Vagbhatananda was born in 1885 near to Thalassery in Kerala, India. Vagbhatananda was an erudite scholar, reformer, organiser, journalist and nationalist. His authority was the ancient wisdom of Hinduism, not the dogmatism of theology.
He was given the name V. K. Gurukkal, he was educated in the traditional gurukkal system, through which he gained a proficiency in scriptures and philosophy. Following this, according to the historian K. K. N. Kurup, he travelled widely to propagate “the teachings of universal non-duality for a better and egalitarian society.” His oratorical abilities led to him being given the name of Vagbhatananda by a swami named Brahmananda Sivayogi.
At some time after 1898, Vagbhatananda founded a school teaching Sanskrit in Calicut, where he also took interest in the work of the Brahma Samaj that had been founded there that year by Ayyathan Gopalan.
In 1920, Vagbhatananda founded the Atmavidya Sangham, whose principles he outlined in an Advaita treatise titled Atmavidya. Unlike the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP), which had been established by Narayana Guru and was significant around the same time, the Atmavidya Sangham comprised mostly professional and intellectual people and it had a more secular approach to reform.
The significance of the Atmavidya Sangham declined after his death, being superseded by other secular-oriented reform groups such as the Karshaka Sangham that adopted its agenda. However, it was still active in the 1980s. Vagbhatananda inspired the formation of Uralungal Labor Contract Co-operative Society in 1925.