The first parliament of world religions is perhaps best remembered with the name Swami Vivekananda.
He represented Hinduism in the 1893 world religions parliament held in Chicago, USA.
His born name was Narendranath Dutta. He was a monk and philosopher. He delegated on
behalf of ancient Indian religious thought and philosophy.
He led his life in the footprints of his guru (religious teacher) Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the
19th century Indian saint, as the chief disciple.
He founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission, also known as Belur Math,
on May 1, 1897, in Howrah (the second largest city after Kolkata in West Bengal state, India,
and thereby fulfilled the dreams of his Guru.
His speeches on the Indian Darsanas (the Teachings and Practices of Vedanta and Yoga)
made the western world have broad understanding about the vitality of Hinduism.
He brought Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. His
efforts are credited with raising interfaith awareness.
In the contemporary Hindu reform movements, he played a major role and contributed his
services to the concept of nationalism in India which was then under British rule.
On September 11, he addressed the participants of 1893 world religions parliament in Chicago
beginning with the words “Sisters and brothers of America …”
Soon he got a standing ovation lasted for two minutes from the crowd.
Still today the world remembers him to these words.
The silence having restored, he continued his speech, “I thank you in the name of the most
ancient order of monks in the world, thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I
thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects”.
Impressed by Vivekananda’s speech, Harvard psychology professor William James said,
“That man is simply a wonder for oratorical power. He is an honor to humanity.”
John Henry Barrows, President of the then Parliament, said, “India, the Mother of religions
was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most
wonderful influence over his auditors”.
Hearing his eloquent speeches, the focus of media turned towards Vivekananda and praised
him with the title of the “Cyclonic Monk from India”.
Vivekananda spoke about the common theme of universality, emphasising religious tolerance
in the Parliament.
He was also credited with the title a “handsome oriental” and made a huge impression as an
orator across the world.