and the religion.”

It seems great Swami Vivekanand,  through his quote,  tried to portray VRG as lion when he used word “tooth and nail”  tries to defend his countrymen and religion. Swami Vivekananda and Virchand Gandhi had their own huge fan following. Swami Vivekananda’s work became well-known,  but unfortunately not much of VRG’s.  One of the US periodicals wrote while paying tributes to both of them when VRG and Swamiji died in 1901 and 1902, respectively, “The influence of Viveka-nanda’s philosophy has been kept alive by his disciples        by founding organizations whereas, it is a matter of great pity that no attempt has been made to keep alive VRG’s memory!” Today only 10 percent of VRG details are available due to a gap of 100 years. In India, nobody maintained a detailed history of VRG and his contribution to India and the Indian society.”

As a reformer in the Western countries, he established the Gandhi Philosophical Society and the Society for the Education of Women in India (SEWI) under whose banner several Indian women went to the USA for higher studies, the School of Oriental Philo-sophy, and the Jain Literature Society in London. He sent Rs. 40,000 and a shipload of grains from the USA to India during the worst famine of 1896-97.

He was scholar in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christia-nity, Western philosophies, Yoga, Indian Economics, International Trade, etc. VRG wrote many articles and books in Gujarati as well as in English. He wrote on topics of social and cultural reforms like education for women and custom of repenting.

As a national figure he attended the Indian National Congress session held in Pune as the representative of the then Bombay province in 1895 and was an early leader of the Congress along with his friends Chief Justice Mahadev Ranade and Sr. Narayan Chandavarkar. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Con-gress president), with top Con-gress politician Vadilal Chitra-bhuj Gandhi met Dhiraj Mohanlal Gandhi, the grandson of VRG (then president of Hindu Mahasabha, Mumbai), and paid homage to VRG.

Virchand Gandhi lectured on the political and industrial outlook in India in Large Hall of William Science building on December 19, 1898. His another international participation as all-India sole delegate was at the international conference of commerce in 1899 where he lectured on the trade relations between the USA and India.  He attained Bar at Law at Britain. Virchand Gandhi also succeeded in settling disputes of Palitana on tax, and Sammetshikar on piggery case.

Virchand Gandhi reveals that at several instances Mahatma Gandhi was misunderstood as V.R. Gandhi.

In a June 13, 1931 letter, Mahatma Gandhi clarifies to Miss Emelia Mac Bean of Chicago when she mistook him as VRG, “Madam, I have your letter for which I thank you. You are giving me credit of which I am wholly undeserving. You are thinking of another Mr. Gandhi my namesake but in no way related to me. He and I were, however, friends and lived together for some time. You will be sorry to hear that he died many years ago, leaving an only son. It was he, who visited America and made many friends. I have never had the privilege of visiting your continent.”

Mark Twain, father of American literature, was too impressed by Virchand Gandhi and his philosophy. His newspaper Buffalo Express had widely covered VRG when Mark Twain visited India. VRG displayed his hospitality and accompanied him to Byculla, Mumbai Jain temples on  January 25, 1896. In his “Mark Twain on Biblical and Hindu Miracles,” G.B. Singh states that Virchand Gandhi had met Mark Twain on his visit to India but somehow “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.

“While in Bombay, I began, on one hand, my study of Indian law and, on the other, my experiments in dietetics in which Virchand Gandhi, a friend, joined me. My brother, for his part was trying his best to get me briefs. The study of India law was a tedious business. The Civil Procedure Code I could in no way get on with. Not so however, with the Evidence Act. Virchand Gandhi was reading for the Solicitor's Examination and would tell me all sorts of stories about Barristers and Vakils.” by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ( Mahatma Gandhi )

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 and Mumbai Samachar played a 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 utilize same for Virchand Gandhi museum.

 

Famous quotes by  Virchand Gandhi

Famous quotes by Virchand Gandhi

  • All non liberated souls when pass from one life to another it carries with itself the Karmic body which is invisible and subtle. This Karmic body depending on the karma energies it carries, exhibits the occult powers.It first attracts the material particles to form the physical body. The senses, speech and mind are formed according to the ability of the soul bonded by Karmic connections. It may be one sense organism to five sense organism with mind or without mind. Even one can be born as hellish beings or celestial beings. Mind includes desires, emotions, intelligence, thinking etc. According to Jains the soul in pure form has infiniteness in terms of its knowledge and power. These faculties are obstructed for its exhibition due to Karmic bondage.”

  • “To that man of high aim whose body, mind and soul act in correspondence, all secrets of nature become revealed to him. He feels within himself, as every where, that universal life wherein there is no distinction, no sense of separateness, but all around, all bliss, unity and peace.”

  • This is my country, that is your country, these are the conceptions of narrow souls, to the liberal minded the whole world is a family”

  • The universe is not for man alone, but is a theater of evolution for all living beings. Live and let live is its guiding principle. Ahimsa Parmo Dharmah- Non-injury is the highest religion”

  • We preach and practice brotherhood not only of men but of all living beings not on Sundays only but all the days of the week. We believe in the law of universal justice. We believe that our present condition is the result of our past actions and that we are not bound by the freak of an irresponsible governor—Judge and Prosecutor at the same time. We depend for our salvation on our own acts and deeds and not on a constituted attorney

  • “Pranayam is the right science of breathing where deep, regulated and rhythmic breathing is done along with mental purification. Its practice plays an important role not only in cure of physical ailments, but also for moral and spiritual progress.”

  • In more ancient times the life was simpler, but now the discovery of all these different medicines for curing dyspepsia shows that people are suffering from this disease. In this country we know that there are so many kinds of pills and medicines used. We even have those in India now. These things show that not only in America but in all the countries of the world we have to recourse to artificial means for necessary nutrients because people are not aware of right rules of diet. It is better to follow the right rules of diet in the beginning in order to avoid any kind of artificial medicines later on.”

  • …the designation of wife in India, of the Hindu wife, is higher and grander than that of Empress. She is called Devi”

  • “May peace rule the universe; may peace rule in kingdoms and empires; may peace rule in states and in the lands of the potentates; may peace rule in the house of friends and may peace also rule in the house of enemies”

  • In the history of a soul’s evolution there is a critical point of the human incarnation that decides for us whether we stay there, go down or progress upwards. There is a knot of worldly desires impeding us; cut the knot by mastering desires and go forward. This done, progress is assured.”

  • “...the soul lives its own life, not for the purpose of the body, but the body lives for the purpose of the soul. If we believe that the soul is to be controlled by the body then soul misses its power.”

  • “I have heard your orators speak on many questions. One among them the so-called vital question of money which is above all things the most coveted commodity but I, as a Hindu, as a Jainist, in the name of my countrymen and of my country, would offer you as the medium of the most perfect exchange between us, henceforth and forever, the indestructible, the unchangeable, the universal currency of good will and peace, and this, my brothers and sisters, is a currency that is not interchangeable with silver and gold, it is a currency of the heart, of the good life, of the highest estate on the earth and it is the currency of heaven.”

  • “If a person's mind is controlled by forces of revenge and jealousy, it cannot express love & sympathy. And even if they show love and sympathy to others it will yield no good result. The thought will not be reflected in love but in hate.”

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Article originally written by Pankaz Chandmal Hingarh & published:
indiatribune.com

Posted by Atul Bafna on Jan 19, 2013 at
speakingtree.in

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