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Swami Vivekananda in Belgaum

October 28, 2012

Apart from Mysore and Bangalore, Swami Vivekananda had visited Belgaum in Karnataka during his travels. Swamiji reached Belgaum from Kolhapur on 15th October, 1892. For four days, he was a guest of Prof Sadashiv Bhate, a Maharashtrian who found Swamiji a very unusual monk. Bhate wrote in his records, “From the very first day of the Swami’s stay occurred little incidents which led us to revise our ideas about him. In the first place, though he wore clothes of the familiar sannyasi’s colour, he appeared to be dressed somewhat differently from his brother sannyasis. He used to wear a banian (thin vest) and instead of the danda (a monk’s staff), he carried a long stick. His kit consisted of the usual kamandalu, a pocket copy of the Gita and one or two other books. We were not accustomed to a sannyasi using the English language as a medium of conversation, wearing a banian instead of sitting bare bodied, and showing a versatility of intellect and variety of information which would have done credit to an accomplished man of the world.”

For the next nine days, Swamiji lived with Haripada Mitra, a sub-divisional forest officer who was also a Bengali. He wrote these impressions: “It is the late evening of Tuesday, the 18th of October 1892. A stout young sannyasi of cheerful countenance came to see me with a friend of mine, a lawyer. Looking at him, I saw a calm figure, with eyes flashing like lightning, clean-shaven, garbed in a gerua alkhalla (a kind of garment) with an ochre turban on the head, and mahratta sandals on the feet. I was at once attracted to him. At that time I believed every sannyasi to be a cheat, and was a skeptic in matters of religion and God. My first thought was that this man must have come to beg something or to ask me to take him into my house because it did not suit him to live with a Maharashtrian. When I entered into a conversation with him, I was surprised to find that he was thousand times superior to me in every respect, and that he asked for nothing! I begged him to come to live with me, but he said, ‘I am happy with the Maharashtrian; if I should leave after seeing a Bengali, he might be hurt. Besides, the whole family treats me with great love. But I will think about it and let you know later on.’ However he promised to take breakfast with me the next morning.”

After waiting for a long time for Swamiji to come to his house for breakfast, Haripada Mitra went in search of him to Bhate’s residence. He was surprised to find a large gathering of lawyers, pundits and prominent citizens asking the Swami questions. He was amazed at the ready replies which the Swami gave without pausing, in English, Hindi, Bengali and Sanskrit. On seeing Haripada Mitra, Swamiji was very apologetic and asked to be excused for not being able to keep up the appointment. He said, “I could not leave without hurting the feelings of so many people.” On being pressed by Haripada Mitra to come and live in his house, the Swami said, “I shall go if you can make my host agree to your proposal.” After much persuasion Mr Bhate agreed and Swami moved in with his few belongings to Haripada Mitra’s house.

The room where Swami Vivekananda had stayed in Sadashiv Bhate’s house is now being maintained as a shrine and also contains a cot, stick and a standing mirror said to have been used by him. The other house where Swamiji stayed for the remaining nine days as a guest of Haripada Mitra is now being maintained as a monument within the main Ashrama at Belgaum located within the Fort.

Kannada version in Prajavani (01-Nov-12)

Balu