Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda


    In News

    • Every year 12th January is being celebrated as the National Youth Day in mark of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

    National Youth Day

    • Origin:
      • In 1984, the Indian Government first declared to celebrate the birthday of Swami Vivekananda as National Youth Day. 
      • Since then the day has been celebrated as National Youth Day all over the country.
    • Theme: This year National Youth festival 2023 has a theme of Viksit Yuva Viksit Bharat which means that if the youth of India is leading on a path of development then only India can be developed.

    About Swami Vivekananda 

    (Image Courtesy: VS)

    • Birth: 
      • He was born on 12th January 1863 in a Bengali family in Calcutta and was originally named Narendranath Datta. 
      • In his honour, the Government of India in 1984 declared his birthday National Youth Day.
    • Early Life:
      • From a young age, he nurtured an interest in Western philosophy, history, religion, spirituality and theology.
      • He was well-read in many subjects and would meditate in front of the images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
      • He met the religious leader Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who later became his Guru and he remained devoted to him until the latter died in 1886.
      • In 1893, he took the name ‘Vivekananda’ after Maharaja Ajit Singh of the Khetri State requested him to do so, changing from ‘Sachidananda’ that he used before.
    • Literary Works:
      • Raja Yoga
      • Jnana Yoga
      • Karma Yoga
    • Death: He attained Mahasamadhi on 4th July 1902.


    Contributions and Significance

    • He was one of India’s greatest spiritual leaders and inspired the youth of India to become better, leading a life of purity and setting an example for the world.
      • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had called him the “Maker of Modern India”.
    • Focus on Indian Philosophies:
      • He played an important role in introducing the philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the West.
        • Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.
        • Vedanta is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy and is based on Upanishads and their interpretation. It aimed to enquire about ‘Brahman’ (Ultimate Reality). It sees Veda as the ultimate source of information and whose authority could not be questioned.
      • He preached ‘neo-Vedanta’, an interpretation of Hinduism through a Western lens and believed in combining spirituality with material progress.
        • Neo-Vedanta is a modern interpretation of Vedanta, with a liberal attitude toward the Vedas. It reconciles dualism and non-dualism and rejects the “universal illusionism” of Shankara.
    • Tour and Lectures:
      • He is best known for his speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
      • He started the speech with the opening remarks, “My brothers and sisters of America” and covered topics including universal acceptance, tolerance and religion.
      • He began delivering lectures at various places in the US and UK and became popular as the ‘Messenger of Indian Wisdom to the Western World’.
    • Establishments:
      • After coming back to India, he formed the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897.
        • It aimed to set in motion machinery that will bring noblest ideas to the doorstep of even the poorest and the meanest.
      • He toured across India and set after educating the masses about ways to improve their economic condition as well as imparting spiritual knowledge.
      • In 1899, he established the Belur Math, which became his permanent abode.
    • New Theory of Ethics:
      • He gave a new theory of ethics and a new principle of morality based on the intrinsic purity and oneness of the Atman.
      • According to him, ethics is a code of conduct that helps a person to be a good citizen.
      • He strove to promote peace and human brotherhood on the spiritual foundation of the Vedantic Oneness of existence.
    • Interpretation of Religion:
      • One of his most significant contributions is his interpretation of religion as a universal experience of transcendent Reality, common to all humanity.
      • This universal conception frees religion from the hold of superstitions, dogmatism, priestcraft and intolerance.
      • Service to man as the visible manifestation of the Godhead was the special form of worship he advocated for the Indians.
    • Interfaith Awareness and Co-existence:
      • He has been credited with raising interfaith awareness and bringing Hinduism to a global platform in the 19th century.
      • He is also known for his deep knowledge of science and religion and his teachings to the Western world demonstrated how the two could co-exist in harmony.
    • Education:
      • He laid the greatest emphasis on education for the regeneration of India and advocated for a character-building education
      • According to him, a nation is advanced in proportion as education is spread among the masses.
      • He was determined to spread education among women and the lower castes.
    • Social Reform:
      • It was a prominent element of Vivekananda’s thought, and he joined the Brahmo Samaj, dedicated to eliminating child marriage and illiteracy.

    Source: TH