Prabhudayal Vidyarthi (1925–1977), aka Prabhu Dayal Vidyarthi, was an Indian independence activist, Gandhian, writer, social worker and politician. He heard Mahatma Gandhi speaking of a "Free India" in 1935 and later was a close aide of his. He followed Thakkar Bapa from Uska, in Basti district, to be with Gandhi, who was perplexed to see such a young boy wanting to fight for freedom and took him in at Segaon, Wardha and personally tutored him.
Vidyarthi was arrested in 1942 at Sevagram, Wardha by the British at the outset of the Quit India Movement. He was immediately put in an isolation cell and tortured. A postcard was issued to honour his arrest. He wrote his first book on Gandhi during his jail term.
After India's independence from British rule, Prabhudayal returned to his village and started working with local villagers at the behest of Gandhi. He convinced local zamindars (landlords) to help farmers get their land back. Many attempts to kill him were made as this did not go well with zamindars. In 1951-52, Jawaharlal Nehru asked him to contest in the first Indian General Elections.
He was the youngest member of Sevagram Wardha. He was also the youngest person elected to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh in the first Indian general election. He is widely known as "Purvanchal ke Gandhi" as he was the only person from Purvanchal (Eastern UP), to have lived with Gandhi. He returned to Purvanchal only after India had attained freedom.
He died, aged 52, on 7 September 1977, due to heart failure at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
Vidyarthi wrote many articles and books on Gandhi, the last being Devdoot Gandhi. He also wrote a book on Mahadev Desai, assistant to Gandhi, named Bapu ke Mahadev and Sevagram based on the Ashram life. His work was mainly published by The Pustak Bhandar in Laheriasarai. His articles on general topics would regularly appear in The Hindu, Harijan, Bal Sakha, and other publications. He also did some translation work for C. F. Andrews. His work can be found in CIET archives and the National Library, New Delhi.
"Banganga Barrage" and "Banganga Canal Major Irrigation Project" (1953–56) were his initial contribution to help the farmers in the area. "Banganga Canal Major Irrigation Project" was completed in three years. A 45 km canal was constructed to irrigate 23,000 acres of land, in conjunction with other extensive public work campaign resulting in construction of barrage and roads to connect villages etc. immediately after Independence. "Banganga Barrage" is a serene place and is known in his name as a tribute to him.
A postcard with his picture was issued to honor him immediately by Sevagram, after his arrest in connection with "Quit India Movement". |image = wikipedia/en/a/a1/Postcard_Prabhu_dayal_Vidyarthi_1942.png|thumbnail|right|Prabhu dayal Vidyarthi pls see ticket 2014112810003291]]
The bridge on Farenda Naugarh-Barhni Shravasti Road, Siddharth Nagar, UP is named "Prabhu Dayal Vidyarthi Van Ganga Bridge" to honor his memory.