Swami Pranavanand

His pre-sannyas name was Saraswatichandra. Saraswatichandra was born on 13.1.1913 to Jamnadas Majmudar and Mangalaba, a pious Kayastha couple of Dabhoi town (the ancient Darbhavati) near the City of Vadodara. Jamnadas had a Government job as well as some agricultural land but his income was insufficient to support a large family of nine offspring. This and his propensity towards charities soon brought him to indigence. Jamnadas passed away when Saraswatichandra was only seven years of age and the entire burden of supporting the family fell on Mangalaba. With difficulty she managed to have him educated up to the seventh class but eventually poverty compelled the boy’s withdrawal from school in 1927 at the age of fourteen. He found occasional work in Dabhoi thereafter but, more importantly, found time to study music and the scriptures till eventually, in 1930, he made his way to Bombay in search of employment. This eluded him; instead, there he found his spiritual master and Guru.


On the day following his eighteenth birthday, broken by disappointment, Saraswatichandra stood in worship during the evening prayers at his favorite temple near the pigeon house of Bhuleshwar. It was the festival of utarayan. All other devotees departed on completion of the evening arti. Saraswatichandra lingered there. An unknown saint in ochre robes approached him and asked him to come to his ashram the next day. The boy did as he was told and thus, on 15th January 1931, placed himself within the folds of the disciplic tradition of Lord Lakulish, of which he would in future become the third kulguru.


Once Saraswatichandra had settled down at the ashram, his mentor (who, it was later revealed, was none other than Lord Lakulish himself), began teaching him the yogic texts in two daily one hour sessions in the morning and evening. He also taught various yoga techniques and gave him guidance about spiritual matters. Later, he made arrangements for him to receive instructions in Ayurved, hygiene, anatomy, physiology and psychology.


After 8 months, in August/September 1931, Bhagwan put Saraswatichandra through a strict regimen of diet and secluded meditation and mantra recitation for a period of 41 days. On the final day, which fell on Mahashivratri of 1932 Bhagwan gave him shaktipat diksha. He blessed his new disciple thus: “My son, with this ancient and holy initiation, I ordain you a Yogacharya. You will be the world’s most outstanding Yogacharya. In the future, after even the tiny worldly desires that remain are cleansed, find some wise old detached cow worshipping saint. He will give you sannyas initiation with saffron robes.”


1932.   In April 1932 after Saraswatichandra had been at Bhagwan’s ashram for 15 months, the latter took him on a pilgrimage to Mathura and Vraj. The yatra lasted for 7 days. In the course of the yatra, Bhagwan revealed to Saraswatichandra the most secret mysteries of yoga and gave him a detailed explanation of each of its aspects. On the last day of the yatra which was in Delhi, Bhagwan disappeared in the night, while Saraswatichandra slept. Saraswatichandra waited for him for 2 days. After another 2 days in Delhi, he returned to Bombay and  after disbanding the ashram there, came back to his home town Dabhoi.


1932-40. He spent the period 1932-35 in association with local theatre companies. In 1935 he came to Ahmedabad, and worked first as an oilman in a textile company and then as a teacher and music instructor in a school called Saraswati Mandir in Maninagar. He spent the next 5 years in this manner in Ahmedabad.


1941. In 1941 the idea of getting Saraswatichandra married caused some turbulence in the family and he went away to Bombay. After 4-5 months there, he left Bombay on a spiritual quest and took to wandering in the villages on the banks of the holy Narmada River. In the course of these wanderings, he came to village Indore-Vasana, near Rajpipla and went to Udasin Swami Shantanandji’s Anand Kutir Ashram and expressed his desire for renunciation. Shantanandji was a brilliant Sanskrit scholar with a deep knowledge of the scriptures and had chosen this inaccessible place to pursue his sadhana undisturbed by the hoards that were lured to him by his great name and fame.


1942. On the 5th day of his stay at Anand Kutir, Shantanandji ordained Saraswatichandra on the auspicious day of Ramnavmi in 1942 and gave him the name Swami Kripalvanand. Swami Kripalvanand left the ashram on the very next day and resumed his life of wandering. After around 3 months of this, he tired of it and thought of taking Sanskrit lessons and studying the scriptures. He thus returned to Anand Kutir Ashram to see his Guru who arranged for Swami Kripalvanand to stay at Munimandal Ashram at Hardwar-Kankhal. This ashram is considered the principle center of the Udasin sect in India. It was founded by Swami Keshavanand who was guru of Shantanandji’s guru. The sect itself is very ancient and is said to have been founded by the Sanat Kumars and Narad Muni.


1942-48. Swami Kripalvanand spent about 8 months at the Munimandal Ashram and learned Sanskrit and the scriptures. Then, well-versed in both, he returned to Gujarat and resumed his travels in the villages along the Narmada. He spent the Chaturmas of 1942 at Sisodara village where he began teaching Sanskrit. With the growth of interest in this activity in the area, he decided to teach the language through the text of the Bhagvad Gita and thus decided to write a colloquial version of the holy classic. He went back to Rishikesh to find the right atmosphere for this work and finished it in the 6-7 months that he was there. Returning to Gujarat he resumed Sanskrit teaching and in addition began giving discourses on the Bhagvad Gita. Within three years, he had become very famous in the villages of the Narmada banks and was being invited often for discourses of the Gita.


1949. In late 1948, this activity was briefly interrupted when he learnt that his Guru Shantanandji was ill. He went to his guru’s ashram and served him diligently. Shantanandji passed away on 23rd January, 1949. Stricken by grief Swami Kripalvanand sought the solitude of the Himalayas and took up living in a simple hut in a secluded place in Rishikesh.


On the day of Mahashivratri in 1949, Lord Lakulish gave darshan to Swami Kripalvanand at Rishikesh. Guru and disciple spoke of many spiritual things relating to body and soul and Bhagwan also spoke of his great resolve which certain selected souls in his lineage would be required to enhance over a period of time.


This is what Bhagwan said: “I have a great resolve that cannot be realized in just a few years. The lineage of my disciples, beginning with Pranavanand, will have to advance this mission little by little over a period of many years. In this lineage certain selected souls will take birth turn by turn and enhance the mission further. They will be required to develop high spiritual powers in order to carry out this mission. In this manner not only will the mission be fulfilled, but those disciples will accomplish their own spiritual development as well”.


1950. After this incident Swami Kripalvanand returned to Gujarat and resumed his activities as before. Thus, time passed. He was in Rajpipla in 1950 for Gurupurnima. Bhagwan gave him darshan again for a very brief time and disappeared after saying, “The time is now ripe for you to start practicing yoga”.


1950-1955. Swami Kripalvanand began yoga practice from the very next day and his practice made very rapid progress. In 1955 he moved to Mota Fofalia and began to meditate for 10 hours a day. In December that year, the village of Kayavarohan invited him to come and deliver a discourse. Swami Kripalvanand knew nothing about the village, nor was he aware of the fact that this was a very important Teertha of very ancient origin. He agreed to a three day series of discourses on the Bhagvad Gita. On the third day he was taken on a round of the temples of the village and came to the Brahmeshwar temple. There he saw the ancient Jyotirling with an idol carved on its front and recognized this to be the exact form of the divine personage with whom he had spent 15 months in Bombay and had performed a Yatra to Mathura and Vraj. The true identity of his guru was thus finally revealed to him. It is written in the record of the parampara that ‘it was an event arranged in advance by Divine Will. Kayavarohan was destined to be the primary focus of Swami Kripalvanand’s future activities’.


That night Swami Kripalvanand succeeded in mastering a difficult stage of yoga for which he had been striving. In deep meditation he had a vision of Kayavarohan in the days of the great Sage Vishvamitra when it was called Medhavati, and also the new and sparkling beauty that it was in the time of Lord Lakulish.


In this blissful meditation, Lord Lakulish and Maharshi Vishvamitra gave him this divine command: “My son, we have chosen you to lead the revival of Kayavarohan as a holy pilgrimage center and also the revival of spiritual culture”.


1958. In 1958 Swami Kripalvanand’s life of wandering came to an end. The villagers of Malav village invited him to take up residence in their village and built an ashram for him which came to be known as Kripalu Ashram.


1959-1968. The next year Swami Kripalvanand took a vow of total silence which was to last for 12 years. In 1965 he began preliminary work for re-establishing Kayavarohan. He set up the Kayavarohan Teertha Seva Samaj to manage the work. After 3 years consumed in preparatory work, the foundation stone for the new temple of Lord Brahmeshwar was laid on 29th November 1968.


1968. That night Bhagwan gave him darshan again and expressed his desire that Swami Kripalvanand should move to Kayavarohan to supervise the work so that it could be completed in 5 years. Swami Kripalvanand expressed some difficulty about moving there. To resolve this difficulty Bhagwan told him, “After some time, a yoga aspirant will come to you from the lap of Mount Girnar. Accept him as your disciple. He will lighten the burden of your responsibilities”.


1969. The new disciple whose coming Bhagwan had foretold came on 8th March 1969. His name was Yashwant Sinh Jadeja who was to become Swami Rajarshi Muni, the fourth Kulguru of the parampara. He asked to be accepted as a disciple and was so accepted. Swami Kripalvanand promised to call him at an appropriate time to impart guidance.


That call came by way of a letter summoning him to Malav on 26th June. On that day Swami Kripalvanand gave Mantra diksha to his new disciple and instructed him on the performance of certain pranayams and asked him also to do mantra japa for 15 months. 1970. In due time the new disciple decided to renounce the world and visited Malav in November


1970. On Divali day, 2-11-70, Swami Kripalvanand asked the new disciple to renounce the world and gave him Shaktipat diksha in a group seminar held between 26th and 28th November 1970 which was attended by nearly 100 people.


1974. On 3rd May 1974, the Shiv ling and idol of Lord Lakulish were ritually installed in the now completed new temple of Lord Brahmeshwar at Kayavarohan. Bhagwan Lakulish gave direct darshan to Swami Kripalvanandji when he went alone into the temple to pray and invoked the Lord. The Lord responded and appeared suspended one and three quarters feet above the floor and apart from giving guidance about the height at which the idol was to be installed reminded Kripalvanandji of the unfinished task of cultural revival. And he yet once more confirmed for the benefit of all men of faith what the sashtras had already previously resoundingly and repeatedly averred: “This holy place is mine and I shall always remain here. My divine energy shall enter the idol in a very special subtle form after it has been ritually installed”.


1976.  Kripalvanandji now turned towards the second task commanded to him by Bhagwan, that of revival of Indian culture and its cultural and moral values. He decided that a systematic program of yoga education would be the main activity of the parampara’s effort towards cultural revival. He entrusted the task to Swami Rajarshi Muni who drew up the detailed plans for a yoga institute with training and research wings, designed the syllabi and curriculum and evaluation standards and methods and within months of being entrusted the task, trained the first three teachers. On 13th November 1976 Kripalvanandji lit a lamp before the idol of Lord Lakulish at Kayavarohan and inaugurated the Lakulish Yoga Vidyalay, the Lakulish Institute of Yoga. Its first yoga training class was held the same day immediately after and Bhagwan’s plan for cultural revival was thus set in motion. Kripalvanandji said on the occasion of the inauguration, “Today’s inauguration is only a ceremonial. The subtle and true inauguration of this Institute occurred nearly six years ago when I gave yoga initiation to Rajarshi Muni. I hope that this yoga institute will nurture true yogis and some day become a university of yoga”.

1977.  On 18th May 1977 Kripalvanandji departed for the United States, to return in a very sick state on 1st October 1981. He passed away on 29th December, 1981. With Swami Kripalvanand’s passing the mantle of kulguru fell on the shoulders of Swami Rajarshi Muni. (For more, read Swami Rajarshi Muni).