Remembering Vivekananda

Remembering Vivekananda

The two weeklies of the Sangh Parivar, the Organiser and Panchjanya have come out with their special editions celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, setting aside other topics.

The editorial in the Organiser calls Vivekananda the icon of resurgent India for propounding "the most virile and practical form of Hinduism", when Hindus were "drained and depressed, a defeated and humiliated race uncharacteristically inadequate and unprepared to fight back" after the 1857 peak of British rule. It was against this backdrop that "Vivekananda came like a colossus, a conquering prophet. He won hearts, bloodlessly, not territories. He restored India's pride..." The editorial, however, does not hesitate to acknowledge that although Vivekananda took on a "herculean" task, he was no avatar: "He was very much human, perhaps the greatest humanist India produced in the last two centuries."

In another article, S. Gurumurthy underscores Vivekananda's significance as someone who challenged the Indian "mentality of looking at us through the prism of aliens" influenced by Western scholars and philosophers. He says Vivekananda did not want India to copy the Western model of economic development and had "development with culture" as his "agenda". Gurumurthy, consequently, points out that "cultural orientation is self-evident in the Indian economy" in the form of higher family savings rates, guided by the Indian "family culture".

However, while both weeklies fail to provide any insight into Vivekananda's thoughts on the caste system in India. Both issues have dwelt relatively briefly on his opinions of women in society. An article titled "Women and Modern Hinduism" in the Organiser does not go beyond describing Vivekananda as one of the earliest "champions of women". Another article in Panchjanya, however, dwells at more length on his opinions about women in India, where he has talked of the respect given to them in Indian society. He has been quoted to have said that India's "social customs and norms towards women" are guided by the need to "protect" them and should not be construed as a reflection of their "inferiority".

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