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Copyright 2001 Realization.org.



Shri Purohit Swami

1882 - 19??


Shri Purohit Swami was one of the first great yogis who came to Europe from India. His books never gained the wide readership they deserve, and he has fallen into obscurity.

He is the author of the first (and probably best) autobiography of a yogi ever written, and he collaborated with W.B. Yeats, the famous Irish poet, on an English translation of the principal Upanishads whose literary merit exceeds all others.

His remarkable Autobiography of an Indian Monk has recently been brought back into print by Munrisham Manoharlal Publishers in New Delhi.



Purohit was born in Badnera, Vidarbha, India on October 12, 1882 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, but in 1908 he accomodated 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,"1 and Natekar, who later took the monastic name Hamsa Swami, became Purohit's guru.  

1. The Autobiography of an Indian Monk, page 45.

Despite his law degree, Purohit never practiced as a lawyer. He worked as a manager of a candle factory and wrote books; for a time he took a position as an ordinary household servant. 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.

In 1930 he went to Europe where he met W.B. Yeats, the great Irish poet, who became a friend and helped arrange for the publication of Purohit's books by leading London publishers. These included The Autobiography of an Indian Monk (1932), a translation of Hamsa Swami's The Holy Mountain (1934), a translation of the Bhagavad Gita (1935), a translation of The Ten Principal Upanishads (in collaboration with Yeats, 1937), and a translation of Patanjali's Aphorisms of Yoga (1938).

Purohit died in the late 1930s or early 1940s.



The Autobiography of an Indian Monk
by Shri Purohit Swami
Reviewed by Laura Olshansky



Order from Blue Dove


By Shri Purohit Swami

This wonderful book is the first autobiography of a yogi ever written. After a university education and years of wandering as a renunciant in his native India, Purohit Swami came to England in 1930 where he became friends with the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, who encouraged him to write this book. (The two men also collaborated on a translation of the principal Upanishads.) With artful prose and intriguing stories, Purohit does a remarkable job of communicating the experience of becoming a yogi. He also provides vivid glimpses of aspects of Indian culture (such as renunciation) that are particularly valuable for Western students of yoga.

Order from ABE


Translated by Shree Purohit Swami and W.B. Yeats

There are translations for the heart and for the head; those that recreate the poetic, literary greatness of the original, and those that aim at academic fidelity. This is the best English translation of the first type that has ever been made of the Upanishads. Shree Purohit Swami was an enormously talented yogi who came to London in 1930, and W.B. Yeats was one of the greatest English poets of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, this book is out of print, so you'll have to buy a used copy. It's worth it.


Unfortunately, Purohit has fallen into nearly complete obscurity, and we have been unable to find any links to information about him on the web.

This page was published on September 12, 2000.

Copyright 2001 Realization.org. All rights reserved.