Simple hearted and simple natured, the great spiritual saint Ganesh Prasad Ji Varni was born to his parents Shri Hira Lai and Smt. Ujyari Devi in a middle class Vaishnava family in village Hansera in district Lalitpur (U.P.)
Having religious leanings from his very childhood, he used to visit the Jain temple near his house in Mandawra. Influenced by lectures there, at the small age of 10 years, he took a vow to take meals before sun set through out his life and became a virtual follower of Jainism.
He had started education at the age of 7 years and passed the middle examination at 15. As there were no local arrangements for further studies he could not have higher education. Influenced by his religious nature and opposition to smoking his school teacher had given up the same.
Married at the age of 18 years soon after he lost his father who had deep faith in Namokar Mantra. While dying he impressed upon young Ganesh Prasad to continue strong faith in that. For reason of his having deep faith in Jainism he had to bear the separation of his wife and mother.
After the death of his father, Ganesh Prasad Ji worked as a teacher in various village schools. Fortunately he came into contact with a religious minded lady Chironjabai of Simra through Karorelal Bhaiji, a spiritual man of Jatara. She developed much affection for him and treated him like her son. She was mainly responsible for arranging religious education to him and his spiritual development. She expired in 1926.
Much eager to develop knowledge of Jainism he studied at Jaipur, Khurja, Bombay, Mathura, Varanasi and other places with great difficulty. Because of poverty he had even to starve and sometimes face humiliation. At occasions, whenever he got small money or clothes he shared these with other needy persons or donated them wholly and bore the personal physical discomfort.
His simplicity and devotion to learning had much impressed Pt. Panna Lai Backliwal and Baba Gurdayal at Bombay from where he passed Ratnakarand-shravakachar and Katan- tra-panchsandhiki examinations with merit and virtually inaugurated the Bombay Parik- shalaya. There he also came into contact with Pt. Gopaldas Baraiya. Invited by Baraiyaji he had studied Nyayadipika and Sarvarth- sidhi at Mathura for 2 years. Thereafter he had a thorough study of Nyaya and grammar at Khurja.
In those days the number of learned Jain Pandits was very small and the Brahamin scholars had practically the monopoly over knowledge of literature, Tarka-Nyaya and grammar and were reluctant to easily impart education to Jain students. Even under such circumstances, Varniji got education from Pt. Ambadas Shastri at Kashi and thereafter from learned teachers at Chakauti and Nava- dweep and did his Nyayacharya.
Realising the difficulties in higher religious education to Jains, Varniji strongly felt the necessity of establishing a good Jain educational institution and with the assistance of prominent Jain enthusiasts of the time established the famous Syadwad Mahavidya- laya at Varanasi in 1905 which was inaugurated by Seth Maneck Chand, J.P. of Bombay. He played a prominent part in getting incorporated the Jainological studies in the syllabus of Banaras Hindu University with the help of Pt. Motilal Nehru. He was mainly responsible for the establishment of Satark-Sudhatar- ingini Digamber Jain Pathshala which is now the well known Ganesh Digamber Jain Sanskrit Vidyalaya at Sagar. With his influence, several other educational and religious institutions were established in the country.
He had adopted a life of renunciation and had taken the vow to celebacy (became Varni) and led an extremely simple and aesthetic life dedicating himself absolutely to the propagation of Jain religion and ethics.
Varniji was once travelling by bus from Sagar to Drongiri and had a ticket of the front seat. Asked by the driver to leave his seat to provide place to the Police Inspector, he got a disliking for such dependency and took the vow not to travel by motor, train etc. for the whole of his life.
Varniji adopted 10th Pratima in 1944, became Chullak in 1947 and out of regard was thereafter known as Baba Varni. He travelled extensively in the country for religious and ethical preachings.
He had great love for the country. He had donated his only wearing apparel, the Chadar, at a public meeting held in connection with Azad Hind Army at Jabalpur in 1945. It was immediately auctioned for Rs. 3000/- for the funds of the army.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave had much regard and admiration for him. Saint Mother Anandmayi of Bengal paid him a visit at Varanasi and expressed profound respect for him as a spiritual and ethical saint. Late President Dr. Rajendra Prasad had also met him and expressed respect for him.
Greatly human and a religious preacher, Varniji was extremely kind hearted and a Missionary in true sense. His mission of life was to console the oppressed, propagation of ethics and establishment of human values. He was ideally tolerant. He did great national service by establishing several pathashalas, schools and colleges for religious education.
At the age of 87, revered Varniji had his Samadhi-maran (death) on 5th December, 1961 as a Muni, and was known as 108 Ganeshkirtiji Maharaj, at Isri Udasin Ashram which was established with his inspirations.