The recently constructed magnificent memorial at Kundhukal in Rameswaram island, where Swami Vivekananda landed on his return after attending the Parliament of World Religions at Chicago in 1893 and a series of lectures in the US and England, has turned out to be a major attraction for tourists.
It was constructed under the public-private participation concept. While the Department of Tourism contributed Rs.47 lakh, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Thirupparaidurai in Tiruchi district spent Rs.60 lakh by collecting donation from philanthropists. It was built on a 5-acre land donated by the Maraikayar family of Mandapam.
It was on the 26th January, 1897, Swami Vivekananda returned to India by a steamer from Sri Lanka after undertaking a historic tour to western countries and spoke at various universities, institutions on India, its culture, people, Hinduism and other things. The memorial constructed at a cost of Rs.1.10 crore was to portray his return from the USA.
The towering building with the background of sea attracts the Rameswaram bound pilgrims and tourists when they drive on Pamban road bridge, another architectural marvel in the region.
It automatically induces them to visit the memorial, which has a huge statue of Swami Vivekananda, his messages, ideals, principles, museum and silence hall. A statue of Bhaskara Sethupathy, erstwhile Raja of Ramnad, who played a key role in sending him to the USA, has also been installed in memory of his great service. Since it is situated on the bank of the Gulf of Mannar, it has given value addition to the beautiful beach too.
“The elegant building has not only spread the ideals of Swami Vivekananda, the seashore location gives relaxation to the visitors and tourists,” says A.R. Kurki of Bangalore. “Though the visitors have to spend a lot on transportation to visit the memorial, which attracts an average of 600 visitors during holidays, the number is triple time than those visiting the Vivekananda Bhaskaran, a small building where Swami Vivekananda also stayed, in the Rameswaram bus stand,” said Swami Shuddhananda, Head, Ramakrisha Mutt, Rameswaram.
He said the State tourism department had sent a proposal to create additional facilities for tourists such as children park, waiting room, rest rooms, garden at a cost of Rs.3 crore. There was also a talk of operating a boat by the forest department at a cost of Rs.8 crore from Mandapam to Kundhukal as part of an eco-tourism initiative. If they were materialized it would become the top tourism in the region.