Sunday, 3 February 2013

Virchand Gandhi


He was from MahuvaGujaratIndia. He was a son of Raghavji Tejpalji Gandhi, a bussinessman. A polyglot who reputedly spoke fourteen languages, he was educated as a lawyer. In 1885, at the age of 21, he became the first honorary secretary of the Jain Association of India. During this time the ruler of Gujarat levied a tax on pilgrims visiting Mount Shatrunjay, Palitana. He fought against it. During the course of this fight Gandhi met Lord Reay, the British colonial governor of Bombay, and Colonel John Watson of the Kathiawar Agency. With the help of these two individuals, he ultimately negotiated an annual fixed payment of Rs. 15000, rather than an individual tax on each pilgrim. In 1891 an English, Boddam started a slaughterhouse near Mount Sametshikhar, a holy place of Jain pilgrimage. He spent six months in Calcutta learning Bengali and preparing his case against the factory, and was eventually successful in getting the factory closed.

Trip to the World Parliament of Religions
Virchand Gandhi represented Jainism at the first World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893. Gandhi, was most likely both the first Jain and the first Gujarati to travel to the United States and his statue still stands at the Jain temple in Chicago.
Acharya Vijayanandsuri, also known as Acharya Atmaram, had initially been invited to represent Jainism at the Parliament, but as Jain monks do not travel overseas, could not attend. He therefore recommended him to be the emissary for the religion. Atmaram provided six months training to him. His disciple, Vijay Vallabsuri, who is described in Natuji Shah's book "Jainism: The World of Conquerors" also assisted Gandhi in the preparation. He got positive response at Parliament
Strangers In This Land by E. Allen Richardson mentions this Parliament and Gandhi's subsequent interview with The New York Times
He was a contemporary to Swami Vivekananda, who deeply admired him. He faced criticism over his sea voyage, which was at the time considered unholy. Vivekananda, impressed with his adherence to vegetarianism in the face of the cold Chicago climate came to his defense: in a 1894 letter to Haridas Viharidas Desai, Diwan of Junagadh, he wrote “Now here is Virchand Gandhi, the Jain whom you knew well in Bombay. This man never takes anything but mere vegetables even in this terribly cold climate and tooth and nail tries to defend his countrymen and the religion. The people of this country like him very well. But what are they doing who sent him over? They are trying to outcast him.”
Virchand Gandhi quote on world peace "May peace rule the universe; may peace rule in kingdoms and empires; may peace rule in states and in the lands of the potentates; may peace rule in the house of friends and may peace also rule in the house of enemies
Herbert Warren, who studied Jainism under him and adopted the Jain religion, published a book on his lectures titled Herbert Warren'sJainism.
The American newspaper, the Buffalo Courier wrote regarding him, "of all Eastern scholars, it was this youth whose lectures on Jain Faith and Conduct was listened to with the greatest interest and attention". Later, in Kasadova, he delivered a lecture on 'Some Mistakes Corrected' on 8 August 1894, which prompted the citizens of the city to award him a gold medal.
At Parliament he said:
You know, my brothers and sisters, that we are not an independent nation, we are subjects of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, 'defender of the faith'. But if we are a nation in all that name implies, with our own government and our own rulers, with our laws and institutions controlled by us, free and independent, I affirm that we should seek to establish and forever maintain peaceful relations with all the nations of the world." "It is an astonishing fact that foreigners have been constantly attacking India and in the face of all this aggression the soul of India has stood vital and watchful. Her conduct and religion are safe and the whole world looks at India with a steady gaze." He added "Cultural distinctions, agriculture, art, artistic skill, literature, good conduct, means of knowledge, science, hospitality, feminism, love, and respect - all these are found in India in quite a different form. If that culture was purchasable, England would have purchased it, adopted it. But it has not happened, it cannot happen.
He had studied Buddhism, Vedanta Philosophy, Christianity, and western philosophy. He praised Mogul Emperor Akbar for his equal treatment of all religions.
He founded Gandhi Philosophical Society and the Society for the Education of Women in India (SEWI) for women education. He participated in Pune session of Indian National Congress in 1895 as a representative of Bombay state He lectured on Indian politics and industry in Large Hall of William Science building on December 19, 1898. He also participated at the international conference of commerce in 1899. He settled tax disputes of Palitana and Shikharji piggery case
He died of lungs hemorrhage on 7 August 1901 at Mahuwar, near Mumbai, India.

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