Wandering Monk: The India Travels Of Swami Vivekananda

This article was written by Sanjay Sivadas, travel writer and fan of the CheersBye Homestays Facebook page.

Between 1891 and 1892, Swami Vivekananda travelled, in bullock carts, on trains and by foot, across the length and breadth of India.

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Swami Vivekananda had set out on a cross-country journey with these words of the Buddha:

Go forward without a path,
Fearing nothing, caring for nothing!
Wandering alone, like the rhinoceros!
Even as a lion, not trembling at noises,
Even as the wind, not caught in the net,
Even as the lotus leaf, untainted by water,
Do thou wander alone, like the rhinoceros!

In February 1891, Swami Vivekananda arrived in Alwar, Rajasthan. From there he travelled to Jaipur, Ajmer, Mount Abu and Khetri.

While Swami Vivekananda was travelling by train in Rajasthan an interesting incident took place. Two Englishmen sitting next to him. They were under the impression that Swami Vivekananda did not know English and used derogatory language while talking about him. When the train halted at a railway station, Swami Vivekananda asked somebody, in English, for a glass of water. The Englishmen were taken aback. They asked Swami Vivekananda why he was silent all along. He answered: “This is not the first time that I am tolerating fools.”

Swami Vivekananda said: “Bless people when they revile you. Think how much good they are doing by helping to stamp out the false ego. Hold fast to the real Self.”

In November 1891, Swami Vivekananda headed for Gujarat. He visited Ahmedabad, Wadhwa, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Kathiawar, Kutch, Porbandar, Dwarka, Somnath and Baroda.

While travelling through the desert of Kutch, Swami Vivekananda had an experience from which he drew an important lesson of life: “For days and days I used to travel on foot through the desert, but it was to my surprise that I saw every day beautiful lakes, with trees all around them…’How wonderful it looks, and they call this a desert country!’ I said to myself.

“One day I was very thirsty and wanted to have a drink of water, so I started to go to one of these clear, beautiful lakes, and as I approached, it vanished. And with a flash it came to my brain: this is the mirage about which I have read all my life. With that came also the idea that throughout the whole of this month, every day, I had been seeing the mirage and did not know it. The next morning I began my march. There was again the lake, but with it came also the idea that it was the mirage and not a true lake.

“So is it with this universe. We are all travelling in this mirage of the world day after day, month after month, year after year, not knowing that it is a mirage.”

From April 1892 to November 1892, the Swami travelled across Maharashtra (Bombay, Mahabaleshwar, Pune, Kolhapur and Belgaum), Madhya Pradesh (Khandwa and Indore,) Karnataka(Bangalore and Mysore) and Kerala (Thrissur, Cochin and Trivandrum).

In December, 1892, Swami Vivekananda arrived in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu.

Kanyakumari is land’s end. Here, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet.

By the time Swami Vivekananda had reached Kanyakumari, he was almost penniless. He did not have the money to pay for a boat ride that would take him to a rock out into the sea. Swami Vivekananda plunged into the sea (which was infested with sharks) and swam across to get there. He meditated on that rock for 3 days on the past, present and future of India. Then, looking back as from a mountain, Swami Vivekananda embraced the whole of the country he had just traversed.

Swami Vivekananda said: “The whole universe is one. Everything in the universe is yours, stretch out your arms and embrace it with love. If you ever felt you wanted to do that, you have felt God.”

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