Virchand Gandhi bigraphy, stories - Jain Scholar who represented Jainism at the first World Parliament of Religions,Chicago in 1893

Virchand Gandhi : biography

1864 -

Virachand Gandhi (Gujarati: વીરચંદ ગાંધી; Hindi: वीरचंद गाँधी) was a Jain scholar who represented Jainism at the first World Parliament of Religions in 1893. A barrister by trade, he worked to defend the rights of Jains, and wrote and lectured extensively on Jainism, other religions, and philosophy.


  • He was accorded both a welcome and honor by many literary and spiritual institutions, churches and societies. He was presented with medals.
  • A museum was also constructed dedicated to him in 1964.
  • In the 1990s, his statues were erected in Chicago and Mahuva.
  • A drama based on his life, Gandhi Before Gandhi, was performed 200 times throughout the world.
  • On November 8, 2002, the Indian Postal Service honored him by issuing a postal stamp with his image.

Trip to the World Parliament of Religions

Gandhi represented Jainism at the first World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893. Gandhi, was most likely both the first Jain and the first Gujarati to travel to the United States and his statue still stands at the Jain temple in Chicago.

Acharya Vijayanandsuri, also known as Acharya Atmaram, had initially been invited to represent Jainism at the Parliament, but as Jain monks do not travel overseas, could not attend. He therefore recommended him to be the emissary for the religion. Atmaram provided six months training to him. His disciple, Vijay Vallabsuri, who is described in Natuji Shah's book "Jainism: The World of Conquerors" also assisted Gandhi in the preparation. He got positive response at Parliament. He was asked to deliver more lectures and hence stayed two years in the U.S. and one year in the U.K. On two other occasions, he went outside India to promote Jain values. He is known for giving about 535 lectures on Jainism and have attracted followers from outside India to jainism. He was awarded various medals for his lectures.

Strangers In This Land by E. Allen Richardson mentions this Parliament and Gandhi's subsequent interview with The New York Times.

Poster calling him 'a most eloquent and linguist'

He was a contemporary to Swami Vivekanand, who deeply admired him. He faced criticism over his sea voyage, which was at the time considered unholy. Vivekananda, impressed with his adherence to vegetarianism in the face of the cold Chicago climate came to his defense: in a 1894 letter to Haridas Viharidas Desai, Diwan of Junagadh, he wrote “Now here is Virchand Gandhi, the Jain whom you knew well in Bombay. This man never takes anything but mere vegetables even in this terribly cold climate and tooth and nail tries to defend his countrymen and the religion. The people of this country like him very well. But what are they doing who sent him over? They are trying to outcast him.”

Virchand Gandhi quote on world peace "May peace rule the universe; may peace rule in kingdoms and empires; may peace rule in states and in the lands of the potentates; may peace rule in the house of friends and may peace also rule in the house of enemies"

Herbert Warren, who studied Jainism under him and adopted the Jain religion, published a book on his lectures titled Herbert Warren's Jainism.

The American newspaper, the Buffalo Courier wrote regarding him, "of all Eastern scholars, it was this youth whose lectures on Jain Faith and Conduct was listened to with the greatest interest and attention". Later, in Kasadova, he delivered a lecture on 'Some Mistakes Corrected' on 8 August 1894, which prompted the citizens of the city to award him a gold medal.

At Parliament he said:

He had studied Buddhism, Vedanta Philosophy, Christianity, and western philosophy. He praised Mogul Emperor Akbar for his equal treatment of all religions.

From Left to Right - Narasima Charya, Lakshmi Narain, Swami Vivekananda, Hewivitarne Dharmapala, Virachand Raghav Gandhi

He propagated the relevance of Jain tenets and Mahavira's message of non-violence. In total, he delivered about 535 speeches on Jainism, other religions, and social and cultural lives in India, all of which received wide publication. He was invited two more times, first in 1897 and then in 1899 to the West.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine