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He was born Vinayak Narahari Bhave, the first born of Narahari Shumbhurao Bhave and Rukmini bai in 1895 in the Kolaba area of Bombay to become famous later as Acharya Vinoba Bhave, a close disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. A great writer, linguist and propagator of peace, Vinoba Bhave led a life of absolute celibacy as his brothers too did.
While in college, he burned his certificates left formal studies. He thought he would either go to Himalayas for practicing penance or join political struggle for the freedom of his country. Unable to take a decision, he wandered from place to place. At Benares he learned Sanskrit, and acquired deep knowledge in the Hindu Scriptures. A student of languages all through his life, he earned working knowledge in French, Arabic, Persian, Urdu and most of the Indian languages. He translated many of the Hindu scriptures including Bhagavad Gita into Marathi and other languages.
Attracted by Gandhiji's principles and ideology, he thought Gandhiji was his political and spiritual guru and he spent four years from 1917 with him in his ashrams. In 1924 he came to Vaikam in Kerala and took part in the satyagraha movement there for temple entry to all. He accompanied Gandhiji in the Dandi Salt March of 1930 and was arrested and jailed. His active participation in the Quit India Movement (1942) threw him in jail for three years. In 1946 he accepted the job of a toilet scavenger.
Gandhiji's death was a shock for Vinobaji. In 1948 he set up the Sarvodaya Samaj, an all-India organization for those who believed in the fundamentals of Gandhian principles. In 1951 he founded the Bhoodan Movement, to collect land for redistribution among the landless rural poor of India. He was able to motivate the rich landlords and to collect thousands of acres of land. The next year he launched the Bhoodan Yagna or the great redistribution movement. It was a great step towards solving one of the long-standing problems of India, the landlessness of the poor. Jayaprakash Narain, the famous socialist became a disciple of Vinobaji, as did thousands of others. When Indira Gandhi, the prime minister, declared the internal emergency in 1975, Vinobaji supported it thinking that it would bring about the much-wanted discipline among people, Jayaprakash walked out on him.
Apart from the translations of the Hindu scriptures, Vinobaji wrote Swarajya Shastra which brings out his political ideology. The essence of Quran, Distribution of land, Thoughts on Education etc., are some of his other contributions.
Vinobaji died on November 15, 1982. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour the same year.