150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations reconnect to Vivekananda's prism
Throughout the year Vivekananda 150th birth anniversary was celebrated as Sardh Shati Samaroh not only in India but all over the world. While celebration year is ending, Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar spoke to the All India General Secretary of the Samaroh Samiti Prof Aniruddh Deshpande on objectives, success and follow up of the Sardh Shati celebrations. Here are the excerpts of the conversations:
How do you look at the year-long worldwide celebration to celebrate 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda? What were the objectives of the celebration?
Recontextualising the main thoughts of Swami Vivekananda to the present world was the core objective of this celebration. Though Vivekananda addressed the problems related to poverty or education etc about 125 years ago, most of them still persist. That is why Vivekananda is still relevant not only for India but for humanity at large. The slogan of ‘Awaken India, Enlighten the World’ reconnected that relevance to the current situation.
What types of activities were conducted in India to spread the message of Swami Vivekananda?
The celebrations were broadly divided into five parts: 1. Yuva Shakti (Youth) 2. Savardhini (Women) 3. Prabuddha Bharat (Intellectual India) 4. Asmita (Vanvasis) 5. Gramayan (Rural India)
On youth power, more than 250 seminars were held throughout India on Vivekananda’s thought in which more than 1.5 lac youth participated. On September 11, 2013, on the occasion of Vishwa Bandhutva Diwas (the day Vivekananda delivered his famous message in the Conference of World Religions, at Chicago) more than 30 lac youth participated in the ‘Bharat Jago Daud’. Collective Suryanamaskars were held to convey the Swamiji’s message of ‘healthy body for spiritual mind’ and schools and colleges of 41 prants (functional regions of RSS) participated in the activity.
Similarly, more than 1500 awareness camps were organised for adolescent girls on Indian culture and sanskaras, Vivekananda and women empowerment, health and education. Many conventions were organised for young couples to help them in leading life with Vivekanda’s message. Five national conferences were held in the five corners of India namely Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Raipur, Kolkata and Chennai on five different themes, to involve in the intellectual class in spreading the Vivekananda’s thought. The unprecedented event like Vice-Chancellors conference (which got wide publicity through Organiser, December 12, 2013), represented by 125 universities of India, was organised with the theme of ‘Education as Man Making and Nation Building Exercise’. It was a great success for shaping the future courses in higher education for the youth India. More than 3000 health camps, with participation of more than 500 women, were organised while 3.5 lac trees were planted to nurture the message of ‘live with nature’. More than 300 villages are adopted for self-sufficient development. Besides many literary and cultural festivals, competitions were organised and people from all sections of society participated with enthusiasm.
In other words, the Sardh Shati celebrations achieved a great balance of quality and quantity.
It seems the government celebration remained mostly on papers and only the social organisations were seen conducting various activities throughout the year. What do you feel?
The original idea was, people should come together and celebrate Vivekananda’s thought and bring them in action. So no government help was sought, financially or otherwise. But all government’s ministers, even bureaucrats made their representations in various programmes and whole heartedly supported the activities. The HRD minister Shri Pallam Raju himself inaugurated the VC conference. So governments were supportive but the activities were undertaken by the society. Though Vivekananda Kendra was at the forefront in organising these celebrations other organisations such as Ramkrishna Math, Sharda Math etc also played a very constructive role.
What has been the response from outside India?
In more than 40 countries similar activities were undertaken and people and governments wholeheartedly participated in the celebrations.
What has been the biggest achievement of this year-long celebration? How far the defined objectives were achieved?
The Sardh Shati celebrations can be considered as a great success because it has achieved the objective recontextualising Vivekananda in three ways. Firstly, Vivekananda and his message was reconnected to the contemporary issues and the present generation. In this regard, 4 to 5 crore people were contacted through door to door contact with a portrait and a message of Vivekananda, which is unprecedented. Secondly, huge amount of literature was made available on Vivekananda. Sardh Shati Samiti itself published 21 types of booklets, which were distributed in large numbers. Thirdly and most importantly, it has established Vivekananda as the most acceptable figure of India. Whatsoever, there was not a single word of opposition to Vivekananda from any quarters of the society. The message of ‘Awaken India to enlighten the world’ is acceptable to all is the biggest achievement of this celebration.
Lot of awareness has been generated all over the world during this celebration. Has the Committee planned any follow up action so that the awareness generated so far could be used for any positive activity in future? How would we carry forward the legacy of thought and actions of Swamiji?
These celebrations were never meant for just organising events, it was just a starting for resurgence. Follow up activities are planned for each section. For the holistic development of villages, the concept of Vivek Gram will go on. Vivekananda study circles are taking shape to inculcate Swamiji’s teaching through self-learning method. Vivekananda Study Centres and Chairs are being constituted in various universities and colleges. In Tamil Nadu itself, 9 universities have come up with the Vivekananda study centres. UGC is supporting this with generous funding. In February, a follow up meeting is organised with 45-50 universities to introduce various courses on ‘Vivekananda’s thinking’. Libraries and community centres are built up with social initiatives known as Vivek Vatika. Health counseling will be institutionalised for the adolescent girls. Many activities will be continued for the sustainable development. Vivekananda’s basic Indian thinking is still so relevant and Sardh Shati celebrations are successful in conveying that relevance so with or without support, these follow up activities will carry on and message of ‘Awaken India, enlighten the world’ will be realised.