Saturday, October 13, 2007

#094, Ppeople of our country have not yet offered me even as much as a pice for my travelling expenses

There is a blind belief that Swami Vivekananda traversed the length and breadth of India, from Himalayas to Kanyakumari by foot. This is far from truth. He travelled to those places where there is some train link, and where there is some native ruler (raja / divanji ) / rich merchant (sethji) to send him horse carriage to the railway stations. Wherever/whenever he travelleed, he tried to obtain a second class train ticket from his hosts / devotees. Bus/car transport was not much in vogue in those days. For this reason only, he could not cover Coastal Andhra, because Calcutta-Madras rail line was completed in 1905. People of Visakhapatnam in those days, apparently have travelled to Madras by Steamers. Swami Vivekananda went to Hyderabad, because there was a railway line to Hyderabad.

For true monks, the traditional transportation was walk. But this prescription was violated by rich monks and those who enjoyed royal patronage. They resorted to travel by "pallanquins" carried manually by coolies. The general impression is that Vivekananda traversed the whole country by foot. In those days Indian Railways were in private Sector, and ticketless travel was not tolerated. Now-a-days ochre robe wearing mendicants/monks travel ticketless.

The idea of writing this blog post #94 is to dispel the general impression that Swami Vivekananda travelled the whole length and breadth of the country by foot, bared-footed. Even before his gaining popularity in World Parliament of Religions, he preferred to travel in Second Class.

An interesting conversation with a devotee was recorded by Swami Gambhirananda.


At Delhi, Swamiji asked for a second class rail ticket (in those days second from top class), for his health did not permit travelling in inter class. The devotee Shri Natakrishna asked Swamiji: "Guruji, are you going comfort-seeking?"

Reference: Swami Gambhirananda, Yuganayaka Vivekananda (Bengali), Vol III, Udbodhan, Kolkata, 2004, 52-53

FACTS Swami Vivekananda wrote to Swami Ramakrishnananda from Kashmir, on Sep. 30, 1897.

"... The people of our country have not yet offered me even as much as a pice for my travelling expenses — and to cap it all, to take with you a whole party, well, you can easily understand how troublesome it all is. It is also a matter of shame to have to draw upon only the English disciples. So, as before, I start out "with only a blanket ... ".

Swamiji was mostly travelling to mountain resorts for cooling himself. The visit under reference is to Kashmir. He was showing his foreign lady friends and disciples, the beauties of Kashmir. Most of the expenses were born by his foreign disciples as customary. Besides, he wrote to the ruler of Khetri and got a remittance of Rs. 50/- from him for his Kashmir expenses. In those days, Rs. 50/- was a good amount.

He wrote to Saradananda from Bag Bazar, Calcutta, on July 6, 1890:

"... I intend shortly, as soon as I can get my fare, to go up to Almora and thence to some place in Gharwal on the Ganga where I can settle down for a long meditation. ... "

Even when a royal patron is not available, Swamiji did not intend to travel by foot, unless it became extremely unavoidable.

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