Acharya Gour Ganguly

Acharya Gour Ganguly (1920-2003) was born in Kolkata, India. Grandnephew of the revolutionary leader Bipin Behari Ganguli, he was the founding father of the first major post-independence satyagraha mass movement in north-eastern India (Tripura) aimed at combating atrocities on women. He was an active freedom fighter in the Indian Independence Movement, working with Subhash Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army and later Mahatma Gandhi. After Independence, he served the nation in various capacities, including a long tenure as the deputy director of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission of India. Like Sri Aurobindo, he moved from active politics to spiritual work in later life, inspiring and implementing socio-economic and religious reform at the local level in various villages and cities in Tripura, West Bengal and other parts of India.
Ganguly wrote his seminal work Jeevan Sameeksha (translated in 2002 as Life Evolution Society Divinity) through the 1970s. Worried at the absence of a constructive and non-violent alternative to the Naxalite philosophy popular among youth at that time, a professor of philosophy in a well-known university in Calcutta requested him to write a manifesto that combined the best of leftist and Vedantist ideas for a future India.
Religious reform
Ganguly campaigned actively against the inequity of the caste system and the barring of women from the performance of certain rituals in Hinduism. He propagated the idea of scientific spirituality, and equated rationality with divinity in many of his writings. Many of his ideas on religious reform were inspired by the ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. He redefined the idea of the brahmin, associating it not with hereditary status but with ethical qualities such as truth, tolerance and forgiveness, and declaring that all who observed these qualities had the right to be brahmins, irrespective of their birth. He assigned the status of 'brahmin' to a number of people from the so-called lower castes through the 'sacred thread' ceremony.
In the late 1970s, Ganguly led a campaign in Agartala, the capital of Tripura, to train women in performing tarpan (ceremonial offerings to ancestors), a ceremony from which they had been hitherto debarred. He encouraged inter-caste marriage and opposed the dowry system.
He spread awareness in rural communities in various parts of India about the need to cut costs in various socio-religious ceremonies such as marriages, sraaddha, and annapraasana. Indian families frequently run into debt as a result of the exorbitant expenses at these rituals. By demonstrating that these could be performed at very low costs, and with community participation in cost-sharing, he revolutionized the economic life of many rural communities.
He established temples in Tripura and Kusmunda (Chhattisgarh) in India where people from all religions and castes could perform worship.
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