A visit to Swamiji’s house
[avatar user=”joydeep” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” /]
Swami Vivekananda, the prophet of this modern age whose influence moved the world and who laid the foundation of a new order of practice, the religion of humanity and self belief was born in a renowned Datta family at Simla Pally of north Kolkata, India on 12 January 1863. The large house in which Narendranath Datta, (Pre-monastic name of Swami Vivekananda)was born had been built by his great grandfather Rammohan Datta 300 years ago from today. During Swamiji’s time the house was surrounded by a garden and beyond that there was a large open space. But in later years, owing to the city’s growth and the overcrowding of buildings, the approach road to the house got narrowed into a lane, now known as Gour Mohan Mukherjee Street.
A massive doorway opened to the street outside. On one side of the doorway there was a small room meant for the durwan or gatekeeper. As you enter the premises you would see the spacious courtyard, at a corner of which there was a stable. The courtyard was bordered on two sides by the main building, which had two parts. To the right was a single-storied structure having rooms for men-folk. Facing the doorway and across the courtyard, adjoining the men’s rooms, rose the ladies’ apartment, two stories in height. From the latticed enclosure here the purdah ladies could watch the Pujas and other religious ceremonies held in the courtyard. The ground floor of the building was used as a kitchen and dining hall.The roof of this building served as the place where the ladies met, talked and moved freely.It was in a small temporary shade on this roof that Swami Vivekananda was born. This is now being turned to a beautiful shrine, where a rosewood simhasan carrying the photograph of Swamiji has been placed.
The untimely death of Narendranth’s father – Viswanath Datta, brought the weak links in family relationships. Hardly had the days of mourning been over when some of the relatives put forth claims to the ownership of the property. The dispute was taken to the court and the legal battle dragged on. After the high court case was settled, the whole property was divided into ten parts. A portion of the house was demolished to make a common passage for the occupants of the building. After the time of Swami Vivekananda and his mother, his two younger brothers Mahendranath Datta and Bhupendrananth Datta continued to live in a part of the building till the end of their lives.
Mahendranath was an avid traveller, while Bhupendrananth, was a patriot and was deeply involved in the Indian freedom struggle for which he had to take refuge outside the country for sometime too. Their rooms too have been preserved with due honour.
In one of the rooms in the ground floor, several musical instruments like tabla, khol and tanpura were displayed. Swamiji sang well and had learned the Indian Classical music from his father as well as renowned singers of the day like, Pandit Beni Adhikary and Ustad Ahammad Khan. He even wrote poetry for which he often composed music himself. Swamiji quite often played these instruments. In later years after the formation of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, he himself composed many a hymn and decorated them with music himself.
In the course of time the building had come to a dilapidated condition, and there were 143 families and small business centers as its occupants. The site of Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral house had become a virtual slum. To clear up the welter of dilapidated structures, shed and junk was a Herculean task. After the whole area had been cleared up, there began the saga of restoration work. Ramakrishna Mission has restored the Ancestral House of Swami Vivekananda without changing any of its original architectural features. This feat of skilled workmanship was accomplished with the technical assistance of Archaeological Survey of India and Development Consultants Pvt. Ltd. It should be mentioned here that for this restoration work the same or similar materials were used as they were used in the original 18th century construction.
The Ancestral House of Swami Vivekananda was consecrated by the then President of the Ramakrishna Mission Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj on 26 September 2004. The restored ancestral house has been declared a Grade-I Heritage Building by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Apart from the small beautiful shrine on the terrace to mark the place where Swami Vivekananda was born, Vireshwar Shiva Temple, the Thakur Dalan (family place of worship), adjoining courtyard and Thirty six rooms of different sizes used by Swami Vivekananda in his pre-monastic days, his parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and the relatives too has been preserved as written before.
The Heritage Building has been developed into a Museum under the nomenclature of Vivekananda Museum. The Museum is designed to make the visitors aware of different incidents of Swami Vivekananda’s life right from his early boyhood. The Museum has been playing its role to spread value education among the people, especially among the school students, through various incidents of Swamiji’s pre-monastic life, particularly, the incidents occurred in his boyhood.
An eminent British historian has described Swami Vivekananda as ‘one of the main moulders of the modern world’. Indeed, many thought processes and social attributes of the 20th century show direct or indirect influence of Swami Vivekananda, although it may not have been always recognized as such. He was essentially a man without frontiers and must be honored as one of the architects of global unity in the years to come. The present generation is fortunate enough to be able to maintain his birthplace as a heritage building, from where every youth will continue to draw inspiration in all aspects of life.
- - Advertisement - -