Name: KALE RAI (Dr. Swami Prappanacharya Rai)
Date Of Birth: 1923
Home Address: Bardanda, Panchthar in Eastern Nepal
- Ph.D in Sanskrit
- Member of Raj Parishad
Whenever we think of a Swami, an image forms in our mind: a pointed nose, lean and thin body and serene expression. Dr. Swami Prappanacharya is all together different from this common image of a swami. A swami with a flat nose, short and fat body, he looks more like laughing Buddha; happy and peaceful. Coming from a Rai family with an exceptional thirst for knowledge, he faced great challenges and hardships while attempting to study at a time when education was considered to be the sole right of Brahmans alone. He was born in 1923 in a secluded village of Bardanda, Panchthar in eastern Nepal on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami, the famous festival of Hindus. His father Dhambe Rai and mother Dilkumari belonged to Nampicha Dewali Chamling Rai family. They followed Josmuni religion and were vegetarians.
He had a very mischievous childhood. He still remembers his parents nagging him for his countless mischief in his childhood. They used to say “Kale, you won’t do anything good in life.”
These words proved to be most motivational for him and they always urged him to move ahead. Swami Falgunanda was venerable leader of Josmuni Religion. Little Kale of 8, along with his parents, used to go to Swamiji’s ashram to get blessing. He was especially lured by a lump of white sugar that swamiji gave him first time when he saw this little enthusiastic child. Thus, in the guidance of Swamiji Kale Rai started reading Kirati alphabets. He also started learning Bhajans (hymns). This was his first glimpse of the world of knowledge. But studying Sanskrit was next to impossible, as he had grown in Rana regime, when common people were forbidden to study. Only Brahmans were allowed to study Sanskrit. At that time, untouchables and ethnic groups were not allowed to study. Brahmans used to say other people will become mad if they attempted to study Sanskrit. So, the people belonging to Rai, Limbu and other communities were discouraged from studying Sanskrit. Thus, Kale Rai and Sankrit were like two opposite south and north poles which kept on attracting each other till they met finally. However this meeting was a journey in itself with countless levels of names such as Kale Rai, Gitananda, Sitaram Dildas, Swami Ramkrishna Prapannacharya and finally Dr. Swami Prapannacharya.
He had a strong appetite since childhood. He was hungry most of the time. Once when, he was in the forest collecting wood for home, he was unbearably hungry. He saw untouchable family being ready for a meal. He requested them to give him some food. They declined at first, however looking at his plight, they gave him some. But unfortunately, his uncle saw this and beat him severely. All his family scolded him. It was his first attempt of challenging the bad practices in the name of religion. He kept on continuing eating in untouchable’s home. He questioned in his 13 year old innocence, “Why, aren’t they human that we cannot eat food touched by them? But instead of being answered, he was harshly beaten and scolded.
Because of these circumstances, he left home soon after and led a nomad life but did not change his stand. But when he heard that his father was terribly sick in season of maize cropping, he came back home to help the family. He would feed the oxen whole night and with the first call of rooster, he would start ploughing the field. With his spiritual upbringing and influence of swami Falgunanda his thoughts and emotions were filled with imagination of an equal society. But they could not take a concrete shape. These waves of emotions motivated him sometime to leave his home, again return back, join business, face loss, become cowboy in a rich man’s home, become nanny and also to work in tea gardens. He rebelliously left working in rich people’s house where he saw workers like him being treated even worse than a dog. In those days of nomadic life, he faced utmost pain and suffering.
In this course of his constant moving and changing life, he came into notice of pundit Damodar Acharya. He advised Prappannacharya to go to Kashi to get education and promised to help him in his mission. In a few days time the group of 15 people including Prappannacharya and Damodar arrived in Kathmandu in course of traveling to Kashi. This group went to Haridwar, Rishikesh, Laxmanjhula and Swargashram. Other 14 returned back home but Swamiji went towards Uttarakhanda. His struggle became even more difficult than ever. But his first never give- up attitude brought its colour. At last, he got an opportunity to work in an educated family of a professor. His daughter Saraswati was a headmistress in a school. Thus, his first introduction to alphabets became possible at the age of 30 by Ms. Saraswati Devi , who like her name itself, introduced him first to the practical path of knowledge.
Then he began his another journey of struggle towards wisdom. But this road was not smooth. He had spent countless days without food. He spent countless nights without a roof. Due to his Mongolian outlook, he was deprived of food and accommodation that other Brahmin students got easily. “You are Gurkhas, how can you study, you are to do left right (march pass and parade) not study in a university like us”, he still remembers these words when once he went to one of the student hostels to ask for living arrangements. But when this student managed to defeat so called knowledgeable Swamis and once even then Jagadguru Sankaracharya in various intellectual debates, then people began to realize that he could not be labeled as an ordinary Gurkha anymore. It was not only his inborn quality but his upbringing, his never give-up attitude and struggling personality that led him to present stage of pinnacle despite being born in a common farmer family. He says that every hardship, every ridicule of the people in spite of discouraging, encouraged him to walk in the path of knowledge. He also started studying music along with his regular study. Thus, he is not only a venerable Scholar but also an excellent musician, singer and performer. His writing and research began while he was a student. After being rejected by series of newspapers and magazine, he was able to publish his first article in Sanskrit in 1961 in Gandiv magazine. Since then, he has written 51 small and big books in Nepali, Sanskrit and Hindi. There are countless articles in various magazines and newspapers. Swamiji never agreed to lead a static life in Ashrams and Mathas. After completing his education, inspired by his intelligence and spirituality, he was proposed by various people to be head of different maths and ashrams. But he declined them all and wanted to come back to his own homeland; Nepal.
Finally that man who had left as Kale Rai came back to Nepal in 1980 at the age of 60 as Dr. Swami Prappancharya. After coming back he faced countless hurdles in getting his books published. There were various people with a noble mind and a kind heart who helped Swamiji to spread the knowledge through his books. But he was more interested in writing as a researcher than a preacher. His various important contributions include a book in Nepali called Ved Ma Ke Chha ? (What is in Veda?). This book received Gunraj Award in 1983 for his meticulous effort in presenting the lessons of Veda in simple language for common readers. But he did not limit himself as a spiritual writer and philosopher alone but he had equally contributed in Nepalese history. His book on ancient Kirata history has brought various findings, which have proved to be fundamental in constructing the history of that period of Nepal. His interest in research took him all over Nepal. Even at that old and frail age, he could manage to travel all 75 districts of Nepal and came to know about the problems of common people. He has also visited to 20 different countries of Asia and Europe in course of his research and writing.
A creator, a researcher, a thinker, a scholar and a spiritual leader, who inspired so many people, was himself in great trouble in finding a place for him to stay. However, moving from one place to another, from one home to another, he finally found a home in an Ashram in the Pashupatinath area. Till date he has been honoured by more than 100 social and religious organizations of Nepal, India and Burma. He is the first Swami in a history of Nepal to be nominated as a honourable member of Rajsabha Satnding Committee. Swamiji is a synonym of a challenge against the caste discrimination and other social malpractice prevalent in the name of culture. His life history is a constant source of inspiration for all people those who aspire to rise above themselves. Even at the age of 85, he is still full of that energy and vigor. However, his frail asthma hinders him to sing as beautifully as in the past. And his frail health limits him to speak as fluently as before. But he has not given up. It is amazing that he is still reading, writing, speaking and singing. He says: “I am a lifelong beggar, a lifelong traveller and a lifelong student”.