Pandurang Shastri Athavale

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Pandurang Shastri Athavale
File:Pandurang Shastri Athavale, (1920-2003).jpg
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 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 philosopher, spiritual leader, social activist[2] and Hinduism 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

File:Pandurang Shastri Athavale-Templeton Prize 1997.jpg
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

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]

Popular culture

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]


  • The Systems: The Way and the Work (Swadhyaya: The Unique Philosophy of Life), by Rev. Shri Pandurang Vaijnath Athavale Shastri (Rev. Dada). Vallabhdas J. Jhaveri, Bombay, 1992.

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]


  1. "Swadhyay Pariwar".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tributes paid to founder of Swadhyaya movement Times of India, 12 Nov 2003.
  3. "Life In Legacy - Week of 11/1/2003".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Spiritualist from India is honored with religion's Templeton Prize The Seattle Times, 5 March 1997.
  5. Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice, by Robin Rinehart. Published by ABC-CLIO, 2004. ISBN 1-57607-905-8. Page 375
  6. Year in Review – 2003 – Passages The Seattle Times, 29 December 2003.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Biography Ramon Magsaysay Award website.
  8. Leader of Spiritual Movement Wins $1.2 Million Religion Prize New York Times, 6 March 1997.
  9. Social reformer Pandurang Shastri Athavale dead Rediff, 25 October 2003
  10. Pandurang Sahstri Athavale cremated Times of India, 26 October 2003.
  11. Self-respect as key to universal brotherhood The Hindu, 29 June 2006.
  12. "NEWS : Pandurang Shastri Athavale wins Magsaysay award".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Antarnaad on IMDb
  14. A week-long festival of documentaries in New Delhi The Tribune, 5 September 2004.
  15. "Public Service Broadcasting Trust".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Indian Spiritualist Honored New York Times, 6 March 1997.
  17. Padma Vibhushan Official listings Govt. of India website.

Further reading

  • Vital Connections: Self, Society, God : Perspectives on Swadhyaya, by Raj Krishan Srivastava. 1998; Weatherhill, ISBN 0-8348-0408-5.
  • Self-Development and Social Transformations?: The Vision and Practice of the Self-Study Mobilization of Swadhyaya, by Ananta Kumar Giri. Lexington Books. 2008. ISBN 0-7391-1198-1.
  • Role of the swadhyaya parivar in socioeconomic changes among the tribals of Khedasan: A case study, by Vimal P Shah. Gujarat Institute of Development Research, 1998. ISBN 81-85820-53-8.
  • Swadhyay Movement Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, by Mary Pat Fisher. Published by I.B.Tauris, 1996. ISBN 1-86064-148-2, Page 109.
  • Swadhyaya: A Movement Experience in India – August 2003 Visions of Development: Faith-based Initiatives, by Wendy Tyndale. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006. ISBN 0-7546-5623-3. Page 1.

External links