September 11 has a historical significance for Indians, even after 125 years. Not only for India but a memorable day in the religious and cultural history of humanity as well. It was on this day in 1893 that the unknown monk of India, Swami Vivekananda delivered the first of his epoch making six addresses on the august stage of World Parliament of Religions held at Chicago. When he began his talk with ‘Sisters and Brothers of America’ instantly, there was a deafening applause for full two minutes. Because, it was not just the words, but the intense feeling of oneness permeating his heart that really touched the hearts of the noble gathering. Since then he has become an icon, particularly to the Indian youth who seek to serve the society.
To get a first hand experience of the conditions that prevailed in the country in 1890, Swami Vivekananda travelled all over India. During this journey, the itinerant monk came to Belgaum on October 15, 1892. For the first three days he stayed with a well-known lawyer Sadashiva Balakrishna Bhate and the next nine days with a sub-divisional forest officer Haripada Mitra. His house is preserved well and is part of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama since June 2000. From Belgaum, Swamiji went to Marmagoa where he stayed for three days in a Seminary and studied all the old works in Latin and some ancient manuscripts.
From Marmagoa, Swamiji went by train to Dharwad, and then came to Bangalore in November 1892. It is said that in the initial days he stayed in a choultry in Tulsi Thota (Tulsi garden) in the old Majestic area.
There was a big Kalyani, a water tank here. During those days many yogis used to frequent this tank. Swamiji also came here and used to sit for sometime on a platform with a long stone slab on it, attached to the house of one Mr. Sugappa. The inmates were attracted by his splendid personality. Later, when Swamiji was globally known due to his talks at the World Parliament of Religions, the local newspapers carried his pictures. It was only then the family members realised that the monk was none other than Swami Vivekananda. Since then, their veneration for the stone doubled and continued for the subsequent generations too. Recently, when they wanted to construct a new building, they handed over the stone slab to Ramakrishna Math, Bull Temple Road. Today, in the Math premises the sacred stone slab is placed with Swamiji’s statue on it in a beautifully built vault. It has been a spot of inspiration for thousands of devotees, specially the youth.
While in Bangalore, Swamiji also stayed with Dr. Palpu the Sanitary Engineer of the then Mysore State. It was not long before, Swamiji became acquainted with Sir K. Sheshadri Iyer, the Dewan of Mysore State. A few minutes conversation was sufficient to impress the great statesman of the fact that the young Sanyasi before him possessed ‘a magnetic personality and a divine force which were destined to leave their mark on the history of this country’. Swamiji was the Dewan’s guest for a few days at his house in Mysore city.
Soon, the Dewan introduced Swamiji to the Maharaja of Mysore, Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar .The Maharaja was so impressed with him at the very first sight that immediately he became his admirer and ordered that he should be treated as a state guest. He made arrangements for his stay at the Palace itself wishing to have better and more opportunities for talks and closer intimacy with him . He sought Swamiji’s advice on many important matters of administration. The Maharaja of Mysore encouraged and helped Swamiji to some extent in his visit to USA to attend the Parliament of World Religions.
Swamiji had great hope on the young Maharaja of Mysore. In fact, after his grand success at the Parliament of Religions, Swamiji writes a letter from Chicago to Chamaraja Wadiyar. Acknowledging the help given by the Maharaja, he at length gives a vivid picture of the various aspects of the life in the west and compares the same with the prevailing conditions in our country. In the end, he writes, “My noble Prince, this life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive.”
Swami Vivekananda had great expectations from the Maharaja of Mysore. This noble friendship would have had far reaching benevolent effects on our state. But, unfortunately, Sri Chamaraja Wadiyar died in 1894. Then, Swamiji writes to one of his disciples: ‘The Maharaja of Mysore is dead — one of our greatest hopes.’
In fact, a meeting was organised in Central College,Bangalore in August 1894, to thank the people of America for the way in which they had responded to Swami Vivekananda’s message at the Parliament of Religions. Dewan Sri Sheshadri Iyer spoke to the elite of Bangalore gathered there. Swamiji writes separate letters to his close associate Alasinga Perumal and Dewan Sheshadri Iyer expressing his regard for Mysore State.
Swamijis visit to Bangalore in 1892 laid a very strong foundation for the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Movement which has made Bangalore globally known.
This is a fortnightly column on Bangalore