Swami Vivekananda: January 12,1863 – July 4, 1902

The wandering monk in Swamiji was very fond of Varanasi. Though he didn’t spend a long stretch of his life in Varanasi, the mysticism of Varanasi found a great admirer in the great visionary, the ascetic miracle ofIndia, and of humanity, and the experiences, the teachings, the learning, that he had in Varanasi, always echoed in his teaching throughout his life.

He was pulled by Varanasi’s spiritual heritage and its hermitic tradition. When he began on his itinerary, on his pilgrimage, to know and experience more, after his Guru, his Master, Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa attainted Maha-Nirvana, Varanasi was always a priority.

He visited Varanasi in 1890, during his itinerant time before the Parliament of the World Religions inChicago in1893 and in 1902, the year he took Mahasamadhi.

Volume 1 of the book ‘The Life of Swami Vivekananda: By His Eastern and Western Disciples’ published by the Advaita Ashrama’ expresses it beautifully.

“Coming now to such details as we have of his extended pilgrimages, the first of these was Varanasi, the home of monks, the centre of learning and the Seat of Shiva. He set out from the Baranagore Math, accompanies by Premananda and Fakirbabu, a lay devotee of the Master. The sacred Ganga, the praying votaries, the numerous temples, especially those of Vishwanath, Annapurna and Durga, the atmosphere of holiness, the thought that it was here that the Buddha and Shri Sankara had preached – all these made a vivid impression on him.”

He was expressive about his yearning for the city. In his works, he writes emphatically about Varanasi, the holy city of Hinduism, the spiritual Capital of India and the eternal city of the Indian civilization.

The book writes: “Often he would resolve to go to Varanasi and spend time in the sacred city ofVishwanath. He wrote in a letter - my idea is to remain there (Varanasi) for some time and to watch how Vishwanath and Annapurna deal it out to my lot. And my resolve is something like ‘either to lay down my life or realize my ideal’ – so help me, Lord of Kashi.”

While on pilgrimage with his brother-monks, he left Delhi alone in 1889 to explore the Northern India andVaranasi was an important part of it. While in Varanasi, going with the name Swami Vividishananda, the ascetic in him found good company during his stay at the Dwarkadas Ashrama, and in Pandit and writer Bhudev Mukhopadhyay and Saint Trailanga Swami, to discuss and meditate over the questions, the spiritual themes and the answers on the existential realms.

After 1890, he again came back to the city in 1902, after his second visit to the West. By this time, from an unknown monk he had become a globally known great spiritual soul, a pride of India. During this visit to the city, he became the force behind the evolution of an organization ‘the Home of Service—Sevashrama’ from its earlier avatar ‘Poor Men’s Relief Association’, established by some youngsters who were inspired by Swamiji.

By changing the symbolism of the nomenclature of the organization, he led the foundation stone of a committed organization, ‘Ramkrishna Mission Home of Service’, by making people realise the value of ‘service of others and manifestation of God’ and the irrelevance of ‘helping out others with the concept of compassion in mind’.  

These Varanasi visits are according to the books published by the Advaita Ashrama. But other works put as early as1887 as the year of Swamji’s first Varanasi visit quoting Gambhirananda. Some other works put 1888 as well.

Whatever be the years of his visit or the time spent, Swamiji’s teachings tell us of his deep, transcendental attachment with Varanasi.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - 
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