Born as NarendranathDutta on 12th January, 1863 in an aristocratic Bengali Kayasth family of Calcutta, Swami Vivekanand felt a karmic connection to spirituality from an early age. Inspired by the faith of his mentor Swami Ramkrishna Paramhansa, he believed the road to the almighty can be best reached through service to mankind. As a practising Hindu monk, he spread the tenets of Hindu religion and Yoga and the philosophy of Vedanta in the West and gained new respect for Indian culture.
On his mentors’ demise, Swami Vivekanand took it upon himself to spread his teachings along the length and breadth of the country and even abroad in United States where he represented the parliament of World Religions in 1893, held in Chicago. His inspiring speech on the fundamental unity of all religion left an indelible impression in the Western world. He exhaustively campaigned and preached the tenets of Hindu philosophy in U.S, England and Europe. He was also responsible for disseminating the philosophy of traditional meditation and selfless service (Karmic Yoga).
Advanced as he was in his thoughts, he advocated actively for the emancipation for Indian women and an end to the excesses of the caste system. Such was the magnetism and charisma of this leader that some of the leading politicians, scientists, strategists, educationists and humanitarians in this country and world over have been inspired by his teachings and personality.
He was drawn towards the wandering ascetics from a tender age and his boundless curiosity and energy made him equip himself with the best in Western and Eastern philosophy. His teachers remarked on his prodigious memory and high intellect. Since his father followed the tenets of Brahmo Samaj, he too was initially drawn towards it but a chance encounter with Swami Ramkrishna Paramhansa in Dakshineshwar Kali temple left him spell bound. His rationality could not come to terms with the simplistic devotion of Swami Ramkrishna but his experiences proved him a worthy disciple and helping the poorest to gain education. This was a revolution in terms of Indian spirituality which so far believed in the path of detachment and renunciation. After the demise of Swami Ramkrishna, Vivekananda found a math/monastery in Belur, near Dakshineshwar and threw himself headlong into spiritual practices.
He led the austere life of a monk fending from day to day on alms and donations yet his inaugural speech in the World Parliament of Religions in 1893, caused seven thousand people from different nationalities to stand in ovation. He extolled his fellow peers of Ramakrishna Math to throw themselves into social work actively.. On his return to India in 1897, he became a force to reckon with for his revolutionary thoughts on caste system, education, status of women and old failed traditions. He was India’s clarion call for progress. He was largely responsible for the re-emergence of national pride and national fervor in a country enslaved by the British regime.
His failing health ultimately led to his demise on 4th July, 1902 but the inspiring leadership of this man has moulded generations on the path of righteousness and virtue and not surprisingly his birthday has been declared in India as the National Youth Day.