Today I woke up to read that Mahan Maharaj of Belur Math won the highest honor of mathematics in India "Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award". Mahan Maharaj is a Monk at Belur Math in Kolkata, set up by another great spiritualist, Swami Vivekananda. I have been going to this ashram for many years, as its very close to Dakshineshwar temple which I visit regularly and found the environment full of energy and peace. Probably that is why this Monk, could find inner peace to do, what he is passionate about - Solving Mathematical problems. It’s interesting to note that his focus lead him to this place, whereas after enviable degrees from IIT, University of California... he could have been living an easy corporate life in the most urban and beautiful places in the world.
Here is the story about this monk in the news paper Times of India - Chennai Edition
GENIUS IN ROBES
Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey TNN
...Mahan Maharaj has been awarded this year’s Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award for mathematics, the highest academic honour in the country. This is the first time that any monk has won the award.
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. However, Mahan Maharaj has been completely elusive, denying interviews for which he is at the same time shy and apologetic. On Thursday afternoon, TOI caught him off guard. With the sun streaming in from the west into his cubicle, Maharaj sat at his computer. “How can I tell you what I have done to receive this award within the span of an interview? I have worked at certain mathematical problems for nearly 18 years and it is not possible to sum it up in layman’s language,” came the somewhat exasperated reply when asked about his work.
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 IITJEE to enter the prestigious IIT Kanpur to study electrical engineering. Soon, he realized that he was not enjoying this field and changed to mathematics. After completing his MSc, he went to University of California, Berkeley. And when he returned to Kolkata with an enviable set of degrees, he renounced the world and became a monk.
He joined the Ramkrishna Mission order in 1998 and graduated to monkhood in 2008.
Does the award bring him any ‘satisfaction’? “It’s my work that brings me satisfaction. I just want to keep doing sums till the end. The award is incidental. There’s so much to be done that one lifetime is not enough. In my lifetime, I will be able to learn only a small fraction of mathematics,” says Maharaj .
After such an illustrious career, why did Mahan Mitra choose to be a monk? “Perhaps because I wanted to find the peace to work away at mathematical problems!” he laughs, easing off at last. “I am enjoying being a monk as much as I enjoy my mathematics,” he adds, good humouredly. Maharaj travels all over the world collaborating with mathematicians and lecturing students.
Story curtsy: Times Of India - Click here to read...
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Om Namah Shivaya
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