One of the magnificent traditional architectural marvels of modern India is the Rock Memorial of Swami Vivekananda. The memorial marks its fiftieth anniversary since its erection and inauguration, on 2nd September 1970. In India, there are thousands of beautiful monuments – beautiful structures whose presence tells tales of our history. They articulate our national memories – ancient and more recent. But hardly any is as bustling and full of life as the Rock Memorial. The structure was dedicated to the nation in the year 1970, and it keeps Swami Vivekananda’s ideas and teachings alive in the national memory.
After two years of long travel across the sacred land of Bharat, Swami Vivekananda had reached Kanyakumari and after doing ‘Sadhana’ on the rock (present-day Vivekananda Rock Memorial ) situated at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India, on 25-27 December 1892, Swamiji began his work for the revival of India. It is the same stone situated at the confluence of the three seas, where “Shripad” of Mata Kanyakumari still exists. The memorial has been constructed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) Pracharak, Honourable Eknath Ranadeji, who brought the memorial to life by establishing the “Vivekananda Kendra” – a spiritually oriented Service Mission in 1972.
In 1963, the birth centenary of Swamiji was celebrated all over the country. On this occasion, the locals of Kanyakumari formed a committee to build a memorial on that historic rock. Due to obstacles at various levels, that committee approached the then RSS Sarsanghchalak, Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar ji, who entrusted the responsibility to Eknathji. While on the one hand Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Bhaktavatsalam categorically refused to give approval for any construction on the rock, on the other hand, Humayun Kabir, the Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, created hurdles by saying “the monument on the rock will spoil the natural beauty”.
By his efficient management, patience and purity, Eknathji kept the issue public, he met various leaders and personalities in Delhi and apprised them of the subject at various levels by keeping it away from politics. Eknathji raised Members of Parliament (MPs) of various political parties from their individual political differences to “Bharatiyata” and in three days reached the then Home Minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shastriji with the signature of 323 MPs. When such a large number of MPs expressed their desire to build a memorial, the message was clear that the entire country is in favour of the memorial, Congress or Socialist, Communist or Dravidian all leaders agreed in unison.
Permission was now secured, but where would the money come from? Eknathji sought cooperation from each and every province, ranging from the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah to Hokishe Sema of Nagaland. When he met the left Communist leader Jyoti Basu, then the Deputy Chief Minister of West Bengal, He said- “it appears to me that you couldn’t have come to meet this Jyoti Basu because I have nothing to do with Vivekananda “. Eknathji said- “How can I believe that you have nothing to do with Swamiji?” Didn’t he raise his voice for the downtrodden? You are also the benefactors of the downtrodden. Like you, he was also the defender of the oppressed.
Jyoti Basu said, “Yes, from this point of view, I admire him because he was the representative of oppressed and downtrodden”, but he expressed his inability due to his membership of the Communist Party. Eknathji connected Smt. Kamala Basu (Jyoti Basu’s wife) with the work. Eknathji told her that he will give her the receipt book and then she can collect whatever amount possible from her personal contacts, Smt. Basu replied that she had never made any collections but if Eknathji doesn’t have any high expectations from her, she will definitely approach her contacts for this work. Eknathji said even if you know ten persons approach them. Inform them about this work, and in reply whatever amount they give you can take, ten or Hundred rupees. This might not turn into a huge amount, but still you may be able to do something for us.
Smt. Basu did her best and she was able to contribute 1100 Rupees through her friends and relatives. By doing so, Eknathji got various ideologies to enter the “confluence of “Bharatiyata”. Irrespective of the party in power, almost all the state governments donated Rupees one lakh each. The first donation of Rs 10,000 for the memorial was made by Swami Chinmayananda of “Chinmaya Mission” to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee. To connect the society with the memorial, nearly 30 lakh people gave contributions in the denominations of Rupees 1, 2 and 5. About one per cent of the adult population at that time participated in it.
Swami Vireshwarananda, President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission consecrated Vivekananda Rock Memorial and it was formally inaugurated on 2nd September 1970 by Shri V. V. Giri, President of India. The inauguration ceremony lasted for about 2 months and the Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi also attended.
“Vivekananda Kendra – a spiritually oriented service organization” was established on 7 January 1972 to give life to the memorial. Thousands of volunteers of Vivekananda Kendra conduct activities in the tribal and rural areas – like education and natural resource development, cultural research, publications, youth engagement programme “sanskar” classes and yoga classes for all.
This is the Golden Jubilee year of this monument, which is in a true sense a national memorial. A memorial for whose construction all MPs, irrespective of their political affiliations appealed for, for which people donated from all over the country. The only memorial for which almost all state governments donated minimum one lakh rupees each. Celebrating its 50th year, the Vivekananda Kendra initiated the “Ek Bharat, Vijayi Bharat” connectivity campaign by meeting the President and Prime Minister of India, through this connectivity campaign the volunteers of Vivekananda Kendra will contact thousands of people from different sections of the society and inspire them by “giving the message of Swami Vivekananda as well as motivating them to contribute for the welfare and promotion of the society.”