Mar 14, 2016

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: High-profile yogi wielding political power; All you need to know about the founder of Art of Living

With an estimated wealth of $184,094,000 and holding proximity to the highest level in the Indian establishment, Sri Sri could arguably be the most influential godman in India.

Mohammed Uzair Shaikh
March 9, 2016

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is at the centre of controversy surrounding the mega-cultural event being organized at the banks of River Yamuna. Regarded as a contemporary saint, Sri Sri is one of the most influential godmen in India. Once rated as the fifth most powerful man in the nation, Sri Sri wields real power. Unlike Kabir, Dyaneshwar or Hari Das, this high-profile yogi has fame, money and manpower.

Although he demands plurality in the society, Sri Sri is one of the most stringent bashers of the ‘left’. Despite claiming to be an agnostic towards political ideologies, Sri Sri is regarded to be the moderate face of Sangh Parivar. Sri Sri claims to be a non-partisan player, but his affinity is quite evident towards the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which was not only endorsed by the godman, but his volunteers were part of the highly successful ‘NaMo’ campaign. (ALSO READ: Army build bridges for Art of Living event on Yamuna Banks; State machinery committed to godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?)


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With an estimated wealth of $184,094,000 and holding proximity to the highest level in the Indian establishment, Sri Sri could arguably be the most influential cult leader in India. Here are the quick takeaways from Sri Sri’s highly successful career as a godman originating nearly four decades back:

- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was born in the town of Papanasam in Tamil Nadu. His date of birth is May 13, 1956. He was named as Ravi Shankar, and the honorific title of Sri Sri was accorded years later when he turned into a Vedic preacher.

- During his early childhood, Sri Sri was influenced his by teacher Sudhakar Chaturvedi, who was a committed Gandhian. However, during his teenage years, he got deeply rooted into the saffron world, as he turned into a disciple of saint Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

- Ravi Shankar earned a degree in science from Bangalore University. He graduated from St Joseph’s College. Following his education, he started working full-time with Maharishi to spread Vedic sciences.

- The transformation in Sri Sri’s life came when in 1978, when he learnt the Sudarshan Kriya, a revolutionary meditation form, which he claims to have received from divine sources. Sri Sri claims that he was was meditating for 10 days on the banks of River Bhadra in Shimoga village of Karnataka. The Sudarshan Kriya is considered to be the USP of Sri Sri, which is regarded as a life-changing form of meditation.

- After preaching spirituality and meditation for nearly three years in different parts of the world, Sri Sri founded the Art Of Living organization with the vision of spreading humanity, spirituality and love among people all over the world. However, AOL does not offer its services for free. The courses offered by the organization are charged a decent amount depending upon the society where the courses are being offered.

- Sri Sri turned into a millionaire by the end of 90s’ when the Art of Living recorded more than 1 crore international followers. In 1997, he formed International Association for Human Values, a Geneva-based charitable organization. It drew charity from millions of AOL members. In the subsequent years, Ravi Shankar formed the following assets - Art of Living Centre, Sri Sri Shankar Vidya Mandir Trust, PU College and Sri Sri Centre for Media Studies in Bangalore, whereas the Sri Sri University and Art of Living Health & Educational Trust are located in United States.

- Former members of Art of Living accuse Sri Sri of taking over some of the properties of another godman Swami Nithyananda after his scandalous sex tape came out. However, the allegations are challenged in US court.

- In 2003, Sri Sri attempted to create a place for himself in the corporate world by initiating ‘Ethics in Business – Corporate Culture & Spirituality dialogue’. The aim is to attract employees of several corporate firms to join the AOL courses which would prove to be stress-buster in their lives.

- Sri Sri is one of the known opposers of the Indian ‘Left’, raising the fears of naxalism on several occasions during his public meetings. He steered a controversy in 2012 by alleging that the Government schools are responsible for introducing the Marxist ideology to the students. At the time, the country was ruled by Congress-led UPA. He was referring to the 60-year-rule of Congress in the nation since independence and the reliance of left academia for all those decades.

- In 2013, Sri Sri gave a call to all his supporters to contribute towards Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial run. Members of his social outfit - Volunteer For a Better India (VFBI) were involved in the ‘NaMo’ campaign. In his public satsangs, he severely criticised the Congress and accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Left of conspiring with the grand-old party to stop a nationalist like Narendra Modi from coming to power. In case, if you want to check out the political conspiracy theories of Sri Sri, you can view it here:

- In January 2016, Sri Sri was awarded the Padma Bhushan award by the Indian Government. In the subsequent months, he took a more active role in socio-political events attempting to turn a mediator between Shani Shingnapur temple authorities and the protesting women of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade. He also drew limelight by reiterating that the JNU students involved in a row with the Centre are ‘anti-nationalists’.

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