September 11 has gone down in history. But for us Indians, it’s the day when a monk from Kolkata put India’s Vedic and yogic philosophy on an international platform. Going through the many turbulences and challenges, Swami Vivekananda gave his memorable speech in Chicago on September 11, 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions… “Sisters and Brothers of America…” and this got him a standing ovation for full three minutes.
Swami Vivekananda image London 1896
But before he reached the USA, he had travelled the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. Promoting peace, peace, unity and brotherhood, Ramakrishna’s ardent disciple, was in the south of India between 1892-93. It was in this region that the young monk Narendra became Vivekananda and found the means to reach the USA.
Botanical Garden, Bangalore
His travels took him to Garden City Bangalore, now Bengaluru. There he met the Diwan of Mysore state, K Seshadri Iyer who introduced him to the Maharaja of Mysore Chamaraja Wodeyar.
Marking his stay in the city is SV Road, Swami Vivekananda Road. This is a station on the purple line of the Namma Metro. And then there is the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Kendra was started in 1990 by Parvati Bhat, which promotes Indian healthcare systems.
Living the phenomenon of harmony is the Ramakrishna Math (earlier known as Vivekananda Ashram) at Ulsoor in Bangalore. It is a branch of the twin organisations Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, Belur, Howrah.
Why Garden City
The weather, the people, the culture and the lovely gardens have always pulled crowds. The city’s famous flower shows are held at Lal Bagh, which was commissioned in 1760 by Hyder Ali. It is home to over 1,000 species of flora and even has a glass house.
Then there is Cubbon Park in the heart of the city, created in 1884 by Major General Richard Sankey. With 68 general and 96 species of plants and trees, the park also boasts of a kids train.
My friends tell me of another interesting park–Jayaprakash Narayan Biodiversity Park, north-west of Bangalore, with four lakes and over 250 varieties of trees and shrubs.
Thrissur Pooram, Kerala
After Bangalore, Swami Vivekananda went to Thrissur, Kodungalloor and Ernakulam. Living the principles of this monk who talked about youth and rise of the nation through action, the Sree Ramakrishna Math was established in Puranattukara, Thrissur in 1927.
Formerly known as Trichur, Thrissur is best known for its elaborate ceremonies, the famous Guruvayur Temple and Pulikali folk art. Browsing through a coffee table book on this rich, historical city, I was fascinated by the colours of Kerala, the decorated elephants and the Vadakkumnathan temple. A spectacular temple festival is Thrissur Pooram festival, held in April or May.
Among its more spiritual sites are the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple, Vadakkumnathan temple, Paramekkavu temple, Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours (Puthan Pally).
Vivekananda Memorial by the night, Kanyakumari
After the Ernakulam soujourn, Swami Vivekananda went to Trivandrum, Nagercoil. In 1892, on Christmas Eve, he reached Kanyakumari on foot. This became the revelation spot. Meditating on the ‘last Indian rock’, he had a vision of one India and thought of going to USA. To realise this vision, he went around collecting funds across Madurai,
Rameswaram, Pondicherry and Madras. And on the historic day of May 31, 1893, he left for the USA from Mumbai under the new name ‘Vivekananda’.
The rock is now known as Vivekananda Memorial and has been visited by innumerable people. Marking the end of the land, it is located about 500 meters east off mainland of Vavathurai. The memorial was built in 1970. Local legends also claim that Goddess Kumari performed austerity here. The memorial has a meditation hall, statue of Vivekananda and is surrounded by the Laccadive Sea.
Cited as the rock of enlightenment, it has been my dream to visit it for a long time.