His Divine Grace
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami in Germany, 1974
Abhay Charan De

(1896-09-01)1 September 1896
Died14 November 1977(1977-11-14) (aged 81)
Resting placeSrila Prabhupada's Samadhi Mandir, ISKCON Vrindavan
27°34′19″N 77°40′38″E / 27.57196°N 77.67729°E / 27.57196; 77.67729
SectGaudiya Vaishnavism
Notable work(s)Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (translation), Caitanya Caritāmṛta (trans.)
Alma materScottish Church College, University of Calcutta[1]
Monastic nameAbhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī
TempleGaudiya Math, ISKCON
PhilosophyBhakti yoga
Religious career
Period in office1966–1977
InitiationDiksha, 1933 (by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)
Sannyasa, 1959 (by Bhakti Prajnan Keshava)
PostFounder-Acharya of ISKCON

Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (IAST: Abhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda; 1 September 1896 – 14 November 1977[1]) was an Indian Hindu spiritual teacher who was the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON),[2] commonly known as the "Hare Krishna movement".[1][3][4] Followers of ISKCON view Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as a representative and messenger of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[5]

Born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) to a Suvarna Banik family,[6] he was educated at the Scottish Church College.[1] While working at a small pharmaceutical business,[7] he met and became a follower of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. In 1959, after his retirement, he left his family to become a sannyasi and started writing commentaries on Vaishnava scriptures.[8] As a travelling Vaishnava monk, he became an influential communicator of Gaudiya Vaishnavite theology across India and the Western world through his leadership of ISKCON, founded in 1966.[9][10] He was well regarded by a number of American religious scholars but was criticised by anti-cult groups.[11]

He has been subject to criticism over his racist views against black people, discrimination against lower castes, anti-Semitism, negative views on women, and advocacy of crimes of Adolf Hitler.[12][13][14]


Early life

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was born as Abhay Charan De on 1 September 1896 in Calcutta, India.[1] He was also called Nandulāl. His father was Gour Mohan De, who worked as a cloth merchant, and his mother was Rajani De.[15] Consistent with Bengali traditions, Abhay Charan's parents invited an astrologer to predict his horoscope.[15] The astrologer professed to De's family that later in his life, Abhay would become "a great exponent of religion."[15] Abhay grew up in a Vaishnav home and his father was devote in his spiritual practices.[15] Gaur Mohan regularly took Abhay to the Radha-Govinda temple as a child. Later in life, Prabhupad fondly remembers the murtis of that temple.[15]

Abhay Charan studied at the Scottish Church College.[1] During his first year, his family arranged for him to be married to Radharani Datta.[15] Until completing his fourth year in college, Abhay lived with his family and Radharani lived with hers.[15] In 1920, Abhay chose not to accept his graduation diploma after completing his fourth year, in support of the national movement occurring in India at the time.[15] The national movement advocated for national schools and self government (as opposed to British rule of India).[15]

After completing his education, Abhay started working at Bose's Laboratory as a department manager in Calcutta, India.[15]


In 1922, Abhay Charan met Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (1874-1937) in Kolkata.[16] In 1933, in Allahabad, he took initiation into the faith from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and was named Abhay Charan Aravinda.[17]

In 1944, he started the publication called Back to Godhead,[18][19] for which he was writer, designer, publisher, editor, copy editor and distributor.[20] He was asked to spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the English language.[21] In 1947, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society gave him the title Bhaktivedanta, (bhakti-vedānta).[22] In the 1960s, after founding ISKCON, became known by the honorific Prabhupāda.[23]

From 1950 onwards, he lived at the medieval Radha-Damodar mandir in the holy town of Vrindavan, where he began his commentary and translation work of the Sanskrit work Bhagavata Purana.[24] His guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, had always encouraged him to publish books,[25] referring to the need for the literary presentation of the Vaishnava culture.[26]

Swami also lived at Gaudiya Matha at Mathura, where he wrote and edited the Gauḍīya Patrikā magazine. While there he donated the statue of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which stands on the altar beside those of Radha Krishna (named Śrī Śrī Rādhā Vinodavihārījī). In September 1959, he was initiated as a sannyasi by his friend Bhakti Prajnana Keshava and was given the name Swami. He published the first book of Bhagavata Purana.[27]

Mission to the West

Main article: International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in West Virginia, USA in 1982

Swami was the first Hindu preacher to take advantage of the removal of national quotas by the 1965 Immigration Act of the United States.[28] In July 1966, he founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City.[2] He defended the name, arguing that Krishna included all other forms and concepts of God.[29] In 1967, a centre was started in San Francisco.[30][31] He travelled throughout America with his disciples, popularising the movement through street chanting (sankirtana), book distribution and public speeches. George Harrison of The Beatles produced a recording with some of the devotees in London and helped establish the Radha Krisna Temple in that city.[32]

Over the following years, his role as preacher and leader of the Krishna consciousness movement took him around the world several times setting up temples and communities in other countries.[33] By the time of his death in Vrindavan in 1977, ISKCON had become an internationally known expression of Vaishnavism.[30]

Through his mission, he followed and preached the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and introduced bhakti yoga to an international audience.[33][34] Within Gaudiya Vaishnavism this was viewed as the fulfilment of a long time mission to introduce Caitanya Mahaprabhu's teachings to the world.[35]

In India

Beginning his public preaching mission in India, he founded the League of Devotees in Jhansi in 1953.[36] On his return to India in 1971, he oversaw the construction of temples in Mumbai,[37] Mayapur and Vrindavan. He started a chain of ISKCON schools.

Swami died on 14 November 1977 at the age of 81, in Vrindavan, India. His body was buried in Krishna Balaram Mandir in Vrindavan.[1]



Swami said that black people should remain in bondage.

The blacks were slaves. They were under control. And since you have given them equal rights they are disturbing, most disturbing, always creating a fearful situation, uncultured and drunkards. What training they have got? They have got equal rights? It is best, to keep them under control as slaves but give them sufficient food, sufficient cloth, not more than that. Then they will be satisfied.[12]


A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has been criticized for statements he has made in relation to a person's caste.[12] He has commented extensively on shudras, saying, "shudras have no brain."[12] Nevertheless, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has also provided reason to respect shudras, stating, "anyone who knows the science of Krishna should be accepted as spiritual master, regardless of any material so-called qualifications, such as rich or poor, man or woman, or brahmana or shudra."[12]

Hitler and Jews

Swami mentioned Hitler to provide an example of a notorious villain, comparing him to Vedic demons, and using the term "hero" to describe one who has many gifts but squanders them for evil purposes:

Sometimes he becomes a great hero -- just like Hiranyakashipu and Kamsa or, in the modern age, Napoleon or Hitler. The activities of such men are certainly very great, but as soon as their bodies are finished, everything else is finished.[12]

He held Jews to be responsible for Holocaust:

Therefore Hitler killed these Jews. They were financing against Germany. Otherwise he had no enmity with the Jews... And they were supplying. They want interest money -- "Never mind against our country." Therefore Hitler decided, "Kill all the Jews."[12]


A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was known to be "kind and accommodating" to his female disciples, but much of his literary work, conversations, and lectures contradict his actions.[12] Prabhupada has made negative remarks about women, addressing topics such as adulteration, prostitution, women's lesser intelligence, and women's need for dependence on men.[12] Prabhupada has said that "women in general should not be trusted"[12][13] and "women are generally not very intelligent.",[12] among other statements. After studying Prabhupada's life, some scholars have argued that balancing religious beliefs and traditions at a given time and place can result in mixed interpretations of events.[17] Although he has received negative attention for his statements about women, he has also received admiration for making the philosophy and practice of the Hare Krishna movement available to women and men equally, which was not commonly seen prior.[17]


Swami was an advocate of Vedic creationism and referred to Charles Darwin and his followers as "rascals".[38] He disputed evolution, and claimed that:

Darwin's theory stating that no human beings existed from the beginning but that humans evolved after many, many years is simply nonsensical.[39]


Swami said:

Actually, it doesn't matter – Krishna or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age.[40]

Other typical expressions present a different perspective, where he pointed out that "today I may be a Hindu, but tomorrow I may become a Christian or Muslim. In this way faiths can be changed, but dharma is a natural sequence, a natural occupation or a connection and it can not be changed, because it is permanent, according to him".[41] While the ISKCON theology of personal god is close to Christian theology, both personal and monotheistic, being a preacher of bhakti and a missionary he sometimes would add that "already many Christians have tasted the nectar of divine love of the holy name and are dancing with karatalas (hand-cymbals) and mridangas (drums)".[42]

His approach to modern knowledge was similar to that of sectarian Orthodox Judaism, where the skills and technical knowledge of modernity are encouraged, but the values rejected. "Whatever our engagement is, by offering the result to Krishna we become Krishna conscious".[43] Similar to many traditional religions, he considered sexuality and spirituality as conflicting opposites.[44]


Swami rejected reports of the 1969 Moon landing citing his unwillingness to accept that no living beings were found in the Moon.[39]


Srila Prabhupada Room at Radha Damodar Mandir in Vrindavan
Statue of Prabhupada at Radha Damodar Mandir in Vrindavan
Samadhi of Swami in Vrindavan.

A number of samadhis or shrines to Prabhupada were constructed by the members of ISKCON, with those in Mayapur and Vrindavan in India being notable. Prabhupada's Palace of Gold, built by the New Vrindavan community in 1979, was intended to be a residence for Prabhupada, but has now developed into a tourist attraction.[45]

In 1996 the Government of India issued a commemorative stamp[46] and in 2021, a Rs 125 commemorative coin in his honour.[47]


In 2023, Scottish Church College and The Bhaktivedanta Research Center has established an academic award in honor of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada Memorial Award to keep alive the memory of Prabhupada's college life.[48][49][50][51][52][53]

Books and publishing

Srila Prabhupada's books are considered to be among his most significant contributions.[54][55] During the final twelve years of his life, Prabhupada translated over sixty volumes of classic Hindu scriptures (e.g. Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language.[41] His Bhagavad-gītā As It Is was published by Macmillan Publishers in 1968 with an unabridged edition in 1972.[56][57][58] It is now available in over sixty languages around the world with some of his other books available in over eighty different languages.[18][34]

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1972 to publish his works.[2][59]

In February 2014, ISKCON's news agency reported reaching a milestone of distributing over half a billion books authored by Swami since 1965.[60]

Bengali writings

A collection of his early Bengali essays, which were originally printed in a monthly magazine that he edited called Gauḍīya Patrika. Starting in 1976, Bhakti Charu Swami reprinted these essays in Bengali language booklets called Bhagavāner Kathā (Knowledge of the Supreme) [from 1948 & 1949 issues], Bhakti Kathā (The Science of Devotion), Jñāna Kathā (Topics of Spiritual Science), Muni-gānera Mati-bhrama (The Deluded Thinkers), and Buddhi-yoga (The Highest Use of Intelligence), which he later combined into Vairāgya-vidyā. In 1992, an English translation was published called Renunciation Through Wisdom.[61]

Translations with commentary

Summary studies


Other works


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Jones, Constance (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. New York: Infobase Publishing. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-0-8160-5458-9.
  2. ^ a b c Goswami et al. 1983, p. 986
  3. ^ Who's Who in Religion (2nd ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Marquis Who's Who. 1977. p. 531. ISBN 0-8379-1602-X. Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, leader, Hare Krishna Movement. Founder, Internat. Soc. for Krishna Consciousness, 1965.
  4. ^ J. Gordon Melton, Hare Krishna at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ Satsvarupa dasa Goswami (1968). Prabhupada: Messenger of The Supreme Lord. India: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Publications. pp. vi. ISBN 978-8189574307.
  6. ^ "Interview with Srila Prabhupada's Grand-Nephew - Sankarsan Prabhu". bvmlu.org. Archived from the original on 25 February 2022. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  7. ^ Rhodes 2001, p. 178
  8. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol.1 Chapter 9
  9. ^ Klostermaier 2007, p. 217
  10. ^ Ekstrand & Bryant 2004, p. 23
  11. ^ Vasan & Lewis 2005, p. 129
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bryant, E.; Ekstrand, M. (2004). The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant. Columbia University Press. pp. 350–377. ISBN 978-0-231-50843-8. Archived from the original on 22 April 2023. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  13. ^ a b Rochford, E.B. (2007). Hare Krishna Transformed. New and Alternative Religions. New York University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8147-7688-9. Archived from the original on 1 March 2023. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  14. ^ Scheck, Frank (21 June 2017). "'Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 1 March 2023. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gosvāmī, Satsvarūpa Dāsa (December 2003). Prabhupada: Your Ever Well-Wisher. Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. ISBN 978-91-7149-469-6.
  16. ^ "Srila Prabhupada Biography". Hare Krishna Mandir. Sri Sri Krishna Balaram Mandir. Retrieved 27 July 2023.
  17. ^ a b c Goswami, Tamal Krishna (26 July 2012). A Living Theology of Krishna Bhakti: Essential Teachings of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-979663-2.
  18. ^ a b Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 34
  19. ^ Goswami 1984, p. xviii
  20. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol. 1 Chapter 5
  21. ^ Goswami 1984, p. xv
  22. ^ A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami (1998) The secrets of transcendental love, ISBN 0-89213-273-6, p. 73: "The spiritual harmony of knowledge and devotion is well expressed in the phrase bhakti-vedānta"
  23. ^ Chattopadhyay, Aparna (2004). Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom. Pustak Mahal, India. p. 37. ISBN 81-223-0858-9.
  24. ^ White, Charles S. J. (2004). A Catalogue of Vaishnava Literature on Microfilms in the Adyar Library. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-2067-3.
  25. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol.1 Chapter 4 "Āmār icchā chila kichu bai karānā: "Standing by Rādhā-kuṇḍa and beholding his spiritual master, Abhay felt the words deeply enter his own life – "If you ever get money, print books."
  26. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol. 1 Chapter 4
  27. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol.1 Chapter This momentous hour of need
  28. ^ Jones 2007, p. xxxvi
  29. ^ Ekstrand & Bryant 2004, pp. 120–122
  30. ^ a b Vasan & Lewis 2005, p. 128
  31. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 22
  32. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 23
  33. ^ a b Smith, David Nichol (2003). Hinduism and modernity. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Pub. p. 178. ISBN 0-631-20862-3.
  34. ^ a b "The matrix of principal published translated works. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust offers a 2006 summary PDF file showing which books translated in which languages" (PDF). Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  35. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 5
  36. ^ League of Devotees article Archived 21 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine prabhupadaconnect.com
  37. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 27
  38. ^ Brown, Cheever. (2020). Asian Religious Responses to Darwinism Evolutionary Theories in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian Cultural Contexts. Springer. p. 122. ISBN 9783030373405
  39. ^ a b Bryant, E.; Ekstrand, M. (2004). The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant. Columbia University Press. pp. 113–125. ISBN 978-0-231-50843-8. Archived from the original on 22 April 2023. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  40. ^ Bhaktivedanta Swami 2003
  41. ^ a b Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 25
  42. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 6
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  44. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 224
  45. ^ Shinn & Bromley 1987, p. 124
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  61. ^ His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1992). Renunciation Through Wisdom [Vairagya Vidyā]. Translated by Bhakti Charu Swami. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. pp. vii–viii. ISBN 0-947259-04-X. LCCN 95120622. OCLC 30848069.
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Further reading