My association with the Ramakrishna Math,Madras is now 2 decades old.I was part of the first batch of Bala Mandir,an initiative by the Math to help children grow into better individuals by inculcating values in them through personality development classes, a venture that is still running. The program helps children learn more about our glorious past and history. Excerpts from various religious texts like the Gita and Upanishads are taught and their meaning and the lessons to be learnt from them explained. The classes also draw a lot from the life and teachings of the Holy Trinity-Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.This venture, started in 1989 was initially held only during the summer vacations but later developed into an all round the year program being held every Sunday.
I was fascinated by the life of Swami Vivekananda,a personality whom I first learnt about through these classes and from whose life and teachings I still draw inspiration from.
Swami Vivekananda had a special place in his heart for the city of Madras and its people who played a active part in him making the trip to America to participate in the Parliament of World Religions in 1893.He made 2 visits to the city of Madras, one in 1893 as a wandering monk and the other in 1897 as a celebrity which marked his triumphant return from the West.
Mention Swami Vivekananda in Madras and the first thing that comes to everyone's mind is the Ice House where he lived for 9 days(6th February to 14th of February 1897).But quite a few other places in Madras were blessed by his presence.An example is the Victoria Public Hall near the Central Railway Station from where he delivered about 3-4 lectures.
My good friend Mr.V.Sriram (the brain behind several theme based heritage walks in the city) suggested way back in January that we could present a walk which covered some, if not all places connected with Swami Vivekananda's two visits to Madras. A good amount of research work followed as places that people had not heard about or knew had a Vivekananda connection had to be identified.For example,the site on Santhome High Road(No.22,Santhome High Road) where a house stood in which Swami Vivekananda stayed as a guest of a Bengali gentleman during his 1893 visit.The culmination of the research work was the heritage walk titled "Swami Vivekananda's Madras" which was jointly led by me and Mr.Sriram on August 23rd 2009, as a part of the Madras Week Celebrations.
Joining us on the walk was Swami Athmashraddhananda, Editor of Vedanta Kesari(an English monthly spiritual magazine of the Ramakrishna Math,Madras in circulation from 1914)and the person behind a wonderful book which was released in July 2009 covering in detail Swami Vivekananda's 9 stay in Madras in 1897.The walk was covered by him the November Issue of the Vedanta Kesari.The link is:
November Issue of Vedanta Kesari
(Please see page 413)
The places connected with Swami Vivekananda in Madras are as follows:
1.Rahmat Bagh-A house in Santhome High Road (No.22,Santhome High Road)where he stayed in 1893 as a guest of Manmathanath Bhattacharya,the first Indian Accountant General of Madras.
2.Patters Gardens-Residence of Lodd Govindoss, a wealthy Gujarati gentleman whose house he visited in 1897.
3.The Hindu Theological High School on Mint Street(where he presided over a function)
4.Sashi Vilas,the residence of Dr.M.C.Nanjunda Rao-the famous doctor philanthropist of Mylapore whom he visited before his American visit.
5.Victoria Public Hall from where he delivered 3-4 lectures in 1897.
6.The Pachaiyappa's Hall from where he delivered a lecture.
7.The Egmore Railway Station where he was accorded a rousing welcome on his arrival in 1897.
8.The Ice House where he stayed as a guest of Biligiri Iyengar,a lawyer from Mysore whose residence it was in 1897.