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RADHASOAMI FAITH - A HISTORICAL STUDY: The First Guru - Establishment of the Faith

Prof. A.P. Mathur
M.A., PhD, F.I.H.S., F.R.A.S. (London)
Former Vice-Chancellor, Agra University, Agra, India


Soamiji Maharaj

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.

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