A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

His Divine Grace

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Prabhupada singing (Germany 1974).jpg
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami in Germany, 1974
Abhay Charan De

(1896-09-01)1 September 1896
Died 8 November 1977(1977-11-08) (aged 81)
Resting place Srila Prabhupada's Samadhi Mandir, ISKCON Vrindavan
27°34′19″N 77°40′38″E / 27.57196°N 77.67729°E / 27.57196; 77.67729
Religion Hinduism
Denomination Vaishnavism
Sect Gaudiya Vaishnavism
Notable work(s) Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (translation), Caitanya Caritāmṛta (trans.)
Alma mater Scottish Church College, University of Calcutta[1]
Monastic name Abhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī
Temple Gaudiya Math, ISKCON
Philosophy Bhakti yoga
Religious career
Period in office 1966–1977
Initiation Diksha, 1933 (by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati)
Sannyasa, 1959 (by Bhakti Prajnan Keshava)
Post Founder-Acharya of ISKCON
Website prabhupada.krishna.com

Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami (IAST: Abhaya Caraṇāravinda Bhakti-vedānta Svāmī; 1 September 1896 – 14 November 1977[1]) was an Indian Gaudiya Vaishnava guru who founded ISKCON,[2] commonly known as the "Hare Krishna movement".[1][3][4] Members of ISKCON view Bhaktivedanta Swami as a representative and messenger of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.[5]

Born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 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 to India and specifically to the Western world through his leadership of ISKCON, founded in 1966.[9][10] He was criticized by anti-cult groups, but was appreciated by several American religious scholars.[11]

He has been described as a charismatic leader who was successful in acquiring followers in many countries including the United States, Europe and India.[12][13][14] After his death in 1977, ISKCON, the society he founded based on a form of Hindu Krishnaism using the Bhagavata Purana as a central scripture, continued to grow. In February 2014, ISKCON's news agency reported reaching a milestone of distributing over half a billion of his books since 1965.[15]


Early life

Prabhupada was born Abhay Charan on 1 September 1896 in Calcutta.[1] He was also called Nandulāl. His parents, Gour Mohan De and Rajani De, were devout Vaishnavas and resided at 6 Sitakanta Banerjee Lane, Calcutta.[16]

Abhay Charan studied at the Scottish Church College. He is said to have refused his degree in response to Gandhi's calls to challenge British rule.[1] At the age of 22, he was married in 1919 to Radharani Devi, who was then 11 years old, in a marriage arranged by their parents. At 14, Radharani Devi gave birth to their first son.[17]

Religious journey

In 1922, he met his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in Prayagraj. He was asked to spread the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the English language.[18] In 1933 he became a formally initiated disciple of Bhaktisiddhānta. In 1944, he started the publication called Back to Godhead,[19][20] for which he was writer, designer, publisher, editor, copy editor and distributor.[21]

In 1947, the Gaudiya Vaishnava Society gave him the title Bhaktivedanta, (bhakti-vedānta).[22] He is well 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 Thakura, had always encouraged him to print books.[25] referring to the need for the literary presentation of the Vaishnava culture.[26]


Prabhupada also lived at Gaudiya Matha at Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, where he wrote and edited the Gauḍīya Patrikā magazine. There he also 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 title of Swami. He published the first book of Bhagavata Purana.[27]

Mission to the West

Prabhupada 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 there.[32]

Over the following years, his role as preacher and leader of Krishna consciousness movement took him around the world several times setting up temples and communities in other continents.[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]


Bhaktivedanta 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]

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. To promote the vedic education within the modern Indian education structure, he started a chain of ISKCON schools. The Government of India has issued commemorative stamp[38] and a Rs 125 commemorative coin in his honour.[39]


A number of samadhis or shrines to Bhaktivedanta Swami 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 Bhaktivedanta Swami, but grew into a tourist attraction.[40]

Books and publishing

Srila Prabhupada Room at Radha Damodar Mandir in Vrindavan
Srila Prabhupada Room at Radha Damodar Mandir in Vrindavan

Bhaktivedanta Swami's books are considered to be among his most significant contributions.[41][42] During the final twelve years of his life, Bhaktivedanta Swami translated over sixty volumes of classic Hindu scriptures (e.g. Bhagavad Gita, Chaitanya Charitamrita and Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language.[43] His Bhagavad-gītā As It Is was published by Macmillan Publishers in 1968 with an unabridged edition in 1972.[44][45][46] It is now available in over sixty languages around the world with some of his other books available in over eighty different languages.[19][34] In February 2014, ISKCON's news agency reported reaching a milestone of distributing over half a billion books authored by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada since 1965.[15]

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1972 to publish his works.[2][47]

Bhaktivedanta 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.[48]

Other typical expressions present a different perspective, where he would point 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".[43] 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)".[49]

His approach to modern knowledge is 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".[50] Bhaktivedanta Swami himself taught a dualism of body and soul and that of the genders. Similar to many traditional religions he considered sexuality and spirituality as conflicting opposites.[51] Among some liberal male followers there is a positive recognition of his example in applying the spirit of the law according to time, place, person and circumstance, rather than literal tracing of the tradition.[52]


Samadhi of Prabhupada in Vrindavan.

Bengali writings

  • Gītār Gān (in Bengali). c. 1973.
  • Vairāgya-vidyā (in Bengali). 1977.
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 into Bengali 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.[53]
  • Buddhi-yoga (in Bengali).
  • Bhakti-ratna-boli (in Bengali).



  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. 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. ^ Chryssides, George D. (2012). "Unrecognized charisma? A study and comparison of five charismatic leaders: Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith, L Ron Hubbard, Swami Prabhupada and Sun Myung Moon". Max Weber Studies. 12 (2): 185–204. doi:10.15543/MWS/2012/2/4. JSTOR 24579924.
  13. ^ "in an evaluation of the nature of the guru, Larry Shinn, a scholar of religions, utilised Max Weber's analysis of charisma in order to understand Prabhupada and the issue of leadership in ISKCON..."status as charismatic leader" Knott 1997, Chapter: Prabhupada and role of guru
  14. ^ Shinn 1987, p. 49
  15. ^ a b Smullen, Madhava (12 February 2014). "BBT reaches half a billion books distributed since 1965". ISKCON News. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  16. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol. 1 Chapter 2
  17. ^ "Srila Prabhupada's marriage". Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  18. ^ Goswami 1984, p. xv
  19. ^ a b Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 34
  20. ^ Goswami 1984, p. xviii
  21. ^ Goswami 2002, Vol. 1 Chapter 5
  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 2017, 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 prabhupadaconnect.com
  37. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 27
  38. ^ "prabhupada.krishna.com". www.krishna.com. Archived from the original on 26 March 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2014. see "Commemorative Stamp" section, including image
  39. ^ "PM Modi releases special commemorative coin on ISKCON founder's 125th birth anniversary". Times of India. 1 September 2021.
  40. ^ Shinn & Bromley 1987, p. 124
  41. ^ Sharma 1981, p. 971
  42. ^ "Scholars reviews of Srila Prabhupada's books". www.acbspn.com. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2008.
  43. ^ a b Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 25
  44. ^ Maheswar Neog Professor Maheswar Neog Felicitation Volume (1990)
  45. ^ Bhaktivedanta Swami, A. C. (1968). The Bhagavad-gita As It Is, first edition. New York: Macmillan.
  46. ^ Rosen, S. "The Macmillan Miracle". www.krishna.com. Archived from the original on 6 June 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  47. ^ Shinn & Bromley 1989, p. 53
  48. ^ Bhaktivedanta 2003
  49. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 6
  50. ^ "Charisma and Religious Innovation: Prabhupada and the Founding of ISKCON". ISKCON Communications Journal. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2008. (self published)
  51. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 224
  52. ^ Cole & Dwayer 2007, p. 223
  53. ^ 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.
  54. ^ Das. "The Happening Album: "Krishna Consciousness" | krsnaTunes". The Bhaktivedantas. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  55. ^ Das. "Gopinatha single, Govinda LP | krsnaTunes". The Bhaktivedantas. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  56. ^ Das. "KRSNA Meditation Album | krsnaTunes". The Bhaktivedanta. Retrieved 23 January 2021.

Further reading

External links