50 years of the Rock Memorial, which gave Swami Vivekananda his mission of life

As the world completes the celebration of 125thAnniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Address at World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, America, the celebration of 50 years of Vivekananda Rock Memorial across the country has started. 

It is in this rock, on the southern most tip of India, Swami Vivekananda at the end of his wandering days as Sanyasi, reached Kanyakumari on December 24, 1892 and meditated for 3 days and nights before he started his unknown journey to America to become known worldwide after his famous speech in Chicago in the 1893 ‘World Parliament of Religions’, which also gave India a new identity that scripted the reemergence of new India. An India confident of its knowledge, culture and philosophy, which was lost in the course of repeated invasions. 

The rock which inspired Swami Vivekananda, to become the inspiration of not only India but the world later become a historic monument, but very few of us know the story of Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The story of Vivekananda Rock Memorial started thus, in January 1962, when the whole India was gearing up to mark the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda. At Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, a ‘Kanyakumari Committee’ was set up by a local group of people, with an aim to build a memorial of Swami Vivekananda on the rock to mark the celebration.

However the initiative met with several hurdles as the local Catholic fishermen in retaliation wanted to put a big cross on the rock disallowing the memorial in honor of Swami Vivekananda. As matter turned bad to worse, the rock was marked as a prohibited place and armed guards were stationed. After much of convincing 5 days after, on January 17, 1963 the state government permitted to put up a tablet mentioning the association of the rock with Swami Vivekananda.

The committee member then approached, Eknath Ramakrishna Ranade, an ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda, then associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who was convinced and later took up the responsibility to make the memorial a reality. He then set up the ‘Vivekananda Rock Memorial Organising Committee’ and opened several branches across India to garner support and raise funds in pursuit of establishing the memorial. 

Political problems started to rise, as the then Minister of Culture and Education, Humayun Kabir rejected the idea, so was the idea was discouraged by the then Chief Minister of Madras state, Minjur Bhaktavatsalam, but Eknath Ranade was determined he travel across the length and breath of the country and collected signatures of 323 Members of Parliament in support of the memorial, which bound the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi to approve the project. 

The construction of the dream project, Vivekananda Rock Memorial was started in 1964 and in a span of six years in the year 1970 it was completed. The construction involved around 650 workers and Eknath Ranade too over look the construction work. In the year 1970 the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was consecrated by Swami Vireshwaranananda, President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission and was inaugurated and dedicated to the nation by the then President of India, V.V Giri.

The imposing ‘Vivekananda Rock Memorial’ located offshore about 500 m east from the mainland Kanyakumari, in the southernmost tip of India stands tall on one of the two adjacent rocks comprising of two important structures, the Vivekananda Mandapam and the ‘Shripada Mandapam’. The inspiring Vivekananda Rock memorial or the Vivekananda Mandapam was constructed in honour of the great spiritual leader of India, Swami Vivekananda and the ‘Shripada Mandapam’ which is associated with a legend, as Goddess Devi Kumari an avatar of Devi Parvati blessed the rock with her austerity is maintained carefully.

To make Swami Vivekananda’s ideas more effective, Eknath Ranade founded the spiritual oriented service mission, “Vivekananda Kendra”. Based on the principles of Swami Vivekananda, the organisation is now working in more than 18 states of India. It has 600 branch centres and more than 200 full-time dedicated workers. Activities of the organisation include conducting Education, Health Care, Rural and Social Development activities.