Tamil, stands majestically on the busy Kamarajar Salai, on the Marina beach, very much nearer to seashore. Swami Vivekananda stayed here for nine days between 6 february 1897 to 14 february 1897, after his triumphant return from the west. Swami Vivekananda landed at Colombo on the afternoon of January 15, 1897 and was given a royal reception by the Hindu community there. Then he visited Rameswaram Temple, Pamban, Ramnad, Paramakudi, Manamadurai, Shivaganga, Madurai, Kumbakonam and then he reached Chennai.
Welcome address in Madras: When Swami Vivekananda arrived in Madras an address of welcome was presented to him by the Madras reception committee. At the railway station, there was a huge audience surging with emotion to see a glimpse of Swamiji. Hearty welcome address was read out by the devotees. It said, “When you undertook to represent Hinduism at the Parliament of religions, most of us felt, that the cause of Hinduism would be ably upheld by its representative in that memorable religious assembly. Your representation of the doctrines of Hinduism at once clear, correct, and authoritative, not only produced a remarkable impression at the Parliament of Religions itself, but also led a number of men and women even in foreign lands to realize that out of the fountain of Indian spirituality refreshing draughts of immortal life and love may be taken so as to bring about a larger, fuller and holier evolution of humanity than has yet been witnessed in this globe of ours.” After the welcome address was over, Swamiji was requested to sit on a decorated chariot. Owing to the intense enthusiasm of the large crowd assembled to welcome him, Swamiji was only able to give a short reply.”The wonderful kindness, the fervent and enthusiastic joy with which I have been received from Colombo to Madras, and seem likely to be received all over India, have passed even my most sanguine expectations; but that only makes me glad, for it proves the assertion which I have made again and again in the past that as each nation has one ideal as its vitality, as each nation has one particular groove which is to become its own , so religion is the peculiarity of the growth of the Indian mind . In other parts of the world, religion is one of the many considerations, in fact it is a minor occupation. Here in India, it is religion that forms the very core of the national heart. It is the backbone, the bed-rock, the foundation upon which the national edifice has been built. Politics, power and even intellect form a secondary consideration here. Religion, therefore, is the one consideration in India.”
What makes one nation to survive? At this stage the joy of enthusiasm of the crowd became more intense and it was a challenge to manage them. Swamiji raised his voice, shortened his speech. ”I do not know whether my voice will reach all of you. I never before had an opportunity of addressing a large open–air meeting”…Then Swamiji continued his speech.. “Two great problems are being decided by the nations of the world. India has taken up one side and the rest of the world has taken the other side. And the problem is this.: Who is to survive? What makes one nation survive and others die? Should love survive or hatred, should enjoyment survive or renunciation, should matter survive or the spirit, in the struggle of life? Our solution is renunciation, fearlessness and love; these are fittest to survive. Giving up the senses makes a nation survive. As a proof of this, here is history, today telling us of mushroom nations rising and falling, almost every century –starting up from nothingness , making vicious play for a few days and then melting.This big,gigantic race which had to grapple with some of the greatest problems of misfortunes, dangers, and vicissitudes such as never fell upon the head of any other nation of the
world, survives because it has taken the side of renunciation; for without renunciation how can there be religion?” Then Swamiji concluded his speech, pleased at the people’s warmth and show of tremendous enthusiasm.It was indeed a marvelous show of strength of people ready to follow the thoughts of Swami Vivekananda. Then Swamiji was taken to Vivekananda house earlier known as ice house or castle kernan at Chennai.
History of the building: This building was originally used by the British to store ice brought from great lakes in north America for about 30 years. Then this building was sold to one Mr. Biligiri Iyangar of Madras who was a famous advocate in the Madras High Court and was fairly well to do in those times. He remodeled the house, renamed it Castle Kernan after his friend, justice Kernan in the Madras High court and used it as a residence. Biligiri Iyangar, being a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, made him stay at the ice house. Later When Vivekananda was about to depart, he agreed to his disciples request to set up a permanent centre at the ice house.
Jayalalitha government’s gift: In 1963, during the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda, the government of Tamil Nadu renamed the Castle Kernan as ‘Vivekananda House’. In 1997, on the eve of the centenary of Swamiji’s return to
India and his stay at this house, the government of Tamil Nadu at the request of the Ramakrishna Math leased out the Vivekananda house for few years. In the 150th year of Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, the Ramakrishna mission in Chennai has got a gift from the Jayalalitha government. The state has extended the lease on Vivekananda house on the marina by 99 years, i.e. till 2111.
Experience Vivekanada: The Vivekananda house structure is distinctive and has several unique features. This is reflected clearly in its distinct architectural features such as the circular core, the semicircular corridors, the hemispherical dome and the square plan. 43 paintings of exquisite artistry trace the evolution of our culture from vedic times to the advent of Sri Ramakrishna. These paintings are colourful commentaries on the secret of the longevity of our culture. They illustrate the reach and range of india’s spiritual heritage. The Vedas, the Epics, and the Puranas come alive in these paintings. The large circular verandah exhibits 120 photographs relating to Swamiji from his days as a travelling monk to his spiritual conquest of the west, which has become a part of world history. Rare photos are on display, elegantly laminated , with sub-titles and footnotes. Swami Vivekanada’s room is on the second floor that Swamiji stayed in February 1897. This room, full of sacred memories is now maintained as a meditation room. Anyone who sits here even for a few minutes cannot but feel the peaceful
understanding of the power of God. Meditation can be done
here comfortably seated. Sri Ramakrishna Math conducts lot of spiritual programmes to experience Vivekananda. Thus, Vivekananda house is inspiring because of his personal stay. It is also interesting not only for the displays on the famous ‘wandering monk’ but also for the semicircular structure in which it is housed. In centuries to come, Swami Vivekanada will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world.