Born in a pious and religious family in Kerala in the year 1914, he was known as Ramanathan, the second son of a big family consisting of 2 sons and five daughters. The influence of the mother over the boy was very profound in creating spiritual Samskaras in him. At the age of eight, his mother took both her sons on a long pilgrimage for three years, all over India, during which period the young boy had the opportunity of receiving the blessings of many Siddha-purushas and holy saints. After an unsuccessful business-career, he went to Chidambaram, in Tamilnadu, where he came in contact with his music Guru, Sri P. Srinivasa Iyer, who was himself a Naishthika Brahmachari and a saintly soul. He taught him Veena for 12 days after which he asked him to practice on his own, but the Guru's power and grace was such that he soon not only mastered the subtle art but also could connect music with Vedantic thoughts. In order to help his student support his large family, Sri Srinivas Iyer put him in the Cinema field, in which Sri Ramanathan worked for nearly 25 years, in Bombay and Madras. This was more a period of Sadhana for him than earning money. In 1950, he became a member of the Divine Life Society and in 1954; he came to Rishikesh along with his music Guru for Swami Sivanandaji's Darshan. Sivananda asked him to stay here permanently and said that he had been praying to Goddess Saraswati to send a person who could play on the Veena. However, he had to go back to Madras to complete his contracts and other pending works, and joined the Sivananda Ashram in 1956. On the holy Guru Purnima of the Same year, Sivananda gave him Sannyasa and named him Swami Vidyananda.
Since then Swami Vidyananda has been teaching music, Bhajans and Kirtans on the Veena to many students, as an integral part of his Sadhana. He holds an early morning Bhajan class and afternoon study-class in his own room, every day, in which interested Ashramites and derive the much needed peace and solace. His feelingful Bhajans and mastery in Veena have endeared him to countless visitors, who make an annual visit to the Ashram, primarily to recharge themselves with the divine vibrations in his Bhajan-class. His Bhajans are a treat to the souls and many are the foreign students who were enchanted by his soulful songs that wished to take him to their countries. But the Swami is happy and contented with his simple life of Bhajan, Kirtan and study in his tiny room, on the banks of the Ganga, in the holy Ashram of Sri Gurudev, keeping himself in continuous remembrance of the Lord. It is not unusual to see him go into a trance while singing Bhajans and Kirtans.