Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot

Publication : History

Swamiji With Gujarati Litterateurs

1. Shyamji Krishna Verma: The first Gujarati literary figure to meet Swamiji before he entered Gujarat in 1891 was Shyamji Krishna Verma (1857-1930), who later became a nationalist leader. Swamiji was Shyamji Verma's guest in Ajmer for over two weeks, where they spent a lot of time together discussing Sanskrit, literary and philosophic matters. Born in Mandvi (Kutch), Shyamji Verma attained remarkable proficiency in English and Sanskrit at an early age. He came in contact with Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj and learnt the Vedas and other scriptures under his tutelage. He also taught Sanskrit at Oxford University and assisted Monier Williams in producing his famous Sanskrit dictionary. He was a close friend of Herbert Spencer.

2. Lalshankar Umiashankar Trivedi: The next great personality and literary figure whom Swamiji met was Lalshankar Umiashankar Trivedi (1845-1912). He was Swamiji's host in Ahmedabad in 1891. A disciple of the famous Mahipatram Ruparam, the founder of the Gujarat unit of Prarthana Samaj in 1871, Lalshankar was the guiding force behind many associations founded in Gujarat during the renaissance period like the Gujarat Vernacular Society, Buddhivardhak Sabha, and several other social and educational institutions connected with women's education, and the uplift of lower classes. The Government decorated him with the titles of Kaiser-e-Hind and Rao Bahadur for his pioneering work. He spent eleven days in the holy company of Swamiji in Ahmedabad.

3. Thakore Saheb of Limbdi: Swamiji then met Thakore Saheb of Limbdi, Sir Yashwantsinhji, K.C.I.E, (1859-1907). Apart from being an able administrator, Yashwantsinhji was a highly learned and cultured prince with deep interest in literature, religion and philosophy. He was deeply spiritual in nature and was well versed in Hindu scriptures and also works of famous western writers like Mill, Spencer, Shakespeare and Milton. His contact with Swamiji brought about a great transformation in Yashwantsinhji and he became his disciple. He also had an opportunity to be in Swamiji's holy company for several days during the summer of 1892 at Mahabaleshwar. Here he had several dis- cussions on Shastras with Swamiji which he has recorded in his 'Nondh Pothi' (diary). In his entry made on May 9, 1892, Thakore Saheb wrote: 'I am pleasantly surprised at Swami Vivekananda's deep knowledge of the Shastras. My knowledge of the Shastras has been much increased through discussions with him.'

4. Haridas Viharidas Desai: In Junagadh, Swamiji came in contact with Haridas Viharidas Desai, the Dewan of the State, who was to be instrumental in introducing him to at least three of Gujarat's leading literary figures of those days: Manahsukhram Tripathi, Chaganlal H. Pandya, and Manilal Nabubhai Dwivedi. Haridas Desai was a keen student of Advaita Vedanta, a man of principles and an exalted character. Swamiji developed a deep friendship with Hardias and wrote several inspiring letters to him. In one of the letters dated June 20, 1894, Swamiji gives Haridas his plan of work for the regeneration of India and Hinduism.

5. Manahsukhram Tripathi: Born in the home town of Haridas, Manahsukhram Tripathi (1840-1907) was a great scholar, essayist, biographer and translator. He had a lot of reservations about the new reformist wave inspired by Brahmo Samaj and others. He became the protagonist of Sanskritic revival in Gujarati literature by starting an association named as Dharmasabha in 1870. Swamiji must have enjoyed the company of Manahsukhram, who was his host for a few days at Junagadh. Swami Abhedananda in his autobiography confirms the above fact, as he too chanced to visit Tripathi's house and stay with his beloved gurubhai during those days.

6. Govardhanram Manahsukhram Tripathi: Manahsukhram was the uncle of one the greatest literary figures that Gujarat produced in the last century, Govardhanram M. Tripathi (1855-1907). It was Manahsukh- ram who moulded the mind of his beloved nephew through all the vicissitudes of life. Govardhanram was not only a great novelist, but also a poet of considerable merit and a distinguished writer of Gujarati prose. His magnum opus Saraswatichandra, published in four parts, is a landmark in the history of Gujarati literature. It is not known whether Govardhanram met Swamiji during his visit to Nadiad. But the fact that he had read Swamiji's works and was deeply inspired by his message is evident from his Scrap Book (3 vols, 7 parts), published after his demise in 1959. According to Ushnas, one of the famous poets of contemporary Gujarati literature, the third and fourth parts of Saraswatichandra, which were published in 1894 and 1901 respectively, after Swamiji's visit to Nadiad, clearly shows the influence of Swamiji's Practical Vedanta on the writer. Govardhanram was very much impressed by the prospectus of Advaita Ashrama, established by Swamiji in the Himalayas (Mayavati) and he expressed his desire to go and live there.

7. Chhaganlal.H.Pandya: In Junagadh, Swamiji also came in contact with Chhaganlal H. Pandya (1859-1936) of Nadiad, a great scholar, educationist and well known in Gujarat's literary world as translator of many Sanskrit classics. He was the brother-in-law of Govardhanram Tripathi and was the Director of Education of Junagadh State and Swamiji's host during his several visits to the state in 1891. He was deeply impressed by Swamiji's personality. In the introduction to his book Christnu Anukaran, a Gujarati translation of The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas A.Kempis, published in 1915 (which includes as footnotes Sanskrit quotations from Hindu scriptures that resemble Kempis' thoughts), Pandya gives a wonderful account of the days he spent in his holy company. Swamiji spoke in glorious terms about the wonderful life of Jesus Christ, which inspired Chhaganlal Pandya to write the above book. In his two letters dated 2.3.1918 and 9.10.1921 addressed to Dahyabhai Ramchandra Mehta, the author and the publisher of the biographies of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, Chhaganlal Pandya writes about the blessed privilege he had of coming in contact with Swamiji and hearing directly from his mouth the nectar like words of his Master Sri Ramakrishna. Swamiji also told him about Sri Ramakrishna's overwhelming love and faith in him and how by his Guru's grace he was able to acquire Brahmavidya.

Chhaganlal Pandya also gave a vivid description of how Swamiji charmed and influenced everybody by his spirituality, catholicity of views, simplicity of life, proficiency in music and profound knowledge of various arts and sciences, stirring eloquence and not the least by his proficiency in the art of cuisine.

8. Manilal Nabhubhai Dwivedi: Swamiji also met in Nadiad, in April 1892, the famous Vedantist and a prominent literary figure Manilal Nabhubhai Dwivedi (1858-1898). Throughout the short span of forty years of his life, Manilal tried to interpret all aspects of human life and civilization in the light of Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya and left behind a rich treasure of writings in Gujarati and English. He was a powerful prose writer and the editor of literary journals such as Priyamvada (1885-1890) and Sudarshan (1890-1898). His paper on Hinduism was read out in the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, in 1893. He also wrote several books in English and his Raja Yoga was highly praised by Edwin Arnold. Swamiji also immensely enjoyed his company during his stay at Nadiad and spoke highly of him in his letter dated April 26, 1892 to Haridas V. Desai.7 Apart from writing more than sixty books during his lifetime, Manilal also left behind a few unpublished manuscripts including a work on Swamiji, which he wrote before his death in 1898 Swami Vivekanandani Americani Mulakato.

9. Pandit Shankar Pandurang: In Porbandar Swamiji also met Pandit Shankar Pandurang (1840-1894) of Konkan, Maharashtra, who was the administrator of the State at that time. Swamiji stayed as Panditji's guest at his Bhojeswar bunglow for about four months. Swamiji also finished his reading of Panini's 'Mahabhasya' and also learnt French at the instance of Panditji. Though not a Gujarati literary figure, Panditji was not only a Sanskrit scholar of great eminence, but was proficient in nine languages and was earlier an Oriental Translator of Bombay State. Swamiji also helped him in editing the standard edition of the Atharva Veda, during his stay at Porbandar.

10. Virchand Raghavji Gandhi: The next great literary figure from Gujarat whom Swamiji met (at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago) was the formidable Jain scholar Virchand Raghavji Gandhi (1864-1901), who participated in the Parliament of Religions held at Chicago in 1893. Though he was a brilliant exponent of Jaina Philosophy, he was well-versed in the different systems of Indian philosophy and a fervent propagator of Indian culture. Born at Mahuva near Bhavnagar (Gujarat) in 1864, he mastered about fourteen languages, which included Gujarati, Hindi, English, Bengali, Sanskrit and French. At the age of 21, he became the first honorary secretary of the Jain association of India. He remained in U.S.A for some more time after the Parliament of Religions was over, and again visited U.S.A twice in 1896 and 1899, delivering altogether some 600 lectures on Jainism over there.9 Virchand Gandhi passed away in 1901 at a very young age of only thirty-seven. Virchand Gandhi must have definitely caught a little of Swamiji's fire which inspired him to undertake his noble mission. Swamiji too was impressed by his wonderful personality and wrote to Haridas V.Desai in November 1894: '. . . here is Virchand Gandhi, the Jain, whom you well knew in Bombay. This man never takes anything but pure vegetables even in this terribly cold climate, and tooth and nail tries to defend his countrymen and religion. The people of this country like him very well.'

 

You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.- Swami Vivekananda

A few heart-whole, sincere, and energetic men and women can do more in a year than a mob in a century.- Swami Vivekananda

Arise ! Awake ! And Stop Not Till the Goal is Reached.- Swami Vivekananda

All power is within you, you can do anything & everything !- Swami Vivekananda

To be good & to do good, that is the whole of religion.- Swami Vivekananda

Purity, Patience & Perseverance are the three essentials to success, and above all Love !- Swami Vivekananda

Take the whole responsibility on your own shoulders, and know that you are the creator of your own destiny !- Swami Vivekananda

We are what our thoughts have made us, so take care about what you think.- Swami Vivekananda