Hindu Vivek Kendra
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'Sisters and Brothers of America'

Publication: Rediff.com
Date: January 12, 2012
URL: http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-sisters-and-brothers-of-america/20120112.htm?print=true

Swami Vivekananda's famous speech in Chicago at the Parliament of Religions played a key role in spreading Hindu philosophy in the West.

On Swami Vivekananda's 149th birth anniversary, Shashi Shekhar reconstructs the Indian spiritual leader's nearly decade-long stay in the US from a collage of original newspaper clippings that give a first-hand account of impressions of his life and teachings while in America.

A decade back on a first visit to the American City of Chicago, I was overcome by a desire to visit the hall where Swami Vivekananda had made his famous speech almost a century before.

Back then the Internet was not quite the powerhouse of information that it is today. There was very little information to go by to track down where exactly that speech was delivered and if there was any memorial at all of the events from that last decade of that Century.

More recently Swami Vivekananda's visit to the United States was brought forth to the mind while listening to a speech by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who sought to give a new meaning to the date September 11 marking the day when Swami Vivekananda delivered that famous speech in Chicago.

Thus began a digital quest to reconstruct the events of the 1890s during Swami Vivekananda's visit and stay in the United States. Thanks to the digital news archives of The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune among others we are able to today assemble a collage of original newspaper clippings from that decade that give a firsthand account of impressions if not insights to that visit and stay spanning nearly a decade.

The Chicago Tribune naturally has the most number of news items of the Swami's visit to the US while The New York Times gives some glimpses of his stay in the New York area. One also gains a peek into events that perhaps few are familiar with in the years leading up to the Swami's passing away and its immediate aftermath.

Most of the newspaper clippings are from the year 1893 when the Parliament of Religions was held in Chicago. In a curtain raiser that appeared in the Chicago Tribune dated September 11, 1893 with the title 'Study of Comparative Religions' one gets a perspective from a local Presbyterian Church on what to expect from the Parliament.
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