India Heritage Research Foundation is an international, non-profit, humanitarian foundation founded and chaired by H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji. IHRF runs and sponsors various humanitarian projects including the first ever Encyclopedia of Hinduism as well as ashrams and medical clinics in the sacred land of Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash in Tibet.
Pujya Swamiji is the founder and inspiration behind the famous Hindu Jain temple in Pittsburgh and the Minto Shiva temple in Sydney Australia and has played a crucial role in the founding of innumerable temples and Indian cultural centres all across the world.
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji conceived of the idea for an Encyclopedia of Hinduism in 1987 when He was in Pittsburgh, USA, after establishing the Hindu-Jain Temple there. In order to bring the vision to fruition, He founded and chaired the India Heritage Research Foundation (IHRF). Over the next 25 years, IHRF, with more than 1000 scholars from around the world, led by Dr. K.L. Seshagiri Rao, Late Dr. Pandit Vidya Niwas Mishra and Dr. Kapil Kapoor, compiled the first Encyclopedia of Hinduism in history.
Eleven gorgeous volumes, approximately 7000 entries and thousands of illustrations, comprise the recently-completed and launched encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia marks the first time that the urgent need was met for an authentic, objective and insightful well of information, capturing both the staples and the spices of Indian tradition and culture. It is a significant landmark, encompassing the entire spectrum of the land called Bharat.
The Encyclopedia was previewed and blessed in India by HH the Dalai Lama and many revered saints during the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in 2010. The academic launch of the international edition, published by Mandala Earth Publications of California, USA, was hosted by the University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA in the summer of 2013 in the presence of the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, and many other dignitaries and internationally-esteemed scholars. The first set in India was presented to the Hon’ble President of India in a grand function in June 2014 in the presence of revered faith leaders, national leaders, social leaders and celebrities.
The Encyclopedia was presented to the Hon’ble President of India HE Pranab Mukherjee at a glorious function in June 2014 by revered interfaith religious leaders, distinguished cabinet ministers, and dignitaries.
In October 2014, the Encyclopedia was officially launched in India by the hands of the Hon’ble Vice President of India Dr. Hamid Ansari & Mananiya Dr. Mohan Bhagwat with renowned religious leaders and dignitaries. On the 27 October 2014, the Encyclopedia was launched in London by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of England Mr. David Cameron.
Under the guidance, inspiration and vision of Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, IHRF has built three ashrams and a medical clinic in the holy land of Lake Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash in Tibet.
Prior to this project, there were no indoor lodging facilities nor medical facilities for hundreds of kilometers. People frequently suffered from basic, treatable ailments due to lack of medical attention. Therefore, after undertaking a yatra to the sacred land in 1998, Pujya Swamiji took a vow that – by the grace of God – He would do something for the local people (who didn’t even have running water) and for all the pilgrims who travel there.
In July 2003, we inaugurated the Parmarth Kailash-Mansarovar Ashram on the banks of Lake Mansarovar, the first ashram ever in this holy land. There are 20 rooms with 5-8 beds each. Additionally there are two large halls for katha, meditation and satsang, which can also serve as additional dormitories. In 2004, a team of nearly 40 doctors and medical assistants traveled from USA in the first free medical camp in Mansarovar and Mt. Kailash.
There are now three Parmarth Kailash-Mansarovar ashrams, on the banks of Lake Mansarovar, in Paryang, Tibet and in Dirapuk at a height of nearly 17,000 feet, on the sacred Mt. Kailash parikrama route. Dirapuk is the place where all yatris who are undertaking the parikrama spend their first night, 20 km beyond the starting point. It is the location from which the darshan of Kailash is the closest, clearest and most spectacular. The ashram is double-storied with nearly 50 rooms, as well as a hall and dining facilities. All rooms face Mt. Kailash.
In September 2009, Pujya Swamiji officially inaugurated the Dirapuk ashram, with over 150 yatris from around the world, as well as local Buddhist monks and dignitaries & officials of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The ashram is already a great boon for the town, as we hired local people for the construction and trained them in masonry, carpentry and painting. The ashram is run and maintained by local Tibetans, and proceeds from the ashram go back into the community for education, health care and other projects.
Previously, in 2006, we inaugurated the Parmarth Mansarovar Ashram in Paryang, Tibet, the place where all yatris stay the night before reaching Lake Mansarovar. The ashram has more than 20 rooms — singles, doubles & triples, and also two large halls for satsang, meditation or for use as dormitories.
Simple shelters with food, beds and babysitters are not sufficient for the impoverished, orphaned and disadvantaged children of rural and mountainous India. All children need not only to be fed and sheltered — they need to be educated and trained so they can be productive members of society. They need to be inculcated with values, ethics and spirituality which will make them torchbearers of Indian culture.
Our education initiative includes the following essential components: (1) a full, standard academic education, (2) training in the ancient Vedic knowledge and traditions, (3) a moral and value-based education which is crucially needed in modern society.
In the “Dust to Diamonds” program, our gurukuls/orphanages provide approximately 500 young, impoverished, disadvantaged boys with a basic academic education, as well as intensive Sanskrit and ancient Vedic texts. Their days are filled with yoga, meditation, Vedic chanting, reading of scriptures, athematics, seva and special programs designed to infuse their lives with essential values and ethics. They are not only getting a full academic education, but they are also being trained to be cultural ambassadors, carrying with them — wherever they go — the deep values and culture of honesty, integrity, purity, piety, dedication and selflessness.
Once a child comes to the orphanage/gurukul, a rapid, divine transformation takes place. Looks of hopelessness become looks of great optimism and hope. Lightless eyes become bright shining eyes. Feelings of destitution and despair become feelings of pride, of faith and of enthusiasm. The rishikumars travel on yatra to the Himalayas, perform yoga, yagna and prayers on the banks of Mother Ganga, study academics and computers as well as the scriptures, perform dramas based on Indian spiritual history and — of course — have time to run and play!
In different rural areas on the banks of Ganga and in the nearby hilly areas is our special Rural Development Program to enable eco-fiendly, self-sufficient lives.
The Rural Development Program’s components include: