Swami Vivekananda Biography


Vivekananda who was also referred to as Swami Vivekananda was originally named Narendranath Datta. He was influenced by both Indian and western culture. His exposure to Hindus deity form of worship and Christian religion often conflicted his beliefs. This was until he accepted Ramakrishna as his guru and became a monk. His vast knowledge of culture also earned him the respect and recognition of raising interfaith awareness. He believed through his learnings from his guru that service to God can be displayed by service to the humankind.

About Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda born as Narendranath Datta to father Vishwanath Datta and mother Bhubaneswari Devi on 12 January 1863, in Calcutta presently known as Kolkata, India. When he was later regarded as a patriotic saint, Swami Vivekananda Birthday is celebrated as National Youth Day. His grandfather was a Sanskrit and Persian Scholar, his father was an attorney in the high court and his mother was a homemaker and had a religious temperament. Swami Vivekananda grew up in an upper-middle-class-family. His personality and attitude were shaped by both his parents progressive, rational as well as the religious approach in life. Since his childhood, he was always interested in spirituality and meditated and prayed before the Hindu Deities.

Swami Vivekananda Background

Swami Vivekananda had a fascinating journey with his foray into spirituality. He was an excellent student. He studied anything that interests him, be it philosophy, science, history, religion and literature. He also was an avid reader of all kinds of religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Upanishads, and the Vedas.

 At 10 when his family moved back to his birthplace after living in Raipur for 2 years he gave an entrance exam for Presidency College. He was the only student who secured 1st division marks. He was an allrounder, who was also trained in Indian classical music, and very actively participated in sports and organised events as we. His intelligence was not just in books but it applied in real life and this showed when he travelled abroad. He never dismissed the western way of materialistic life rather infused his knowledge of the western world into traditional teachings. 

Due to his belief in western philosophy, he rebelled against the caste differences practised and ingrained deeply in the Asian culture. Swami Vivekananda also joined Brahmo Samaj in 1884 which is a society founded in 1828 that adopted Christian practices and this allowed him to venture into social reform. He was determined to challenge the ideas of society by spreading the importance of education among women and the lower caste and eliminating illiteracy and child marriage. He was also actively working from 1881-1884 with Band Of Hope that helped youth step into the light and stay away from harmful habits like smoking and drinking. 

During this period in his early 20’s, he first met Ramakrishna in He first detested the practices of Ramakrishna who prayed before the deity of a Hindu Goddess, Kaali.  He always questioned the forms of God and due to his western influence argued God to be a formless being. It was in 1884 when his father suddenly died and he suddenly faced the harsh realities when he learnt he had to repay many debts his father had. During this time his visits to Ramakrishna became more frequent and he actually understood his belief system that demonstrated unity in all religions. At 25 Swami Vivekananda renounced all worldly possessions to truly realize God. He became the leader after the death of his Guru in 1886.

Swami Vivekananda History 

After the death of his guru, the trustees withdrew fundings and many disciples gave up the practice and went on to live the homely life whereas Swami Vivekananda was determined to build the place into a monastery and there they sat in meditation for several hours and went on with such religious practices. 2 years later from 1888-1893 he travelled extensively in India carrying only a pot, and 2 books namely the Bhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ. He lived off alms that he could get and got acquainted with the people by living with many scholars, and kings of all religions. 

He witnessed extreme poverty and suffering of the people and felt deep sympathy for his fellow being. He later travelled to the West starting on 1st May 1893. Visiting Japan, China, Canada and reached Chicago on 30th July 1893. In the Parliament Of Religions that took place in September of 1893 with the help of a Harvard Professor, John Henry Wright spoke about Hinduism and his practices in the monastery in India. He went abroad as Vivekananda and not Narendranath as suggested by Ajit Singh of Khetri, who first met him when he was teaching in the monastery and was blown away by his knowledge. Vivekananda is derived from the Sanskrit word Vivek meaning imparting wisdom and ananda means bliss. 

He was an open-minded person who’s sublime message in all his teachings was nationalism. He spread the knowledge of Yoga and all the forms mentioned in the Patanjali Sutras. He also accompanied Jamsetji Tata in his travels and inspired him to set up an educational institute focused on research.

He visited the UK and the US again and during his second visit set up the Vedanta Societies, meant to be a peace retreat in San Francisco and many ashrams. He always incorporated the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita in his speeches and tried enlightening people with the meaning of Karma Yoga which is the path of life to follow. He believed in the philosophy of doing good to others and that divinity is supreme and divinity resides in each soul. His incredible legacy is still remembered and followed. 

Swami Vivekananda Death

On 4 July 1902, Swami Vivekananda died while in a state of meditation after living his day like any other and teaching his followers and discussing the teachings with Vedic Scholars. Went to his room in the Ramakrishna Math, the monastery he built in honour of his Guru to meditate and breathe his last. His followers believed the cause of death to be the rupture of a blood vessel in his brain that happens when one attains nirvana, the highest form of spiritual enlightenment when the 7th chakra that is the crown chakra which is located on the head opens and then gains maha samadhi while meditating. The time of his death was 9:20 pm. He was cremated on a sandalwood funeral pyre on the banks of the Ganga opposite his guru.  

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Who is Swami Vivekananda?

Swami Vivekananda was a monk, Hindu spiritual leader, social reformer and a youth leader who believed in equality among every being and his teachings and philosophies reflect the same. Despite being born into a wealthy family he gave it all up to realize God and teaches the world the way to render services to God is by helping humankind. The leader who didn’t pick a side and his teachings always spoke about the act of helping and doing good to each and every one.

2. When did Swami Vivekananda die?

Swami Vivekananda died on 4th July 1902 at 9:20 pm while meditating and was cremated on the banks of Ganga. The cause of death is believed to be the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. The rupture according to his disciples was caused due to the attainment of nirvana which basically means the highest form of spiritual enlightenment that occurs in the crown chakra located in the head, also referred to as brahmarandhra. 

3. When was Swami Vivekananda born?

Swami Vivekananda was born on 12 January 1863, in Calcutta presently known as Kolkata, India, in an upper-middle-class Bengali family. Since his childhood, he had multiple cultural and religious influences due to different temperaments of his parents and grandfather and later was also intrigued by the western culture and philosophies. 

4. What is the real name of Swami Vivekananda?

The real name of Swami Vivekananda is Narendranath Datta. Datta is a very common surname in Kolkata. He was given the name of Vivekananda by Ajit Singh of Khetri before he left for Chicago in 1893 to speak at the Parliament of Religion. And Vivek in Sanskrit means the one who imparts wisdom and ananda means bliss. The name Vivekananda was the name chosen and Swami is usually associated with a guru or philosopher who teaches the principles of life.