Born: 12 January 1863, Kolkata
Died: 4 July 1902, Belur Math, Howrah
Full name: Narendra Nath Datta
Swami Vivekananda (12 January 1863 – 4 July 1902), born Narendranath Datta was an Indian Hindu monk. He was a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India, and contributed to the concept of Indian nationalism as a tool to fight against the British empire in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began with the words – “Sisters and brothers of America …”in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
Born into an aristocratic Bengali Kayastha family of Calcutta, Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, from whom he learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to humankind. After Ramakrishna’s death, Vivekananda toured the Indian subcontinent extensively and acquired first-hand knowledge of the prevailing in British India. He later travelled to the United States, representing India at the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Vivekananda conducted hundreds of public and private lectures and classes, disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy in the United States, England and Europe. In India, Vivekananda is regarded as a patriotic saint, and his birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day.
Vivekananda was born Narendranath Datta (shortened to Narendra or Naren) in a Bengali family at his ancestral home at 3 Gourmohan Mukherjee Street in Calcutta, the capital of British India, on 12 January 1863 during the Makar Sankranti festival. He belonged to a traditional family and was one of nine siblings. His father, Vishwanath Datta, was an attorney at the Calcutta High Court. Durgacharan Datta, Narendra’s grandfather was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar who left his family and became a monk at age twenty-five. His mother, Bhubaneswari Devi, was a devout housewife. The progressive, rational attitude of Narendra’s father and the religious temperament of his mother helped shape his thinking and personality.
Narendranath was interested in spirituality from a young age and used to meditate before the images of deities such as Shiva, Rama, Sita, and Mahavir Hanuman.He was fascinated by wandering ascetics and monks.Naren was naughty and restless as a child, and his parents often had difficulty controlling him. His mother said, “I prayed to Shiva for a son and he has sent me one of his demons”.