The man who is galvanising an entire nation against graft was himself inspired by a Hindu monk who preached the message of Indian spirituality to the world. Books on Swami Vivekanada are flying off the shelves in Himachal Pradesh after Anna Hazare repeatedly referred to the philosopher-saint as the guiding light of his life.
"I have specially purchased the book, Vivekananda: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda to understand the ultimate motives of human life," Parul Sood, a management student at Himachal Pradesh University, told IANS.
"As one book has changed the entire life of Anna -- from an ordinary soldier to a crusader against corruption, I am also trying to find out answers to my questions, mainly on aims of a human being, in the book," she said.
Anna Hazare, whose real name is Kisan Baburao Hazare, joined the army as a driver in 1963 at the age of 25 through an emergency recruitment drive. During the 1965 India-Pakistan war, his vehicle came under heavy aerial fire, killing all its occupants except him.
This incident was to leave an indelible impression on his mind, sparking his curiosity in spirituality and questions of life and death.
It was during this phase, when he even contemplated suicide, that he came across a slim book on Swami Vivekananda at a book stall in the New Delhi railway station.
Hazare credits his personal "rebirth" to reading the book, which made him realise Vivekanada's message that "that serving the poor means serving God".
"Biographies on Swami Vivekananda have been much in demand since the town joined Anna's movement against corruption. I have sold more than 20 books in less than a week against an average sale of one or two such books in a month. Even biographies on Mahatma Gandhi are in demand," said Ashok Kumar Kinger of Asia Book Depot, one of the oldest stores here. He has ordered additional stocks.
"Everyone is asking for a book on Swami Vivekananda. Even the tourists are also buying the books. I have sold five copies of Vivekananda: World Teacher in the past one week," book seller Ashok Sharma of Ashok News Agency said.
Steve Daves, a tourist from the US holidaying here, said he's scouting for a book on Vivekananda's teachings.
"I read a number of books on Bapuji (Mahatma Gandhi). Some of them are really eye-openers. Now I am looking for a book on Swami Vivekananda. All the book stores here have sold their stock, but hopefully I will get one in Delhi," he said.
Ramesh Thakur of Thakur Book Store located near the campus of Himachal Pradesh University told IANS: "Besides biographies, books on inspirational teachings are much sought after. These days we are daily selling three to four such books and the buyers are mostly university students."
Lawan Thakur, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, who has led an agitation in Mandi town since Hazare went on his hunger strike, said: "We are motivating the locals, especially youth, to go through Vivekananda's influential messages on spiritual democracy, spiritual humanism and world unity. This will help in understanding more about humanity."