Top 10 unknown & interesting facts about Swami Vivekananda

As one of the most celebrated spiritual leaders of our time, he went on to become not just a religious coach but also a prolific thinker, illustrious orator, and a social reformer who worked tirelessly to address the social evils that plagued Indian society at the time.

Dubbed the patron saint of India, Swami Vivekananda was perhaps the most prominent leader of Hinduism in modern India. Born as Narendranath Datta, he was a chief disciple of Hindu saint Ramakrishna during the 19th century and is credited with reforming the conventional Hindu religion by aligning it with the developments of the New World. 

Born in 1863 in present-day Kolkata, he displayed a keen interest in the ins and outs of the philosophy of spirituality and was often found meditating in front of figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses from a very young age. 

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As one of the most celebrated spiritual leaders of our time, he went on to become not just a religious coach but also a prolific thinker, illustrious orator, and a social reformer who worked tirelessly to address the social evils that plagued Indian society at the time. He even joined the Indian struggle for freedom from British rule, exhibiting his patriotic affinity towards his country. 

Swami Vivekananda awakened the dormant conscience in Hindu theology by expanding on the works of his guru and combining it with the western concept of philosophy that was mostly agnostic. To the Hindus in India, he preached the ideals of a strength-giving and man-making religion. He stood for serving the man as a visible embodiment of the gods and condemned dogma, ancient rituals, and myths that were shrouded in fear and driven by material greed. 

He was a driving force in the crusade to promote Vedanta philosophy, especially in the west. After gaining a treasure chest of knowledge about the cultures and traditions of the East and the West, he endeavoured to articulate Indian spiritualism to the Americans, educating them about a humanistic and rational outlook towards religion and service. An address he gave in Chicago left such a deep mark on Americans, that his presence is still revered within the spiritual community in the country. 

His short lifespan was crammed with apprehension and sorrow, though that did not deter Swami Vivekananda from imparting his otherworldly wisdom onto the world. It is said that anyone who came in contact with him, forever expressed their debt towards him for transforming their life. 

Here are 10 facts you might not know about Swami Vivekananda: 

1. Swami Vivekananda was born into an affluent, upper-caste Hindu family. His father was a practising attorney at the Calcutta high court and his mother was a housewife. But Swami’s family was pushed into the depths of poverty after the death of his father in 1884. He had then been compelled to act as the sole breadwinner and started to question the existence of God.

2. His works on spirituality, religion, social reform, and the struggle for freedom had been a source of influence for some of the most significant personalities in the country. Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant, among many others were impacted by his teachings.

3. Swami Vivekananda’s first introduction to his guru Ramakrishna occurred due to a literature class at General Assembly’s Institution when a professor recommended all students to visit the Hindu mystic to understand the true essence of the world ‘trance’. This prompted him to visit Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar. He later became the chief disciple of Ramakrishna and continued to serve him until his demise.

4. Swami Vivekananda had an affinity for music from a young age. He was a qualified classical musician, trained in dhrupad by two maestros of India — Beni Gupta and Ahmad Khan,  and could play musical instruments like Sitar and dholak, among others. Besides music, he was also an avid reader and was enthusiastic about sports and physical activities.

5. Born as Narendranath Datta, his name during his initial years as a monk in India was Swami Vividishananda, but he changed his name to Swami Vivekananda just prior to his visit to Chicago in 1893.

6. During the course of his life, Swami Vivekananda suffered from as many as 31 ailments and illnesses. Liver and kidney damage, insomnia, migraine, asthma, diabetes are to name a few. He was rumoured to discern and inflict intense pain on his human body and disregarded its presence throughout his life.

7. After the death of his guru Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda sought to travel the length and breadth of India as a wandering monk. It was during these travels that he gained extensive knowledge about the Hindu culture in India and came to understand the sufferings of the common man.

8. Swami Vivekananda’s uncontested wisdom and eloquence as an orator and leader were made known to the world during his few years in public life. However, it is known by few that he was an average scorer all through his academic life. It is believed that he could only score 47 per cent at the university entrance level examination and around 50 per cent in his BA examinations. Moreover, he was said to be terrible at English grammar.

9. During his early days as a monk, he was unknown and often did not receive a platform to preach his teachings to the world. However, that changed when he was invited to speak at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, at which he represented Hinduism. The speech impressed the attendees so much that Swami Vivekananda went on to become India’s spiritual ambassador in America, and his teachings spread across the entire world.

10. Swami Vivekananda had many-a-times predicted his own demise, reiterating that he would not live beyond 40 years of age. His predictions came true in 1902 when he died at the age of 39 years due to a ruptured blood vessel in his brain.