A paper presented at the annual conference of Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti of Tamilnadu to commemorate SwamiViviekananda’s 150th Birthday.
Viviekananda exercised tremendous influence on all the phases of our freedom movement. Vivekananda influenced freedom movement like Rousseau influenced French Revolution. The successful culmination in political liberation of our freedom movement was itself a great revolution. To fight against Britain, a powerful imperialist power which suppressed and exploited Bharat for more than hundred years and make it quit Bharat can be proudly heralded and hailed as a great armed as well as unarmed revolution unprecedented in the annals of world history.
Without the background of wide national consciousness no freedom movement is possible. From all contemporary research of those times it becomes abundantly evident that Viviekananda’s was the most forceful influence to rouse the national spirit in Bharat. Nivedita said: “Vivekananda was a worker at foundations…and a living epitome of national life”.
English education, Indian press, regional literature reform movements, political parties including Congress, came and spread their influence before Viviekananda. In spite of all these, powerful national consciousness was not there. That is why in early 1893 the Hindu paper wrote: “Hinduism is dead; Its course is run “. But the same paper along with others including Anglo-Indian and Missionary papers wrote in less than one year’s time that the present time may be described as the renaissance period in the History of Hindus. Madras times (second, March, 1895) called it “A national uprising”. How did this miracle happen? The only answer is that we derive from contemporary accounts is that Viviekananda appeared at the parliament of religions (Chicago – 11-9-1893 USA) proclaimed there the glory of Hinduism and civilization one recognition for our country’s ancient heritage and thereby gave back to Hindus their long-lost esteem and self-confidence.
After returning to Bharat, Viviekananda called upon the Hindus to believe in their potential strength, reverence for the greatness of Bharat and struggle against foreign oppression. He showed the way for nation building from a sound foundation. Past history shows that in Bharat religious movement has always preceded national movement. Here in Bharat no national uprising was possible without revitalizing Hinduism. Viviekananda did that. His primary role as a religious leader made him the spiritual leader of freedom movement of Bharat.
Viviekananda’s contributions towards nationalism, militant nationalism in particular were the following:
- Self esteem and self confidence.
- Dynamic spirit- Arise, Awake and stop not till the goal is reached.
- Complete dedication – forget not that thou art born as a sacrifice to the mother’s alter”. Give away; never turn to ask in return.
- Message of strength, struggle and fearlessness. He said infinite strength is religion and God”. Life is struggle. Struggle, struggle unto death. I believe in struggle. Upanishads only proclaimed, “ Abhihi – fearlessness.
- Passionate love for the country and its people.
- Integral unity of Bharat
- Equal rights and corresponding duties of all men.
- Awareness of realities and actual problem that face the country.
- Emphasis on social uplift and mass education.
- Emphasis on character building. Consolidation of youth energy and application of that for national building.
He said: “Man – making is my religion”. All these ideas spread widely through out Bharat either directly through him of through his books
“Those writings at times took the shape of secret revolutionary literature copied in hand and circulated amongst students”.
Viviekananda was eminently suitable for the task he took up. He gathered vast intimate experience of the life of people in Bharat in all its facets when he travelled for six years from one corner of Bharat to the other and lived with Rajas and sweepers alike. He has also acquired a first hand knowledge of western methods. No doubt, he was the man for the task. Above all stood his great love for the hungry millions of people of Bharat, they, his own brothers and sisters. Swami Turiyananda recalls:
“With a profound expression of sadness and intense emotion through all his being he pressed a trembling hand upon his heart and said, “my heart has grown much…I have learnt to feel. Believe me, I feel it very sadly!” his voice choked with emotion. He was silent. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Turiyananda narrating this event was himself deeply moved and said: “what went through my spirit when I heard these pathetic words and saw the majestic sadness of the Swamiji. I remembered that a long time before, when he had gone to Bodh Gaya to meditate under the Bodhi tree, He had a vision of the Lord Buddha, who entered into his body … I could clearly see that the whole suffering of humanity had penetrated his palpitating heart. “ No body”, continued Turiyananda with passion, “ No body could understand Viviekananda unless he saw at least a fraction of the volcanic feelings which were in him” Turiyananda told another scene of the same kind at which he was present, after Viviekananda had comeback from America in the house of Balaram at Bagh Bazar at Calcutta:
“I had gone to see him and I found him pacing the verandah like a caged Lion. He was in deep thought and did not notice my presence. He began to hum under his breath a celebrated song of Meerabai. And the tears welled up in his eyes he stopped and leaned against the balustrade and hid his face in his two palms. His voice became more distinct and he sang repeating several times:
“Oh! No body understands my sorrow!”
“Only who suffers knows the anguish of sorrow”.
It was his rending sympathy which made him often shed tears. “Do you think that these tears of blood were shed in vain? No! Each one of those tears shed for his country, every inflamed whisper of his mighty heart will give birth to troops of heroes, who will shake the world with their thoughts and deeds”1..
Viviekananda’s knowledge of world history made him realize the nature of British rule. But unfortunately the political leaders of his time could not understand this. Those leaders thought the British rule was “a divine dispensation and that it was beneficial to the people. But Viviekananda considered the British rule as satanic. It was out and out capitalistic with merciless exploitation as its sole objective. In the following words of Viviekananda we find the incisive political insight of swamiji couched in poetic diction :
“There fore, the conquest of India by England is not a conquest by Jesus or the Bible as we are often asked to believe… But behind the name of Jesus, the Bible, the Magnificent palaces, the heavy tramp of the feet of the armies…shaking the earth, the sounds of the war trumpets, bugles, the drums, and the splendid display of the royal throne; behind all these, there is always the virtual presence of England – that England whose war-flag is factory chimney, whose troops are the merchant men, whose battle fields are the market places of the world and whose empress is the gold – studded Goddess of Fortune”2.
Viviekananda indirectly but definitely influenced the congress to change its course. Viviekananda objected to the saintly policy of the congress. He urged the nationalists to come down from their high intellectual pretentions and mix with the masses and share their sufferings. The first political movement on which Viviekananda’s inspiration was directly felt was the great swadeshi movement which started just three years after he passed away. Soon it became all India movement to stop partition of Bengal. Secret government papers revealed this view. It pushed the congress to open conflict with Government. It created revolutionary element with in congress, which resulted in the “moderates” getting separated from congress. The revolutionary activities took a definite shape during this time. It was a historical fact that the partition of Bengal led to the partition of British Empire.
The influence of Viviekananda prevailed on all the trends of the national movement like the Moderate, the Extremist and the Revolutionary.
Surendranath Banerji said that Viviekananda was a patriot in the truest sense of the term and remembered Carlyle’s words: “History of a nation is the history of its great men”.
Gokhale’s social ideas, particularly his insistence on the uplift of the masses were inspired by Vivekananda.
The Extremist block formed in the swadeshi movement has as its leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak had direct acquaintance with Vivekananda. Viviekananda influenced Tilak’s social and religious ideas. Tilak said: “Viviekananda roused the much-needed national consciousness of Bharat”. He compared Viviekananda’s role with that of Adi Sankaracharya. When they had met at Belur, Viviekananda had urged Tilak to resort to even “destructive methods” when confronted with enemies. Tilak’s journal ‘Maharatta’wrote on January,1912, “Viviekananda is the real father of the Indian Nationalism…every Indian is proud of this father of Modern India”.
Bipin Chandra Pal wrote in Annie Besant’s paper ‘commonweal, on 18th August 1916: Viviekananda …is the greatest preacher and prophet of our modern nationalism. He was the first to strike the note of that burning passion for our country and culture-that keenly sensitive patriotism which found prominent expression in the nationalist propaganda of the last decade.
Annie Besant in her well known book “India” (1915) openly acknowledged that “Viviekananda roused the strongest feeling of nationality”. C.R.Dass came in direct contact with Viviekananda. He confided to Macleod (Viviekananda’s American disciple) that Viviekananda is my teacher. His main contribution to Indian national movement was his utmost effort to combine forces of peasants and workers with the main stream of struggle. This had its route in the inspiration derived from Viviekananda.
Subhash Chandrabose said: “Swamiji was a full-blooded masculine personality – and a fighter to the core of his being. Strength, strength was a frequent call of his. If he had been alive, I would have been at his feet. Modern India is his creation.
Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati said “Viviekananda explained the import of Hinduism in a language that every one can understand. He was responsible for initiating the renaissance of Hindu dharma.
Relevant historical accounts, secret government papers and published reports and memoirs of Revolutionary leaders reveal the tremendous influence exerted by Viviekananda on the revolutionary movement. Viviekananda’s writings were widely read by the militant revolutionaries; those were practically their text books; Recruitments to revolutionary parties were made from the members of the Ramakrishna mission and the magic name of Viviekananda was used for this purpose. The British Government realized that many portions of Viviekananda’s lectures could be used for radical politics. He thought prohibiting the publication of Viviekananda’s letters and banning the Ramakrishna Mission. He was regarded as a suspicious character and was closely watched and harassed.
Lord Carmichael attacked and threatened The Mission in his Durbar speech. In his secret reports he wrote:
“The teachings of Viviekananda tend towards Nationalism in politics… he is regarded by many Hindu nationalists as the Guru of Freedom Movement…This teaching of Viviekananda was a powerful weapon in the hands of an idealist revolutionary like Aurobindo Ghosh . Several passages of the teachings of Sami Viviekananda are pregnant with sedition … their potentialities for evil have been fully realized and taken advantage of by the Revolutionaries…Maths are resorted to political refugees…Bogus Ashrams are nothing but centers for the dissemination of Revolutionary doctrines… and they have sprung up with alarming rapidity in eastern Bengal”3.
Nivedita was deeply involved in Revolutionary movement. Publicist Nevinson described her as a soldier with a flaming sword in the war liberation… in the face of the enemy her eyes turned to glowing steel, and under anger they deepened in colour like Garibaldi’s’.
Hemchandra Kanungo – The Bomb- maker revolutionary – described her rousing speeches as “dynamite”. Nivedita was the standard bearer of Swami Vivekananda in the political field.
In his Bhavani Mandir pamphlet Aurobindo depicted Viviekananda as his prophet. He proclaimed that the one main reason behind the success of swadeshi movement was the spirit of Vivekananda which stood behind it. Ramakrishna prepared Viviekananda as the re3presentative of future India and said of Viviekananda, “you the hero.” Ramakrishna transmitted his powers in the Hero which like the scorching rays of the mid-day Sun pervaded the whole country. Once Ramakrishna in the presence of all his other disciples said emphatically that Viviekananda is like “a drawn sword ready to swing into action and proclaimed prophetically: “Narran will shake the world to it foundations”.
Aurobindo gave his call in the name of Viviekananda:
“Behold, Viviekananda still lives in the soul of his mother and in the souls of her children”.
Viviekananda immensely influenced most of the Aurobindaite revolutionaries like Barindra, Debabrata, Bhupendranath and on their paper, ‘Jugantar’ which exercised enormous influence on the minds of young revolutionaries.
- Romain Rolland, “The life of– Viviekananda and the Universal Gospel.
- Advait Ashrama, Kolkata 26th edition 2009, page 24.
- Complete works of Swami Viviekananda Advait Ashrama 1955 Vol.4, page 452.
- From C.A.Tegard’s special superintendant of Police, Intelligence branch report on the Ramakrishna Mission 15, May, 1914.
Dr.K.M.Rao Ph.D., State President, Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti Tamilnadu