Swami Vivekananda - The widely worshiped photo

circa 1892 or early 1893

Vivekananda House

Vivekananda House
Chennai, India

This photo is usually identified as “probably Belgaum,” 1892 and the next photo, no. 12, as Hyderabad, 1893. This information seems doubtful. Upon close examination it appears that both of these photographs were taken on the same day, wherever it may have been. There are reasons to believe that photo no.11 was not taken in Belgaum. Haripada Mitra, Swamiji’s disciple in Belgaum, with whom he stayed for nine days (October 19-27, 1892), arranged for photo no. 9. Initially Swamiji resisted being photographed, so it is not likely that he would have agreed to have a second and a third photograph taken while in Belgaum. (See note under photo no. 9) Vivekananda: A Biography in Pictures mentions another account which says that this photo (no. 11) was the first one taken of Swamiji in Chennai. It is said that when Swamiji saw this photo, he remarked that “it looked like the picture of a leader of a gang of dacoits!” Within the last couple of years, Swami Chetanananda of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis found a Bengali reference in the Udbodhan archives that he thinks refers to this photo. It reads: “Swamiji’s sitting pose: Jaipur after Alwar beginning of April 1891.” There was no actual photo with this description. The photographs of Swamiji during his wandering days in 1892 and early 1893 clearly confirm the accounts given by those who met him at that time. When Swamiji first arrived in Belgaum, he stayed with the father of G. S. Bhate who remembered that the swami “was rather striking in appearance and appeared to be even at first sight somewhat out of the common run of men. . . . Though he wore clothes bearing the familiar color of a sannyasin’s garments, he appeared to be dressed differently from the familiar brotherhood of sannyasins. He used to wear a banyan [tee shirt]. Instead of the danda he carried a long stick, something like a walking stick. His kit consisted of the usual gourd, a pocket copy of the Gita, and one or two books.”19 B. G. Tilak remarked: “The swami avoided mixing with society. There was absolutely no money with him. A deerskin, one or two clothes and a kamandalu were his only possessions.”20 ❊ ❊ ❊ Practical patriotism means not a mere sentiment or even emotion of love of the motherland but a passion to serve our fellow countrymen. I have gone all over India on foot and have seen with my own eyes the ignorance, misery, and squalor of our people. My whole soul is afire and I am burning with a fierce desire to change such evil conditions. Let no one talk of karma. If it was their karma to suffer; it is our karma to relieve the suffering. If you want to find God, serve man. To reach Narayana you must serve the daridranarayanas— the starving millions of India. (RSV, 100)


  • Title: Swami Vivekananda - The widely worshiped photo
  • Date Created: circa 1892 or early 1893
  • Location: Belgaum
  • Subject Keywords: Swami Vivekananda, Swami Vivekanandas most famous photo, Swami Vivekananda sitting, Swami Vivekananda at Belgaum
  • Type: Photograph
  • Publisher: Sri Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Belur Math
  • Rights: Sri Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Belur Math
  • Accession ID: Photograph 11

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