Kalyandev: A Lamp that Swamiji Lighted
free translation by Swami Satyamayananda, from 'News and Reports'
(January 2005) of Vivek Jyoti, the Hindi journal of the Ramakrishna
Order, published from Raipur, Chattisgarh.
Vivekananda said: 'The national ideals of India are RENUNCIATION
and SERVICE. Intensify her in those channels, and the rest
will take care of itself. The banner of the spiritual cannot
be raised too high in this country. In it alone is salvation.'
(1) A sannyasin who embodied these words of Swamiji's recently
entered into mahasamadhi. He was the last surviving person
who had seen and talked to Swami Vivekananda. One is amazed
to learn how he translated into action Swamiji's message to
him and transformed himself into a nationally renowned saint.
He performed not ordinary miracles but the real miracle of
bringing solace and succour to numerous poor and downtrodden
people. Last year, on 14 July, the 129-year-old sannyasin
passed away into eternal samadhi, after 'witnessing three
Kalyandev was born Kaluram on 21 June 1876 in Kotana village
in the district of Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, at his maternal
grandfather's home. He was the third son of his pious parents,
who hailed from the village of Mundbhar in Muzaffarnagar district.
His father was Pherudatt and mother, Bhoi Devi. Kaluram spent
his early years in Mundbhar.
his childhood Kaluram got an opportunity to visit his paternal
aunt's home in Budhana. His uncle Bulla Bhagat was a zamindar
there. There was no dearth of anything at home but Bulla Bhagat
and his wife were distressed because they were childless.
This was probably the reason the devout couple had the child
Kaluram brought to fill the void. Religion is the backbone
of rural India, and Bulla Bhagat's home was no different;
rather it was intensely religious. The couple immersed themselves
in devotion to God and service of holy men. Kaluram's uncle
became so well known among the wandering sadhus that they
always thronged his doors. Unfailingly, every morning and
evening there used to be readings from the Ramayana, after
which prasad used to be distributed joyously to all present.
was happy growing in this ambience. He used to rise early
and after ablutions sit beside his uncle to attentively listen
to the Ramayana being sung. Thus from childhood the stories
and teachings of the Ramayana entered deep into Kaluram's
heart and left a permanent impress. These ennobling ideas
and images then became his ideal. Seeing so many sadhus every
day and noticing their spirit of freedom, which impressed
him, young Kaluram one day left his uncle's home like the
itinerant mendicants to strive for God-realization. He wore
only a loincloth and a cotton chadar.
and barefoot, begging for food and asking the way, the lad
reached Ayodhya, the place of his dreams and aspirations.
Here he met Swami Ramdas, who tutored him in the alphabet.
Kaluram was a bright student and soon he could read the Ramayana
in Hindi. In Ayodhya he heard of a holy place of pilgrimage,
Hardwar. His mind now became restless to visit it, and after
spending some more days in Ayodhya, Kaluram left for Hardwar.
In Hardwar, he was delighted to see the numerous temples and
ashramas. He never settled in one ashama but kept moving on
to different ones. Day and night he listened to the holy scriptures
and devotional songs. It was during one of these days that
he went to Khetri, where he met Swami Vivekananda and was
instructed by him.
returning from Khetri, there arose a strong desire in his
mind to get formally initiated by a guru. In his search for
an ideal guru, Kaluram reached Muni-ki-Reti in Rishikesh,
the abode of ascetics, and met Swami Purnananda. The pure
and simple Swami Purnananda agreed to Kaluram's earnest prayers
and accepted him as a disciple. Observing Kaluram's devotion
to service, his guru initiated him into sannyasa in 1900 and
gave him the name Swami Kalyandev. At his guru's behest Kalyandev
stayed in the Himalayan regions and performed intense tapasya
for a few years. But there was something that was tugging
at his heart. He descended from the mountains and soon engaged
himself in various kinds of altruistic works. Now his yearning
soul was calmed down. In time, Kalyandev's work grew into
a seva-yajna, service as a religious sacrifice. And throughout
the remainder of his long life of more than one hundred years,
this seva-yajna grew in intensity.
Swami Vivekananda was the greatest turning point in Swami
Kalyandev's life. In November 1897, Swamiji had reached Dehra
Dun. From there he proceeded to Delhi, Alwar and then to Jaipur,
where he put up at Khetri House. On 9 December, Swamiji, accompanied
by some of his gurubhais and disciples, left for Khetri in
horse carriages and reached the place on the 12th. Swamiji
being a state guest, arrangements were made by Maharaja Ajit
Singh for his stay at Sukh Mahal. In this garden house Swamiji
stayed for three weeks with his entourage.
Swami Kalyandev first heard of Swamiji when he was about twenty-one
years old. He was still Kaluram then and was residing in Hardwar.
Swamiji's triumph at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago
in 1893 and his subsequent successful preaching of Hinduism
had generated awe, veneration and gratitude in India. When
Kaluram heard that the world-renowned Swami Vivekananda was
going to Khetri via Dehra Dun, Delhi, Alwar and Jaipur, he
decided to meet him. Doggedly, he started for Jaipur on foot.
On reaching there he heard that Swamiji had left for Khetri,
and that on his return journey he would take a different route
to Calcutta via Jodhpur and Ajmer. In those days, reaching
Khetri was extremely difficult, but young Kaluram was no weakling
and as was his habit, he again travelled on foot. He met Swamiji
in one of the garden houses in Khetri.
reporter of Amar Ujala, a popular Hindi daily, while
interviewing Swami Kalyandev for the paper's 14 October 2003
issue, enquired, 'Where did you get the inspiration to go
from village to village and do social service?' The swami
replied, 'In 1893 I met Swami Vivekananda in Khetri. (2) He
said to me, "If you want to see God, go to the huts of
the poor. And if you want to attain God, then serve the poor,
the helpless, the downtrodden and the miserable." To
attain God through service of the poor is the mantra I received
from Swamiji. I have never been able to forget it.' (3)
to another version, during Kaluram's meeting with Swamiji
he was told that 'The vision of God can be had in the huts
of the poor. The farmer and the labourer - these are God's
two children. When you wake up in the morning and come out
of your house, you will hear two sounds: the bells ringing
in the temples and the cries of the suffering, "Oh, Rama!
I am dying!" Follow the second sound first and try to
alleviate people's suffering according to your capacity. You
may go to the temple only then.' (4)
remarkable personality and his instructions left an indelible
impression on young Kaluram. As we have already seen, it was
after this meeting that Kaluram found his guru and had sannyasa.
Then, for the rest of his life, he went from village to village
on foot and served farmers and labourers, the poor and the
unflagging effort stretching over a century, Swami Kalyandev
established about three hundred institutions for spreading
education and bringing humanitarian aid to villages, especially
what was beneficial to people at grass-roots level. His work
covered western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan,
Delhi and other places. The institutions include technical
and vocational schools, an ayurvedic medical college, middle
schools, high schools, girls' schools, junior high schools,
primary schools, clinics and dispensaries, eye clinics, Sanskrit
schools, workshops, students' homes, dharmashalas, schools
for the deaf and dumb, blind schools, yoga instruction centres,
old age homes, asylums for old cows, orphanages, martyrs'
memorials, and other religious and spiritual centres. In all
these institutions distinctions of caste or sex have never
been a bar. Poor or rich, all receive equal treatment.
of Swami Kalyandev's endeavours show that he tried to raise
social consciousness by bringing in modern ideas. He worked
against untouchablity, alcoholism, child marriage and such
other social evils. But in spite of being the initiator of
so many institutions, Swami Kalyandev himself never held an
Kalyandev also helped rebuild dilapidated and neglected religious
and historical sites. For example, he renovated a monument
in Shuktal, sixty kilometres north of Meerut, associated with
the great sage Shuka, the son of Veda Vyasa and the narrator
of the Bhagavata. There the swami also established the Shukadeva
Ashrama and Seva Samiti. He also renovated parts of Hastinapur,
the old capital of the Pandavas and Kauravas. Many places
of pilgrimage in Haryana too have received his attention.
In works of this kind, the swami displayed uncommon concern
for the safety of pilgrims.
at 128 Swami Kalyandev kept himself engaged in the service
of the poor, looking upon them as manifestations of Narayana.
He was fearless; disease and sorrow meant nothing to him.
He was simple and innocent. From early morning till late in
the night people of all types used to flock to him and he
would listen to each of them attentively and patiently and
give proper advice. Thus he tried to remove their wants and
help them out of their problems.
Kalyandev met Mahatma Gandhiji in 1915. He was acquainted
with luminaries like Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Pandit Jawaharlal
Nehru and Dr Sampurnanand. In 1982 he received the Padma Sri
award, and in 2000 the prestigious Padma Bhushan. He was also
awarded an honorary D.Litt. by Meerut University. In 2002
Sri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then prime minister of India,
released in his presence the momentous volume The Seer
of Three Centuries: Swami Kalyan Dev, compiled in his
Vivekananda had said: 'You have heard that Christ said, "My
words are spirit and they are life." So are my words
spirit and life; they will burn their way into your brain
and you will never get away from them!' (6) We see the demonstration
of this truth in the life of Swami Kalyandev. It was a great
life of renunciation and service. It has set a towering example
for us to emulate. ~
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta:
Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 5.228.
Although Swami Kalyandev said that he met Swamiji in 1893,
the chronology of events suggests that the meeting took place
It was Sri Suresh Kumar Srivastav of Gursarai, Jhansi, who
first made this clipping available to the author.
Shuktirth Sandesh (Hindi), July-September 2004, 3.
This source was made available to the author through the kindness
of Dr Sudhir Kumar Bharadwaj of Muzaffarnagar.
Godhan (Delhi), January 2003.