Shankar Narayan, perhaps the world’s first satvic vegan, shares his path of self-discovery and how he learnt about veganism during the cusp of the launch of the web across the world. For the past 3 decades, he has been creating awareness and quietly paving the way for others to join him on his incredible journey. Here is his story.
Shankar Narayan, the founder of the Satvik Vegan Society firmly believes that Earth is our mother, our home and our haven. However, very few people actually think of giving back to her. As a satvik vegan, he says, “Veganism is a journey, not a destination for me. Every day, I keep learning new things enriching the Earth and my life. To stop to eating animal products is just a beginning of a long journey”. He further quotes that “Vegetarians are prospective vegans and can be present allies of veganism. They also share the same ahimsa philosophy, though in practice they differ. Let’s educate them and take them on our stride. If there is one thing that binds all of us together, it is the feeling of empathy for animals. In spite of the differences and divisions, I respect all vegans for their commitment to not consuming animals’.
About Satvik Vegan Society
Formerly called Indian Vegan Society (IVS), Satvik Vegan Society was founded by Shankar Narayan in 2004, a registered public charitable trust. IVS was renamed Satvik Vegan Society in 2014. Although vegetarianism was always in practice in ancient India, the founder, Shankar Narayan wanted to give importance to other important values in Indian ethos such as Sathya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. They organized several events which brought together and continue to bring together several like-minded people.
Shankar Narayan (born on 1 December 1964) belonged to a lacto-vegetarian family and was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi since childhood. He stopped drinking milk completely in 1989, after reading Gandhiji’s autobiography ‘The Story Of My Experiments With Truth’. While working in the corporate world in Bangalore, as an accountant and administrator, he noticed that Indian corporate workplaces did not have enough food options for vegetarians and instead, they were being made fun of for their food choices. Hence, he started the Indian Vegetarian Association (now defunct) in 1993.
Discovering A New World
While working in Dubai, UAE, from 1996-2001, he did a lot of internet research and came to know about veganism and different vegan societies from all over the world. Following his research, he became vegan on 1 June 2001, consciously and ethically.
Watching PeTA videos and getting to know about cruelty to animals, he wrote a small booklet on veganism in Kannada in 2004 and distributed the same to enlighten like-minded people. This resulted in the formation on the Satvik Vegan Society (formerly called Indian Vegan Society). In the same year the wrote the Kannada page on veganism for the Vegan Passport, a traveller’s companion giving details about veganism in many languages spoken worldwide, published by the UK Vegan Society, then headed by George Rodger and coined the word ‘ahimsaahaari’, Kannada equivalent of the word ‘vegan’.
In 2006, when he was in Goa, he organised PeTA’s ‘Compassionate Citizen ‘events in several schools and a Teacher Training Programme too. He was invited to Dresden, Germany in 2008 for the IVU’s Centenary Congress where he spoke on the origin and history of ‘Veganism In India’. After the event, he travelled to the Head Office of UK Vegan Society and learned about its history and functioning. As part of the tour, he travelled to Cambridge, London, Leicester, Hanovar, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels and Ghent, Amsterdam, Luxemburg, Czech Republic and Dubai to visit some vegan organisations, meet many vegan activists and speak at some events. He travelled to many Asian countries to speak at many vegan events.
He has also travelled extensively within India for FIAPO’s India for Animal Conferences, Ahimsa Parmo Dharma Group’s Ahimsa fests in Mumbai, Indian Association Congresses and many other events as a speaker or to promote veganism.
In the year 2010, he successfully ran a quarterly print publication called ‘Vegan Vegetarian’ for the benefit of the members of SVS for many years.
Gratitude To Mother Earth
Wanting to do more for our Mother Earth, Shankar bought land of about 3 acres in coastal Karnataka in 2008 and developed it as a rain-forest and named it ‘Sthitaprajna’. Today, it is a vibrant forest with several wild animals, birds and reptiles. This is a residence for him and also doubles up as a venue for holding vegan festivals. He has lived alone in the forest without electricity for the first 4 years and most of the last 10 years without telephone or internet. He likes to be called ‘Forest Man’ or ‘Forest Father’ as per a report in a national newspaper. A truly rich tribute to Mother Earth.
Shankar has also been organizing successful vegan festivals since 2004.The international vegan festivals organized by him are ranked one among the 5 most popular vegan events of the world. The next festival, which is the 16th International Vegan Festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. Yet, he constantly keeps motivating and helping transition people interested in veganism.
He is very grateful to all those who have been with him in this long and winding journey which was at times stressful and tiring. He concludes with a sense of gratification for taking the plunge as he had their support.
All vegan promotion activities are greatly appreciated and allowed by our respected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and most of our religious leaders and spiritual gurus. All this is greatly helping to pave the way for a vegan world.
Shankar reflects, “It has been a long, long journey. Though I haven’t achieved anything in relation to the problem I am addressing, holding the fort against all odds is a satisfactory feeling. Now that the youngsters are leading the charge, I can look back and feel relieved. Though a lot of people are working tirelessly to make veganism reach the unending ocean of people now, I have my role cut out. I will keep motivating people and help transition them towards veganism.”
Shankar has constructed a view tower in his forest hideout and welcomes all to enjoy the panoramic view of the Sthitaprajna forest. He often shares photos of his delicious plant-based meals regularly on social media.
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