Swami Vivekananda Rocked Chicago on a Long Ago 9/11

By Samir Shukla

on a Long Ago 9/11

It was a different 9/11 all those years ago. It was 125 years ago on September 11, 1893 that Swami Vivekananda traveled to the United States and gave his response to the welcome speech at the Parliament of World Religions gathered in Chicago. He gave several other lectures and speeches in the next few days that the Parliament was convened.

His influence on the Parliament was electric. According to Parliament of World Religions website, the gathering in Chicago in 1893 was the first such event and, “A captivating Hindu monk, Swami Vivekananda mesmerized the 5,000 assembled delegates, greeting them with the words, 'Sisters and brothers of America!' This speech, which introduced Hinduism to America, is memorized by school children in India to this day. Swami Vivekananda became one of the most forceful and popular speakers in spite of the fact that he had never before addressed an audience in public."

Vivekananda and his words have also electrified Hindus for over a century.

He has become a symbol for a unified Hindu voice, of pride in heritage. His is a voice from the past serving as a marker and future guide for Hindus, who are as disparate as the myriad cultures and languages of India. Vivekananda spoke simple words, but they ring true as a guide for tolerance and a sense of belonging.

Even his soft critique of other religions in the subsequent speeches he gave at the Parliament was respectful and filled with constructive criticism. The American thinkers and organizers of that Parliament also deserve kudos for their willingness to give a voice to the varied beliefs outside the Judeo-Christian background of this nation.

The Parliament meets every few years at different locations. This year it convenes in early November in Toronto.

This September, the World Hindu Congress, which meets every four years, is gathering in Chicago, the same city that brought Swami Vivekananda to world exposure, on the 125th anniversary of his speeches. The Congress takes place on September 7 - 9, 2018. Many gurus, teachers, intellectuals, politicos, and religious leaders are expected to attend. I'm sure Swami Vivekananda's words and influence will flow through the gathering.

This September, a small prayer or a salute to Vivekananda and his work may be in order.


Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com