Famous Indian Spiritual & Religious Leaders

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Religion and spirituality hold a significant place in Indian culture. The nation has been known for its spirituality from the past several centuries. Adi Shankara, a philosopher and theologian, is known for consolidating the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta and unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism. Gautama Buddha, the primary figure in Buddhism, was a sage on whose teachings the religion of Buddhism was founded. Some Hindus regard Gautama as the 9th avatar of Vishnu. Mahavira, also known as Vardhamana, was the 24th and last tirthankara, a significant figure in Jainism. He traveled all over South Asia for three decades to teach Jain philosophy. In the late 15th century emerged Guru Nanak who became the founder Prophet of Sikhism and the first of the ten Sikh Gurus. He has been called "one of the greatest religious innovators of all time". Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, a natural mystic given to spiritual ecstasies from a young age, was regarded as an influential Indian mystic and yogi during the 19th-century. Osho Rajneesh, Kartar Singh Jhabbar, and Maulana Syed Sibte Hasan Naqvi were well-known spiritual and religious leaders of the 20th century. This section provides you information about the life and works of famous Indian spiritual & religious leaders.
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 1 
Gautama Buddha
(Founder of Buddhism)
Gautama Buddha
39
Birthdate: 0563 BC
Birthplace: Lumbini Province, Nepal
Died: 0483 BC

Gautama Buddha is said to have lived in the 5th to 4th century BC and is revered as the founder of Buddhism. He is said to have spread his teachings for around 45 years based on his insights regarding suffering, nirvana and cycle of birth and rebirth. He had a large following. He obtained ‘enlightenment’ in India’s Bodh Gaya.

 2 
Swami Vivekananda
(Hindu Monk)
Swami Vivekananda
48
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 3 
Sai Baba of Shirdi
(Spiritual Guru)
Sai Baba of Shirdi
15
Birthplace: India
Died: October 15, 1918

Sai Baba of Shirdi was an important and influential Indian spiritual master. Identified both as a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint, Sai Baba's teachings are still relevant among Muslim and Hindu communities around the world. While Shri Sai remains a common name for establishments in India, his temples are also located in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

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 4 
Kabir
(Saint and Mystic Poet)
Kabir
8
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 5 
Mahavira
(Last tirthankara of Jainism)
Mahavira
10
Birthdate: 0599 BC
Birthplace: Vaishali
Died: 0527 BC
Mahavira, or Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Ancient texts suggest that he was a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavira renounced all worldly possessions at age 30. Following a long life of austerity, he attained Kevala Gyan and Moksha. His teachings came to be known as the Jain Agamas.
 6 
Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
(Spiritual & Religious Leader)
Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
12
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamarpukur, West Bengal, India
Died: August 16, 1886

The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.

 7 
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
(Founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism)
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
5
Birthdate: February 18, 1484
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Navadvipa, India
Died: June 14, 1534

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a 15th-century Indian saint. Some of his disciples consider him to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna. His mode of worship characterized by ecstatic song and dance rituals had a deep influence on Vaishnavism in Bengal. He expounded Bhakti yoga and founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-Purnima by his disciples.  

Paramahansa Yogananda
7
Birthdate: January 5, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: March 7, 1952

Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru. He is known for introducing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India to millions across the world. He authored the book Autobiography of a Yogi and is considered the Father of Yoga in the West.

 9 
Jaggi Vasudev
(Yoga Guru)
Jaggi Vasudev
21
Birthdate: September 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mysore, Karnataka, India

The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author.  His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.

 10 
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
(Founder of Sikhism)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
6
Birthdate: April 15, 1469
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nankana Sahib, Pakistan
Died: September 22, 1539

Guru Nanak was the founder of one of the most popular monotheistic religions of the Indian subcontinent, Sikhism. Widely regarded as the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Nanak contributed 974 hymns to the religion's sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak is worshipped by Sikhs around the world and his birth is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab.

 11 
Nizamuddin Auliya
(Sufi Saint)
Nizamuddin Auliya
9
Birthdate: October 9, 1238
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Budaun, India
Died: April 3, 1325

Nizamuddin Auliya was an Indian Sunni Muslim scholar and Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He stressed love as a means of realizing God and believed that love of God implies love of humanity. He is considered one of the most famous Sufis from the Indian Subcontinent. His teachings were marked by an evolved sense of religious pluralism and kindness. 

 12 
Guru Gobind Singh
8
Birthdate: December 22, 1666
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Patna, India
Died: October 7, 1708
Guru Gobind Singh, the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, became the 10th guru, or spiritual leader, of the Sikhs after his father was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He established the concept of the “Five Ks” of Sikhs and formed the Khalsa community. He also finalized the Guru Granth Sahib.
 13 
Adi Shankara
(Advaita Philosopher)
Adi Shankara
1
Birthdate: 0700 AD
Birthplace: Kaladi, India
Died: 0750 AD
Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankara, promoted the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His Sanskrit works talk about concepts such as the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman. He criticized the Mīmāṃsā school and explained the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. He also established four "mathas," or monasteries.
 14 
Tulsidas
(Poet & Saint)
Tulsidas
8
Birthdate: 1497 AD
Birthplace: Rajapur
Died: 1623 AD
Tulsidas was a 16th-century Vaishnava saint and poet, who was devoted to the Hindu deity Rama. His most popular works are the Ramcharitmanas, which retells the Sanskrit Ramayana in Awadhi, and the Hanuman Chalisa. He established the Sankatmochan Temple in Varanasi and also began the tradition of Ramlila plays. 
 15 
Guru Tegh Bahadur
8
Birthdate: April 1, 1621
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Amritsar, India
Died: October 31, 1675

Guru Tegh Bahadur, the youngest son of Guru Hargobind Sahib, was the ninth Guru of the Sikhs. His 115 hymns find place in the Guru Granth Sahib. He tried to prevent forced conversion of Hindus and Sikhs into Islam, and was, as a result, executed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

 16 
Sathya Sai Baba
(Spiritual Guru)
Sathya Sai Baba
13
Birthdate: November 23, 1926
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Puttaparthi
Died: April 24, 2011

Indian guru and philanthropist, Sathya Sai Baba, was both a much-revered and controversial personality. He founded the Sathya Sai Organisation, through which he established a network of free hospitals, clinics, and educational institutions. His devotees believed in his alleged omnipotence and omniscience. His critics have accused him of sexual abuse, money laundering, and fraud.

 17 
Osho Rajneesh
(Indian Spiritual Leader and Founder of the ‘Rajneesh Movement’)
Osho Rajneesh
23
Birthdate: December 11, 1931
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India
Died: January 19, 1990

Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration,  love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader. 

 18 
Jiddu Krishnamurti
(Public Speaker & Philosopher)
Jiddu Krishnamurti
6
Birthdate: May 12, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Madanapalle
Died: February 17, 1986

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. Many years after his death, Krishnamurti's supporters oversee several schools based on his views and ideas. The Krishnamurti Foundation runs several schools in India and foreign countries. Among those who were influenced by his works were Toni Packer, Dada Dharmadhikari, and Achyut Patwardhan.

 19 
Ramana Maharshi
(Philosopher, Hindu Sage)
Ramana Maharshi
5
Birthdate: December 30, 1879
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tiruchuzhi, Virudhunagar, India
Died: April 14, 1950

Indian Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi had run away to Arunachala, a sacred mountain in Tamil Nadu, at 16, and had stayed there throughout his life. He propagated vichara, or self-enquiry, as the primary means of self-realization, instead of the study of scriptures as proposed by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.

 20 
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
10
Birthdate: September 1, 1896
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Kolkata
Died: November 14, 1977
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, also known as Srila Prabhupada, was born Abhay Charan De. He founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, better known as ISKCON or the Hare Krishna Movement. He renounced his family and pharmaceutical business to become a Vaishnava monk and was considered a Krishna Chaitanya messenger.
 21 
Sri Aurobindo
(Philosopher, Spiritual Leader)
Sri Aurobindo
14
Birthdate: August 15, 1872
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: December 5, 1950

Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.

 22 
Guru Arjan
(Fifth Sikh Guru)
Guru Arjan
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1563
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Goindwal Sahib, India
Died: May 30, 1606
 23 
Ramdev
(Yoga Guru)
Ramdev
30
Birthdate: December 25, 1965
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Mahendragarh
 24 
Dayanand Saraswati
(Philosopher)
Dayanand Saraswati
5
Birthdate: February 12, 1824
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tankara, India
Died: October 30, 1883

Dayananda Saraswati was an Indian social leader and philosopher. He is credited with founding an influential Hindu reform movement known as Arya Samaj. He is also credited with popularizing the term Swaraj which was used as a powerful tool by leaders like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi during India’s freedom struggle. Saraswati influenced people like Bhagat Singh and Madam Cama.

 25 
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
(Founder of Ahmadiyya Sect)
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
7
Birthdate: February 13, 1835
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Qadian
Died: May 26, 1908

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an Indian religious leader. He is credited with founding the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is an Islamic revival movement. A prolific author, Ghulam Ahmad wrote over 90 books on various theological, moral, and religious subjects. He continues to be revered as a subordinate prophet by Ahmadi Muslims, which is often debated by mainstream Muslims.

 26 
Ravidas
(Poet)
Ravidas
3
Birthdate: 1377 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, India
Died: 1520 AD

Ravidas was an Indian mystic, social reformer, poet-saint, and spiritual figure. An influential personality, Ravidas taught his followers to disregard social divisions of gender and caste that were prevalent in India at that time. The Ravidassia sect, a religious sect of Vaishnavism, is based on Ravidas' teachings. Ravidas is revered even today as a saint by his followers.

 27 
Neem Karoli Baba
5
Birthplace: Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: September 11, 1973

Neem Karoli Baba was a Hindu mystic and devotee of Hanuman. Initially called Baba Lakshman Das, he became known as Neem Karoli Baba after he performed a miracle in the Indian village of Neem Karoli. An extensive traveler, he later gathered a large following, Baba Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) and singer Krishna Das (Jeffrey Kagel) were among some of his prominent disciples.

 28 
Gaur Gopal Das
(Spiritual Leader, Motivational Speaker)
Gaur Gopal Das
5
Birthdate: December 24, 1973
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Maharashtra

Gaur Gopal Das is an Indian lifestyle coach and motivational speaker. An alumnus of the College of Engineering, Pune, he worked as an engineer for several years before joining the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). He is the author of Life's Amazing Secrets and has millions of followers on YouTube.  

 29 
Guru Hargobind
(Sikh Guru)
Guru Hargobind
4
Birthdate: June 19, 1595
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Amritsar, India
Died: March 19, 1644
 30 
Narayana Guru
(Spiritual Leader, Social Reformer)
Narayana Guru
3
Birthdate: August 20, 1856
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chempazhanthy, Thiruvananthapuram, India
Died: September 20, 1928

Born in Travancore in India, Narayana Guru was the son of a teacher and studied in a gurukula. He grew up to lead a social reform movement against the caste system that he saw in erstwhile Kerala. He believed in the motto One Caste, One Religion, One God for All.

 31 
Swaminarayan
(Religious leader)
Swaminarayan
3
Birthdate: April 3, 1781
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chhapaiya, India
Died: June 1, 1830

Swaminarayan, also known as Sahajanand Swami, was an Indian yogi and ascetic. He is credited to have revived several central Hindu practices of dharma, ahimsa, and brahmacharya. He was initiated into the tradition of Uddhav Sampradaya by his guru and later became the leader of the tradition. He also undertook reforms for women and the poor. 

 32 
Guru Angad
(Sikh Guru)
Guru Angad
3
Birthdate: March 31, 1504
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Sri Muktsar Sahib, India
Died: March 28, 1552
 33 
Guru Amar Das
(Sikh Guru)
Guru Amar Das
3
Birthdate: May 5, 1479
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Punjab, India)
Died: September 1, 1574
 34 
Namdev
(Poet)
Namdev
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1270
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Narasi, India
Died: July 3, 1350

Namdev was an Indian saint and poet best remembered for his devotion to Lord Vitthal of Pandharpur. He is credited with popularizing the Vithoba faith, which first emerged in the 12th century. Along with Ravidas, Kabir, Hardas, and Dadu, Namdev is revered as a guru (teacher) in the Dadupanth tradition of Hinduism.

 35 
Jnanadeva
(Poet)
Jnanadeva
4
Birthdate: 1275 AD
Birthplace: Alandi, India
Died: 1296 AD

Jnanadeva was an Indian poet, philosopher, saint, and yogi who lived in the 13th century AD. He is credited with authoring Dnyaneshwari, the oldest surviving work in the Marathi language. He is also credited with co-founding the Varkari Bhakti movement tradition of Hinduism. Over the years, Jnanadeva's legacy has inspired several saint-poets, including Tukaram and Eknath.  

 36 
Guru Har Krishan
(Eighth Sikh Guru)
Guru Har Krishan
3
Birthdate: July 23, 1656
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Kiratpur Sahib
Died: March 30, 1664
 37 
Bodhidharma
(Buddhist Monk)
Bodhidharma
2
Birthdate: 0483 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: 0540 AD

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who is believed to have started the physical training in China's Shaolin Temple and therefore is credited with the creation of Shaolin kungfu. Not a Chinese by birth, Bodhidharma is also believed to have transmitted Chan Buddhism to China. 

 38 
Guru Ram Das
(Fourth Sikh Guru)
Guru Ram Das
3
Birthdate: September 24, 1534
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lahore, Pakistan
Died: September 1, 1581
 39 
Meher Baba
(Religious Leader)
Meher Baba
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pune, India
Died: January 31, 1969

Meher Baba, or the Awakener, is best remembered for his 44-year silence, during which he chiefly communicated through an alphabet board. Born into a Parsi family, he later came under the influence of spiritual leaders such as Hazrat Babajan, and started the Meher Baba Movement, in search of spiritual consciousness.

 40 
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
(Religious Leader and Head of the Group 'DSS', Who Was Convicted of Rape and Murder)
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
41
Birthdate: August 15, 1967
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sri Gurusar Modia, Rajasthan, India

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is an Indian social group leader best known as the head of a group named Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS). Prior to his rape conviction in 2017, Ram Rahim was a famous religious leader, music composer, actor, singer, songwriter, writer, and director. In 2015, he was named among the 100 most powerful Indians by The Indian Express.

 41 
Sri Chinmoy
(Indian spiritual leader)
Sri Chinmoy
3
Birthdate: August 27, 1931
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Shakpura Village, Chittagong District, East Bengal, British India (now Bangladesh)
Died: October 11, 2007
 42 
Guru Har Rai
(Sikh Guru)
Guru Har Rai
3
Birthdate: January 16, 1630
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kiratpur, Punjab, India
Died: October 6, 1661
 43 
Madhvacharya
(Philosopher)
Madhvacharya
6
Birthdate: 1238 AD
Birthplace: Pajaka, India
Died: 1317 AD
 44 
Charaka
(Writer)
Charaka
3
Birthdate: 0100 AD
Birthplace: India
Died: 0200 AD
Chandrasekharendra Saraswati
3
Birthdate: May 20, 1894
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Viluppuram, India
Died: January 8, 1994
 46 
Gorakhnath
(Hindu yogi)
Gorakhnath
3
Birthplace: Jais
Raghavendra Swami
3
Birthdate: 1595 AD
Birthplace: Bhuvanagiri
Died: 1671 AD
 48 
Shah Waliullah Dehlawi
(Muslim Scholar)
Shah Waliullah Dehlawi
3
Birthdate: February 21, 1703
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Delhi, India
Died: August 20, 1762

Trained in Islamic education by his father, who established the Madrasah-i Rahimiyah, Shah Waliullah Dehlawi had memorized the Qur'an by age 7. He grew up to be a prominent Islamic theologian who modernized Islam with ideas such as taṭbīq and the practice of ijtihad. Asrār al-dīn remains his best-known work.

 49 
Chinmayananda Saraswati
4
Birthdate: May 8, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kerala
Died: August 3, 1993
 50 
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
(Spiritual & humanitarian leader)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
14
Birthdate: May 13, 1956
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Papanasam, Tamil Nadu, India

It is believed Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had started reciting the Bhagavad Gita by age 4. After graduating in Vedic literature and physics, he propagated Transcendental Meditation with his guru Mahesh Yogi and later established the Art of Living Foundation, which organizes spiritual courses worldwide.