Journeying Towards Delhi
The young sannyasin stepped into the streets of what is now called ‘old Delhi’—‘the City of cities’. As he walked through this ancient city, his exceptionally sharp and clear mind observed in minute details the historic monuments, remnants of old forts and palaces strewn all over. The 27 year young sannyasin, fired with deep spirituality and boundless love for humanity, had been going around his beloved motherland, ‘the blessed punya bhumi’, as he was to call her years later. In his travels he had found out the nerve centre of the real India—spirituality—and was astonished at the undying tenacity and devotion with which the nation held to it.
Despite abject poverty, squalor and political subjugation, it was a living nation—throbbing and pulsating with indomitable energy and uninterrupted culture of thousands of years. Swami Vivekananda, the young sannyasin, arrived in Delhi in January 1891. He came there from Meerut, another historic city located some 70 km from Delhi. Wandering as an unknown sannyasin he came to Meerut, and, by an act of providence, met some of his brother-disciples, and they together stayed in Meerut for some time. Says his Life,[1. Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, in two volumes, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 1.259-260]
After staying at the doctor’s house for about a fortnight, the Swami and Akhandananda went to stay at a Shethji’s garden-house [in Meerut], where the other brother-disciples also joined them. The Shethji gave them everything they needed. The monks cooked their own food, and spent their time in spiritual practices. . . . The austere life he had led during his wanderings, and the haphazard eating, had weakened him greatly; but here he was growing stronger. . . They passed their time in meditation, prayer, singing devotional songs, and study of the scriptures and other literature in Sanskrit and English. In the evening they used to go for a walk, and watch the sports and games of the troops on the parade ground.
While at Meerut, an interesting incident revealed Swamiji’s extraordinary power to grasp a subject. States Swamiji’s Life further,
At the Swami’s bidding, Akhandananda used to bring books for him from the local library. Once the Swami asked him to bring the works of Sir John Lubbock. Accordingly Akhandananda brought them, one volume each day. The Swami would finish a volume in a day and return it the next day, saying that he had read it. The librarian argued with Akhandananda that the Swami had surely returned the volume without reading it, and remarked that the latter was only making a show of reading. Hearing of this the Swami himself went to the librarian and said, ‘Sir, I have mastered all those volumes: if you have any doubt, you may put any question to me about them.’ The librarian then examined the monk, and by doing so became fully satisfied. Great was his astonishment.
Later Akhandananda asked Swamiji, how he could do it. The Swami replied, ‘I never read a book word by word. I read sentence by sentence, sometimes even paragraph by paragraph, in a sort of kaleidoscopic form.’
The local library referred to is now called Tilak Pustakalaya Avam Vachanalaya (founded in 1886) and still continues to operate, though now in a dilapidated condition.
Other disciples who lived with Swamiji included Swamis Brahmananda, Saradananda, Turiyananda, Akhandananda, Advaitananda and Kripananda. The later biographers called it the ‘second Baranagore Math’—a reference to the austere lives they led at the Ramakrishna Movement’s first monastery in a place called Baranagore in north Calcutta. After spending about two months at Meerut, Swamiji decided to continue his wanderings, alone. He told his brother disciples that he had received the command of God regarding his future, and was going to leave them in order to become a solitary monk.
An Ancient City
One of the most ancient cities in the world, Delhi has been constantly inhabited since the 6th century BC. Historically, Delhi has been the capital of various kingdoms and empires that ruled India. It has been captured, ransacked and rebuilt several times, particularly during the medieval period, and the modern Delhi is a cluster of a number of cities spread across the metropolitan region. According to most historians, Delhi was rebuilt nine times.
These ‘Delhi-s’, named by their rulers, are called by different nomenclatures such as Khandava Forest, or Indraprastha (by Pandavas), Lal Kot (by Tomars) and Qila Rai Pithora (by Prithvi Raj Chauhan), Siri (by Alauddin Khilji), Tughlaqabad (by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq), Jahanpanah (by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq), Ferozabad (by Firuz Shah Tughlaq), Deenpanah (by Humayun) and Dilli Sher Shahi or Shergarh (by Sher Shah Suri), Shahjahanabad (by Shah Jahan) and Lutyen’s Delhi by the British. Sometimes the modern city of New Delhi is also called Raisina Delhi—after the hill called Raisina where the Rashtrapati Bhavan is located. This is why Delhi is sometimes called as ‘City of cities.’
Delhi has been a major political, cultural and commercial city along the trade routes between northwest India and the Gangetic plains. In AD 1639, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built a new walled city in Delhi, which served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1649 until the Rebellion of 1857. The British captured Delhi in 1857 and the city replaced Kolkata as the seat of British government in India in 1911. A new capital city, New Delhi, was built to the south of the old city during the 1920s. When the British left India in 1947, New Delhi became its national capital and seat of government.
As to the origin of the name ‘Delhi’, there are a number of legends. One is that it is derived from Dhillu or Dilu, a king who built a city at this location in 50 BC and named it after himself. Another legend holds that the name ‘Delhi’ is based on the Hindi/Prakrit word dhili (loose) used by the Tomaras to refer to the city because the Iron Pillar of Delhi had a weak foundation and had to be moved. The coins in circulation in the region under the Tomaras were called dehliwal. According to the Bhavishya Purana, King Prithiviraja of Indraprastha built a new fort in the modern-day Purana Qila area for the convenience of all four castes in his kingdom. He ordered the construction of a gateway to the fort and named the fort dehali. Some historians believe that the name is derived from Dilli, a corruption of dehleez or dehali—both terms meaning ‘threshold’ or ‘gateway’—and symbolic of the city as a gateway to the Gangetic Plains.
Both by legend and history, Delhi has been the capital of India. The Delhi that Swamiji visited, however, was not the sprawling New Delhi of modern-day planning and constructions, bearing visible signs of history and unbridled urbanisation. The city was under the British who administered Delhi as part of Punjab Province (till it was declared the capital of colonial India in 1911). Although there were people speaking Punjabi, it was ‘a time when Banias, Bengalis, Jains, Mathurs and Muslims—to name them in alphabetical order—seemed to be, at least from some perspective, Delhi’s dominant communities.’[2. Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten, by Rajmohan Gandhi, Aleph Book Company, Dariyaganj, New Delhi, p.10] The demographic landscape of Delhi underwent significant change in 1947 when, in the aftermath of Partition, a large number of Punjabi populace migrated from Pakistan and settled down in Delhi. Post-independent India has brought people speaking different languages from all parts of India to Delhi, making the city a truly multi-cultural, multi- linguistic and multi-religious crucible.
Now called National Capital Region (NCR), the Union Territory of Delhi comprises several nearby towns and is called the world’s second most populous city. Besides the seat of political power in India, Delhi has hundreds of old monuments dotting the whole area (according to Archaeological Survey of India, there are some 174 enlisted monuments in NCR).[3. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi and some Internet sites on Delhi’s history.]
Swamiji’s First Visit
Swamiji came to Delhi twice.
First in 1891, from Meerut, as mentioned above, and the second when he returned from the West in 1897. In the latter part of January 1891, Swamiji left his devoted brethren in Meerut and journeyed on to Delhi all alone. The rest of the narrative of his Delhi visit may be well said through his Life[4. Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, in two volumes, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 2.268] :
The Swami, with his scanty belongings and regal bearing, came to Delhi, for ages the capital of India under Hindu and Mogul dynasties, and the scene of numerous historic events. The royal sepulchres and palaces, the sites of deserted capitals, the ruins of imperial greatness, make Delhi the ancient Rome of India. Its very atmosphere is imperial. The crisp winter air, the grandeur of the place, its noble history, filled him with physical and spiritual elation. He put up at the residence of Seth Shyamaldas*, where he was received with open arms. Here in Delhi** he went everywhere and saw everything. The ruins of royal and imperial greatness impressed on the young monk the ephemeral nature of all human glory and the permanence of the spirit, which neither comes nor goes. At the same time, the historian in him found in Delhi the symbol of the immortal glory of the Indian people, with its grand, composite culture.
After about ten days, the other brother-disciples at Meerut left for Delhi, where they inadvertently met the Swami again. The brethren were no doubt happy to meet him, but the Swami was not pleased. He said to them, ‘Brothers, I told you that I wanted to be left alone. I said that I had work to do. I asked you not to follow me. Now I insist that you obey me. I do not want to be followed. With this I leave Delhi. And he, who follows me, does so at his peril; for Iam going to lose myself to all old associations. Where the Spirit leads, there I shall wander, no matter whether it is a forest or a desert waste, a mountain region or a densely populated city. I am off.’ The brother-disciples, stunned by his resolve, said, ‘We did not know that you were staying here. We have come to Delhi to see the old imperial capital. Here we heard of a Swami Vividishananda, an English-speaking monk, and we were curious to see him. It is by accident that we have met you.’
It appears that the Swami had introduced himself in Delhi as Swami Vividishananda, which, as we have seen, was the name taken at the time of his formal initiation into Sannyasa. But his brother-disciples seem to have almost forgotten the name. To them he was always their beloved ‘Naren’. Nor, to their knowledge, had the Swami used the name openly before. Thus it was that when they went to meet Vividishananda, they found to their surprise that he was none other than the Swami. Even after this parting from his brothers, the Swami lingered on in Delhi for a few days more. Though they lived apart, they gathered at the Sethji’s house to take their food.
One day Dr. Hemchandra Sen, a well-known Bengali physician of Delhi, spoke slightingly about the Swami to Akhandananda [who happened to come to Delhi by then]. A few days earlier, when the Swami had consulted him about his tonsils, the doctor’s attitude had been distinctly antagonistic. The doctor now, however, expressed to Akhandananda a desire to meet the Swami again. One evening many professors of the local college assembled at the doctor’s house, where the Swami and his two brother-disciples had also been invited. A great discussion ensued. Many questions were asked, and the Swami with his erudition impressed them all. As a result, Dr. Sen was attracted to the small group of monks. The following day he invited them to a feast at his house.
From Delhi, Swamiji journeyed on to Alwar in Rajaputana or Rajasthan—which of course is a glorious episode in itself.
The ancient city of Delhi left an indelible impression on Swamiji. Sister Nivedita, in her celebrated work, The Master As I Saw Him, writes:
In these talks of his, the heroism of the Rajput, the faith of the Sikh, the courage of the Mahratta, the devotion of the saints and the purity and steadfastness of the noble women, all lived again. Nor would he permit that the Mohammedan should be passed over. Humayoon, Sher Shah, Akbar, Shah Jehan, each of these and a hundred more found a day and a place in his bead-roll of glistening names. Now it was that coronation song of Akbar which is still sung about the streets of Delhi, that he would give us in the very tone and rhythm of Tanasen.[5. The Master As I Saw Him, Udbodhan Office, Kolkata, p. 42]
The antiquity of Delhi left a lasting impression on Swamiji. While travelling in foreign lands he could find parallel landscapes with Delhi. He wrote about the Santa Fe Route in California to Sister Nivedita:
The scenery today I am passing through is much like the neighborhood of Delhi, the beginning of a big desert, bleak hills, scanty, thorny shrubs, very little water. The little streams are frozen, but duringthe middle of the day it is hot. Must be [illegible] I presume, in summer.[6. CW, 9.129]
While visiting Paris, he also could feel the spirit of Delhi. Swamiji writes,
It seems to me that the Chandni Chauk of Delhi might have been at one time somewhat like this Place de la Concorde. Here and there columns of victory, triumphal arches and sculptural art in the form of huge statues of men and women, lions, etc., adorn the square.[7. CW, 5.516]
Swamiji’s Second Visit
Swamiji visited Delhi for the second time after his triumphant return from the West in 1897. He had been visiting many parts of India speaking to and interacting with various people. Swamiji’s biography narrates [8. Life, 2.295]:
On Friday, November 26, the Swami and his party left Dehra Dun for Saharanpur, on the way to Rajputana [now Rajasthan]. Here he stayed with Bankubihari Babu, a pleader, who welcomed him and put him up at his house. The people of the town pressed the Swami to give a lecture, but he, being in a hurry to go to Rajputana, declined. . .
From Saharanpur the Swami went to Delhi, where he was the guest of Natakrishna, a man of humble position, whom he had met at Hathras during his wandering days. Wealthy people pressed him to be their guest, but he preferred to remain with his old friend. Natakrishna once asked the Swami: ‘I am practising Gayatri Japam and Sandhya for the last five or six months, but not getting any light.’ The Swami said, ‘Call on the Lord in your own language, instead of chanting the hymns in Sanskrit, which you don’t understand.’ Then he explained the meaning of the Gayatri Mantra. A professor of a nearby college visited the Swami often, and through him a small meeting was arranged, where the Swami answered questions. In addition, he held religious discussions, at which many distinguished people were present.
Together with Mr. and Mrs. Sevier, his brother- monks, and disciples, he visited all the monuments and ruins associated with the past glory of the Mogul emperors, which are scattered round Delhi within a few miles’ radius. One who accompanied him says: ‘He vivified the past before us. Indeed, we forgot the present in the past and lived with dead emperors and mighty kings of old.
From Delhi Swamiji went to Khetri. In a letter dated 30th November 1897, written (in Bengali) from Delhi, Swamiji informs Swami Brahmananda[9. CW, 8.438],
My Dear Rakhal,
. . . Tomorrow I am going to Khetri via Alwar. My health is good, even though I have caught a cold. Send all letters to Khetri. My love to all.
During his earlier visit to Delhi, Swamiji struggled with his intense desire to live the life of a solitary, wandering monk and his love for his brother-disciples. But when he came to Delhi for the second time, he had none of it. He came as a world teacher, a prophet. He had now felt that that without seeing Delhi one cannot fully understand the spirit of India. He painted the picture of India in glittering colours. Sister Nivedita wrote later,
Again it would be an eager resume of the history of India or of the Moguls, whose greatness never wearied him. Every now and then throughout the summer he would break out into descriptions of Delhi and Agra. Once he described the Taj as ‘a dimness, and again a dimness, and there—a grave!’ Another time he spoke of Shah Jehan, and then, with a burst of enthusiasm: ‘Ah! He was the glory of his line! A feeling for and discrimination of beauty that are unparalleled in history. And an artist himself! I have seen a manuscript illuminated by him which is one of the art treasures of India. What a genius!’[10. CW, 9.345]
Delhi continued to fascinate Swamiji. A great student of history, he could see through the march of events and happenings. His biography says,
To his clear vision the Mogul supremacy was but an interregnum in the continuity of Indiannational life. Akbar was Hindu in breadth of vision and boldness of synthesis. Was not the Taj, to his mind, a Shakuntala in marble? The songs of Guru Nanak alternated with those of Mirabai and Tansen on his lips. The stories of Prithvi Raj and Delhi jostled against those of Chitore and Pratap Singh, Shiva and Uma, Radha and Krishna, Sita-Ram and Buddha. Each mighty drama lived in a marvellous actuality, when he was the player. His whole heart and soul was the burning epic of the country, touched to anoverflow of mystic passion by her very name. He held in his hands all that was fundamental, organic, vital; he knew the secret springs of life.[11. Life, 1.392]
References to Delhi keep appearing in Swamiji’s talks, lectures and conversations in various ways. He would give his disciples vivid picture of the Mughal court in all its splendour. Sister Nivedita writes[12. CW, 9.394],
Today the Swami passed on to the talk of Akbar and sang us a song of Tânsen, the poet laureate of the emperor:
Seated on the throne, a god amongst men,
Thou, the Emperor of Delhi.
Blessed was the hour, the minute, the second,
When thou ascendest the throne,
O God amongst men,Thou, the Lord of Delhi.
Not only a World Teacher, Swamiji was also a world-traveller. He had visited numerous places in India and abroad. In one letter to Sara Bull, JJ Goodwin (who had accompanied Swamiji) writes, giving a peep into his impressions of Delhi:
You will be pleased to hear that the Swami joined me at Naples in the best of health & spirits, & completely charmed with his tour. He was full of Rome. Rome & Delhi are the two cities in the world he says.[13. Swami Vivekananda in the West—New Discoveries, Marie Louise Burke, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata, 526]
Twice blessed by Swami Vivekananda’s visit, Delhi now has an active and well known centre of the worldwide Ramakrishna Mission—the organization that Swamiji started. The Ramakrishna Mission at New Delhi was started in 1927. It is located close to Panchkuiya Road and is now a well-known landmark, thanks to Delhi Metro which has named its station as Ramakrishna Ashrama Marg Station. With a majestic temple of Sri Ramakrishna at its centre, the Delhi Ashrama is a hub of spiritual, cultural and social welfare activities.[14. For details, please visit http://www.rkmdelhi.org]
Visits of Other Direct Disciples
Besides Swami Vivekananda, the ancient city of Delhi (the New Delhi came into existence in 1920s) has been blessed with the visits of many direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna on different occasions. Most of them passed through the city on their way to Haridwar and other places in northern and western India. Almost nothing is known about the details of where and how long they stayed in the city. Let us enumerate whatever sketchy details are available in this regard:
Swami Akhandananda came to Delhi in the same year as Swami Vivekananda. In his well-known book From Holy Wanderings to Service of God in Man,[15. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, p.27] Swami Akhandananda recalls his meeting Swamiji in Delhi,
Swamiji left alone for Delhi. Ten days after, the others in the company also left the place. When Swamiji left for Delhi, I said, ‘It was at your bidding that I gave up the idea of a journey to Central Asia and went back to Baranagar and you now leave me!’
‘The company of Gurubhais’, said Swamiji, ‘is a great obstacle to the practice of Tapasya. Don’t you see, you fell ill at Tihiri [in Uttarakhand] and I could not undertake spiritual practices. I cannot undertake them unless I sever the tie of brothers-in-faith. Whenever I think of Tapasya, the Master sends an obstacle. This time I shall move alone. Nobody will know my whereabouts.’
‘Go you to the nether word!’ said I, ‘but none the less I shall find you out, or my name is not Gangadhar!’
From Delhi, Sarat Maharaj and Sanyal went to Etawah, Rakhal Maharaj and Hari Maharaj to the Punjab, and I to Brindavan-Vrajadham. During my stay of three or four months there, I had an attack of bronchitis. Tulsi Maharaj now came to Brindavan. I accompanied him to Etawah via Agra.
While Swami Akhandananda stayed in Delhi for ‘three or four month’, it is not known where he stayed and who was his host. There is an interesting anecdote, however, which throws some light on his stay in Delhi. His biography by Swami Annadananda[16. Swami Akhandananda by Swami Annadananda, Advaita Ashrama, p.77] says,
At Delhi, Swami Akhandananda sat on a bench in a park and thought to himself, ‘If, by chance, I meet a devotee of the Master, I shall go with him; otherwise, I shall spend the night on this bench’. At the other end of the bench sat a Marwari. Seeing the Bengali monk, he moved over towards him to pay his respects. He offered him money also, which the Swami refused. At this, the Marwari remarked, ‘At Dakshineswar, I met Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and now I meet another saint who refused to accept money’.
Swami Akhandananda asked him who he was. ‘I am Lakshminarayan Marwari,’ the man replied. ‘Once I offered ten thousand rupees to the Master, and I learned a fine lesson on renunciation from him.’ Swami Akhandananda was extremely happy to meet a devotee of the Master in such an unexpected manner, and went with him to his house to spend some hours in conversation about Sri Ramakrishna.
Swami Akhandananda came to Delhi again, while returning from Rajasthan in 1895. He spent some days before leaving for Kolkata via Varanasi.[17. ibid, p. 111]
During his stay in Rishikesh, Swami Abhedananda became ill with bronchitis and a high fever. Fortunately, at that time Swami Turiyananda and Saradananda were there; they took care of their brother disciple and later in March 1890, sent him back to Varanasi for further treatment. Abhedananda gradually recovered and returned to the Baranagore monastery.
This time he did not stay in the monastery long, as he wanted to travel to other holy places in India. He first went to Gaya and then Varanasi, Prayag, Agra, Delhi, Jaipur, Udaipur, Khetri, Mount Abu and Girnar.[18. God Lived with Them, Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata p.460-461]
He travelled extensively between 1889 and 1891. It is difficult to say for sure that he visited Delhi during this time. But he came to Delhi in 1897 along with Swamiji.[19. Life, 2.258]
We find him at Delhi again, as guide to Mr Okakura, the Japanese artist and a guest of Swamiji. This was in the first half of 1902.[20. CW, 5.175]
Apart from his first visit in 1891 (when he came with other disciples and happened to meet Swamiji), Swami Turiyananda came to Delhi at least once. In 1896, Swami Turiyananda travelled to Uttarkashi via Delhi, Hardwar and Rishikesh.[21. God Lived with Them, P. 367]
When he was in Delhi on his way to the Uttarakhand, he stayed with Chandulal, a devoted householder in his garden-house on the bank of Yamuna in the outskirts of the city.
Chandulal later recalled:
People used to be respectful of Swami Turiyananda due to his brilliant countenance. Everyday, he used to visit the nearby library after finishing his morning bath and breakfast. A little before noon, he used to go to Chandulal’s house to beg for food. After the food, he used to spend some time in religious discourse with Chandulal and then again return to the library. He used to be immersed in studies till evening and then return to his abode for meditation. He ate very little at night and meditated upto late in the morning beginning from 3 am. His daily routine used to run like a clock.[22. Swami Turiyananda (Bengali), Swami Jagadishwarananda, Kolkata, 2004, p. 36]
According to some, however, Swami Turiyananda stayed with Seth Shyamaldas at his residence. As noted earlier, he came to Delhi in January 1891 from Meerut and met Swamiji. During his stay, Swami Brahmananda and others would take food either at Seth Shyamaldas’s, Swamiji’s host or at Garibdasi Sadhu Sevak’s.[23. Swami Turiyananda, in Bengali, Swami Jagadishwarananda, Udbodhan, Kolkata, 2004, 26.]
As in case of others, Swami Saradananda came to Delhi and met Swamiji in Delhi in 1891. Then, after visiting Etawah, Mathura, Vrindaban, and Prayag, he along with Vaikuntha, reached Varanasi in April 1891.[24. God Lived with Them, p. 323]
Swami Saradananda visited Delhi for the second time when, at Swamiji’s behest, he showed Sister Nivedita and other western disciples of Swamiji around Delhi.[25. Life, 2.385]
As noted earlier, he came to Delhi in January 1891 from Meerut and met Swamiji.[26. Life, 1.259]
He visited Delhi in 1897 accompanying Swamiji.[27. Life, 2.258]
Swami Vivekananda wrote to Swami Brahmananda[28. From Srinagar in Uttarakhand, letter dated 30 September 1897, CW, 8:427] asking him to send Swami Vijnanananda (then Brahmachari Hariprasanna) to join him and his group at Dehradun. By implication, since he joined Swamiji’s travels, Swami Vijnanananda must have come to Delhi along with Swamiji in 1897. (During these travels, Swamiji also discussed with him the plan of the proposed temple of Sri Ramakrishna at Belur Math. As they visited Delhi and Rajputana together, they keenly observed the architecture popular in those parts.) According to one of his biographies, some thirty years later, on 20 December 1932, Swami Vijnanananda came to Delhi on his way to Dwaraka. He reached Delhi at about 11.30 p.m. He was ‘welcomed at the railway station by the Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi’ (which had been started in 1927). Swami Vijnanananda stayed at Delhi Ashrama for two days and then left for his destination.
While returning, he again came to Delhi on 6 January 1933 from Rajkot by Gujarat Mail and left Delhi the following day for Allahabad by Parcel Express.[29. Swami Vijnanananda (Bengali), by Swami Jagadishwarananda, Allahabad, 1354 BE, p. 271-72] In 1933/34, Swami Vijnanananda went to Sri Lanka. In the same year he went to Delhi and some other places in North West India.[30. God Lived with Them, P. 610] Possibly it was during this last visit to Delhi that he gave two discourses at the Delhi Ashrama as the Combined Annual Report of 1932-35 (p.8) of the Delhi Ashrama records:
The Delhi Centre had the privilege of twice welcoming His Holiness Sreemat Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj, the present Vice President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission during the period under review. During his second visit, the Swami gave two very illuminating and impressive discourses at the Ashrama on the 30th April and 1 May 1934, on his personal reminiscences of Sri Ramakrishna.
The present office building at Ramakrishna Mission,*** New Delhi, was the first and only building at Delhi Ashrama then. Obviously, Swami Vijnanananda must have stayed and spoken at the same building. The old shrine of the Mission was also located in the same building till 1959 when the present temple was consecrated.
Thus, the historic city of Delhi, the city of monuments and history, has had the blessing of visits by several disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. It is no less a historic event that Swami Vivekananda and nine other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna visited Delhi, leaving behind holy memories and sacred associations. While the historic city of Delhi is largely unaware of Swami Vivekananda’s and direct disciples’ visits to Delhi that took place more than hundred years ago, their message of Self realization and service to mankind continues to inspire and guide countless men and women there. Delhi—a city blessed by visits of saints!
Seth Shymaldas’ house was located in Roshanara Road. Called Seth Shyamaldas Ki Haveli in Roshanara Bagh near Pul Bangash, the building, altered over the years, is now a government-run Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya. It is situated right across the road, to the east of Mughal gateways called Punjabi Gate. The gateways lead straight to a baradari which has the tomb of Roshanara, daughter of Mughal king Shah Jahan, all structures protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). In 2002, the then Central Minister, Sri Jagmohan had declared the building a national heritage because of its association with Vivekananda. ‘Such buildings should be preserved as they can continue to be an inspiration for one of the greatest stalwarts of our times,’ Jagmohan had said. One clear remnant of the past is a huge Mughal-style arched entrance leading to a square courtyard, characteristic of Old Delhi havelis.
‘After the 1857 Uprising, Britishers took over most of the area. Along with them came several Bengalis, who too stayed in the area,’ said RV Smith, chronicler of Delhi’s popular history.
During his almost three-week stay, Vivekananda, along with his English disciple couple Seviers and his brother monks, visited all the monuments and ruins associated with the past glory of the Mughal emperors. He also walked down to the Yamuna regularly.
Recalled Smith, ‘In 1962, I met this elderly Muslim man in Fatehpuri, who told me he remembered Vivekananda. When the Swami walked in long strides from Chandni Chowk to the Yamuna, several youngsters followed him. He also recalled Swami’s thick neck and pehelwan-like personality.’
—Edited from Source: Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times New Delhi, January 12, 2013 http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/school-building-s-forgotten-link-with-vivekananda/story-ys9Xfc03aWbyNNoE3Z83KP.html
[The house was located in the premises of the Senior Secondary School for Girls run by the Government of Delhi. On 25 March 2002, a public meeting (called Vivekananda Rally) organised at the house by Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, as part of its Platinum Jubilee Celebrations. It was largely attended by students, devotees and general public. Besides many monks, Shri Jagmohan, the then Minister of Urban Development, Government of India, addressed the gathering. According to authentic sources, Seth Shyamaldas’ Haveli was recently pulled down and a new structure has been built in its place.]
** Another version: Chandni Chowk has also been the hub and centre of the social, cultural and religious life of the Capital . . . Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shraddhanand were among the prominentpreachers seen here. Vivekananda stayed with his friend Dr.H.K. Sen. One can visualise Swamiji walking down the chowk with his disciples, pausing at the church and sometimes listening to the debates and perhaps joining them. His visit in February 1891 was a landmark and those who came to know him were duly impressed.
During most of his three-week visit, he stayed in Roshanara Garden at the house of Shyamaladas Seth. But he kept coming to Chandni Chowk and sometimes visited the Yamuna Bank. As there was no New Delhi then, life in Delhi was confined to the Walled City. The Capital was of course at Calcutta, still Delhi’s importance as the former seat of the Moghuls was no less.
—Source: Delhi’s links… .Old and New by R.V. Smith; The Hindu, Monday, Aug 05, 2002 http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2002/08/05/stories/2002080500810200.htm
*** Started in 1927, Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi, was shifted to its present premises in 1935. Earlier, in 1934, the foundation of the first building (now called Office Building) of Mission was laid by laying a brick consecrated by Swami Shivananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the second President of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The brick was carried from Belur Math to Delhi and the foundation ceremony was held in February 1934. In December same year, the building was ceremonially opened. The Report quoted in the article suggests that Swami Vijnanananda is likely to have stayed and spoken at this Office Building which, possibly, was yet not complete (since the building was commissioned next year).