(Last Updated on : 11/02/2011)
Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri is first nineteenth-century leader of Hindu orthodoxy in Punjab, born in 1837 at Phillaur (Jullundur district of Punjab
). His family belonged to the Marud Joshi Brahmans and served as the Bhandari Khatri community of Phillaur. His father, a worshipper of shakti, earned his living as a priest.
The young Shraddha Ram was educated and trained for the same profession, but in a manner unique to the North-West. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri studied both Sanskrit and his mother tongue of Punjabi, but because of the long Islamic authority in this area, he was forced to learn Persian and Urdu from a local maulawat (Islamic scholar). When he was nineteen, Shraddha Ram had started to perform his priestly role. One evening after reciting a section of the Mahabharata in public, Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri was arrested and debarred from Phillaur by the police who thought he was spreading the message of revolution. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri traveled to Patiala
, then Haridwar
and again returned to Ludhiana
, where he found a job with the Reverend J. Newton of the American Presbyterian Mission. His responsibility was to translate tracts and books into the languages of the North-West. His work included parts of the New Testament and the Quran. The latter was translated from Persian. Later he returned home after leaving the job.
After his return to Phillaur, Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri started to preach Vaishnava Hinduism. He called for forsaking liquor, flesh, theft, gambling, falsehood, and vanity. He restricted evil customs, such as public bathing, and encouraged his listeners to maintain all the signs of an orthodox Hindu. He also said that each should follow the rituals of purification, learn the Gayatri mantra, wear a red mark on the forehead, a necklace of Tulsi beads, and welcome each other with 'jayatri hari' or the 'Victory to God'. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri went from town to town where he preached and planned hymn singing. His travels took him to Kapurthala along with other Hindu leaders. It was rumored that the Maharaja of Kapurthala was about to give way to the preaching of a Christian missionary, Father Goloknath and convert. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri persuaded the Maharaja to remain a Hindu, thus defeating the missionaries. In 1867-8, Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri joined with Munshi Yamuna Prasad in establishing a Hindu school in Ludhiana
aiming to teach both Sanskrit and Persian. They also organized a Hindu Sabha to sustain sanatana dharma (the eternal religion).
Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri continued to guard the orthodox Hinduism and bitterly condemned Christianity as 'trivial and gross'. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri visited Amritsar in 1872-3 and preached at the Guru ka Bagh. He criticized the Namdharis and also claimed that Ram Singh was one of his followers. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri did not support the Anand Marriages (reformist Sikh marriage ceremonies), the necessity of Brahman priests and their rituals and the killing of Muslim butchers. Some of the Sikhs who heard of him felt that Shraddha Ram had denied the purity of the Sikh gurus.
Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri published a number of books and tracts that explained his beliefs and criticized his opponents. Perhaps the most significant of all his works appeared in 1876 - the Dharma Rakshd (In Defence of Religion). Here he defended orthodox Hinduism by references to various scriptures given in the text in Sanskrit and then explained in Urdu. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri did not prefer the idea that human reasoning had any validity, only the scriptures were important.
In 1872, as a member of the Amritsar Dharma Sabha, Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri joined with other Hindu leaders including the enemy of up to date Hinduism, Kanhyalal Alakhdhari, in an attempt to purify Hindu social and customary practice. The year 1877 brought a new and more perilous rival to Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri with the arrival of Swami Dayananda Saraswati
. Dayananda's success stimulated Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri to action. He followed Dayananda around the province to oppose his call for a reformation of Hinduism. All along their way, the two men never met, although apparently both sides issued challenges to formal debates. Dayananda left for Rajasthan, Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri continued to argue against the Arya Samaj
. He also turned his attention to establish organizations to protect orthodoxy.
On 13-15 March 1880, a celebration was held at Phillaur to commemorate the founding of the Hari Gyan Mandir. Along with this temple Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri opened a school where the four Vedas
would be taught. That same year Shraddha Ram organized the Haridwar
Sabha with other priests visiting the holy city and Brahman pilgrims. His third accomplishment of 1880 was the establishment of the Gyan Mandir in Lahore; it too had a school attached. Shraddha Ram fixed the pattern of services for this temple and arranged that his relatives would not inherit the temple property. He died in the first quarter of 1881.
Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri had laid the foundation for later Sanatanist movements. He left behind him a collection of writings that gave further details about Sanatanist ideas and defended them from a variety of critics. It is said that the orthodox Hindus of Punjab would have no movement until the young Brahman, Din Dayalu Sharma, began his own organizational efforts in 1887. Pandit Shraddha Ram Phillauri's defensive campaign was the first try to protect orthodoxy in Punjab and was a natural outgrowth of socio-religious movements that endangered the well-established religious institution of the Hindu community. Paralleling these grave movements within Hindu society were similar ones among the Sikhs of Punjab