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  The Disappearance of a Vital Historical Monument  
 

 

By: G.P.Srinivasan
March 07, 2007
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iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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The guest house in the palace of Raja of Ramnathapuram where the momentous decision to go to United States of America was taken in October 1892.

After the Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886) left his mortal coil, Swami Vivekananda started a padayatra in 1886 and reached Ramnathapuram in 1892 In Ramnad, he met Bhaskara Sethupathy, the Raja of Ramnad at his Royal Palace, “Ramalinga Vilasam” and stayed there as the official guest house of for eight days, which was called “Sankara Vilasam”, and the guest house was earlier known as “Colonel Bungalow”, because, a British Colonel Martinez who stayed there from 1790-1830. He lived there up to 70 years, he died and entombed nearby in the CSI cemetery. The bungalow was in a natural surrounding with trees and a big water tank on the backyard. The royal tank was meant for the Raja’s family. For them, there was a secured under ground level entrance with steps reaching down the water level.

This bungalow acquires historical significance, as initially, it was Raja of Ramnad who had earlier decided to go to US to attend the Parliament of religion. But after seeing and discussing with Swami Vivekananda, he decided that Swamiji was the proper person to attend the conference. When the Raja suggested, this to Vivekananda, he immediately did not agree to the proposal. After staying in Ramnad, he proceeded to Kanyakumari and reached there on December 24th, 1892. He requested the fishermen to take him to the rock, but they refused, as they had become Christians by then and said they had to celebrate Christmas; they would not take boats out. So Swami Vivekananda reached the rock by swimming. He remained there for two days and three nights meditating. In his trance, he got divine message that he should attend the Parliament of religion at US. He came back and wrote a letter to Raja of Ramnad expressing that now he was willing to attend the conference adding that he was proceeding to Madras and from there to Bombay. The Raja made all arrangements.

The bungalow with the surrounding land had been in possession of the Raja family. After the Colonel’s demise, the Rajas used to worship Kali with the sacrifice. When Sringeri 22 Pontiff visited the place, the Raja expressed his desire of abandoning the sacrificial practice and follow satvika worship. The great Pontiff advised him thus he stayed there for 48 days and performed Rajarajeswari Yagna and consecrating the place and a golden Vigraha of the Goddess Rajarajeswari was installed within the Palace-temple, which is still worshipped. Thus, the bungalow came to be known as “Sankara vilasam”.

As the important decision of Swami Vivekananda should go to US and attend the conference was taken there at the bungalow, it gets historical significance, as otherwise, Swamiji would not have got such prominence. Also it was a historic place form where the Hinduism became once again world famous.

When Vivekananda returned from US, he reached Colombo and from there, he came to Danuskodi by a boat and from there to Pamban. When he was about to land at Kundukal, Raja was waiting with his entourage to give him a royal welcome there. Because of the achievement of Swamiji and as well as the regard, the Raja had for him, he reverentially bowed his head and offered it as step for Vivekananda to land from the boat as Vivekananda was coming back to Mother land after five years. But, Swamiji tactfully avoided by jumping from the boat on the land. Raja erected a Victory pillar of 25 feet height with the Upanishad expression “Satyameva Jayate”. Swamiji recorded this in his letter to an American disciple. However, the pillar disappeared 25 years ago, reportedly destroyed by the local fishermen. After reaching Ramnad, Swamiji went to the same bungalow and gave lecture nearby open place on the backs of the huge tank, which is known is recorded in the Complete works of Swami Vivekananda.

But, such an important bungalow had been dilapidated and the Ramakrishna Mission had not acquired even though it was more than 100 years since Swami Vivekanada had landed there and lived there, where the momentous decision was “drilled into the head” as per Vivekananda's own statement by the Raja. The building remained in the custody of the Raja’s family, and for want of funds, the surrounding land was sold to several individuals. Even Ramakrishna Mission did not come forward to either maintain or buy it to preserve it as ‘historical monument’. Under the circumstance, Viking S. Karunanidhi, a rotatarian who has interest in history and in Vivekananda to decided buy the land and construct his own house. He also purchased the dilapidated bungalow and handed over it to the Ramakrishna Mutt, Karur. Now, the Mutt has decided to construct a memorial, as old building the “Sankara Vilasam” has been in dilapidated state and beyond reconstruction or renovation which was purchased from the Raja’s family and given to the Ramakrishna mutt, Karur and Mr.Karunanidhi also purchased some land and gave it on cost price to the Karur Ramakrishna Mutt which is not affiliated with the Ramakrishna mutt affiliated Ramakrishna Mutt Thirupparaithurai. The process of transaction is over and the old building that was beyond repair, was demolished, by the time when the author of this paper reached the place and stated there for four days in January 2007, all that he could see were some photos of that historical building looked like, and some remaining building material, rubble, old bricks some 200 years old and round stone pillars. He requested the ashram to keep some of the relics from the old building, as they were associated with the life of Swami Vivekananda as A new memorial is coming up fast. This building and memorial would be known as “Vivekananda Bhaskaram” after completion of construction with Rs. 40 lakhs and is likely to be inaugurated in May 20 2007. So far Rupees 20 lakhs has been collected as donations and the remaining amount is yet to be realized and the in charge Sri Nagarajan Brahmachari informed that donations are welcome at the following address that would help to complete the building.

Now, authorities are spending on the British period colonial dilapidated buildings spending crores from exchequer, e.g, the Victory memorial hall situated inside the University buildings, Chennai. But, historically important monuments like Col. Martins this are neglected. The attitude of the Government is also intriguing, because, in the case of Ice-house building, though, where Swami Vivekananda stayed in Madras when visited the city , initially decided to demolish, because of Vivekananda association, it was spared and handed over to Ramakrishna Mutt and the Mutt has renovated and been maintaining as a memorial cum exhibition centre. However, in the case of “Sankara Vilasam”, it is unfortunate that it was allowed to be demolished, as though a new memorial is built, historically, it cannot be equated with the original monument.

Acknowledgements:

The author wished to thank Viking MS Karunananidhi and Brahmachari Nagarajan.

Address where donations are welcome
VIVEKANANDA BASKARAM
NO 1, ARANMANAI STREET,
RAMANATHAPURAM 623501
INDIA
PHONE 04567 -22819

Bibliography

1. The life of swami Vivekananda by his eastern and western disciples
2. The complete works of Swami Vivekananda
3. New Discoveries

©. G.P. Srinivasan Feb 2007 Article and Photos.


G.P.Srinivasan

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