Toilets first, temples later: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the delegates during the 125th year of Swami Vivekananda's Chicago address in New Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Paying tributes to Swami Vivekananda on the anniversary of his speech at the World Congress of Religions in Chicago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday juxtaposed it with the 9/11 terror attack in the U.S., saying the World Trade Center tragedy would not have taken place had the message of love and brotherhood of the speech been understood.

The Prime Minister was speaking at a function attended by student groups in Vigyan Bhavan here to mark the anniversary of Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago in 1893.

“Before 2001, the world did not know the significance of 9/11. It is our fault that we forgot the significance of ‘our 9/11’. Had we remembered it, there would have been no 9/11 in 2001,” he said.

“Before the 2001 attacks, there was another 9/11 made famous by a young man from this country, who, wearing saffron robes, entered Chicago. Swami Vivekananda never tired of showcasing India’s culture, talents and qualities. More than being in search of a guru, Swami Vivekananda was in search of the truth.”

Public service

Referring to Vivekananda’s teachings, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that the saint was never afraid to speak his mind and prioritised public service over ritualism.

Pooja paath se Bhagwan nahin miltey, sewa karo toh prabhu prapt hotey hain [you do not come close to God by rituals and prayers, but by serving the people],” the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Modi spoke of his government’s sanitation drive, Swachh Bharat, as an example of ways in which public service and patriotism could be demonstrated.

As Vigyan Bhavan reverberated with chants of Vande Mataram, Mr. Modi said, “Do we even have the right to chant Vande Mataram today? I know my question will hurt some people, but how can we chant Vande Mataram while at the same time soiling the nation with paan [betel] spittle? Those who keep the country clean are the real sons and daughters of the nation.”

“We have to build shauchalaya [toilets] before devalaya [temples],” he added.

Innovation important

Mr. Modi said that Vivekananda was all for innovation and experimentation, and university campuses were the best sites for these.

He asked colleges to hold cultural events to celebrate other States, and added in a light-hearted vein that he was not against celebrating days such as Rose Day (when members of the opposite sex expressed a liking for each other by exchanging roses, a ritual that has come under attack from right-wing groups).

“There is no life without creativity. Let our creativity also strengthen our nation and fulfil the aspirations of our people,” the Prime Minister added.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2020 6:23:25 PM |

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