Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu Maharaj (1895-1945) was born on 28th October 1895 to Shri Keshav Dikshit and Smt. Muktabai, Shri Martand Manik Prabhu’s sister. He was nurtured by Shri Martand Manik Prabhu in the environment of the Sampradaya from his very childhood. He ascended the holy Peetha of Shri Prabhu as the fourth Acharya of Shri Manik Prabhu Samsthan. It was no easy task to succeed an awesomely great personality like Shri Martand Manik Prabhu Maharaj and to prove one’s worth in providing the right kind of spiritual and temporal leadership to the Samsthan. He proved successful on all fronts. He won the hearts of one and all by his immensely adorable personality, his proficiency in the study of the scriptures and Vedantic literature, and above all, his modern vision of the Samsthan as an organization committed to the cause of education and social development.
He had all the opportunity for sharing the vast vision of his predecessor and when the latter was on tour, the entire administration of Maniknagar was left to the able hands of Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu. Under the guidance of Shri Martand Manik Prabhu, he had all the opportunity for doing the Sadhana, which for him was as imperceptible as breathing itself.
When Shri Martand Manik Prabhu inducted him in the administration of the Samsthan, he took his work itself to be his worship. He seemed to have imbibed unknowingly the precept of the Lord in Gita (IX.34), On Me fix your mind; to Me be devoted; worship Me; revere Me; thus having disciplined yourself, with Me as your goal. You shall surely come to Me. The day Shri Martand Manik Prabhu assigned him his work, that became his goal, which became his worship and that also became his divinity.
Shri Martand Manik Prabhu had a special affection for this boy. He had given him all the education. He studied law and qualified as a High Court Pleader. In selecting him as the administrator, Shreeji could not have made a better choice to take care of the changing times. A lifetime of spiritual and temporal induction made him an exceptional choice for the Gadi.
He authoritatively took charge of the affairs, yet there was no trace of arrogance in him. On taking over the Gadi, the personality of Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu changed dramatically. His inbuilt humility endeared him to all. He had no unkind word for anybody. Even when he disagreed, it would be couched in the mildest of words. He had identified with Shri Manik Prabhu’s ideal to the fullest extent and he knew the role which had been assigned to him. He was a scholar and had studied all the scriptures. His philosophical essays show the depth of his assimilation of the basic principles of Advaita philosophy. He was a regular contributor to Tattvadnyan Mandir a monthly magazine dedicated to philosophy published by the Indian Institute of Philosophy at Amalner in Maharashtra. He had also cultivated a considerable interest in Astrology, Medicine, and Music.
One may say that after the dominating personality of Shri Martand Manik Prabhu, the period of Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu came like a breather, to consolidate the vision of Shri Martand Manik Prabhu but those who had come to know him closely were impressed by his immense organizational capability, but for which the entire edifice so devotedly raised by Shri Martand Manik Prabhu would not have been sustained. It was possible that this was fully realized by Shri Martand Manik Prabhu himself and that was the reason for his being designated as the successor to the Gadi.
Consequently, he created a new awareness among the devotees of Maniknagar. The number of devotees visiting Maniknagar increased. He was available to everyone. None would return without meeting him and receiving his blessings. His interest in education made him start a school in Maniknagar, where, along with modern education, the emphasis was also given to religious, ethical and cultural education. The school was named Manik Vidyalaya and Shreeji took a personal interest in the day to day affairs of the school. There is nothing like the all-around development of human personality. His emphasis, therefore, was to impress the devotees visiting Maniknagar that the place was a Shakti-Sthala, the centre of energy from where each one could draw his energy. It is more important that one should also intellectually understand the Message given by Shri Manik Prabhu and assimilate it into one’s daily life. He had made his own life the symbol of humility, which is born out of the wisdom of the Universality of the Supreme Self. Therefore, he would encourage intelligent discussion on the teachings of the previous Peethadhipatis.
Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu undertook extensive tours and travels to propagate the message of Shri Prabhu’s Sampradaya. Where ever he went he was received with great love, devotion, respect, and honour. His tours to Raichur, Narayanpeth, Bhongeer, Yadgeer, and Tandur have a very special significance in the history of Manik Prabhu Samsthan.
Shri Shankar Manik Prabhu was, however, not destined to lead the Sampradaya for long. His innumerable duties which were assigned to him from his very childhood had tired him physically. While the spirit in him rose to fulfil the role assigned to him, his body could not sustain the ravages of time. When the time came for him to leave on the 28th of February 1945, he already had a son Shri Siddharaj, who was hardly six years of age, whom he left to the loving care of his wife and the compassionate grace of Shri Manik Prabhu.