His Life and Work
The first guru of the Radhasoami faith was Shri Shiv Dayal
Singhji who was later named Soamiji Maharaj. He was born on 25th August
1818, in a Khatri family residing in Panni Gali, Agra. His father, Diwali
Singh, a banker by profession was a highly religious person. Indeed, all
members of the family were devout bhaktas and frequently visited
Tulsi Saheb - a great saint who lived at Hathras (U.P.). Thus Soamiji grew
up in an atmosphere charged with religious devotion and conductive to the
formulation of his religious ideas.
Deep religiosity became evident in Shiv Dayalji from early
childhood and he started regular spiritual practice at the age of six.
Tulsi Saheb of Hathras had earlier prophesied about the child spiritual
status and as such he began receiving reverential treatment from his parents.
He spent most of his time in spiritual pursuits, often shutting himself
up in a small room for days. It is said that he would not even attend to
the calls of nature.
At the age of five, he was sent to school where he learnt
Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Gurumukhi. Later he acquired proficiency in Persian
and wrote a book in that language. He also acquired a working knowledge
of Arabic and Sanskrit. As a student he was generous and affectionate towards
his fellow students and respectful to his teachers.
He was married at an early age to Naraini Devi, daughter
of Izzat Rai of Faridabad. She was of generous disposition and was very
devoted to her husband. Shiv Dayalji was selected direct from school to
act as a Persian expert to a government officer in Banda. As the job did
not suit him, he gave it up and took another job as a teacher of Persian
with a talukdar of Ballabhgarh estate. His spiritual cravings, however,
were so intense that worldly attainments no longer attracted him and he
gave up even this lucrative job. He returned home for devoting his entire
time to religious pursuits.
Soamiji did not approve of the family's money-lending
business and soon after his father's death and his younger brother's
employment in the postal department, he wound up the business. One day,
he called the debtors and asked them to return the money forthwith, if
they could, and destroyed all the documents in their presence to relieve
them of their obligation to repay.
Soamiji's reputation as a great spiritualist and saint
spread far and wide. Even when he was a boy, he delivered discourses on
metaphysical topics. High philosophical ideas and spiritual sermons delivered
by an adolescent amazed the people who listened spellbound. Soon a large
number of sadhus, faqirs and seekers after truth flocked around
him. He met many challenges from prominent ecclesiastics of the day with
remarkable success. Not only was he able to convince them about the superiority
of the spiritual truth revealed to him but he also succeeded in bringing
home to them the efficacy of his new religious teachings.
His gracious and serene personality left a deep imprint
upon many a learned man who became his ardent followers. On the request
of his beloved disciple, Rai Saligram, he laid the foundation of the Radhasoami
Satsang on Basant-Panchami day in January 1861. The Satsang grew
rapidly and the number of devotees in his life-time rose to three thousand,
which included men and women from all the major communities of India. For
full seventeen years he presided over the Satsang meetings at his residence,
Panni Gali, Agra.
Over-absorption in spiritual work and neglect of nourishment
and rest adversely affected Soamiji's health and he left for his heavenly
abode on Saturday, 15 June 1878. His samadhi is situated in Radhasoami
Bagh, about three miles from Agra city.
Some miracles are associated with Soamiji Maharaj and
his satsang. It is said that he could bring rain when there was drought
and famine. Barren lands could be converted into fertile ones. People in
the satsang were so spellbound that for hours they would remain in a state
of trance and forget all about their worldly duties.
Satsang at his place was a sober and serene affair. There
was no pomp and show. It was just a gathering of ardent seekers after truth
around a mystic saint. It cannot, therefore, be associated with the gorgeous
delicacies of the Vaishnavite traditions. J. N. Farquahar's contention
that Soamiji and his spouse played the roles of Krishna and Radha seems
to be unfounded.