Hans Ji Maharaj
Hans Ram Singh Rawat, known as Shri Hans Ji Maharaj was born (November 8 1900 - July 19 1966) in Gadh-ki-Sedhia, north-east of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India. His parents were Ranjit Singh Rawat and Kalindi Devi. He was considered a Satguru by his students who called him affectionally "Shri Maharaji" or just "Guru Maharaji."
He had a daughter from his first wife Sinduri Devi, and four sons from his second wife Rajeshwari Devi, later known among followers as "Mata ji".
Life and work
Biographical information sourced from  unless stated otherwise
At the age of eight, not long after starting attending the village school, Hans Ji's mother died and from then on he was raised by his aunt. As a young adult he visited many holy men in the nearby mountains and pilgrimage towns in the area now the Pakistani provinces of Sind, Balochistan (Pakistan)|Baluchistan and Punjab, Pakistan|Punjab. He was reportedly disenchanted with these and turned to the Arya Samaj, a popular movement formed to remove caste prejudices and idolatry from Hinduism.
The search for work led Hans Ji to Lahore, the capital of the former Sikh kingdom. During this time he made his first contact with Swarupanand|Sri Swarupanand ji, an encounter that would change his life. In 1923, Swarupanand taught Hans the techniques of Knowledge or kriyas, an experience of which Sri Hans later said: "I was given no mantra, but experienced Knowledge. I experienced the music and light of my heart. My mind was focused within". Three years later, in 1926, Swarupanand ji asked him to start teaching others the techniques of Knowledge, and for the subsequent 10 years Sri Hans traveled through what is today known as Pakistan and northern India. A strong bond of Guru-shishya tradition|teacher/disciple was formed between them which Swarupanand reportedly referred to as follows: "I am in Hans' heart and Hans is in my heart".
In 1936, Sri Swarupanand ji died in Nangli Sahib, a village near the north town of Meerut. Reported indications from Swarupanand about Hans' succession were later contested by a group of mahatmas who did not appreciate the fact that Hans ji had married Sinduri Devi from a neighbouring village in the district of Garwal, making him a "householder", a status that in their views as renunciates was not acceptable. After the rift, Sri Hans was left with only a handful of people to help him continue his work. Sri Hans, who was not interested in receiving the material inheritance, branched out on his own with the understanding that he had his teacher's blessings, and continued teaching throughout the Indian sub-continent.
That same year, he started presenting his message and teaching in the small town of Najibabad, near Haridwar. His talks at the time were strongly influenced by the egalitarian and reformist philosophy of the Arya Samaj, and he reportedly accepted anyone as his student, irrespective of caste, religion or status. This was an unusual attitude for an Indian teacher, and it drew its share of criticism from traditional Hindus. During this year he published a book Hans Yog Prakash as a first step to broadening the dissemination of his message.
During the next years, Hans ji traveled by foot and by train to towns and villages across north India, speaking to people in small, impromptu gatherings at train stations, or under a tree in the village grounds. By the late 1930s, Sri Hans Ji had begun visiting Delhi, teaching workers at the Delhi Cloth Mills. He travelled constantly between Hardwar and Delhi, often staying at various follower's houses at Paharganj and Connaught Place, New Delhi|Connaught Place, behind the new Delhi center. During these days, gatherings were small and Sri Hans reportedly knew each of his students personally.
In 1944, as the number of students grew, Sri Hans Ji purchased a small, two story house on the bank of the Ganges canal outside Hardwar, and named it "Prem Nagar" ("Town of Love"). His mahatmas who were helping him in a full-time capacity lived with him at this house in the tradition of the gurukul. Four years later, he purchased his first car, a green List of Austin motor cars|Austin Somerset, that reportedly assisted him in visiting close-by towns and villages in his effort to reach more people.
Sri Hans Ji had a daughter, Savithri, but his wife was unable to have more children. As a consequence of that, and based on an understanding that Swarupanand reportedly had told him that "one day he [Hans ji] will have a son who would play an important role", he remarried in 1946 to Rajeshwari Devi, a young woman from Malegaon from the Garhwal district. In 1951, his first son was born (Satpal),followed by three more in 1953 (Bhole), 1955 (Raja), and 1957 (Prem Pal), named affectionately by Sri Hans "Sant Ji").
As Sri Hans Ji Maharaj's message was spreading throughout north India, several initiatives were taken to facilitate his work, including the publishing of a monthly magazine named Hansadesh in 1951, and the formation of the Divine Light Mission (DLM)* . For nearly 30 years Sri Hans Ji Maharaj disseminated his message without any formal organization. After resisting the idea for such organization, he finally gave in to growing pressure from a number of active disciples. The Divine Light Mission was registered in Patna in 1960, to develop and structure the growing activities across India. The mission aims discussed are that "in principle all religions are one" and that the understanding that "peace is indivisible" and achievable by individuals and that "disgruntled individuals and dissatisfied nations can never promote lasting peace in the world". It also discusses some humanitarian initiatives. 
By the early 1960s, there were students in most large cities, towns and villages in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, and Rajastan, as well as within the Indian communities in South Africa. Meetings were still small and Sri Hans' close relationship with his students continued. In 1963, the first of many large public programs was held in the Ram Lila grounds in New Delhi, reportedly attended by 15,000. In 1964, an event took place on Gandhi Maidan in the heart of old Delhi that attracted even larger crowds. Several ashrams were opened during that time, including a small one in Rajastan and another larger one called Satlok ("Place of Truth") located between Delhi and Hardwar.
In 1965, Sri Hans attended a religious conference in New Delhi's Constitution Club that was chaired by the then Speaker of the India Parliament, Mr. Ayengar. That year Sri Hans took his first flight to visit his students in Jammu, Kashmir.
On July 18, 1966, while visiting a small ashram in Alwar, Sri Hans fell ill, and the same day returned to Delhi by car. It is reported that he died at 3 a.m. the following morning. Three days later, in a procession led by his family and many grieving mahatmas, his ashes were taken to his home in Hardwar. Thirteen days after Sri Hans died, in the traditional event to mark the end of mourning, his youngest son Sant ji (later known as "Maharaji" and recently as Prem Rawat) addressed thousands of grieving students: "Guru Maharaj ji is here and will remain here. He never went away. He is with us. He is within your hearts."
Upon Sri Hans' death in 1966 the leadership of the DLM passed to Prem Rawat (known at that time as Sant ji Maharaj), his youngest son. The family told American reporters during the early 1970s that Sri Hans had been away from home at the time of his death and wrote a letter home to the family essentially naming Prem as his successor.
By 1974, a dispute had arisen as to who was to be his successor. Through legal proceedings against Prem, his eldest son Satpal secured leadership of the DLM in India, declaring that Sri Hans had named him and not Prem as the sole legitimate successor of his father's mission. Satpal also became an Indian politician and head of the Manav Dharam organization, and is considered a satguru by his followers.
Prem Rawat remained in the West promoting inner peace via the "techniques of Knowledge."
"Religion does not mean to surrender to dogmas and religious scriptures or conformity to rituals. But my religion constitutes an abiding faith in the perfect values of truth and the ceaseless attempt to realise them in the innermost part of our nature."
"God has created the human frame for the express purpose of giving man the opportunity of realizing the Divinity."
"Only he is the true teacher [Satguru] who can show what are the religious and social obligations [dharma], show God to you, and give you the Knowledge of the holy name [sat nam]. And he who can give you the Knowledge of this dharma is completely wise. Satguru is the one who has the perfect wisdom. And other than the Satguru no one has the perfect wisdom. Oh! People of the world! Only a perfect avatar with the sixty-four virtues [kalae] can reveal this Knowledge." (Bombay, March 1st,1966) 
- Note: An English translation of this quote that appeared in a book named Satgurudev (1970) and that is very different from the original Hindi, was cited by several scholars (Messer, Glock and Robert N. Bellah|Bellah, and Reender Kranenborg). This translation was used by these scholars to position Hans Ji Maharaj as claiming to be more powerful than Krishna, and reads as follows: "Lord Rama was an incarnation of God who possessed 14 types of divine power. Lord Krishna was an incarnation of God who possessed 26 types of divine power. But I am fully perfect and the master of all the 64 divine powers."
- Hans Ji Maharaj, Ram Navami (Basaki) Festival, Sarojini Nagar, New Delhi, April 1965.
"My name is Hans Ram Singh"
- Hans Jayanti (2000), pp.24-37. DUO, New Delhi, Book published in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Hans Ji Maharaj's birth.
- Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia Handbook of Cults in America , p.143
- Melton, Gordon J. Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America,(1986), pp.141-2 Garland Publishing, ISBN 0-8240-9036-5
Early in life he encountered Sarupapand a guru of the Sant Mat tradition. Though Swarupapand Ji had told his disciples to follow Hans Maharaj Ji, after the guru's death another disciple, Varaganand, claimed the succession and took control of the guru's property.
- Ron Geaves|Geaves, Ron, From Totapuri to Maharaji: Reflections on a Lineage (Parampara), paper delivered to the 27th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Regents Park College, Oxford, 22–24 March 2002
- Hans ji Maharaj, Hans Yog Prakash (1936) (Unknown publisher), New Delhi
- About Shri Satpal Ji Maharaj (2006). Retrieved on 2006-03-06.
- Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions:5th Edition, pp. 890-891
- C.L. Tandon, (secretary of the DLM) Satgurudev Sri Hans ji Maharaj, (1970) Albion Press
- Geaves, Ron, From Divine Light Mission to Elan Vital and Beyond: An Exploration of Change and Adaptation (2004) Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 7, Issue 3, pages 45–62, ISSN 1092-6690 (print), University of California Press.Note: Ron Geaves, a Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader and Chair in religious studies at the University of Chester in England, is a student of Prem Rawat.
- People Weekly Magazine, June 16, 1975.
"Upon the death of her husband, the mission's founder, in 1966, she [Mata ji] endorsed her youngest son, then 8, as 'Perfect Master'"
- Aagaard, Johannes. Who Is Who In Guruism? (1980).
"During the first 6 years of the new movement [DLM] its head was Sri Hans, the father of the young Maharaj ji, who, at the age of 8 years, succeeded his father in 1966."
- Manav Dharam (2006). Retrieved on 2006-03-06.
- Gupta, Mahendra. Hans Puran, (1969) New Delhi