Kolkata, Oct 31: Swami Vidyanandaji Mahan Maharaj alias Mahan Mitra is a monk with the Ramakrishna Mission order and he has been awarded this year's Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award for mathematics, the highest academic honour for science in India.
The 45-year-old is fluent in English, Hindi and Bengali.
Born Mahan Mitra, he studied in St Xavier's Collegiate School till Class XII and cracked IIT-JEE to enter the prestigious IIT Kanpur to study electrical engineering.
Soon, he realized that he was not enjoying this field of study and changed to mathematics.
After completing his MSc, he went to University of California, Berkeley. After coming back from US, he renounced the world and became a monk.
Since the day the award was announced, the Ramkrishna Mission Vivekananda University has been flooded with phone calls and visitors from the media trying to meet this brilliant mathematician who has been working with hyperbolic geometry and topology for nearly two decades now.
The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award comprises a citation, a plaque, and a cash award of Rs. five lakhs. In addition recipients also get Rs 15,000 per month up to the age of 65 years.
“Maharaj has been exploring properties of geometrical spaces that do not change when they are stretched or pulled or twisted,” said Harish Seshadri, a mathematician at IISc, Bangalore, who has collaborated with the monk in a forthcoming research paper on multi-dimensional geometrical spaces.
Mahan Maharaj, who teaches MSc students and takes course work for PhD students, joined the RK Mission institution in 1998 after a PhD from the UCB. “This is a joyful day for us,” said the university's vice-chancellor, Swami Atmapriyananda.
Swami Atamapriyananda said the award to Mahan Maharaj should also be seen as a tribute to the vision of Swami Vivekananda who had more than a century ago thought of an institution that could maintain ancient Indian wisdom and pursue research in the natural and humanistic sciences.