“Sisters and brothers of America….” — these famous opening words of Swami Vivekananda in his speech at the World Congress of Religions on September 11, 1893, in Chicago in the U.S. along with his inspiring call, “Arise awake…and stop not till the goal is reached,” set the patriotic tone as Madurai remembered two great souls — Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi — on Tuesday.

Of late September 11 is remembered more for the terrorist attack on World Trade Centres in the U.S. But, it was on this day that the Hindu monk Vivekananda made his famous speech in Chicago, introducing the essence of tolerance and universalism, and went on to receive a standing ovation. His patriotism and the way in which he aroused the spirit of India more than a century ago were recalled as a 6.5-feet high majestic bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda was unveiled on the campus of Madurai Institute of Social Sciences in the city.

“By seeing this statue everyday, you will be inclined towards knowing about Hinduism, India’s culture, values, heritage, and patriotism. It was Swami Vivekananda who awakened our country at a time when it was struggling with poverty and illiteracy. In fact, it was he who laid the foundation for India’s freedom struggle,” said Swami Kamalatmananda, president, Sri Ramakrishna Mutt, Madurai, after unveiling the statue.

The influence of Swami Vivekananda on Mahatma Gandhi in his approach towards freedom movement was explained to college students. “Gandhiji himself had said that his patriotic feelings increased manifold after meeting Swami Vivekananda. Same was the case with other freedom fighters such as Netaji, Rajaji, and Tagore. It was Vivekananda who laid the foundation for modern India,” he said.

Pointing out the significance of the famous Chicago speech, Swami Kamalatmananda said that it was only a four-minute speech of 15 sentences, 473 words and yet it could capture world attention.

“We all should read his writings and listen to his speeches. Swami Vivekananda always advocated that renunciation and service are our national goals. He believed in the greatness of Hinduism and said that India will provide wisdom to the world. Through his speeches, he could make such an impact that he was called to speak for 19 times in the World Congress of Religions during his three-week stay in Chicago,” he said.

He spoke about Swami Vivekananda’s visits to Kanyakumari, Rameswaram, Madurai, Puducherry, and Chennai.

P. Namperumalsamy, president, Aravind Eye Care System, urged the youth to lead a disciplined life and imbibe the spirit of great patriots. “Positive attitude, creativity, self- confidence, determination, perseverance, education, energy, courage, hard work, and the ability to stand like a rock during tough times will lead to success. You can do what you want to do only if you have the will to do,” he told the students.

K. Rajendran, sculptor and faculty member at the Government College of Architecture and Sculpture, said that it took one-and-a-half years to complete the statue and much time was taken to carve the eyes of Swami Vivekananda.

S. Seetharaman of Vishwas Promoters, and D.V.P. Raja, founder-Chairman, Madurai Institute of Social Sciences, spoke on the how Swami Vivekananda showed India’s greatness to the world through his lectures, discourses, and teachings.

G. Natchiar, vice-president, Aravind Eye Care System, and D.V. Dharmasingh, secretary, college governing council, were among those present.

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