One of Bengal’s greatest religious heroes and social reformers, Swami Vivekananda’s name has become a household word throughout India and is not unknown to the world abroad. Swami Vivekananda is the man whom I like most. His earlier name was Narendranath Dutta, He was born in 1862, in the famous Dutta family at Simla in Calcutta. His father Biswanath Dutta, and his mother Bhubaneswari Debi were devout Hindus of a religious bent of mind. Their virtues took deep roots in their son.
Narendranath was a promising student at school and passed all the examinations with credit. His school career over, he joined General Assemblies College and had his B.A. Degree with Honours in Philosophy. He had a special interest in reading books on philosophy, religion, history, sociology, art and literature. He was also interested in reading Hindu scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas.
About this time his father died, and the family stood face to face with starvation. The young man, now head of the family, worked hard to maintain it. The centre of his interest, however, lay elsewhere. Even from his childhood, he was of a meditative cast of mind. Now he was out on the quest for truth and God. The teachings of various religious leaders failed to satisfy him, and he, at last, went to Sri Ramakrishna Dev of Dakshineswar. Here it was that his quest ended. He was initiated by Sri Ramakrishna and given the name of Vivekananda. Narendranath became a Sannyasi and spent a few years in meditation in the Himalayas.
On the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna Dev in 1886, Swami Vivekananda went about touring all over India. He took it to himself to explain religion from a new angle. He went from place to place for long six years to explain his new humanistic religion. He came to Madras in the course of his tour, when he came to know that a Parliament of religions of the world was going to be held at Chicago in America. He learnt to his great sorrow that no representative of Hinduism had been invited to attend the conference.
Money was raised, and Swamiji went to Chicago. The conference began on September 21, 1893. With great difficulty, Swamiji got permission to address the gathering for five minutes only. Swamiji, however, gave such a spirited and conclusive talk on Hindu religion in course of this very short time that the representatives of the different religions of the world were impressed with the greatness of Hindu religion. On his way back home he visited England. It was now that he met Margaret Noble who later became famous as Sister Nivedita.
Swamiji returned home and on May 1, 1897, founded the Ramakrishna Mission. He set the Belur Math on foot in 1899. It was Swami Vivekananda who made it clear to us all that the essence of religion lies in the service of man. He was not, however, destined to carry out his plan for the spiritual uplift of the people, for death claimed him on July 4, 1902. His short life was crowded with events and full of glory. He is no more with us. But it is not so much his deeds – though his deeds are great enough – but the inspiration he gave that has made him one of the immortals.
Chakravarty Raja Gopalachari, the first Governor-General of Independent India, said, “Vivekananda saved Hinduism and India. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose said that Vivekananda was “the creator of modern India”. Bengali film director Utpal Singh produced a movie called The Light: Swami Vivekananda on the occasion of the hundredth birth anniversary of Vivekananda.