Shri Purohit Swami

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Shri Purohit Swami ((1882-11-12)12 November 1882 – 1941) was a Hindu teacher from Maharashtra, India.

Purohit was born in Badnera, Vidarbha, India to a wealthy Maharashtran Brahmin family. His parents gave him the name Shankar Gajannan Purohit.

As a child he became proficient in Marathi, English, and Sanskrit. He was well educated, obtaining a B.A. in philosophy at Calcutta University in 1903 and a law degree from Deccan College and Bombay University.

As a teenager, he decided to be celibate (as a Brahmacharya), but in 1908 he accommodated his parents' wishes and married Godu Bai. After the birth of daughters in 1910 and 1914 and a son in 1915, he resumed his vow of celibacy.

A year or two before his marriage, he met a young man only four years older than himself named Natekar. Purohit says this meeting "was love at first sight," and Natekar, who later took the monastic name Bhagwan Shri Hamsa, became Purohit's guru.

In 1923 his guru directed him to embark on a mendicant pilgrimage the length and breadth of India. Begging bowl in hand, he passed several years in this way.

Purohit is known in the West principally for his work on translations of major Hindu texts, and his Autobiography of an Indian Monk (1932). He travelled to Europe on an extended visit in 1930.

He translated the Bhagavad Gita into English, and this translation can be viewed here. Unlike most translations, Shri Purohit Swami's translates every word into English and avoids the use of Sanskrit concepts that may be unfamiliar to English-speakers, for example translating the word 'yoga' as 'spirituality'. He also avoids mentioning the Caste system; where the original Gita mentions the different castes he interprets this as different occupations within society. He also worked with W. B. Yeats during 1935 and 1936, on Majorca on the translations in The Ten Principal Upanishads (1938, Faber and Faber). Yeats included him in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892–1935.

He represents a very important but largely unremembered link between the generation of Swami Vivekananda and the Post World War II society in which eastern thought has become an accepted element of spiritual life.