When was Lekhraj Khubchand Kripalani born?
The Brahma Kumaris founder, Dada Lekhraj, was born as Lekhraj Khubchand Kirpalani to a schoolteacher. In classic BK texts such as “Adi Dev,” Lekhraj’s birth year is stated as 1876. One scholar documents his birth-year as 1870 (Mitchiner 1992). Documents from founding members (Radhe 1939), local newspaper articles of the time, Lekhraj's birth certificate and memories of local politicians (Hardy 1984) of the 1930s declare that he was 54 years of age in 1938 making his birth year 1884.
One can presume that in the beginning when the history of the Brahma Kumaris started being documented, Dada’s age was noted down as 60 because, according to dharma texts (Olson 2007b), this is the age at which a man initiates his spiritual life. Today, this age is colloquially referred to as sathiyana or ‘gone sixtyish’ in north Indian local vernacular (Cohen 1998) and serves as a useful cultural category and life marker that reflects age-specific attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.
In the dharma texts of Hinduism (Olson 2007a) dating back more than two thousand years, it is stated that any male born into one of the higher three varnas or castes (brāhman, vaishya, kshatriya) should live life according to the four stages of life or ashramas (Rodrigues 2006). Structuring one’s life according to these stages was thought to balance the cosmic forces that were present and uphold the righteous order of things. First a young man should be a chaste student (brahmā charin), then rear a family (grihastha) and perform devotional duties, then retire (vanaprastha) and devote himself to spiritual matters, and finally become an ascetic (sannyasin), leaving his home and family and educating others on the basis of his spiritual realizations.
Currently, the age of Lekhraj at the beginning of Om Mandli is a contested space, with senior members from the 1950s of the Brahma Kumaris refusing to consider Brahma may have been considerably younger at the beginning. Further, with the above ashramas in mind, and considering the restrictive society of the period when Om Mandli was founded, the fortuitous synchronicity of Dada ‘being 60’ may have been considerably more important than factual birth dates.
The above text was taken from 'Custodians of Purity: An ethnography of the Brahma Kumaris'. Hyperlinks for references cited are forthcoming.