Swami Vivekananda in Gujarat
Swami Nikhileshwarananda has written an excellent research article “Swami Vivekananda in Gujarat.” One who is interested in Swami Vivekananda and/or Gujarat should read this article. The article brings out various aspects of Swami Vivekananda and makes him more humane. It also tells us how Swami Vivekananda directly and Sri Ramakrishna indirectly attracted few powerful personalities of Gujarat and played an important role in their lives. We can see how Swami Vivekananda built loving relationship with all of them.
Here I will tell you a few important points from this article that gives an overview of “Swami Vivekananda in Gujarat.”
- During his ‘wandering monk’ period, July 1890 through May 1893, Swami Vivekananda spent maximum duration of time in Gujarat, from November 1891 through April 26, 1892.
- During this time,
- Swami Vivekananda strongly felt that he has a mission of his life.
- He perceived bright future of India
- He realized that India is one Huge Temple, as it were with chapels and sanctuaries everywhere. He saw the glory of Mahabharat.
- He received inspiration for going to West to preach Sanatana Dharma
- Pandit Shankar Pandurang told Swamiji, “I am afraid you cannot do much in this country. Few will appreciate you here. You ought to go to the West. Surely you can throw a great light on Western culture by preaching the Sanatana Dharma”. Here, probably Swamiji heard for the first about the religious convention that was to be held sometime in the following year at Chicago.
- He had a wonderful experience of a mirage. In his lecture delivered in New York entitled ‘The Real and the Apparent Man’ Swamiji gave a description of the phenomenon and drew a very important moral from it.
- He met some of the most prominent princes, Diwans, scholars and eminent personalities of his time. Such as:
- Thakore Saheb of Limbdi Shri Yashwantsinhji
- Maharaja of Bhavanagar Shri Takhtsinhji
- Maharaja of Bhuj Shri Khengarji (III)
- Maharaja of Porbandar Shri Vikamatji
- Maharaja Gaekwad Shri Sayaji Rao
- Shri Haridas Viharidas Desai, Diwan of Junagadh
- Pandit Shankar Pandurang, Administrator of Porbandar
- Shri Motichand Lalchand, Diwan of Kutch
- Shri Manilal Jashbhai, Diwan of Baroda
- Shri Mansukhram Tripathi & Shri Manibhai N. Dwivedi, the great Gujarati Scholars
- Shri Lalshankar Umiashankar Trivedi, sub-judge and great philanthropist
All of them became great friends and admirers of Swamiji and some of them became even his disciples.
One day when a sub-judge of Ahmedabad was coming out of Ahmedabad Railway Station, he saw a sturdy and stout sannyasi sitting under a pipal tree, who had a look of greatness around him. He went to the monk and talked with him and became so much impressed that he atonce requested him to be his guest. Both got into the waiting tonga and soon arrived at the house of the host – Shri Lalshankar Umiashankar Trivedi – residing at 36 Amritlal’s Pole in Khadia the heart of the city of Ahmedabad.
Soon Shri Lalshankar realized that his guest was an unusual person with a good knowledge of almost everything in the world. The unknown monk was of course, none other, than Swami Vivekananda. Although the house was spacious, it lacked the required tranquility for meditation and reading, so Shri Lalshankar took Swamiji to another house he had in Ellisbridge behind the townhall. The house became a beehive of activity with many people flocking to hear and meet Swamiji, who lectured on several topics including high philosophy.
He stayed in Ahmedabad for 11 days.
He saw Sati Ranakdevi’s temple.
He had a terrible experience with some evil sadhus, but Swamiji cleverly escaped with the help of a young village boy and the Majaraj of Limbdi.
Swamiji stayed in the beautiful palace of Limbdi for many days and held discussion in Durbar hall of the palace with the maharaja, Thakore Saheb, Shri Yashwantshinji (1859-1907). He was a brilliant, learned king who had visited England and America. President Cleveland warmly greeted the Maharaja at the White House in Washington DC. Thakore Saheb described in detail what he had learnt from his visits to England and America and requested Swamiji to go to these countries for preaching Sanatana Dharma. Thakore Saheb of Limbdi was the first among the Maharajas to inspire Swamiji to go to the West for preaching work.
A fire in 1906, consumed a major portion of the beautiful Limbdi palace, left untouched the Darbar Hall where Swamiji had stayed. Sixty five years later Shri Chhatrasalji, the present Thakore Saheb of Limbdi, donated the palace to a public body named “Shri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir”. And now this trust has handed over the palace alongwith other properties to Ramakrishna Mission.
The Impact of Swami Vivekananda’s Visit to Gujarat
After returning from the West Swamiji sent two of his Gurubhais, Swami Turiyananda and Swami Saradananda to Gujarat to preach and to collect funds. Both of them spent about 3 months in Gujarat (From 22 February to 18 April 1899).
Junagadh & Girnar
Swamiji saw many ancient monuments and ruins – an old fortress called Uparkot, an old Rajput palace, two ancient wells, Khapra Khodia caves dating back to the Buddhist period, perhaps used as monasteries, ‘Ashoka Shilalekh’ in which the edicts of Emperor Ashoka and of the other emperors are inscribed and many other places of historical importance.
Girnar is group of about ten hills, highest of which is Gorakhnath (about 3600 ft.) has been a place of pilgrimage sacred to Buddhists, Jains and Hindus alike before the days of Ashoka (272-231 B.C.). For Swamjji, it must have been of special interest because here Pavahari Baba was initiated into the mysteries of yoga. 26 He sought out a cave and practised meditation for a few days during which Diwan Saheb took all possible care of him.
For a few days Swamiji stayed with Shri Chhaganlal Harilal Pandya (1859-1936), a great scholar and Manager of Diwanji Saheb, who became his staunch admirer. About Swamiji’s stay in his house he gave a delightful account – how he charmed everybody by his personality, vast scholarship, songs and discourses and not the least by his proficiency in the art of cuisine, specially by the ‘excellent rasagollas’ he prepared. In his talks Swamiji spoke of Jesus Christ as also of Shri Ramakrishna.
Swamiji visited Junagadh many times. During one of the trips he had also stayed with Shri Mansukhram Tripathi, the well-known writer and scholar of Gujarat, a man of high character, who preferred higher values of life. We get confirmation about Swamiji’s stay with Shri Mansukhram Tripathi from the account given by Swami Abhedananda in his auto-biography.
“On arrival at Junagadh, I came to hear from people that a Bengali sannyasi with high English education was staying for some days at the house of Mansukhram Suryaram Tripathi, a Gujarati brahmin, who was the Private Secretary of the local Nawab.. Elated with joy I reached the house of Mansukhram and immediately found that my conjecture was true. Narendranath brightened up with joy to see me unexpectedly.. Fortunately when I arrived there Narendranath was discussing some topic of non-dualistic Vedanta with Mr. Tripathi.. I gladly stayed in his house for three or four days in the company of Narendranath and then I got ready to start for Dwarka.”
During his very first visit to Junagadh Swamiji had become a guest of Shri Haridas Viharidas Desai, the Diwan of Junagadh (whom Swamiji used to address as Diwanji Saheb). Diwanji Saheb was so much charmed with the company of Swamiji that every evening with all the State officials he used to meet Swamiji and converse with him until late at night. Swamiji in turn loved and respected him as a son does his father, the difference in their age being 22 years. He wrote from Khetri in May 1893, “Believe me that I love you and respect you like a father and that my gratitude towards you and your family is surely unbounded…”
There are 13 inspiring and important letters of Swamiji addressed to Diwanji Saheb.”A friend in need is a friend indeed”. Like a true friend Swamiji helped Diwanji Saheb to overcome his problems, whenever needed. Once when Diwaniji Saben was in distress, Swamiji wrote an inspiring and powerful letter to him, “Often and often we see that the very best of men even are troubled and visited with tribulations in this world…”
Similarly, when Swamiji was in trouble, while some vested interests in America raised all sorts of scandalous charges against his character and conduct, Diwanji Sabeb, as soon as he came to know about it, wrote on 26.6.1894 to Mr. G. W. Hale in staunch defence of his beloved Swamiji. Swamiji wrote back to him, “your kind note to G.W. Hale has been very gratifying as I owed them that much.”
Diwanji Saheb’s administration of more than a decade in Junagadh was marked by the most important reforms in every department of the State.
After spending a few days in Junagadh, Swamiji proceeded towards Kutch with a letter of introduction from Diwanji Saheb to his bosom friend Motichand Lalchand, Diwanji of Bhuj. Bhuj was the capital of Kutch. The Maharaja of Kutch, Khengarji Bahadur, only three years younger than Swamiji, soon formed a very close friendship with him. He was deeply impressed by Swamiji’s magnetic personality and was astonished at his vast knowledge: “Swamiji, as after reading may books the head becomes dazed, even so after hearing your discourses my brain becomes dizzy. How will you utilize this talent? You will never rest until you have done wonderful things!”
Swamji afterwards went to Mandavi.
Swamiji’s journey was not always pleasant or safe. When Swamiji was at Bhuj, his brother – disciple Swami Akhandananda warned him of the dangers of jealous state officers. Some state officers had even poisoned a Bengali sannyasin years ago when this sannyasin had tried to introduce reforms to improve the state.
Several times the temple of Somnath was destroyed and several times rebuilt. Swamiji paused by this great ruin and pondered over the greatness that had been India’s in the past. He realized that in India religious life forms the center, the keynote of the whole music of national life. Later (in 1897) he was to address his countrymen, “Some of these old temples of Southern India and those like Somnath of Gujarat will teach you volumes of wisdom, will give you a keener insight into the history of the race than any amount of books.”
After a brief stay in Porbandar reached Dwaraka, holy with innumerable memories and legends of Shri Krishna. But of its glories nothing remains at present. Now the ocean roars in tumult over the place where once the powerful Yadava lived and where once stood a great capital of which Shri Krishna was the reigning prince.
He sat on the shore and yearned ardently to fathom the contents of the future. Then rising as from a dream he went to Sharada Math (a monastery founded by Adi Shankaracharya) where he was assigned a room. There in the silence of his cell, he saw a great light – the resplendent future of India.
From Dwaraka Swamiji went to Bet Dwaraka (Island Dwarka) Mandvi etc.
An interesting chase
Akhandananda heard at Ahmedabad that Swamiji had gone to Wadhwan. At Wadhawan he heard that he had gone to Junagadh; at Junagadh he learnt that Swamiji had left for Dwaraka via Porbandar; at Dwaraka that he had left for Bet Dwaraka; at Bet Dwaraka that at the invitation of the Maharaja of Kutch he had gone to Mandavi; at Mandavi that accompanied by a party of body guards he had gone to Narayan Sarovar, which was eighty miles away.
Swami Akhandananda was warned at Mandavi that the road to Narayan Sarovar was infested with dacoits. But heedless of danger he sped on. On the way he was beaten and robbed by dacoits. At Narayan Sarovar he learnt that the journey to the place, which might have cost him his life, had been fruitless for he was told that Swamiji had left for Mandavi via Ashapura. The road lay through desert wastes and was also infested with dacoits and it meant a journey for a hundred miles, yet he heroically marched on in spite of having fallen sick.
Swamiji was also astonished and no less glad to meet his beloved brother disciple but when he heard the story of his chasing him, he got worried that his brother – disciple would not leave him alone as he had come all the way at the risk of his life. He told Swami Akhandananda, “Look I have become a spoiled man, you leave me.” Swami Akhandananda replied, “what would it matter to me even if you had lost your character ? I love you, and that is not in any way affected by your good or bad character. But I do not wish to be in your way. I had a longing to see you, and now I am satisfied. Now you can go alone.” Swamiji was happy to hear this and next day left for Bhuj, which Swami Akhandananda reached a day later. Both of them then went back to Mandavi and halted for a fortnight. There Swamiji made many friends. From there Swamiji went to Porbandar. Swami Akhandananda joined him at Porbandar after about a week and after spending a few days at Porbandar he went to Jamnagar via Jetpur, Gondal, Rajkot and thus spent about a year in Kathiawad.
One evening while Swamiji was pacing on the roof of the palace of the Maharaja of Porbandar. He suddenly saw his brother disciple Swami Trigunatitananda coming towards the palace with a group of sadhus. Swamiji was thrilled to see him.
In Porbandar, Swamiji came into contact with Pandit Shankar Pandurang (1840-1894) of Konkan. He was a Sanskrit scholar of eminence. After his return from England in 1874, he was appointed as Oriental Translator in Bombay Government as he was proficient in nine languages.
Swamiji visited Porbandar twice. According to Swami Shivananda, it was the large beautiful library of Panditji that had attracted Swamiji. During his earlier visit to Porbandar, Panditiji had requested him to stay as long as he liked at his place and utilize the library. Thus, Swamiji stayed for about four months.
During his long stay at Porbandar Swamiji became very intimate with Panditji and his family. He used to ride with Panditji on horseback to have a look at the distant villages. Being an artist of the cuisine he taught the wife of Panditji, Ushadevi, various delicious preparations. Two sons of Panditji – Madhav and Vaman played with him, learnt swimming from him and became great friends of Swamiji. Three daughters Tara, Kshama and Bhadra who were at first shy, received greater affection and blessings of Swamiji.
When Swamiji was at Porbandar, Pandit Shankar Pandurang was editing Sayanacharya’s commentary on the ‘Atharva Veda’. Struck with Swamiji’s scholarship, he often asked his help to explain some of the more abstruse passages which Swamiji did with his usual lucidity. Both kept at the work constantly, Swamiji becoming more and more engrossed in it as his perception of the greatness of Vedic thought grew still keener. Swamiji also finished reading of Panini’s ‘Mahabhasya’ at Porbandar. Swamiji told Swami Akhandananda that in the whole of India he had not seen Pandurang’s equal in Vedic learning. 37 Swamiji also learnt French at the instance of Panditiji who said, “It will be of great use to you Swamiji”. He wrote a letter in French to his brother – disciples at Alambazar and gave them a great surprise.
Pandit Shankar Pandurang told Swamiji,
“I am afraid you cannot do much in this country. Few will appreciate you here. You ought to go to the West. Surely you can throw a great light on Western culture by preaching the Sanatana Dharma”.
Here, probably Swamiji heard for the first about the religious convention that was to be held sometime in the following year at Chicago.
Humour at Porbandar
Acharya Revashankar Anupram Dave who was a centenarian, used to go to Bhojeswar Bungalow to meet Swamiji with his friend Madhav, while he was himself 18 years of age. Giving his memories of those days he said that one day the students of Sanskrit school were brought to Swamiji who talked to them mostly in Hindi, but at times Bengali and Sanskrit words used to creep in. One of the students Govindaji replied to Swamiji, “I went to Varanasi and have studied the ‘Sama-veda’. I have learnt six Mantras (Shastras ?)” Then Swamiji asked, “Why did you not study further?” Govindaji replied, “I happened to have Karela so I had to come back.” On hearing the word ‘Karela’, Swamiji had a hearty laugh. ‘Karela’ means bitter gourd, but the boy had meant that he had an attack of cholera.
From Porbandar Swamiji came to Junagadh and then started for Palitana – a city of temples many of which date back to the eleventh century. High up on Shatrunjaya mountain sacred to the Jains, is a temple dedicated to Hanuman and a shrine dedicated to Hengar, a Muslim saint. Swamiji climbed to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view that is magnificent.
At Palitana Swamiji drew the attention of people because of his mastery of singing and playing on instruments.
From Palitana Swamiji started for Baroda. On his way he met his friends Shri Haridas Viharidas Desai, Shri Chhaganlal Pandya and Shri Manasukhram Tripathi. He also met Shri Manilal Nabhubhai Dwivedi, the well-known Gujarati writer. Dwivediji’s life (1858-1898) was spent in writing many books in Gujarati, English and Sanskrit including ‘Immitation of Shankara’, ‘Rajayoga’, ‘Siddhanta Sar’, ‘Bhagavad Gita’ etc. He could not go to Chicago Parliament of Religions but his paper was read out there. Dwivediji was one of the pioneers in spreading Advaita Vedanta in Gujarat. Hence Swamiji must have enjoyed his company at Nadiad by holding discussions on Vedanta.
From Nadiad, Swamiji came finally to Baroda before leaving Gujarat, with a letter of introduction from Diwanji Saheb addressed to his intimate friend Shri Manibhai J. Diwan of Baroda, who was a man of piety and noble character. Shri Manibhai J. had received the title of Diwan Bahadur from the Government of India along with a medal and gift of Rs. 75,000 while he was the Diwan of Kutch. In Kutch he introduced great and beneficial reform in all departments – collection of revenue, education, sanitation etc.
At Baroda Diwan Shri Manibhai worked hard and there was spectacular progress in the field of education. Swamiji spent sometime with him in discussing about the education system of the State. Swamiji wrote from Baroda on 26th April, 1892 to Diwanji Saheb of Junagadh “I had not the least difficulty in reaching your house from the station of Nadiad. And your brothers, they are what they should be, your brothers. May the Lord shower his choicest blessings on your family. I have never found such a glorious one in all my travels. Your friend Mr. Manibhai has provided every comfort for me but as to his company, I have only seen him twice, once for a minute, the other time for 10 minutes at the most when he talked about the system of education here. Of course, I have seen the library and the pictures by Ravi Varma and that is about all seeable here. So I am going off this evening to Bombay.”
Curiously enough, there is no mention in the above letter about Swamiji’s meeting with Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. Swamiji had told Prince Martand Varma at Trivandrum that “of all the ruling princes he had met, he had been most impressed with the capacity, patriotism, energy and foresight of H.H. the Gaekwad of Baroda.” 40 Swamiji was also perhaps impressed with the Maharani of Gaekwad because he wrote on 17.2.1901 to Miss Macleod from Belur Math “I hope you will go to Baroda and see Maharani” However, the State records reveal that Maharaja was not in Baroda at the time of Swamiji. He had gone to place called Lonavali (Lonavala ?) In all probability Swamiji met him while he was in Mahabaleshwar or Poona. After his return from the West, Swamiji wanted to visit Baroda and meet the Maharaja but it did not materialize.
Most likely, on 26th April, 1892 Swamiji left Gujarat and proceeded to Bombay and thus ended his historical tour of Gujarat.
For the full article see: http://www.rkmvadodara.com/svinguj.htm