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Swami Vivekananda’s Lecture in America, relating to Baranagar

Author – Jayanta Baksi

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Swami Vivekananda’s Lecture in America, relating to Baranagar  

Voice Over: Jayanta Baksi

 

Here, I am mentioning two interconnected reports published in “Brooklyn Standard Union” & “The Indian Social Reformer”. The first one was emphasized on ‘India’s Gift to the World’ & the second one was on the ‘Hindu Widows’.

Swami Vivekananda set off to Chicago (U.S.A.) in 1893 A.D. to articulate at the ‘World’s Parliament of Religions’ to share spiritual insights of Hindu Religion & there he presented a vibrant speech about the universal truths of Hinduism through which he was judged as one of the most triumphant orators of that Parliament. Vivekananda symbolized Hinduism as a religious conviction which is based on a remarkable idealistic philosophy to offer a Western audience. In 1895, Swami Vivekananda established the ‘Vedanta Society’ inNew York City.

Swami Vivekananda at the 'Parliament of the World's Religions', Chicago - 1893

The above picture depicted the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago –  1893. Swami Vivekanada was one of the most charismatic speakers of that event who introduced Hinduism to a North American audience & thus to the entire World.

  • If you have a look in the concluding paragraph of the report published in “The Indian Social Reformer” may find a name of a place –  “Baranagar”.  
  • “Baranagar” – the place is situated beside to Calcutta (Kolkata) in India & was pointed out by Swami Vivekananda not as a mere example but as one & only evidence in favour of his clarification relating the conditions of Hindu Widows in India of that era.

We will analyse in detailed  implication of the comments of Swami Vivekananda, however, at the first instance please provide a good glance of those so called significant reports:

1. Brooklyn Standard Union, February 27, 1895

INDIA‘S GIFT TO THE WORLD

Swami Vivekananda, the Hindoo monk, delivered a lecture Monday night under the auspices of the Brooklyn Ethical Association before a fairly large audience at the hall of the Long Island Historical Society, corner Pierrepont andClintonstreets. His subject was “India’s Gift to the World”.

He spoke of the wondrous beauties of his native land, “where stood the earliest cradle of ethics, arts, sciences, and literature, and the integrity of whose sons and the virtue of whose daughters have been sung by all travelers.” Then the lecturer showed in rapid details, whatIndiahas given to the world.

“In religion,” he said, “she has exerted a great influence on Christianity, as the very teachings of Christ would [could] be traced back to those of Buddha.” He showed by quotations from the works of European and American scientists the many points of similarity between Buddha and Christ. The latter’s birth, his seclusion from the world, the number of his apostles, and the very ethics of his teachings are the same as those of Buddha, living many hundred years before him.

“Is it mere chance,” the lecturer asked, “or was Buddha’s religion but the foreshadowing of that of Christ? The majority of your thinkers seem to be satisfied in the latter explanation, but there are some bold enough to say that Christianity is the direct offspring of Buddhism just as the earliest heresy in the Christian religion — the Monecian [Manichaean] heresy — is now universally regarded as the teaching of a sect of Buddhists. But there is more evidence that Christianity is founded in Buddhism. We find it in recently discovered inscriptions from the reign of Emperor Oshoka [Asoka] of India, about 300 B.C., who made treaties with all the Grecian kings, and whose missionaries discriminated [disseminated ?] in those very parts, where, centuries after, Christianity flourished, the principles of the Buddhistic religion. Thus it is explained, why you have our doctrine of trinity, of incarnation of God, and of our ethics, and why the service in our temples is so much alike to that in your present Catholic churches, from the mass to the chant and benediction. Buddhism had all these long before you. Now use your own judgment on these premise — we Hindoos stand ready to be convinced that yours is the earlier religion, although we had ours some three hundred years before yours was even thought of.

“The same holds good with respect to sciences.Indiahas given to antiquity the earliest scientifical physicians, and, according to Sir William Hunter, she has even contributed to modern medical science by the discovery of various chemicals and by teaching you how to reform misshapen ears and noses. Even more it has done in mathematics, for algebra, geometry, astronomy, and the triumph of modern science — mixed mathematics — were all invented inIndia, just so much as the ten numerals, the very cornerstone of all present civilization, were discovered inIndia, and are in reality, Sanskrit words.

“In philosophy we are even now head and shoulders above any other nation, as Schopenhauer, the great German philosopher, has confessed. In music India gave to the world her system of notation, with the seven cardinal notes and the diatonic scale, all of which we enjoyed as early as 350 B.C., while it came to Europe only in the eleventh century. In philology, our Sanskrit language is now universally acknowledged to be the foundation of all European languages, which, in fact, are nothing but jargonized Sanskrit.

“In literature, our epics and poems and dramas rank as high as those of any language; our ‘Shaguntala’ [Shakuntala] was summarized by Germany’s greatest poet, as ‘heaven and earth united’.India has given to the world the fables of Aesop, which were copied by Aesop from an old Sanskrit book; it has given the Arabian Nights, yes, even the story of Cinderella and the Bean Stalks. In manufacture,India was the first to make cotton and purple [dye], it was proficient in all works of jewelry, and the very word ‘sugar’, as well as the article itself, is the product ofIndia. Lastly she has invented the game of chess and the cards and the dice. So great, in fact, was the superiority ofIndia in every respect, that it drew to her borders the hungry cohorts of Europe, and thereby indirectly brought about the discovery ofAmerica.

“And now, what has the world given toIndiain return for all that? Nothing but nullification [vilification] and curse and contempt. The world waded in her children’s life-blood, it reduced India to poverty and her sons and daughters to slavery, and now it adds insult to injury by preaching to her a religion which can only thrive on the destruction of every other religion. But India is not afraid. It does not beg for mercy at the hands of any nation. Our only fault is that we cannot: fight to conquer; but we trust in the eternity of truth.India’s message to the world is first of all, her blessing; she is returning good for the evil which is done her, and thus she puts into execution this noble idea, which had its origin in India. Lastly,India’s message is, that calm goodness, patience and gentleness will ultimately triumph. For where are the Greeks, the onetime masters of the earth? They are gone. Where are the Romans, at the tramp of whose cohorts the world trembled? Passed away. Where are the Arabs, who in fifty years had carried their banners from the Atlantic to the Pacific? and where are the Spaniards, the cruel murderers of millions of men? Both races are nearly extinct; but thanks to the morality of her children, the kinder race will never perish, and she will yet see the hour of her triumph.”

At the close of the lecture, which was warmly applauded, Swami Vivekananda answered a number of questions in regard to the customs of India. He denied positively the truth of the statement published in yesterday’s [February 25] Standard Union, to the effect that widows are ill-treated in India. The law guarantees her not only her own property, before marriage, but also all she received from her husband, at whose death, if there be no direct heirs, the property goes to her. Widows seldom marry in India, because of the scarcity of men. He also stated that the self-sacrifices of wives at the death of their husbands as well as the fanatical self-destruction under the wheels of the Juggernaut, have wholly stopped, and referred his hearers for proof to Sir William Hunter’s “History of the Indian Empire”.

 

2. The Indian Social Reformer, Sunday June 16, 1901

Hindu Widows

 

A question having arisen in America as to the Swami Vivekananda’s attitude towards social questions, a lady writes to an American paper as follows: “In one of his lectures at the Pouch Mansion, he spoke of the Hindu widows, declaring it unjust to state that they were generally subjected to cruelty or oppression in the Indians [sic] homes. He admitted that the prejudice against remarriage, and the custom which makes the widow a member of the husband’s family instead of that of her own parents inflicted some hardships upon widows inIndia, and favoured wise efforts for their education which would render them self-supporting and in this way alleviate their condition.

He emphasised his desire for the education and elevation of the women of his country, including the widows, by volunteering to give the entire proceeds of one of his lectures in support of the school of Babu Sasipada Banerjee, at Baranagar, near Calcutta, the institution of which preceded that of the Pandita Ramabai, at Poona, and where, if I am not mistaken, the Pandita herself obtained the first inspiration of her work. This lecture was given, and the proceeds were forwarded to Babu Sasipada Banerjee, and duly acknowledged.”

———–                    —————-              —————–             ————–

 

 

 

I have already stated earlier that the name of the locality “Baranagar” was pointed out by Swami Vivekananda at his charismatic oration at The Parliament of the World’s Religious, Chicago, 1893. Vivekananda had revealed the name “Baranagar” & depicted “Baranagar” as the replica of entire India.

Yes, Swami Vivekananda was absolutely & accurately illustrated the area “Baranagar” not as a mere instance but he was bound to remember & mention “Baranagar” as one & only evidence in favour of his clarification describing the state of affairs of Hindu Widows in India of that time. Nevertheless, his entire clarification was not revealed in the Newspapers. Let’s permit me to adding up that glorious illuminating chronicle of the then legendary Baranagar, in a nutshell.

 

The legendary name of Sasipada Bandhopadhyay in the meadow of his philanthropic activities will be eternal in Indian History. His life long endeavour to educate women is perpetual praiseworthy. He had initiated his noble activities secretly through his wife, Rajkumari Bandhopadhyay. His mode of teaching was not imposed forcefully upon the students, but also from the grass root level with sensitive divine feature touch of core feelings of the mind.

 

Sasipadababu’s noble activity initiated from the own abode of Baranagar & in the later part the first female school of Baranagar was in full swing from the domicile [currently southern part of Baranagar] of Sri.Dinanath Nandi on 19th March, 1865 & thus the formation of present Rajkumari Girl’s School was instigate. Pandit Krishnachandra Sengupta became the ‘Working Supervisor’.

 

The official formation of the Female School was just one of the forward steps towards his philanthropic activities. Gradually, through rational humanitarian approach Sashipadababu formed assorted Institutions, Schools, Widow Home (Shelter / Ashram) etc to attain noblest victory of civilization. To sum up chronologically:

 

Formation of Night School at Baranagar on 01st November, 1866. Such Night school activities were immense popular & thus various branches were formed quickly in neighbouring areas like Kuthighat, Kamarpara,Kamarhati (previous name Kumarhatti), Ariadaha etc.

 

Another well admired sturdy movement of Sashipadababu was the formation of ‘Widow Home’ in Baranagar area on 06th January, 1867. Experimentation with the formation of ‘Widow Home’ rapidly gained enormous acceptance, which turned into appreciation. A large number of widows from Calcutta, 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Burdwan, Pubna, Faridpur, Barisal, Mymensingh, Sylhet etc. were able to locate there authentic safe shelter at Baranagar and turned them with trust as the permanent dweller of Baranagar ‘Widow Home’. To support & sustain the great needs with equal manner, the ‘Boy’s School was too formed in the same year, at Baranagar.

 

14th June, 1869. Night School was formed at the premise of Baranagar Jute Mill, Southern Zone compound (Calbari). Just within 13 days of the foundation of the Night School, the thatched ceiling was caught into fire on 27th June, 1869.

 

After 13 months of disastrous blaze, again on 05th July, 1870, the new school was erected with ‘tin’ roof shed instead of ‘thatched’. Just visualize the potency of foresight, dynamism of enthusiasm & vigor of determination of the Legend – Sashipada Bandhopadhyay.

 

Another school was formed particularly for the Mohammedans on 20th December, 1872 & another ‘Kindergarten’ school was also shaped in the year of 1872. Eventually, just out of enormous demand & necessity, the Widow Home converted into ‘Residential Widow Home’. Baranagar’s ‘Residential Widow Home’ may be claimed as the forerunner of present days modern ‘ResidentialSchool’.

 

To know specific / detail information revealed above, may follow the marvelous research notes ‘Anchalik Itihas’ by eminent historian, Sri.Ajit Sen [‘Anachalik Itihas’, Vol – VII, page 66 & 67; ‘Regional History’ of Baranagar].

Now, with due permission, I would like to append a correlated episode. Apart from Swami Vivekananda’s viewpoint, it will illustrate the condition of the women, specially young or widows of Baranagar from a different perspective & intended for this unfolded chapter, I express my sincere and unforgettable debt towards Mr. Pramatha Nath Bose, B.Sc. (London.\ F.G.S., M.R.A.S.) for his outstanding book “A History of Hindu Civilisation (during British Rule)” Vol – II, 1894. Published by- KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER, & Co.London.

 

[Mr. Bose was the Officiating Superintendent, Geological Survey of India, and Author of “The Centenary Review of the Researches of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Natural Science”. I am benevolently mentioning a few lines which are directly related with Baranagar Area from his works as follows [without any grave addition / alteration, as a few lines or words are not in a position to study accurately – Jayanta Baksi]:-

 

The Seventh Social Conference, however, pronounced more decidedly in favour of the re-marriage at least of child-widows. The Conference noted with great satisfaction that during the past year more than eleven re-marriages took place in the Punjab, Madras and Bombay, and recommended that all facilities should be provided by the several local associations to encourage the re-marriage of child-widows.

 

Several Homes have been lately started for Hindu Widows. One of these founded by Homes for widows. , • – td – n -■ ■ ^o ■ ii i Pundiia Rama Bai in 1559 is called Sarada Sadana, or Home for High Caste Child-widows. In March 1891, there were in it thirty child-widows of whom the greater number had been rescued from misery and suffering. Another Home of the kind was founded about the same time at Baranagar near Calcutta by Sasipada Bannerji. The following is an account of five years’ progress of this Home: *

 

“The first Hindu widow admitted in the Baranagar Institution was on the 2nd February i8S8, and in these five years, though the work has not made very rapid progress, it is no small satisfaction to see that the influence of the novel experiment his been felt far and wide in the country. Girls have come to the Home from Calcutta, 24 Pergunnahs, Hooghly, Burdwan, Pubna, Faridpur, Barisal, Mymensingh, Sylhet, & c., and every year the number of Hindu widows is increasing. That the influence (however small) of the new current is not merely on the surface of Hindu society may be inferred fro.-n the fact that married Hindu ladies from the Zenana and of position now and then pay private visits to the Home, with a view to see for themselves how it was managed, and on one occasion they were so pleased with it that they sent some pecuniary help. These little matters show the real current of the movement. The line of work and the teaching are also approved by the Government Inspecting Officers, who have in their several visits expressed their satisfaction with the progress shown by the girls. The instruction is not confined to books, but the boarders are taught cooking, sewing and useful household work.’”

[* The Indian Magazine, September 1892.]

 

[Please note: Here you may read ‘2nd February i8S8’ in the 1st line of the last paragraph. The year can not be comprehended accurately. In the 1st paragraph Mr.Bose refered to “March 1891” & on the other hand, at the same time Sri.Sashipada Bandhopadhyay founded identical rescue centre at Baranagar. 3rd paragraph is a quotation of dated September 1892. Last but not the least; the entire works was first published in the year of 1894. Hence, the year ought to be prior to 1892.]

 

At this juncture, I would like to incorporate a few stroke from Lotika Ghose, Social and Educational Movements for Women and By Women 1820-1950, in Bethune College and School Centenary Volume, edited by Dr. Kalidas Nag, 1949, p. 148 ‘The activities of Sakhi Samaiti continued till around 1906 and thereafter taken over by Hiranmoyee Bidhaba Ashram.

The widows’ home started by Sashipada Banerjee at Baranagore, considered the first such venture, inspired Hiranmoyee Devi, the daughter of Swarnakuamri, to start the Mahila Bidhaba Ashram (that was named after her subsequent to her death). Among the members of the executive committee of the Mahila Vidhaba Ashram in its inaugural year were: Swarnakumari, Maharani Sucharu Devi of Mayurbhanj, Maharani Suniti Devi of Cooch Behar (the two daughters of Keshub Chunder Sen), Lady Hamilton, Priyamvada Devi, Mrs. Chapman, Mrs. S.P. Sinha, and Hiranmoyee Devi, who served as secretary.’ ‘It is still running quite efficiently’ (in 1949) with Kalyani Mallick, the daughter of Hiranmoyee Devi guiding the affairs of the institution’.

 

*{Please keep in mind, Swarnakumari devi – poet, novelist, musician and social worker was the daughter of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore. Hence, just consider regarding the influence & contribution of Sashipada Bandhopadhyay towards the society which was first started from Baranagar and even his contributions too were pondered by Swami Vivekananda in the famous Parliament of the World’s Religious,Chicago, 1893.}

[Language, Punctuation, Spelling etc. unaltered to sustain the original essence – Jayanta Baksi.15th January, 2012]

 

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2 Comments

  1. S. Gtk. says:

    Your creation may be touch to Sky

    Like

  2. S. Gtk. says:

    Your creation may be touch to Sky.

    Like

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