Biography of Swami Sivananda
Swami Sivananda was a renowned physician, monk and founder of The Divine Life Society based in Rishikesh, India. He was an active, saintly man, who devoted himself to serving his fellow human beings.
Birth and Boyhood
Swami Sivananda was born Kuppuswamy on 8th September, 1887, to P.S. Vengu Iyer and Parvati Ammal, in Pattamadai village in South India. Even as a child, Kuppuswamy exhibited undeniable tendencies of love for all living beings. He often fed the poor and used to compel his father to contribute to passing beggars. He also distributed the food given to him by his mother to his companions, cats, dogs and other animals and birds. At school, Kuppuswamy was a class topper and won many prizes. He was a good singer as well.
After completing his matriculation exam, he enrolled at S.P.G. College in Tiruchirapalli. In college, he took part in theater and debates. After completing his First Arts exam, Kuppuswamy enrolled in a medical school in Tanjore. He was an industrious student, who did not go home even during holidays. He used to spend all his time at the hospital and even had admission to the operation theater. Kuppuswamy stood first in his class. His knowledge surpassed that of doctors with enviable degrees and even in the first year he could answer final year question papers.
Kuppuswamy finished the medical course and started practicing at Tiruchi. He also founded a medical journal named “The Ambrosia”. He borrowed money from his mother for starting the journal. When his mother required money for a festival, Dr. Kuppuswamy readily returned his earlier loan. He distributed the journal free to allcomers, as he was too shy to ask for contribution.
Dr. Kuppuswamy Goes to Malaya
In 1913, Dr. Kuppuswamy got an opportunity to go and work in Malaya, today known as Malaysia. Endowed with an adventurous spirit, Kuppuswamy left India for Malaya. As he was a vegetarian, Kuppuswamy had a tough time surviving on the ship and depended on the sweets he had brought with him.
In Malaya, Dr. Kuppuswamy worked under Mr. A.G. Robins, who managed a rubber estate with its own hospital. When Mr. Robins asked Dr. Kuppuswamy, “Can you manage a hospital all by yourself?” the doctor boldly replied “Yes, I can manage even three hospitals”. He was appointed immediately.
The young Indian doctor was a hard worker. Dr. Kuppuswamy was sympathetic, humorous, and spoke sweetly. Even when dealing with seemingly hopeless cases he exuded determination and confidence. When confronted with serious cases, he stayed awake all night. Privately, Dr. Kuppuswamy tended to the needy and poor and did not even charge consulting fees. On the contrary, he used to give money to patients for their expenses.
Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Kuppuswamy helped sadhus, renunciants and beggars. As the days passed, he wanted to renounce the world. Giving up his lucrative practice, Dr. Kuppuswamy left Malaya for India. In 1924, he was initiated into the Sanyas (renunciant) order and came to be known as Swami Sivananda. As a monk, Swami Sivananda led an austere and selfless life, using his medical talent to help others.
The Divine Life Society
In 1936, he sowed the seeds of The Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges river in Rishikesh, north India. Starting from a humble cowshed, the society is today the headquarters of a worldwide organisation having a large number of branches within the country and abroad.
Under the auspices of the society, Swami Sivananda founded a small dispensary that has today grown to be a regular hospital with X-ray and other facilities. In December 1957, the Sivananda Eye Hospital was formally opened. The hospital has 30 beds for in-patients. Swami Sivananda also instituted the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy to treat people with genuine Ayurvedic remedies, prepared from rare Himalayan herbs.
On the 14th of July 1963, Swami Sivananda departed from his mortal coil, in his cottage on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh.