Nivedita Raghunath Bhide
HOW India saw Swami Vivekananda on his return to India from the West, how she adored him, addressed him and viewed his work in West can be seen from the various welcome-addresses given to him. These welcome addresses were not just the formal greetings but the heart-pourings of Indians.
Though Swami Vivekananda was addressed variously the feeling was same and the fullness of heart total. Though the words varied from ‘the great-souled one’ to ‘brother’ as the people of Calcutta addressed him, the acknowledgement of the significance of his advent was same. It was the same heartfelt adorations and adulations whether in South or North or East or West in India. He was variously called as, Revered Sir in both Colombo and Jaffna, as Your Holiness in Pamban, as His Most Holiness by Raja of Ramnad, as Sreemant Vivekananda Swamiin Paramakudi, as Most Revered Sir, in Sivagangai and Manamadurai, as Most Revered Swami in Madurai, as Revered Swami in Madras, as Your Holiness by Maharaja of Khetri, as Dear Brother in Calcutta and as Great-Souled One in Almora.
In one of the addresses Swami Vivekananda was called as Sri Paramahamsa, Yati – Raja, Digvijaya – Kolahala, Sarvamata – Sampratipanna, Parama – Yogeeswara, Srimat Bhagavan Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Karakamala Sanjata, Rajadhiraja – Sevita. These are all the appellations that are taken from welcome addresses only. But what people called him in newspapers, in their conversations and articles, are not included here. But even this gives us idea that why there are Vishnusahsranama, Shivasahasranama, Lalitasahasranama or Kalisahasranama. People need thousands of names to describe the multifaceted personality and his deep and all-dimensional work touching the core of the heart. Though the words varied in the welcome addresses the feelings were same.
And of course even words were same when the common aspirations and achievements were voiced. The welcome address given at Pamban and from Khetri Maharaja refers India as Aryavarta ie land of Aryans. The welcome addresses of Kolkata and Almorah mention Hindu religion as Aryan Dharma. Swami Vivekananda himself at Madras hailed Arya Dharma. The incident was like this: At Madras on his arrival the enthusiasm of the people was such that there were more people outside the hall than inside too eager to have a look at Swami Vivekananda and to listen to him. More than 30 welcome addresses were read in the hall. The people waiting outside were getting excited and were fervently hoping that they would get glimpse of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda was moved by the eager crowd outside, so he left the hall and mounted the box-seat of a carriage in waiting. Swamiji started talking to people to which he himself referred as talking from a chariot in the Gita fashion. But after few minutes, the crowd became unmanageable due to continuously pouring of more and more people from all corners. In all this exuberance, Swamiji’s voice was not reaching to the sea of humans. Thus Swami Vivekananda concluded his speech by proclaiming the Victory to Arya Dharma, to Shri Ramakrishna and to Bhagvan Sri Krishna to which the gathering enthusiastically responded by Jai Jai. The welcome addresses whether from South or North or West or East mentioned Aryavarta or Arya Dharma. Swami Vivekananda himself proclaimed victory to Arya Dharma at Madras and people enthusiastically responded by Jai Jai. Very clearly, the so-called Aryan-Dravidian theories floated later in India by Robert Caldwell, Risley etc were yet to divide the mind of India. Arya did not mean to us then a race but we all considered ourselves as Arya-people belonging to noble tradition and having noble thoughts and actions.
India is a cultural nation. Her unity is the cultural unity to which Vincent Smith had referred to as the ‘deeper unity’. It is not a nation-state defined by political power. In Indian history, it is seen that even if the political establishment was hostile the nation lived on. Nepal, Sri Lanka though politically different are culturally one with India. We can discern that from the welcome addresses given to Swami Vivekananda in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and also from the speeches of Swami Vivekananda. It was said in the welcome speech at Colombo, “You have proclaimed to the nations of Europe and America the Hindu ideal of a universal religion, harmonizing all creeds, providing spiritual food for each soul according to its needs, and, lovingly drawing it unto God. You have preached the Truth and the Way, taught from remote ages by a succession of Masters whose blessed feet have walked and sanctified the soil of India, and whose gracious presence and inspiration have made her, through all her vicissitudes, the Light of the World. To the inspiration of such a Master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Deva, and to your self – sacrificing zeal, Western nations owe the priceless boon of being placed in living contact with the spiritual genius of India, while to many of our own countrymen, delivered from the glamour of Western civilization, the value of our glorious heritage has been brought home.”
While replying to this welcome address at Colombo Swami Vivekananda said, “Formerly I thought as every Hindu thinks, and as the Hon. President has just pointed out to you, that this is the Punya Bhumi, the land of Karma. Today I stand here and say, with the conviction of truth, that it is so. If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed Punya Bhumi, to be the land to which all souls on this earth must come to account for Karma, the land to which every soul that is wending its way Godward must come to attain its last home, the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality — it is India. Hence have started the founders of religions from the most ancient times, deluging the earth again and again with the pure and perennial waters of spiritual truth. Hence have proceeded the tidal waves of philosophy that have covered the earth, East or West, North or South, and hence again must start the wave which is going to spiritualize the material civilization of the world. Here is the life – giving water with which must be quenched the burning fire of materialism which is burning the core of the hearts of millions in other lands. Believe me, my friends, this is going to be.” Thus from the welcome address as well as the speech of Swami Vivekananda at Colombo as quoted above it is seen that Ceylon was not seen as separate from cultural India. Unfortunately today whenever we say India, in our mind only the present political India comes.
In the welcome addresses that Swami Vivekananda received from all corners of the country it can be seen that despite the apparent diversity the hearts of Indians beat to the same spiritual tune. Thus apart from the heartfelt gratitude to Swami Vivekananda all the addresses made with more or less stress following five points:
1 Hinduism is a universal religion: “You have, with an eloquence that is unsurpassed and in language plain and unmistakable, proclaimed to and convinced the cultured audiences in Europe and America that Hinduism fulfils all the requirements of the ideal of a universal religion and adapts itself to the temperament and needs of men and women of all races and creeds.”
2.India is awakened and Hindu Dharma is revived due to work of Swami Vivekananda: “Above all, your labours in the West have indirectly and to a great extent tended to awaken the apathetic sons and daughters of India to a sense of the greatness and glory of their ancestral faith, and to create in them a genuine interest in the study and observance of their dear and priceless religion.” Or “We also express our thankfulness to you for initiating a movement for the revival of our ancient religion in this materialistic age when there is a decadence of faith and a disregard for search after spiritual truth.”
3.Whole humanity is benefitted: Welcome addresses further point out that it was not just the revival of Hindu dharma but the spiritual regeneration of the East and West. The universal Hindu mind is seen in this appreciation. “We feel we cannot adequately convey in words our feelings of gratitude and thankfulness to your Holiness for your philanthropic labours towards the spiritual regeneration of the East and the West.” Or “The magnetic influence of your august person reminds us of our ancient holy Rishis whose realisation of the Self by asceticism and self – control made them the true guides and preceptors of the human race.” Or “…in making your way into Western countries you have also been the bearer of a message of light and peace to the whole of mankind, based on the old teachings of India’s “Religion Eternal.”
4.Way to Universal Brotherhood is opened with harmonisation of all creeds: “Your labours have now proved beyond the possibility of doubt that the contradictions of the world’s numerous creeds are all reconciled in the universal light of the Vedanta, and that all the peoples of the world have need to understand and practically realise the great truth that “Unity in variety” is nature’s plan in the evolution of the universe, and that only by harmony and brotherhood among religions and by mutual toleration and help can the mission and destiny of humanity be accomplished.
5.Religion and science are reconciled: “The rapid growth of clubs and societies for the comparative study of religions and the investigation of spiritual truth is witness to your labour in the far West.” Or “…heartfelt congratulation on the great success which has attended your unselfish efforts in Western lands, where it is the boast of the highest intellects that, “Not an inch of ground once conquered by science has ever been reconquered by religion”- although indeed science has hardly ever claimed to oppose true religion.”
India rose as one to welcome Swami Vivekananda, the hearts of Indians throbbed to the same spiritual tune in spite of the dividing theories that vested interests are spinning in India since British period. Today, on 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, all ‘the scattered spiritual forces whose heart beat to the same spiritual tune’ have to come together, so that this five-fold work of Swami Vivekananda can start in right earnest.