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India commemorates 125th year of Swami Vivekananda’s speech at Chicago

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Vivekananda had called the world to fight “sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism.”

Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago

Exactly 125 years ago, on this day, one of India’s greatest enlightened minds, Swami Vivekananda, made his first speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, underlining the importance of faith, tolerance and the communion of all religions.

Vivekananda, who was called to the podium, opened his speech addressing the gathering “Sisters and Brothers of America,” which received a standing ovation from the audience.

His speech highlighted the importance of tolerance and called the world to fight against “sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism.”

Even though Vivekananda was called in to Chicago to represented India and Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, he didn’t make attempts to showcase his faith as superior to others. Hinduism taught the world of tolerance and universal acceptance, and India, he said, adding that it has a history of sheltering the “prosecuted” and the refugees of all nations and religions.

On Monday, on the 125th anniversary of the historic speech, India commemorated the occasion.

“Taking Indian philosophies to West. Remembering #SwamiVivekananda on the 125th year of his address at the Parliament of World’s Religions, Chicago,” wrote Embassy of India, Washington, DC, on its official Facebook page.

Speaking about the contributions of Vivekananda, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that his preaching is still relevant and will remain so until the world lives in harmony.

Modi said: “Who would have thought that anyone would be interested in celebrating a 125-year-old speech.”

He also pointed out that the 125th anniversary of Vivekananda’s Chicago address coincide with the anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attack in the US, which he called was a result of the saintly figure had opposed to – “religious exclusivity.”

“Before 2001, the world did not know the significance of 9/11. It’s our fault that we forgot the significance of our 9/11. Had we remembered it, there would have been no 9/11 in 2001,” said Modi.

Modi, while addressing students in New Delhi to mark the 125th Anniversary said, 9/11 was a day that should have been remembered for the contributions made by a young man from India (Vivekananda) but it was made infamous after the 2001 attacks, which stood against what he proposed more than a century ago.

“Before the 2001 attacks, there was another 9/11 made famous by a young man from this country, who, wearing saffron robes, entered Chicago. Swami Vivekananda never tired of showcasing India’s culture, talents, and qualities. He would also never refrain from criticising the shortcomings of this nation,” PM Modi said. “More than being in search of a guru, Swami Vivekananda was in search of the truth.”

“Swami Vivekananda had given the concept of ‘One Asia.’ He said that the solutions to the world’s problems will come from Asia,” Modi added.

What makes Vivekananda’s preaching more relevant to date is the recent spates over religion and race across the world that stretches from increasing racist attacks in the US or the recent issue of Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Vivekananda also spoke during the concluding session of the World Parliament of Religions, appreciated the religious representatives for having decided to co-exist in harmony, throughout the world.

He also denounced those who eulogizes and speak of exclusivity of one religion, saying that he pities them for, there will come a day when “religion will soon be written in spite of resistance: help and not fight, assimilation and not destruction, harmony and peace and not dissension.”

After the World Parliament of Religions, Vivekananda spent the next two years on a speaking tour in different parts of the U.S. and Great Britain and returned to India in 1897 to start Ramakrishna Mission, a Hindu charitable organization under his guru’s name.

Hear the full speech of Swami Vivekananda