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How Vivekananda Kendra is making difference in the lives of millions

Updated: March 14, 2024 13:38
Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Image Source: Vivekananda Kendra Vedic Vision Foundation

Built in the honour of Swami Vivekananda on an off-shore rock located on India’s southernmost tip of Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, 53-year-old Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Vivekananda Kendra is spreading Indian culture through its 850 branches and activity centres spread across 26 states and four Union Territories (UTs).

The memorial, a popular tourist destination, is situated on the rock where Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated and attained enlightenment in 1892 before becoming a social reformer. He spent three days there before heading on his famous trip to Chicago to address the World Conference of Religions. The memorial consists of two structures-the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam. The design of the Mandapam incorporates different styles of temple architecture from many states, a symbol of unity. The memorial was inaugurated on September 2, 1970, by then President of the country VV Giri.

In 1972, Eknath Ranade, the man behind the memorial, started Vivekananda Kendra, a spiritually oriented service mission to actualise the vision of Swami Vivekananda, states its official website. Ranade had earlier served as general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Vivekananda Kendra works in the area of yoga, education, rural development, youth motivation, natural resource development and cultural research.

The Kendra with its objective outlined (on the organisation’s official website) as “man-making and nation building” works in the area of education, healthcare, rural development and publishing.

With the belief inspired by the teachings of the Upnishads that “each soul is potentially divine and that faith in God in turn means faith in one’s self”, the Kendra is on a mission of “transforming our people’s inherent God-wardness into the right spiritual urge…and to convert the spiritual fervour thus released into works of national reconstruction,” according to its website.

The Kendra is working towards achieving the mission through yoga, the core of Vivekananda’s philosophy, described by him as another name for spirituality. It runs yoga camps and spiritual retreats across centres spanning nearly 250 districts. The Kendra offers certificate and foundation courses in Yoga, and spiritual retreat at Kanyakumari and other centres. Yogasanas, pranayama, kriya, japa, yogic relaxation and meditation techniques are taught as part of the yoga course. The spiritual retreat course also involves the study of yoga darshana (philosophy), Bhagavat Gita and Indian culture.

Apart from this, the Kendra operates schools, colleges and hostels in tribal areas and kindergarten classes known as balwaris in rural areas. According to the Annual Report 2022-23 of Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Vivekananda Kendra, over 32,000 children are studying in 80 Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalayas (VKVs) being run by the Kendra in six states-Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andaman and Nicobar. Kendra is also running Anandalayas for school dropouts and children of labourers working in tea gardens, industries and in coastal areas. Vivekananda Kendra also runs two colleges-The School of Nursing and B.Ed Teacher Training College.

As part of the health infrastructure, Vivekananda Kendra runs hospitals in Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, and several OPD clinics in Assam, Kanyakumari, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh.

Research and documentation of traditional customs, and understanding the perspective of Hindu civilization through dialogues are some of the other activities in which the Kendra is involved. Many projects aimed at development of natural resources and rural areas are being run by the Kendra. Vivekananda Kendra also holds seminars and publishes books and magazines based on the life and message of Swami Vivekananda, Indian culture and Vedic studies. To increase cultural awareness among the youth, it also conducts cultural examinations and personality development camps for the children.

Vivekananda Kendra, as per its website, also works to create the awareness for the need of organised work for regeneration of nation. Some of these activities are undertaken by projects especially created to cater to the needs efficiently, the website adds. Vivekananda Kendra Natural Resources Development Program runs projects focusing on sustainable development. These are aimed at promoting indigenous medical systems, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and cost-effective construction. Similarly, rural development projects are being run to motivate rural people to adhere to the values of Sanatana Dharma.

Vivekananda Kendra Vedic Vision Foundation “aims at achieving the very vital task of regeneration of Bharat and inspiring the world at large to move in harmony with the inevitable paradigm shift following the ideals of Swami Vivekananda.” The foundation also works to motivate the youth to absorb the glory of spiritual heritage and take the challenging task of disseminating this vision.”

Vivekananda Kendra Arunjyoti works to provide the basic facilities to every nook and corner of the Arunachal Pradesh. Its motto is “development through culture”. Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture is a research institute that holds seminars on this subject.

Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) is a think-tank which describes itself as “non-partisan institution that promotes quality research and in-depth studies”. It focuses and organises interactions/discussions, conferences, seminars and book discussions on the areas ranging from national security, international relations and historical and civilisational studies. Vivekananda Kendra Shiksha Prasar Vibhag (VKSP) is the educational wing of the Vivekananda Kendra that runs Vivekananda Kendra Vidyalays (VKVs) in the North-East.

Vivekananda Kendra publishes thought provoking literature in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Assamese. Some of the magazines are- Yuva Bharati, Vivekananda Kendra Patrika, Kendra Bharati, Vivek Vichar, Vivek Vani, Jagriti and Vivek Sudha.

Vivekananda Memorial was conceived and laboured for mainly by the RSS volunteers, blessed by Ramakrishna Mission, designed by Paramacharya of Kachi Kamakoti Peetham, and for which Swami Chinmayananda of Chinmay Mission gave the first donation, as the official website of Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Vivekananda Kendra states. “All state governments and the central government contributed for it,” it adds.


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