Sunday, 5 February 2017

6 Feb 1897

When the train bringing the hero-monk steamed into Egmore Station, Madras, on the morning of February 6, 1897, there were thundering shouts of applause. The enthusiasm shown was unprecedented in the history of Madras. An account of the Swami's entrance into the city can be conveniently given in the words of one of the leading papers:

 

             Due to previous information widely disseminated that Swami Vivekananda would arrive at Madras this morning by the South Indian Railway, the Hindus of Madras, of all ages and of all ranks, including young children in primary schools, grown-up students in colleges, merchants, pleaders and judges, people of all shades and varieties, and in some instances, even women, turned up to welcome the Swami on his return from his successful mission in the West. The railway station at Egmore, being the first place of landing in Madras, had been well fitted up by the Reception Committee who had organized the splendid reception in his honour. Admission to the platform was regulated by tickets rendered necessary by the limited space in the interior of the station; the whole platform was full. In this gathering all the familiar figures in Madras public life could be seen. The train steamed in at about 7.30 a.m., and as soon as it came to a standstill in front of the south platform, the crowds cheered lustily and clapped their hands, while a native band struck up a lively air. The members of the Reception Committee received the Swami on alighting. The Swami was accompanied by his Gurubhais [brother-monks], the Swamis Niranjanananda and Shivananda, and by his European disciple Mr. J. J. Goodwin. On being conducted to the dais, he was met by Captain and Mrs. J. H. Sevier, who had arrived on the previous day with Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Harrison, Buddhists from Colombo and admirers of the Swami. The procession then wended its way along the platform, towards the entrance, amidst deafening cheers and clapping of hands, the band leading. At the portico, introductions were made. The Swami was garlanded as the band struck up a beautiful tune. After conversing with those present for a few minutes, he entered a carriage and pair that was in waiting, accompanied by the Hon. Mr. Justice Subrahmanya Iyer and his Gurubhais, and drove off to Castle Kernan, the residence of Mr. Biligiri Iyengar, Attorney, where he will reside side during his stay in Madras. The Egmore Station was decorated with flags, Palm leaves and foliage plants, and red baize was spread on the platform. The "Way Out" gate had a triumphal arch with the words, "Welcome to the Swami Vivekananda". Passing out of the compound, the crowds surged still denser and denser, and at every move, the carriage had to halt repeatedly to enable the people to make offerings to the Swami. In most instances the offerings were in the Hindu style, the presentation of fruits and cocoanuts, something in the nature of an offering to a god in a temple. There was a perpetual shower of flowers at every point on the route and under the "Welcome" arches which spanned the whole route of the procession from the station to the Ice-House, along the Napier Park, via Chintadripet, thence turning on the Mount Road opposite the Government House, wending thence along the Wallaja Road, the Chepauk and finally across the Pycrofts' Road to the South Beach. During the progress of the procession along the route described, the receptions accorded to the Swami at the several places of halt were no less than royal ovations. The decorations and the inscriptions on the arches were expressive of the profoundest respect and esteem and the universal rejoicing of the local Hindu Community and also of their appreciation of his services to Hinduism. The Swami halted opposite the City Stables in an open pandal and there received addresses with the usual formalities of garlanding.

 

             Speaking of the intense enthusiasm that characterized the reception, one must not omit to notice a humble contribution from a venerable-looking old lady, who pushed her way to the Swami's carriage through the dense crowds, in order to see him, that she might thereby be enabled, according to her belief, to wash off her sins as she regarded him as an Incarnation of Sambandha Moorthy [a Shaiva saint of Tamil Nadu]. We make special mention of this to show with what feeling of piety and devotion His Holiness was received this morning, and, indeed, in Chintadripet and elsewhere, camphor offerings were made to him, and at the place where he is encamped, the ladies of the household received him with Arati, or the ceremony of waving lights, incense, and flowers as before an image of God. The procession had necessarily to be slow, very slow indeed, on account of the halts made to receive the offerings, and so the Swami did not arrive at Castle Kernan until half past nine, his carriage being in the meanwhile dragged by the students who unharnessed the horses at the turn to the Beach and pulled it with great enthusiasm. Arrived at the Castle Kernan, Mr. Krishnamachariar, B.A., B.L., High Court Vakil, read a Sanskrit address on behalf of the Madras Vidvanmanoranjini Sabha. This was followed by a Canarese [Kannada] address. At the close of this ceremony, Mr. Justice Subrahmanya Iyer asked the gathering to disperse in order to let the Swami rest after the fatigue of his journey, which was done. The Swami was installed in one of the magnificent chambers in the upper storey of the Castle Kernan.

 

             Never since its earliest days has Madras witnessed such an enthusiastic reception accorded to anyone, European or Indian. Of all the official receptions that were ever held in Madras, none could equal the one given to Swami Vivekananda. Such an ovation has not been witnessed in Madras within the memory of the oldest man, and we dare say that the scenes of today will remain for ever in the memory of the present generation.