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Swami Ram & Dada Dwijen Sen

This week’s  column is about two   very remarkable individuals -  whose lives are intertwined with institutions named after them -the  Dr Dwijen Sen Kala Kendra, established in 1949, and  Swami Rama    Himalayan University established in 1995   . While the  former , born in Bardhhaman  in Bengal   in 1924   came to Dehradun from Shantiniketan in 1947 , the latter was born in Pauri Garhwal  an year later,  but received his spiritual training and guidance from  ‘Bengali Baba’ , a mystic  who lived in the Himalayan  foothills. Both sought , and received the blessings  of  Sri Aurobindo, Gurudev Rabindra Nath Thakur and Mahatma Gandhi – both were intense patriots and saw beauty and harmony in nature . Both earned the appellation of doctor , the former for homeopathy , and the latter  in allopathic system from the medical college Darbhanga . Both were very widely travelled, and chartered rather unconventional  pathways. Dada left home at fourteen , for in the ‘bhadralok’ household that he brought up in , art work was looked down upon – as contemptuously as sex work ! He soon joined a revolutionary group , was arrested in an assassination attempt , but while in jail , his spirts soared high, and he honed his skills as a charcoal artist . But on his release from jail ,he landed up at Shantiniketan , where he was mentored by Abaninadranath Tagore . He then joined Kala Bhawan where he studied with Nandlal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee , and graduated from  the Vishwa Bharti with a diploma in painting and sculpting. Travelling across India  and Nepal , he learnt the  finer nuances of  bronze casting.

Dada chose Dehradun on account of  the openings  to art teachers  offered by its top schools – the Doon, Welham’s, Colonel Browns , Manav Bharti, among others . While at Manav Bharti he developed his lifelong association and  affection with Shakuntala( whom he called Ma)    and Pyare Lal Dougall , who later became  the Headmaster of Modern School , New Delhi. So here was a revolutionary Bengali adopted by a revolutionary Punjabi family , for Shakuntala Dougall nee Thapar was the first cousin of the famous revolutionary  Sukhdev ! In the fifties he took to homeopathic medicine in a big way , and became a ‘doctor’ to    one and all who  thronged    the Kala Kendra -some for art, other for matters of the heart and soul , and some for curing them of their physical ailments !

Among the many firsts attributed to the Kala Kendra were the art school affiliated  to  the  Lalit Kala Akademi , New Deli, the bamboo and cane crafts centre established by the Government of UP, a sculpture studio  as well as a Handicrafts Board under the chairmanship of Rathindra Nath Tagore who had  taken over as the Chair of Kala Kendra after he left Shantiniketan. Those were indeed the heydays of the Kala Kendra.  It then went into a tailspin for a few years , but is now on tis revival trajectory under the guidance of  Colonel  VK Dougall, Meera Dougall,  Vibha Puri Das, Nicholas Hoffland, Monica  and Shaswati Talukdar , Brig Anand Lal . Valley of Words  will be collaborating with Kala Kendra for curating  exhibitions, documentaries , discussions and retrospectives for the eighth edition .


While Dada made Dehradun his home, Swami Rama  went off on his spiritual quest to  Tibet . At the very young age of 24, he    was anointed to   the high spiritual position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in Kolhapur , where he  ‘ made a meaningful  impact on the prevalent customs  by eliminating the system of devadasis in temples , and  making it possible for all segments of society to worship in temples. However , by  1952 he relinquished   this position  to return to the Himalayas  for intensive  meditation. He then  resumed   his formal education   at Bangalore, Prayaag, Varanasi and Oxford University, England. He worked as a medical consultant in London and assisted in parapsychological research in Moscow. He then returned to India, where he established a clinic and ashram : the Sadhana Mandir Trust in Rishikesh. In 1960 he completed his degree at the medical college in Darbhanga. Later he went to Japan, where he established a major spiritual centre. At the behest of his master, he went to the United States in 1969 to build a bridge between science and spirituality.

At the Meninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, Swami Rama demonstrated, under controlled laboratory conditions, his exquisite control of involuntary physiological parameters such as body temperature, brain waves and heart rate. These experiments were reported in many leading scientific journals and set the stage for the recognition of the psychosomatic origins of a majority of diseases, the development of bio-feedback and holistic paradigms of health.

Swami Rama established the Himalayan Institute of Yoga, Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A. in the early 1970s and in his 23 years in the U.S he became recognized as a yogi, teacher, philosopher, author, poet, humanist and philanthropist. He returned to India in 1989 to establish the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust at Jolly Grant, Dehradun. Under Swami Rama’s guidance and direct supervision, the trust opened a multi-specialty hospital in 1994 and a medical college in 1995. Today, the sprawling campus  also has an   Ayurveda Centre,  and Rural Development Institute  the Himalayan College of Nursing, Himalayan School of Management Studies, Himalayan School of Science & Technology, Himalayan School of Bio Sciences and  Himalayan School of Yoga Science.   With Dr Vijay Dhasmana as the Chancellor and Dr. Rajendra Dobhal as the Vice Chancellor , the university is now exploring new centres like Traditional Indian Knowledge Systems  , Public management , Political ecology and Policy studies .

Before closing , in the interest of full discourse , it is important to place on record  that  Dr Rajendra Dobhal has been  on the Governing Board of Valley of Words for over five years , and your columnist is now an Honorary Professor at the SHRU , and the two institutions  will be collaborating for the eighth and the subsequent editions of VoW !


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