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Eknath Ranade & Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari - II

Eknath Ranade & Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari - II

Author: V Sundaram
Publication: News Today
Date: October 28, 2006
URL: http://www.newstodaynet.com/2006sud/06oct/2810ss1.htm

After clearing up all the political obstacles on the path of his goal of speedy construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari, Eknath Ranade saw to it that construction activity at the site began in a methodical and organised manner. On 6 November, 1964, the first stone was cut. Eknath Ranade was a man of tremendous faith in his chosen mission, in God Almighty, in Guruji Golwalkar and Dr Hedgewar.

He often used to declare to those around him almost everyday : 'All that I have seen teaches me to trust the CREATOR for all I have not seen'. He also derived his Himalayan enthusiasm and energy for completing this gigantic task from his own working philosophy which he put in very beautiful words : 'You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will never succeed and live in torment if you do not trust enough'.

Swami Vivekananda's meditation as an unknown monk on the mid-sea Rock in December 1892 and the discovery of his life's mission at that spot were all established facts. Against this background, Eknath Ranade was very clear in his mind about his mission and the field of action that lay before him. As if in a flash, the image of Swami Vivekananda that formed itself in the mind of Eknath Ranade was that of the Swamiji who was ready to enter the field of action with gusto in 1892.

Eknath Ranade communicated this idea and image of Swami Vivekananda to some distinguished artists and sculptors. He also exhorted them to read The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda so as to have for themselves a clear picture of Swami Vivekananda in their minds. The famous sculptor D P Roy Choudhry who had sculpted the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Marina beach He was a very famous sculptor. But he insisted that once he had made the sculpture, it should be accepted. But Eknath Ranade did not agree to that pre-condition. He said, 'If the sculpture is satisfactory, it would be accepted. Otherwise, payment would be made just for the work done.'

Accordingly, eight sculptures were got done, out of which two were finally selected. When they were placed on the pedestal on trial, the one with the Kamandlam in one hand was disproportionately taller than the other. That taller figure was installed later in Vivekanandapuram, and the other one with Swamiji's eyes focused on the Sripadam, was installed on the Rock Memorial facing the Sripadam. This, in short, is the story behind the installation of the majestic statue of Swami Vivekananda in the Rock Memorial. The statue which was finally selected for installation was sculpted by Sonawadekar. The construction of the memorial was entrusted to Sthapathi S K Achari by Eknath Ranade on the considered advice of Shri Paramachariya of Kanchi.

Eknath Ranade threw himself into the forefront facing the multifarious challenges that came his way to establish scientifically that the Rock for the memorial was structurally sound and could support such a huge structure on it ; the logistics of quarrying and transporting large blocks of stone from great distances, and from the shore to the Rock ; the provision of water and power supplies ; meeting the growing demand for skilled persons, artisans, craftsmen, and labour ; building of jetty platforms on the rock and the shore (the pedestrian footbridge idea to the Rock was dropped) ; the need to ensure systematic de-silting around the jetty platform areas to enable bigger crafts to approach the shore, and so on these and several other unforeseen challenges were met by Eknath Ranade with a resolute determination.

The biggest and the most formidable and ever present challenge, however, was that of organising the financial resources required for the whole operation. Shri Eknath Ranade's belief in the success of the Rock Memorial mission was so strong, that he never slowed down the pace of work even when there was an acute paucity of funds from time to time during the course of construction of the memorial from 1964 to 1970. He often used to brush aside the pessimistic discouragement of others around him whose belief in his sacred mission was not as strong as his own and went ahead with his fund-raising campaign repeating to himself the words of a great poet : 'Act, act in the living present, Heart within and God overhead'. No wonder Eknath Ranade succeeded magnificently where others would have failed.

Eknath Ranade fervently believed that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was a national monument of timeless significance and that every Indian should be invited to contribute to its construction. Shri Eknath Ranade launched the campaign of sale of one-rupee folders throughout the nation, which were used to mobilise the donations of the common man, starting from as tiny an amount as one rupee. By launching such a national campaign for collecting just an amount of Rupee one from every willing citizen, Eknath Ranade succeeded in raising an amount of Rupees one crore. Thus by his grand vision he ensured that so many common people visiting the Rock Memorial could have a legitimate pride that they too had contributed to that splendid national monument.

He also approached and succeeded in persuading almost every State government to make a decent contribution towards the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. What is amazing is that he succeeded in making even the States of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh participate in the work of construction of the memorial . All the State Governments put together made only a paltry a contribution of Rs.35 lakhs. It was solely on account of the outstanding leadership qualities of Eknath Ranade that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial mission never got entangled in any unseemly political controversy or agitation at any stage during the course of construction of the Rock Memorial from 1964 to 1970. All the petty politicians finally surrendered to his unconquerable spirit.

Eknath Ranade has recorded in telling words about his experiences in dealing with the Chief Ministers and politicians of India : 'Leaders of every political party, whether in power or in the opposition became willing partners of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The only Chief Minister who sent me back empty handed without contributing any amount to the Rock Memorial fund was the then Kerala Chief Minister Comrade E M S Namboodiripad. I can say this much about my abortive interview with him. It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was monologue all the way on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!'.

In this context the beautiful tribute paid to Eknath Ranade by Parameswaran, President, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari is very relevant :It is instructive to know how Eknath Ranade made judicious use of various means at his command for the achievement of his end. Both speech and silence were equally effect instruments in his hands. To know when to speak and when to keep silent is a rare gift. Eknath Ranade possessed this abundantly. While he raised stormy controversies when necessary, he scrupulously abstained from them when they served no purpose. He utilised his contact with the Press for raising the right issues at the right time and also not to raise inconvenient issues that would only complicate the situation. Though he never dabbled in politics, he possessed a high political acumen of which any successful politician would feel envious.

In the beginning, the estimated cost of construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was Rs 30 lakh. Then it increased to Rs 60 lakhs, then later to 75 lakh. Finally the total cost after completion worked out to Rs one crore and thirty five lakh. Just think what a great achievement it was to mobilise such a huge sum of money forty years ago and complete the work in six years!

The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was inaugurated on 2 September, 1970, and dedicated to the nation by V V Giri, the President of India. Kalaigner Karunanidhi presided over the dedication ceremony. There can be no doubt whatsoever that without the catalytic and stellar role of Shri Eknath Ranade, this grand national monument could never have been completed in such a record time. Emerson, the great American thinker of the 19th century said, 'A great and timeless institution is the lengthened shadow of one man'. If that be so, I have no doubt that the final verdict of history will be that the magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is the lengthened shadow of Eknath Ranade.

I had the unique privilege of enjoying the friendship of Eknath Ranade for almost six years from 1976 to 1982. As a District Collector, I met him for the first time at the Collector's bungalow in Thirunelveli in November 1976 when I was introduced to Eknath Ranade by S G Subramaniam, who was another great stalwart in the RSS. Later I got to know Eknath Ranade more intimately when I became the first Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust in April 1979. We used to have lunch sessions from time to time at Tuticorin and I rememeber distinctly his talking with animated passion about the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. He was indeed a Mahapurusha who combined in himself the qualities of gentleness, strength, simplicity and faith. By his life and example he showed that making the simple complicated is common place ; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's indeed creativity. He demonstrated that simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought and that simplicity of character is no hindrance to subtlety of intellect. He showed that life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing. True eloquence consists of saying all that should be said, and that only. Eknath Ranade did just that.

(To be continued...)

e-mail the writer at vsundaram@newstodaynet.com

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