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The monk who declined Rajya Sabha membership

By Shreya Jai
May 09, 2016 10:25 IST
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Soft-spoken and readily accessible, Pranav Pandya, head and mentor, All World Gayatri Pariwar, says he’s not inclined to accept. Shreya Jai reports.

Beyond the razzle-dazzle the Mary Koms and Navjot Singh Sidhus will bring to the Rajya Sabha as nominated Members of Parliament, another name lurked that was less glamorous. A day after all the other names were announced, the President also offered to nominate to the Upper House, Pranav Pandya, head and mentor, All World Gayatri Pariwar. Dr Pandya made the headlines but will not be seen in the House: He has declined the offer. That is just part of the enigma of the man. For the uninitiated, AWGP was set up in 1926 by Pandit Shri Ram Sharma Acharya -- a freedom fighter, spiritual leader, writer of about 2,400 books that include translation of ancient Hindu religious texts such as the Vedas.

The AWGP was initially tasked with social and moral upliftment through spiritual means, says the text associated with Pandit Sharma and AWGP. His autobiography ‘Meri Vasiyat Meri Virasat’ suggests it was with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi that AWGP was founded in Haridwar.

The aim was to break shackles of casteism, orthodox Hindu rituals and spread the knowledge of the ancient Vedas and Gayatri Mantra -- the basis of self-actualisation. Pandit Sharma is believed to be an incarnation Ramakrishna, one of the most famous Indian yogis known and followed across the globe.

AWGP does the ‘Janeyu’ (sacred thread) ceremony for all castes though the Hindu caste hierarchy restricts it to Brahmins. The organisation also motivates people to cut down on rituals and adopt more inclusive Hinduism. The group is against idol worship and believes the Gayatri Mantra is the basis of all Hindu faith.

AWGP has a following across the world. Among them was Pandya, who was adopted by Pandit Sharma and later married to his daughter, Shailbala Pandya. He is a gold medallist MD (medicine), who qualified for the US medical services in 1975. He left active practice in 1978 to join the Yug Nirman Mission at Shaktikunj (headquarters of AWGP). In 1990, after the death of Sharma, he was made global head.

Soft-spoken and readily accessible, Pandya addressed the famous ‘Parliament of World Religions’ in 1993, the same congregation that Swami Vivekananda famously addressed in 1893. The youth wing of AWGP follows the principles of Swami Vivekananda. During his tenure, the most notable work was setting up of Dev Sanskriti Vishvavidyalaya at Haridwar. The deemed university’s aims are to disseminate tenets of Indian culture and blend science with spirituality. Pandya is the Chancellor of the university.

Among noted followers, who have publicly praised the work of the AWGP, are ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, who inaugurated the youth wing; former Vice-President of India Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who credited his entry in political career to the lessons of Pandit Sharma and Narendra Modi, who has visited their campus several times before he became prime minister. The AWGP did a lot of the rescue work during the Uttarakhand floods, quietly, without attracting publicity.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to nominate him comes from the past association of its own leaders with the AWGP. But with Pandya declining the offer, how the BJP will persuade him remains to be seen.

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Shreya Jai
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