Swami Dayananda Saraswati
Swami Dayananda Saraswati.jpg
Oil on canvas painting of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, from the private collection of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam
Natarajan Gopala Iyer

(1930-08-15)15 August 1930
Died23 September 2015(2015-09-23) (aged 85)
Notable work(s)Bhagavad Gītā: Home Study Course, published in 9 volumes[1]
Founder ofArsha Vidya Gurukulam
AIM For Seva
Swami Dayananda Educational Trust
PhilosophyAdvaita Vedanta
Religious career
Literary worksŚrīmad Bhagavad Gītā[2]

Swami Dayananda Saraswati (15 August 1930 – 23 September 2015) was a renunciate of the Hindu order of sannyasa, a renowned traditional teacher of Advaita Vedanta, and founder of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and AIM For Seva.


Early life

Swami Dayananda Saraswati was born as Natarajan in Manjakudi – Thiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu on 15 August 1930[3] to Shri. Gopala Iyer and Smt. Valambal. He was the eldest of four sons. His early schooling was done in the District Board School at Kodavasal.[4] His father's death, when he was eight, meant Natarajan had to shoulder a significant portion of family responsibility along with his education. After the completion of his education, Natarajan came to Chennai (erstwhile Madras) for earning a livelihood. Natarajan worked as a journalist for the weekly magazine Dharmika Hindu (run by T. K. Jagannathacharya) and also for erstwhile Volkart Brothers (now Voltas Limited) for sometime. He also decided to be a fighter pilot at one point and joined the Indian Air Force, but left after six months as he felt suffocated by the regimentation there.[4][5] In his absence his younger brother MG. Srinivasan took charge of the agricultural fields of the family household and made sure that the family had the income to survive and live peacefully off the income.

Involvement with Chinmaya Mission

Vedānta is a major school of Hinduism that literally refers to the end section of the Vedas, in particular, the Upanishads. In 1952, he met Swami Chinmayananda in Madras.[5] Natarajan became interested in Vedanta after listening to his public talks in the year 1953. He became actively involved with the then newly formed Chinmaya Mission in various roles and he was made its Secretary within the first year of its inception. He attended the Sanskrit classes of P.S. Subramania Iyer, a retired Professor of English. He introduced the mode of chanting the Gita verses that is still followed in the Mission.[6][7][8]

Swami Chinmayananda instructed Natarajan to set up Chinmaya Mission's Madurai branch, which he was able to fulfill. In 1955 Natarajan accompanied Swami Chinmayananda to Uttarakashi and helped him in the preparation of a Gita manuscript for publication. In Uttarakashi, he met Chinmayananda's guru, Tapovan Maharaj, who advised him, 'You have a duty to yourself which is also important. Stay here. Do japa, meditate and study.' Natarajan could not take up that offer at that point in time. However, he promised Swami Tapovan Maharaj that he would be able to come after one year and he did. Natarajan returned to Madras and took up the editorship of 'Tyagi,' a fortnightly magazine of Chinmaya Mission. Upon the advice of Swami Chinmayananda, Natarajan shifted to Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore) in 1956 and continued to edit Tyagi which was also moved to Bengaluru (erstwhile Bangalore). During his stay there, Natarajan joined the Sanskrit College in Chamrajpet and had the privilege of studying one on one with Prof. Veeraraghavachariar.[4]

Oftentimes, before Swami Chinmayananda gave public talks, Natarajan would open with discourses expounding messages from the Bhagavad Gita. Some of these talks have been transcribed and later published by the Chinmaya Mission.[9]


In 1961, with the permission of Swami Chinmayananda, Natarajan went to study under Swami Pranavananda at Gudivada (near Vijayawada) to clarify many of his doubts on Vedanta and self-enquiry. The stay with Swami Pranavananda helped Natarajan learn one thing clearly – that Vedanta is a pramana (means of knowledge) to know the truth of the Self. In Natarajan's own words,

I saw the Swami giving direct knowledge to the people he was teaching. This resolved all my conflicts. My problems with Vedanta had been my mistaken notion that it was a system.[4]

This critical shift in his vision about Vedanta impelled Natarajan to once again study the sāstra with Sankara's commentaries. On śivarātri day, 4 March 1962,[5] he was given Sanyasa by Swami Chinmayananda and was given the name Swami Dayananda Saraswati.[10][5] In 1963 he went to Mumbai, (erstwhile Bombay) to the newly inaugurated Sandeepany Sadhanalaya of Chinmaya Mission, where he undertook the responsibility of editing the magazine of the mission Tapovan Prasad. In addition, Swami Dayananda taught chanting of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads to the students of Sandeepany.

In November 1963 Swami Dayananda undertook a study-pilgrimage to Rishikesh and stayed in a grass hut in Purani Jhadi now known as Dayananda Nagar. He spent three years there, studying Brahma Sutras under Swami Tarananda Giri at the Kailash Ashram.[11]

Further involvement with, and split, from the Mission

Around 1967, due to the ill health of Swami Chinmayananda, the Mission approached Swami Dayananda to give public talks and lectures. Accordingly, between 1967 and 1970, Swami Dayananda traveled to different towns and cities in India spreading the knowledge of Gita and the Upanishads.

In 1971, Swami Dayananda agreed to conduct a long-term teaching program at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, Powai, Mumbai and formulated a curriculum that would systematically unfold the vision of Vedanta. Between 1972 and 1979, Swami Dayananda conducted two 2 1/2 – year residential Vedanta courses in Mumbai. In his words, 'At Sandeepany the teaching is traditional and rigorous. What would take a Sadhu in the Himalayas nine years to learn, the students at Sandeepany learned in two-and-half years.'[4][5]

At the request of students in the United States, in 1979 Swami Dayananda established and taught a three-year Vedanta course for the Chinmaya Mission at Sandeepany West in Piercy, California.[12]

In July 1982, Swami Dayananda decided to leave Chinmaya Mission. He felt a strong incompatibility between his growing role in, essentially, management of a multinational spiritual organization, and his desires to live a simpler spiritual life as an itinerant monk. The split had been a long time in the making, having been a topic of discussion between Swami Dayananda and Swami Chinmayananda for some time.[13]

The timing of Swami Dayananda's departure created problems for the Mission. He had just graduated nearly 60 Vedanta teachers from Sandeepany West two weeks before his departure, nearly all of whom left Chinmaya Mission to follow Swami Dayananda once he left. Swami Dayananda's departure, wrote a journalist in October 1983, Hinduism Today, "created a tidal wave of shock that washed across the international Chinmaya Mission shores, and has only recently weakened enough to not be an emotion-charged topic of the international Mission's monthly magazine's letters to the editor."[13] In an interview shortly after his departure, Swami Dayananda did not comment on Chinmaya Mission but emphasized that he was "a simple teacher spreading the universal truths of Vedantic self-knowledge."[13]

Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

Main article: Arsha Vidya Gurukulam

After leaving Chinmaya Mission in 1982, Swami Dayananda returned to India. He continued to spread the message of Advaita Vedanta through public talks and lectures and formally established a centre of learning at Rishikesh called Arsha Vidya Pitham which is also called the Swami Dayananda Ashram. He explained that "Arsha" means "from the rishis", "vidya" means "knowledge" and "pitham", "a centre of learning". Further he explained that "arsha vidya, the knowledge that has come from the rishis, is not a mystic tradition. It is not a set of beliefs sustained by an organisation. The knowledge has survived without organisation and without hierarchical structure, through an unbroken line of teacher to student".[14]

Responding to the request of students and disciples, Swami Dayananda established the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, USA in 1986 wherein a three-year residential course was completed in 1990.[15][14]

In 1990, he established another Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Anaikatti, near Coimbatore, back in his home state of Tamil Nadu in India.[14]

Swami Dayananda along with his students have taught ten long term Vedanta Courses (eight in India and two in the United States).[when?] More than 200 of his students from these programs are now teaching Vedanta, Sanskrit and Paninian grammar in India and around the world.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

In 2014, Gurukulam: One Without a Second, an avant-garde documentary featuring residents and teachers of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Anaikatti in Tamil Nadu, India had a limited release.

Shishyas (students)

The most well-known student of Swami Dayananda Saraswati is Narendra Modi, prime minister of India.[23][24] Other students include Anantanand Rambachan, a professor of religion at St. Olaf College, Minnesota (USA), and Vasudevacharya, previously Dr. Michael Comans, former faculty member in the Department of Indian Studies at the University of Sydney. A number of his shishyas (i.e., students) are from a Western background. Atma Chaitanya, otherwise known as Ira Schepetin, was the first of these.[25] Radha (Carol Whitfield, PhD) an early student of Swami Dayananda who was instrumental in establishing Sandeepany West and Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg USA, has established Arsha Kulam in California, a centre dedicated to the traditional teaching of Advaita Vedanta.[26]

The sannyasi disciples of Swami Dayananda are many in number. Suddhananda Saraswati heads the Dayananda Asram at Rishikesh. Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati heads the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam at Saylorsburg. Swami Nijananda, Swami Tadrupananda, Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Tattvavidananda, Swami Suddhabodhananda, Swami Pratyagbodhananda, Swami Brahmatmananda, Swami Paramatmananda, Swami Sakshatkrtananda, Swamini Brahmapraksananda, Swamiini Brahmalinananda, Swamini Svatmavidyananda, Swami Sadatmanada, Swami Shankarananda and Swami Santatmananda are some of the senior disciples of Swami Dayananda.[27][note 1]

Other organizations

All India Movement for Seva

Main article: AIM For Seva

In 2000, All India Movement for Seva (AIM for Seva) an NGO focused on making education and healthcare available to children in rural areas of India.[28]

Millenium Peace Summit

In 2000, under the provisions of the United Nations, the Millenium World Peace Summit a global summit of two thousand of the world's leading religious figures convened. As chairman of the AIM For Seva movement, Swami Dayananda served as one of the ten board members.[29] The summit had several outcomes.[30] Among these were the formation of the World Council of Religious Leaders, and inclusion of religious leaders of the world in the World Economic Forum. A year later, in November 2001, a global three-day congress would convene on the Preservation of Religious Diversity. Swami Dayananda led this congress[31] which resulted in a number of unanimous resolutions on the preservation of religious diversity.

Acharya Sabha

In 2003,[32] Dayananda Saraswati brought various monks and matathipatis across India under one umbrella called Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha,[33] otherwise known as HDAS or simply Acharya Sabha to represent sanatana dharma.[34] The Sabha is an conclave of sanyasins belonging to various sampradayas (i.e. traditions) and is composed of the major matha of India.[5] The Acarya Sabha was recognized as the first time Sanyasis were united under one organization.[35]

By its fourth congregation in 2010, the Sabha had as many as 100 Dharmacharyas from various traditions participating.[36] In the same year, Swami Dayananda wrote a statement on the behalf of the Sabha openly condemning the caste system as a means of unfair discrimination against human beings based on birth.[37][38]

As of 2021, the Sabha remains active and continues to seek protections for Sanatana Dharma and places of worship.[39] Presently the chairman of Acharya Sabha is Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, Acharya Mahamandleshwar of Juna Akhara[40]

Swami Dayananda Educational Trust

In 2003, Swami Dayananda established the Swami Dayananda Educational Trust (SDET). SDET has been actively promoting the development of his hometown of Manjakkudi in Tiruvarur District, Tamil Nadu and surrounding villages through educational initiatives, employment opportunities and community development programs.[41]

The educational trust manages the Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science of Manjakkudi which was established in 2001. Affiliated with Bharathidasan University, the college has a student body coming from an agricultural background and rural areas.[42] The trust also manages two higher secondary schools and a Vedic pathasala.

In 2016, the Swami Dayananda Memorial Centre was inaugurated. The Memorial has state-of-the art lecture hall with good audio-video facilities, acoustics and ambience. The Memorial houses the Swami Dayananda Archives, which conserves the teachings in print and digital formats. Students of Vedanta can use the facility for serious study. The Memorial has come to full scale operation where regular residential study programs are conducted by the disciples of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. On 3 August 2018, a murti of Swami Dayananda was installed at the centre.[43]

Interfaith dialogue

Swami Dayananda has promoted several interfaith dialogues.[14] He has participated in Hindu-Jewish conferences facilitated by the World Council of Religious Leaders under that organizations "Religion One on One" initiative.[citation needed]

In 2007, Swami Dayananda along with his Acarya Shaba invited Yona Metzger, rabbi and former Chief Rabbinate of Israel to Delhi. In 2008, they reconvened in Jerusalem.[33]

He has also participated in two Hindu-Buddhist summits. The first one organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women, was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2009 and the second one was organized in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2010.[citation needed]

Restoration of temple practices and worship

In 1999, Swami Dayananda founded the Dharma Rakshana Samiti,[44] a body to protect the Vedic heritage, to preserve the native spiritual culture of India inherited from the rishis by continuing the parampara and to raise awareness among Hindus of their Vedic heritage.[45]

Swami Dayananda has promoted the preservation of ancient cultures and religious and spiritual practices of India that have survived several millennia, yet struggle in modern times due to lack of support. He has started several Veda Pathashalas (Centers of learning of Vedas) for the preservation of Vedas and Agamas to prevent their rapid extinction due to a lack of infrastructure for learning.[45] Swami Dayananda had appointed 35 oduvars in ancient Siva temples and paid them monthly allowance to sing the Panniru Tirumurai, songs explaining Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.[46]

Swami Dayananda was instrumental in building five chariots for the Mahalingaswamy Temple at Tiruvidaimarudur near Kumbakonam in 2010.[47][48]


In 2012,[49] Swami Dayananda filed Writ Petition 476 challenging the Constitutional validity of various provisions of the Hindu Religious Endowments and Institutions Acts in the two states of Tamil Nadu[50] and Andhra Pradesh, and the city of Pondicherry. The case is continuously being deferred at the Supreme Court of India,[51] and an outcome remains to be seen as of 2019.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy was impleaded in the case for the Podu Dīkṣitars[52] of the Chidambaram Temple. When the matter was dismissed at the Madras High Court in 2009, Dr. Subramanian and the represented appealed to the final court. About 5 years later, on 6 January in 2014, the high court's ruling was overturned at the Supreme Court of India, which resulted in the release of government control over the affairs of the temple.[53]

Dr. Subramanian is also litigating the defense and protection of Ram Sethu at the behest of Swami Dayananda, who on 20 April 2008 organized for the release of Subramanian's book, Ram Setu: a Symbol of National Unity.[54] In 2020, the Supreme Court of India motioned to consider designating the so-called Adam's Bridge as a national heritage site.[55] In 2021, a former vice chancellor from Alagappa University motioned to the court that the Ram Sethu does not meet the requirements of an ancient monument under the law, and the top court has no power to declare it a national monument, on the basis of the claim that the Adam's Bridge is not a permanent structure, and that its geological features are subject to change.[56] However, in his original statement, Swami Dayananda argued that the bridge is a natural formation, and as such it should be preserved as a natural monument.[57]


Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust

A registered non-profit charitable organization in India since 21 February 2005, the Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust (AVRPT) is the single-source for editing and publishing Swami Dayananda's writings, granted in writing by himself.[58] The AVRPT office is located at the Srinidhi Apartments in Mylapore, Chennai. The trust publishes Swami Dayananda's works in multiple formats. A variety of Swami Dayananda Saraswati's lectures, talks and discourses have been published in the form of printed books, audio, video, e-book and USB card drives. Teachings of Swami Dayananda, available for Android[59] and iOS[60] devices provides access to some free books and lectures and a marketplace to purchase the publications for digital access.

Prior to 2005, Swami Dayananda has used other publishers, namely the Sri Gangadhareswar Trust of the Arsha Vidya Pitham, and Vision Books. Additionally, the Arsha Avinash Foundation was established in 2014 with the blessing of the Swami, to publish books on Indian culture, Sanskrit and other topics.[61]


Several biographies[62] of the Swami's life have been written in multiple languages including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Sanskrit and Kannada.

Two biographies are published by AVRPT. The first, Teacher of Teachers[12] was published in 1990 to commemorate the Swami's 60th birthday. The second, Contributions and Writings (2011),[14] was written by Sheela Balaji, who serves as a managing trustee for the publication trust.[58]

Bhagavad Gita

As a proponent of Advaita Vedanta, Swami Dayananda wrote several books and essays on the topic of the Bhagavad Gita. The largest of these publications is the Bhagavad Gītā Home Study course,[63] in which the teaching of Bhagavad Gita is unfolded. His many talks on the Bhagavad Gita have been compiled into over 3,000 pages in its fourth edition, with the editorial assistance from his numerous Sanskrit scholars and students. A corresponding Bhagavad Gita Home Study program goes on year-round, with participation from groups in many countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.[64]

Swami Dayananda also published Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā in 2007,[2] a verse-by-verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit and English. Self-described as a "ready reference,"[2] this translation was last updated in 2014 for its fourth edition and is under 300 pages.

A list of Swami Dayananda's works on the Bhagavad Gita follows.


A number of bhashya (i.e., commentaries) on the topic of Vedanta itself have been consolidated. Three of these have been designated as prakaraṇa (Sanskrit: प्रकरण or treatise) that expound on the tradition of Vedanta.:[70]

Swami Dayananda has published translations of three upanishads in 2 volumes each:

The rest are as follows:


Swami Dayananda has given talks on the topic of God, called Ishvara in Sanskrit. He has said that time and space is not separate to Ishvara and that Ishvara is both the maker and the material of all that exists just as a spider creates a web and can take back the web. Hence the world and the environment should not be destroyed but revered as being Ishvara. The environment is not something to be conquered.[85]


Swami Dayananda had an interest in music, and published a number of original compositions as Compositions of Swami Dayananda in 2010.[86]

He has provided commentaries and translations of the following hymns.

In 1980, Swami Dayananda wrote Bhosambho Sivasambho,[89] his most well known composition. More commonly known as Bho Shambo, this most renowned revati rāga to Shiva is used by people from many different traditions.[90]

Additionally, Salutations to Rudra was written by Sheela Balaji in 2008,[91] based on Swami Dayananda's expositions.[92]


A number of works have been published on prayer, bhakti and specific mantras.


A non-exhaustive list of various books, transcriptions of given talks and essays by Swami Dayananda follows, in alphabetical order.[95][96]

See also


  1. ^ See also Advaitapratibodhah, "Awakening to nonduality," a short treatise in classical style by Vasudevacharya prev. Dr Michael Comans.


  1. ^ Bhagavad Gītā: Home Study Course. Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust. 2012. ISBN 9789380049304.
  2. ^ a b c d Dayananda Saraswati (April 2007). Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā (in English and Sanskrit). Translated by Dayananda Saraswati. Arsha Vidya Research And Publication Trust. ISBN 978-81-903636-8-6. Wikidata Q108660034.
  3. ^ Dialogues with Swami Dayananda, Sri Gangadhareswar Trust, 1988
  4. ^ a b c d e Br. Ramaswamy (August 2009). "Swami Dayananda Saraswati: His Life and Work" (PDF). Arsha Vidya Newsletter. Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti, Coimbatore. pp. 13–16.
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