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In 1897, Swami Vivekananda after his triumphant return from West stayed 9 days at the Vivekanandar Illam from Feb 6 – 14. These 9 days are celebrated as ‘Vivekananda Navaratri’ by Sri Ramakrishna Math and devotees.
Today the Vivekananda Navaratri celebrations began with Devotional choir by Dr. Sudha Raja and group. The Divine Book Festival was inaugurated by the Chief Guest Sri N Gopalaswamy, former Chief Election Commissioner of India.
Along with the chanting of Veda mantras the holy lamp was lit. Swami Vimurtananda Maharaj, manager, Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai in his welcome address explained the importance of Vivekananda Navaratri and also stated “How should we, the Indians live? We should mix with all people of the world, exchange thoughts and through that, we should propagate the Hindu Culture and our spiritual thoughts all over the world. A Win-Win culture should be nourished. Swamiji’s faith on the youth was recently proved by the youth’s uprising on Marina in support of Jallikattu”
Padma Sri Nalli Kuppuswamy Chettiar, Sri N Ravi, Director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd (The Hindu), Sri Anand, Senior Advocate, Kerala High Court and Sri N Murali, Sri Krishna Sweets participated as guests of Honor and delivered short speeches.
N Gopalaswamy on his Chief guest address said “Swami Vivekananda 120 years ago, introduced India to the Indians during these Navaratri days. Chennai, why Chennai alone? Whole of Tamilnadu must be the product of it. The Divine Book Festival is very significant in this period, in which reading habit is slowly disappearing. The initiation and the effort taken by the Ramakrishna math are exemplary. We should make good use of this to the benefit of our own self”
Srimat Swami Gautamanandaji Maharaj in his benedictory address recounted his reminiscence – event of getting the Vivekanandar Illam in 1997 on the centenary year of Swamiji’s return to India after the triumphant tour of the West.
At 7 pm Sri U Ve Velukudi Krishnan rendered a spiritual discourse on “Geethiyin Saaram”. He emphasized on the points “If we know that the Atma is eternal we need not fear for anything, but we should perform our duties. Sri Krishna says ‘I have nothing to do in the three worlds. I am the giver of the results of your duties.’ But the lord is working day and night to make us understand the dignity of labor. The teacher of Bhagawad Gita, drives the chariot of Arjuna. Sri Krishna acts as the teacher and the performer of work at the same time. So we should do our worldly duties perfectly’
Swami Apavargananda, Editor, Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam thanked the gathering and the program was attended by more than 600 people.
Day - 2
In the nine-days celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s triumphant return from the West – Vivekananda Navaratri celebrations at Vivekanandar Illam, the second day of the celebrations began with the Bhajans by students of Sarada Vidyalaya, T Nagar, Chennai.
It was followed by reading from Swamiji’s inspiring lectures from the book ‘Colombo to Almora talks’. Pravarajika Amalaprana Mataji, General Secretary, Sarada Math, Dakshineshwar delivered the Benedictory address. Mataji spoke on what happened on this day 120 years ago. “I am happy to participate in this Navaratri function today. This event is equally blessed as the Sakthi Navaratri.
The people of Chennai alone discovered Swami Vivekananda and insisted him to go to America. It is a landmark event not only in Indian history but also in the World history.
Hence it is quite appropriate to celebrate Swamiji’s stay in this erstwhile ice house. We should try to fulfill Swami Vivekananda’s dream and make India glorious. In Chennai, only Swami Vivekananda revealed his future plans to regenerate the lost glory of India.”
Honorable Justice B. Rajendran, Judge, Madras High Court participated as the Chief guest of the event. In his keynote address “This Navaratri celebration show that how much we adore Swamiji. ‘Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, the dream of it, live on that idea. This is the way to success’ is the most wonderful quote of Swami Vivekananda. Mind, if controlled will help us to do wonders. After coming to this Vivekanandar Illam I feel the greatness of Swami Vivekananda and the great work he had done. What others did not even think, he worked for the upliftment of our country. Our future generations should think and work on the lines of Swami Vivekananda and make India great”
At 7.00 pm Nama Sangeerthanam was performed by Bhramashri Vittaldas Maharaj of Govindapuram. The audience experienced the wave of Bhakti. Children were seen dancing gracefully to the rhythm of divine singing. In between his Bhajans, he delivered a lecture on Swami Vivekananda. He said – Swamiji’s Vedanta philosophy alone is the eternal truth. He came to Kumbakonam before coming to Chennai. Swamiji explained his new Vedanta in Kumbakonam for the first time. Be positive was his most important message.
More than 400 school children visited the Divine Book Festival and bought books of their taste. Monks of the order motivated the children with thoughts of Swami Vivekananda. The Navaratri event was attended by more than 1000 people.
Day - 3
The 3rd day of Vivekananda Navaratri celebrations 2017 began with Bhajans by Vidya Vani Bhajan Mandali, Chennai. Youngsters sang enthusiastically, and the audience were immersed in divinity.
After the reading from the lectures of Swami Vivekananda, Swami Buddhidanandaji Maharaj delivered a lecture on ‘Thirugnanasambandar & Swami Vivekananda’. Some key points: Gnanasambandar and Swamiji were great devotees of Lord Siva. They considered the world as the replica of the Lord. Gnanasambandar was adored as a person born to make the Vedas prosper. So as Swamiji was a preacher of Vedanta from the East to the West. Both of them served the poor and sick people wholeheartedly. Thus Maharaj gave a vivid description of saint Thirugnanasambandar’s life and service in spreading Bhakti, love and the miracles performed by him.
Guest of honor Sri N S Venkatesh, Executive director, Lakshmi Vilas Bank stated: “The exhibition here is a treat to the eyes and mind. Efforts of celebrating Swamiji’s stay is praiseworthy. When people of the world tried to conquer the world, Swamiji conquered the minds of great people. Swamiji has given the West a peaceful way for life. We hence after must serve the people without any expectation. All of the programs of the day are very good and inspiring”.
As the grand finale of the day, Prayathana theater’s Sahodari Nivedita drama was staged. Sister Nivedita, the spiritual daughter and disciple of Swamiji was well portrayed in the drama. Right from the coming of the sister till the end at Darjeeling, her life and service were performed in most striking and heartening way. Both Girish Ilya path and Deepika Srikanth who acted as Swamiji and Sister Nivedita performed too well. They did not act, they lived the character. In short, this drama is a fitting tribute to Sister Nivedita on her 150th Birth anniversary.
More than 600 students from various schools visited the Divine Book fair. Students were interested in self-development books written on the lines of Swamiji’s idea. Monks of the order gave motivational lectures to the students. The evening event was attended by 500 people.
Day - 4
The fourth day of the Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations started with Bhajans by Ramakrishna Math devotees. It was followed by the reading from the lectures of Swami Vivekananda by Brahmachari AdiChaitanya.
Swami Apavargananda, Editor, Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, spoke about the Chennai disciples of Swami Vivekananda. He explained how they, in Swamiji’s first visit identified his greatness and made arrangements for his participation in the Parliament of religions of Chicago.
Even when Swamiji was in the West, these young men untiringly looked after his financial needs. They carried out his orders such as starting of magazines like Brahmavadin, Prabuddha Bharata, etc. On his return, they gave him an unprecedented reception. So, Madras disciples have a very significant place in the Biography of Swamiji and in the spiritual history of India.
Sri K.Vaidyanathan, Editor, Dinamani participated as the Chief guest of the event. He spoke: “We are celebrating the Vivekananda Navaratri in the same sacred place where Swamiji stayed for 9 days.
‘Fear not!’ – this voice of Swamiji was heard by everyone who enters this complex.
Swami Vivekananda sowed the seeds of the Independence struggle. Two stalwarts of freedom movement Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose were inspired by Swamiji. Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address, Bharati’s demise and the start of Dinamani newspaper took place on the same day – Sep 11.
I think publishing the events connected to Swamiji and his messages are sacred duties that I am able to do.
Nanjunda Rao, one day found a picture lying on the floor of Theosophical Society. There was a man sweeping the floor. Rao was so much attracted and inspired by seeing the photo that he took it to his home and placed it in his Pooja room. After a very long time, he got acquainted with Swamiji. Once Swamiji happened to visit his home. Seeing the picture, Swamiji’s eyes were welled with tears. Everybody wondered why Swamiji was crying. Nanjunda Rao told the history of how the picture landed in his home. Then Swamiji revealed that it was the picture of his own dear Master – Guru – Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna. Yes, Sri Ramakrishna without anybody’s knowledge came and accepted the Pooja of Rao. So this place is one of the most sacred places.
It is our great misfortune that the letter correspondences between Kidi and Swami Vivekananda are not saved anywhere. It would have been a great treasure.
Sri K. Vaidyanathan recounted the anecdotes of many devotees of Swamiji and his disciples very interestingly. He exclaimed: When I encounter any problem in my life I find the solution in Sri Ramakrishna’s words.
Sri. Sikkil Gurucharan along with Sri. Anil Srinivasan (in Piano) gave a scintillating Carnatic – Western fusion musical performance. He started with the famous “Vellai Kamalathile” song written by Mahakavi Bharathiyar. Next came up Papanasam Sivan’s composition “Naan our villayattu Bommaya”. It is quite fitting that this wonderful performance was given in a place where great saints who built the bridge between the East and the West stayed and sanctified for nine days.
The Divine Book fair was visited by more than 500 children in the evening. Monks of the order gave motivational lectures on the lines of Swamiji’s thought. Navaratri event in the evening was attended by 300 people.
Day - 5
The fifth day of Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations began with Bhajans by the students of RKM Vivekananda Centenary Girls Higher Secondary School, Mint, followed by the reading from the extracts of Swami Vivekananda’s lecture by Sri Lokkumar.
Master J. A. Jayanth gave a wonderful flute recital. He is the grandson of flutist Mali. As a child prodigy, he had rendered flute recital at Thyagaraja Utsavam at the age of 7. He is a recipient of the M.S. Subbulakshmi Awards. He began his recital with Sri Thyagaraja’s Nadasudha Rasam in Arabic, followed by ‘Enna thavam seithanai’. The next 30 minutes’ air was filled with melodious soul stirring flute music. The recital ended with “Kooovi azhaithaal kural kodupaan”
Swami Paramasukhanandaji Maharaj delivered a lecture on “Katraar Kadai Therinaar”. “Wake up India!” – Swami began his lecture with this clarion call. Vivekananda Navaratri is an important event. Katraar Kadai Therinaar, the very title is filled with many questions.
To give regeneration to the Indian Spirituality, Sri Ramakrishna was born in India. Swami Vivekananda learned from him the secret of uprising India to regain its lost glory. Our Vedas call man as Amritasya Putra. The man is divine and he is that which is everywhere – Brahman. This was explained by Sri Ramakrishna through his life itself. He worshiped his wife as the almighty in Shodashi puja. He even accepted alms for the thread ceremony from the lowest caste lady, Dhani.
Maharaj gave many anecdotes from the lives of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna. Swamiji learned and preached that service to mankind is the service to the Lord.
Sri A.Kaliyamurthy, IPS, Retd, participated as the chief guest of the program. His special address was on the topic: Ellorukkum Vivekanandar. He began his speech with a wonderful incident of Swamiji when everybody was admiring the full moon, Swamiji told them about the beauty of the creator behind the beautiful moon.
“Naren was transformed into Vivekananda by his mother. Mother is the creator of the generations. Mother is worshiped by all great men right from Adi Shankara to Kannadasan. She is the embodiment, representative of God herself”. He went on explaining Swamiji’s thoughts with various anecdotes from lives of great personalities. Thus, Sri A. Kaliyamurthy gave a vivid description of Mother’s greatness. Similarly, with many quotes and examples, he explained the importance of building the character of children. In short, the lecture was a grand feast of Tamil language and literature.
The Divine Book fair was visited by more than 600 school students in the evening. Monks of the order gave motivational lectures on the lines of Swamiji’s thought. Navaratri event in the evening was attended by more than 300 people.
Day - 6
The sixth day of Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations began with a colorful cultural program by the students of Vidya Mandir, Mylapore, followed by the reading from the lecture of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Satyaprabhanandaji Maharaj spoke about Swamiji’s experience at Vivekanandar Illam. Swami Vivekananda had some spiritual experience in one day. Other than that we know nothing about his spiritual experiences here. Otherwise, all the 9 days were occasions of grand celebrations. Thousands of people accompanied by musical instruments came to welcome him in Chennai. His chariot was pulled by the youth. This was a heartening incident to Swamiji.
“You are the incarnation of Thirugnanasambandar!”- exclaimed one lady to Swamiji and worshiped him. Swamiji was very much moved by this. Tirupathi devotees called him as an Avatar from Vaikuntha.
There were some moments when Swami Vivekananda slightly grew emotional, such as when someone asked “You a non-brahmin has become a sanyasi? He gave a suitable reply but didn’t hurt the person with words.
The occasion when Swami Vivekananda came out of the meeting hall to see hundreds of ordinary people outside shows his love and compassion for his fellow beings.
On one of these days at this Illam, Subramania Iyer revealed the idea of establishing a Universal temple, where all people irrespective of religions would come and worship.
At the time of parting, the people of Madras were visibly sad. Swamiji consoled them by promising to send one of his brother monks to keep the momentum.
Sri L. Sabaretnam, Chairman, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan participated as the Chief Guest of the event. In his keynote address, he mentioned that Bhavan’s and the Math had similar ideas and did similar activities. Swami Vivekananda believed that spiritual awakening is the only way for India to become supreme globally. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has published more than 29 books on Swami Vivekananda.
Spencer S Balasubramaniam who helped a lot for the Divine Book Festival was felicitated. In his brief address he mentioned, by setting the motto of Ramakrishna Math as “Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitaya Cha” Swami Vivekananda had transformed the entire concept of service.
The last and the special item of the day was Bommalattam. Puppet show on Swami Vivekananda was done by Mayiladuthurai Sri Gananathar Bommai Nadaga Sabha. The audience was enthralled by the performance. The show was filled with Swamiji’s life added with nice traditional humor by Komali.
Navaratri event was attended by more than 600 people.
Day - 7
The seventh day of Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations began with the Bhajans rendered by Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Sr. Sec. School, Chennai. Dr. Chowdhury, leading heart specialist and ardent devotee of Ramakrishna Math read some extracts from the lectures of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Nilamadhavanandaji Maharaj delivered a talk on the topic “Vivekanandar Kanda Pensingam Sahodari Niveditai’. Swami began his speech with the wonderful prayer on Sister Nivedita by Mahakavi Bharati. Swami Vivekananda told Nivedita: “You should teach the Indians to regain their lost glory”. But Sister Nivedita told him that she wanted to learn from India. Immediately, Swamiji replied that this is the suitable moment for you to go to India.
Some important ideas that Swami Vivekananda gave to Sister Nivedita are:
- You should spread national ideals to the people of India.
- Should lift the people spiritually from where they are.
- Educate them.
- Literature such as Ramayana, Mahabharata should be made to read by all Indians.
- Bharathiyans must write their own history not others.
- Service to the suffering.
- All this must be promoted and taught to the people in a national perspective.
Swami also explained how orthodox devotees and Holy Mother Sarada Devi accepted Sister Nivedita without any hesitation.
Kalaimamani Smt. Chitra Visweshwaran, Secretary, Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram participated as the chief guest of the event. She recounted her childhood experiences on how she grew up in Kolkata, Golpark. Some extracts from her special address: Swami Vivekananda sowed the seeds for the freedom. At that time of British rule, our people were happy to copy their lifestyle. Swamiji asked us to remember our own rich and traditional heritage. He questioned his Guru many times, but it was all sincere calls for understanding great ideas. Our Children must know the greatness of such place like Vivekanandar Illam. They should love their country and wish to be born in this great land again and again.
The climax item of today’s program was the Dance Drama program on the Vedic theme “Aham Brahmasmi” by Smt. Sheela Unnikrishnan and her disciples. It is one of the Mahavakyas of the Upanishads. Smt. Sheela came from the Guru Parampara of Melattur style of Bharatanatyam.
The Mahavakya was preached by Swami Vivekananda.
23 Dancers participated in this performance. The advent and action of Maya were beautifully described. Life of Sri Shankaracharya was portrayed. The only path for the soul to get liberation is Advaita – this grand philosophy was the central theme of the dance and it was enacted very beautifully. The audience were seen immersed in the subject.
More than 500 people attended the evening Navaratri program.
Day - 8
The eighth day of Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations began with a colorful cultural program of Bhajans and Dance-Drama on Adi Shankara by Students of DAV Hr. Sec. School, Adambakkam, Chennai followed by the reading from the lecture of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Mahamedhanandaji Maharaj, Editor, The Vedanta Kesari spoke on ‘Message of Swamiji to Students’. Maharaj focused on four important topics on the message of Swami Vivekananda to students:
Success: It is very difficult to define success. In the perception of students, we usually define success as getting highest marks in the exam. It is not good to become number one in the class, the victorious students and all the others become losers. We have to redefine success: It is understanding the subject or the art, with a passion for excellence to work for it.
External and internal worlds: The students should be thought to live in the internal world also. It means that leading life with moral practices.
The power of concentration: Success depends on the concentration of mind. Students should be given proper direction to concentrate on what they do. Swamiji says: ‘Take care of your thinking. Continuous thinking results in a habit. Habits form the character.’
Goal: Students should be directed to have a noble goal in life. Parents and teachers may help them in this process.
Hon’ble Justice R. Mahadevan, Judge, Madras High Court participated as the chief guest of the function. Some points from his keynote address: Swamiji wanted the youth of India should lead a life of Spirituality and Honesty. He wanted to bring back and develop a humane, to make people as true men. His vision turned towards God, he saw God in all the living beings. He wished all of us to develop this noble practice, to see God in all beings. Swamiji considered: Beyond religions, service to man is the most important thing.
Today’s Navaratri event ended with a drama on “Thirunavukkarasar” staged by Nataka Kavalar Kalaikoodam. Sri. K. R. S. Kumar had directed the drama.
Thirunavukkarasar is one of the 63 Nayanmars of Shaivism. He was inspired by Jainism and he joined it, but due to the Lord Shiva’s blessing, he got his incurable disease cured. By the instruction of his sister, he came back to Shaivism. He praised Lord Shiva through many hymns called as “Thevaram”. His life was well enacted by the drama troop and the audience witnessed it spellbound. More than 500 people attended the evening Navaratri event.
Day - 9
The ninth (final) day of Vivekananda Navaratri Celebrations began with Bhajans by the Students of Navagana Bhajan Mandali.
Welcome address delivered by Swami Shashishikananda, Director, Vivekananda Cultural Centre, Chennai.
Dr. M.Manickam Chairman, Sakthi Group participated as Guests of Honour. Sri S.Manoharan, SM Silks, Kancheepuram delivered a short lecture.
Honorable Ma Foi Sri K Pandiarajan, Minister for School Education and Sports and Youth Welfare, Govt. of Tamil Nadu delivered a lecture as Chief Guest of the event.
Sri U Ve Dushyant Sridhar delivered a Katha Kutcheri on Thamarai Kannan. He brought out the facts about the Lotus Eyed avatars of Sri Maha Vishnu, in a humorous way. The kutcheri rendered by Selvi Anahita and Apoorva Ravindran & Party was mesmerizing.
Navaratri event in the evening was attended by 400 people.