Swami Vivekananda: The monk who represented the ‘real India’ abroad

The yogi behind the renaissance of Hinduism


News - India & You

January 12, 2017

/ By / Kolkata


Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893

The strength of the youth and the iron mettle of character that Swami Vivekananda was so vocal about are perhaps still connecting the Indians situated abroad – a tribute to the mystic yogi who exhibited the finer aspects of the Indian culture to the world.

The 154th birth anniversary of Narendranath Dutta, the social reformer, and a great spiritual leader marks the relevance of a powerful youth population that still remains a point of inspiration for the Indian diaspora. Better known as Swami Vivekananda and universally accepted as the youth icon of India, his vision of a ‘universal religion’ provides a strong point of reference for people trying to connect to the real India.

In 1893, a nameless monk walked into a hall in Chicago that was holding the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Famously starting his address with, “Sisters and brothers in America…”, Swami Vivekananda can be easily gratified as the pioneer who single-handedly brought a renaissance of Hinduism in India. He was the man for whom the western part of the planet got introduced to terms such as Vedanta (the ancient scripts of India) and Yoga, now a major lifestyle and wellness activity.

While Mahatma Gandhi is considered the face of the Indian diaspora and India celebrates his homecoming on January 9 as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Vivekananda was highly regarded as Gandhi’s contemporary. Praising his patriotism and the monumental body of work he did in his short life (died in 1902 when he was only 39), Gandhi had said, “I have gone through his works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country grew a thousand-fold.”

India celebrates the National Youth Day on the birth anniversary of Vivekananda. Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi paid tribute to Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary, stating, “We offer salutations to the great Swami Vivekananda and remember his powerful thoughts and ideas that continue shaping the minds of generations.”

Allegories that depicted the strength of character in this India are discussed all over the world. One of those profusely discussed incidents which have probably risen to the standard of a fable would be: Once a British gentleman rebuked Vivekananda and asked why he shouldn’t dress normally like a gentleman. Vivekananda replied saying that in your culture, the dress makes gentlemen while in our culture it is the character.”

As Indians based out of the country draw pride and inspiration from this mystic monk, the body of work he has left behind remains a testimony of spiritual and patriotic confluence connecting India to those hearts longing for the air of real India abroad.

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