Swami Vivekananda needs no introduction. His contribution to spreading Indian culture and education is remarkable. He was born on 12th January 1863 in West Bengal. His parents named him Narendranath Dutta, but later, he got recognized as Swami Vivekananda. He was a Hindu monk and philosopher who traveled across regions to spread Indian teachings of Vedanta and Yoga. Vivekananda worked towards the promotion of the Hindu religion during the 19th century. As he grew older, he became the chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He founded organizations like Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission.
Swami Vivekananda was born in Calcutta in an aristocratic family. However, he was inclined towards spirituality from a young age. He developed an interest in spirituality after coming in contact with Ramakrishna. He considered him a guru and came close to him after the demise of his father. Ramakrishna taught Vivekananda that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self. This made him believe that he can serve God only when he renders selfless service to humankind. After the death of his mentor, Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda traveled the Indian subcontinent and closely monitored the conditions prevailing in British India. He also traveled to the United States to represent India at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religion. He gave a splendid speech at that Parliament. His speech started with the words “Sisters and Brothers of America.”
Vivekananda traveled to various other countries like England and parts of Europe to spread the knowledge and teachings of the Hindu religion.
Vivekananda’s father, Vishwanath Datta, was an attorney at the Calcutta High Court. His grandfather was a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit. His mother was a religious lady who took care of the household chores. The religious nature of his mother and the rational attitude of his father shaped the personality of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda started his early education in 1871. He was enrolled in Metropolitan Institute which was managed and run by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He attended that school for six years until his family moved to Raipur in 1877. However, his family did not stay long in Raipur and moved back to Calcutta after two years. Then, Vivekananda took admission to the Presidency College. He was the only student to achieve first-division marks in the entrance examination of the college.
Vivekananda had a great interest to learn various subjects. He was an avid reader with an interest in subjects like philosophy, religion, history, social science, art, and literature. He was an all-rounder with an interest in music, sports, and western education. He did an undergraduate course in Arts in 1884.
Meeting with Ramakrishna
Swami Vivekananda first met Ramakrishna in 1881. Later, Ramakrishna became the spiritual focus of Vivekananda after the death of his father. Both of them met at a formal meeting where Ramakrishna asked young Vivekananda to sing. After listening to his song, Ramakrishna was mesmerized by his voice and invited him to Dakshineswar. The meeting at Dakshineswar was a turning point in the life of young Vivekananda.
Initially, Swami Vivekananda was not influenced by the thoughts and wisdom of Ramakrishna. He found his vision absurd and opposed his ideas of idol worship. However, he was attracted to Ramakrishna’s personality and used to visit him daily in Dakshineswar.
Founding of the first Ramakrishna Math
Swami Vivekananda led the foundation stone of the first Ramakrishna Math in Baranagar. The monastery was established to give a home to the disciples of Ramakrishna. The rent of the monastery was collected through the way of ‘holy begging’. Vivekananda and other disciples of Ramakrishna dedicated most of their time to meditation and religious austerities in that monastery.
After the death of Ramakrishna, the motive of Swami Vivekananda was to spread his knowledge of the Hindu religion to other parts of the world. He traveled within and outside the geographical boundaries of the Indian subcontinent to spread the wisdom of Hinduism. He also wrote various books to unfurl his understanding of Vedas and other concepts related to Indian culture.
Swami Vivekananda’s birthday is observed as National Youth Day in India. Every year this day is celebrated on the 12th of January. He is a source of inspiration for every student.
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