BRIEF HISTORY

Ramakrishna Mission Vviekananda Memorial, Porbandar

Swami Vivekananda stayed in Porbandar for about four months in 1891-92 during his parivrajaka days in the Bhojeshwar Bungalow, which was then a state guest house, Swamiji stayed as a guest of Shri Shankar Pandurang Pandit, the then Administrator of Porbandar, Swamiji is believed to have stayed for about 11 days in the old palace (Darbargarh) also as the then Maharaja of Porbandar late Vikamatji (Raja Bhoj) was very much impressed by Swamiji.

During that period some other direct disciples of Shri Ramakrishna also visited Porbandar. Swami Akhandanandaji Maharaj and Swami Trigunatitanandaji Maharaj met Swamiji at Porbandar while Swami Abhedanandaji Maharaj missed Swamiji by few days only, Later some more direct disciples might have visited Porbandar during their pilgrimage to Dwarka and Somanath but we do not have definite records.

Swami Nikhilanandaji from Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati came to Gujarat in 1924 for preaching work and for collection of donation, He came in contact with some of the foremost ruling princes of Kathiawad (Saurashtra) and succeeded in making them " interested in the ideals and activities of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, His Highness Rana Saheb of Porbandar, Maharaja Saheb of Morbi and Thakur Saheb of Limbdi deserve special mention. He stayed as a guest of erstwhile ruler of Porbandar Shri Natwarsinhji for about a week. Shri Natwarsinhji was very much impressed by Swami Nikhilanandaji and developed great appreciation for the Ramakrishna Mission after hearing about it from him as is evident from his letter dated 20th August,1924, which is reproduced below.

To Whom This May Concern

"During about a week that Swami Nikhilananda stayed here, I was deeply impressed by his acumen and greatly interested in his Mission which is known as the " Ramakrishna Mission".

I thoroughly enjoyed his company and am very pleased, indeed, to have made acquaintance with him. From what Ihave heard about his Mission, I can say that it is really laudable and I do hope that his efforts for its advancement willbe crowned with success.

I write this letter as a token of my appreciation for excellent work he is doing for the genuine benefit of humanity."

Sid Natwarsinhji

Maharaja Rana Saheb, Porbandar

PS. :A sum of Rs. 20,000/- has been promised by the State towards 'Mayavati Ashrama'

Rana Saheb of Porbandar donated Rs. 20,000/- for the charitable dispensary of Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati. Rana Saheb expressed his desire that a branch centre of Ramakrishna Mission should be started in Porbandar and he assured all possible help in this regard. So in 1925 Swami Madhavanandaji, the then President of Advaita Ashrama of Mayavati came to Saurashtra for exploring the possibility of opening a centre of Ramakrishna Mission. However instead of Porbandar, Rajkot was selected probably because of its central location and suitability. Thus a centre of the Ramakrishna Math was established in Rajkot in 1927. Shrimat Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj took charge of the Ashrama in 1945. He sometimes used to visit Porbandar for collection of donation as well as for preaching work and used to stay in the house of Dr. Roy (Dr. Bengali).

In 1966 Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj took charge of Rajkot centre. Sometime in 1968 Shri Rajabhai Ladiwala, an advocate of Porbandar informed him over telephone that Swami Vivekananda stayed in Bhojeshwar Bungalow during his parivrajaka days. In the earlier biographies of Swami Vivekananda it is written that he spent about 11 months in Porbandar. However the exact location and period was not mentioned. From the later biography of Swami Vivekananda the period of his stay in Gujarat comes to less than 8 months and so in all probability Swamiji spent at least four months in Porbandar. (Biography of Shankar Pandurang Pandit written by his daughter Pandita Kshama Rao in Sanskrit also mentions that Swami Vivekananda spent about 4 months in the Bhojeshwar Bungalow. The copy of this book was retrieved from Leela Rao Dayal of Mumbai, the daughter of Pandita Kshama Rao in 1993).

At the invitation of Shri Rajabhai Ladiwala, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj visited Porbandar and saw the Bhojeshwar Bungalow. Later he came to Porbandar with Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission and showed him the Bungalow and also met Shri Revashankar Anupram Dave, a centenarian who had met Swami Vivekananda in Porbandar, as a young boy. At that time they were guests of the then Rana Saheb of Porbandar Shri Natawarsinhji and stayed in Lal Bungalow. Later a marble plaque with the following inscription was placed at the Bhojeshwar Bungalow in July 1974.

"Sometime in 1891-92, Swami Vivekananda, disciple of Paramhamsa Sri Ramakrishna and Founder of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, lived in this house in Room No. 1 as the guest of the then Dewan of Porbandar State, Sri Shankar Panduranga, for a very long period. (According to some record for 11months)" A big portrait of Swami Vivekananda was also placed in the room in which he stayed.

In this work Shri Ratubhai Adani, the then Minister of Panchayat, Govt. of Gujarat played an important role. Some people started visiting the room in which Swami Vivekananda stayed but in general the Bungalow was very much neglected.

On 29.1.1990 a public meeting was organised in Sannyas Ashrama in Porbandar with the help of Shri Sureshbhai Kotecha and others. A monk who was sent from Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot to give discourse on the message of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda pointed out to the public that Porbandar is a great place where Swami Vivekananda stayed for such a long period, even more than where his memorial has been constructed in Kanyakumari where he has spent only three days; he further said that in America and other countries also where Swamiji stayed for some period have been preserved as memorial buildings, whereas the historic Bungalow in which Swami Vivekananda has stayed for longer period is being neglected, so something should be done by the enlightened citizens of Porbandar.

Late Shri Ratibhai Chhaya, Shri Dwarkadasbhai Vithalani, Shri P.M.Joshi, Ms. Jyotiben Thanki, Mrs. Mintuben Dasani, and other enlightened citizens of Porbandar came forward to form a committee on that very day. Later these members formed a Private Trust and continued to carry out some activities apart from Weekly Youth Study Circle in the Bhojeshwar Bungalow.

In November 1995 Mrs. Mintuben Dasani, (D/o Dr. Bengali) informed the then President of Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj and the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, that the Bhojeshwar Bungalow was going to be sold out in near future by the Government since it was in a dilapidated condition and the historic building may be lost for ever to humanity.

Swami Jitatmanandaji, President of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot was immediately contacted by the Headquarters and was told to take urgent action in the matter so that the Bungalow is not sold out but is given to Ramakrishna Mission to start a memorial. Shri Sureshbhai Mehta, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat in a Youth Convention held in Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot on 12th January 1996 promised that he would try his best to see that the Bhojeshwar Bungalow is given to Ramakrishna Mission. He started formalities in this direction in all earnestness. However before this could be achieved the Government was toppled over and a new Government came in power with the Chief Ministership of Shri Shankarsinh Vaghela. Mr.Vaghela took the matter in right earnest and the bungalow was formally handed over to Ramakrishna Mission in a public meeting held on 12th January 1997 on 30 years' lease at a token rent of Re. 1/-, Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, the then General Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission received the formal documents on behalf of Ramakrishna Mission. The Governing body of Ramakrishna Mission by a resolution dated 29/3/97 formally decided to open a centre of Ramakrishna Mission at Porbandar. Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Memorial, was thus formally started.

The Bungalow was in a dilapidated condition and repair work was immediately started. Swami Jitatmanandaji, President of Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot became the first Secretary of the Ashrama and sent a few monks from Rajkot Ashrama to start repair work and also started some activities like organizing eye camps etc.

He handed over the charge of the Ashrama to the present Secretary on 10th June 1998(Snan Yatra Day). On 12th January 1998, a 91/2 ft. high bronze statue was installed on a 12 ft. high pedestal in the premises of the Ashrama. The statue was unveiled by Swami Sridharanandaji Maharaj. Dr.Kiran Bedi, IPS, released a commemorative souvenir on that day.

The repair of the historic Bhojeshwar Bungalow has been carried out by spending more than Rs. 20 lacs. It was in a dilapidated condition when it was received from the Government on 30-years' lease on a token rent of Re. 1/-. It was further damaged by the cyclone on 9th June. The wooden ceiling affected by termite had to be replaced by RCC roof. However this was carried out carefully so that original shape of the building remained Intact.

The Bungalow had been further damaged by the earthquake. The repair work was carried out in such a manner so that the building becomes stronger without changing the original structure as far as possible.

On 9th June 1998 a severe cyclone hit coastal area of Porbandar and there was great devastation. So primary relief work was started from 10 th June 1998 itself. After distribution of food packets, tarpaulin sheets etc. a rehabilitation project was undertaken as a part of which a colony named as 'Shri Ramakrishna Sanskardham' consisting of 20 houses, a temple, a community hall, a children park and other infrastructural facilities was inaugurated by Shri Sundersingh Bhandari, the then Governor of Gujarat on 22 nd February 2000 in the holy presence of Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice- President of Ramakrishana Math & Mission, Belur Math.

Meanwhile a charitable dispensary with homoeopathic, ayurvedic and allopathic sections was inaugurated by Shrimat Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, General Secretary of Ramakrishna Math & Mission, on 13th March, 1999.

Many other activities like library, free reading room, medical camps etc. also were started. Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President of Ramakrishna Math and Mission laid the foundation stone for the new building for Library and Prayer Hall on 24th March, 1999.

Porbandar experienced severe drought for three consecutive years. Relief work was carried out on a massive scale from May to July 2000 during which the following activities were undertaken.

1) Free distribution of 270 tonnes of dry fodder among 72 cowsheds of Porbandar and Jamnagar district for saving 8298 cattleheads.

2) Construction of a check dam near Shri Ramakrishna Sanskardham, in the village Vadala.

3) Free fodder feeding centers for starving cows and free kitchens for poor people at Ramakrishna Sanskardham, Vadala, Shri Ramakrishna Nagar, Chaslana (Dist. Jamnagar) and Kharawavad at Porbandar.

4) Free feeding centres for buttermilk at Porbandar and Vadala.

5) Free distribution of 33.5 tonnes of groundnuts seed, 33-5 tonnes of gur, 6-25 tonnes of grams (roasted) and 3050 kits containing steel water pot, bedsheet, soaps etc. among 7500 labourers working under relief projects of the Govt.

6) Free distribution of 27 tonnes of food grains among 2500 families of Porbandar and nearby areas.

On 26 January 2001, a devastating earthquake was experienced in Porbandar also. Earthquake reliefwork was started from 26th January itself by distribution of food packets. A free kitchen was started in Bharwada from 2nd February 2001 where more than 400 houses had been severely affected. After carrying out primary relief work of about Rs. 30 lakhs by way of distribution of food packets, food grains, tarpauline sheets etc. among about 3000 families of 50 villages, 400 temporary shelters were constructed in village Bharwada for the families affected by the earthquake.

Later rehabilitation project worth approx Rs 4.5 crores was undertaken for construction of 2 colonies and 37 school buildings in Porbandar district.

All these Government school buildings were severely affected by earthquake. New buildings were constructed at the request of the Govt. of Gujarat and were handed over to the District Panchayat, All schools except one have been named as 'Vivekananda Vidya Mandir', They were inaugurated by dignitaries and seniors monks of Ramakrishna Math & Mission. A large number of villegers and students participated in all the Inauguration Functions consisting of speeches, folk songs, cultural programmes etc. All these buildings are earthquake-resistant, built of RCC as per pre-fabrication technology. They have been provided toilets, play ground equipment, furniture, books on Value Education, etc.

Attempts are also being made to have tree plantation in each school, so that an ideal environment is created for imparting right type of education as envisaged by Swami Vivekananda and the schools justify their name 'Vivekananda Vidya Mandir'

A colony consisting of 30 earthquake resistant houses (each having 362.5 sq ft area with one room, kitchen, latrine, bathroom and verandah), a community hall, a dispensary, a library and other infra structural facilities was inaugurated by Shri Narendrabhai Modi, Chief Minster of Gujarat on 6th December 2001 and was named as 'Vivekananda Sanskardham.'

Another colony, consisting of 50 earthquake resistant houses, with facilities of electricity, street light, water, playground equipment etc. named as 'Sri Ma Sarada Sanskardham' was inaugurated by Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice- President, Ramakrishna Math & Mission on 23-02-2003 in the village Tumbda(Bokhira} near Porbandar.

On 9th January, 2002, Prayer Hall Dedication Ceremony was performed by Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, Vice-President, Ramakrishna Math & Mission in the presence of a large number of devotees, The programmes included procession, special worship, devotional songs, public meetings, cultural functions etc.

On 12thJanuary, 2002, the new Library Building was inaugurated by Shri Jagmohan, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Govt. of India. On 11th February 2004, Shrimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj laid the foundation stone of the proposed Monks' Quarter and Smt. Bhavanaben Chikhalia the then Minister of State for Tourism & Culture, Govt. of India laid the foundation stone of the proposed educational institute - Vivekananda Institute of Value Education & Culture (VIVEC)on the plot of land measuring 5000 sq. m. situated behind the Ashrama, obtained from Govt. of Gujaraton 30years'lease at a token rent of Rs. 1/-.

'Shri Ramakrishna Prarthana Mandir' a beautiful temple constructed in 'Vivekananda Sanskardham' at village Bharwada was dedicated on 30-03-2004 (Ramanavami Day)

Quote

So long as God seems to be outside and far away, there is ignorance. But when God is realized within, there is true Knowledge.

- Shri Ramakrishna

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