|The Vivekananda Rock Memorial is located at Kanyakumari where the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal merge with the great Indian Ocean. The Vivekananda Rock has been dedicated to the Indian Philosopher Vivekananda who had spent his days trying to awake the Indians from their state of stupor. Vivekananda dedicated most of his life trying to awaken the inner soul of man.
Swami Vivekananda has said that even after he laid down his body, he would continue to work and inspire generations to come to carry on his unfinished work. We see it still happing. Swami ji does it in innumerable ways. The magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is one such undying source of inspiration.
The memorial consists of two main structures, the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam.
The Vivekananda Memorial, as it stands today, is a memorial to Swamiji as to Shri Ekanthji Ranade whose devotion to the work he had undertaken was inspired not by the faith but by intellectual conviction.
The first step he took on being asked to take charge of the Rock Memorial work was to ascertain that this effort had the full support of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He was made the Organizing Secretary of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee so that he was officially in charge of the Rock Memorial mission.
The immediate obstacles were Bhaktavatsalam’s stand that he would not allow the memorial to come up as Humayun Kabir, the Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, had said that the natural beauty of the Rock would be spoiled.
Kabir’s constituency was Calcutta. When Ranade publicised in Calcutta, that it was Kabir who was against the creation of Memorial of one of the greatest sons of Bengal, there was such a hue and cry that Kabir had to do a volte-face. However, to prevail over Bhaktavatsalam, only the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s support would do.
To that end, on Lal Bahadur Shastri’s advice, Ranade camped in Delhi. In three days, he collected the signatures of 323 Members of Parliament in a show of all-round support for the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which was presented to the Prime Minister. Bhaktavatsalam had no option now but to allow the construction of the Rock Memorial.
The architecture of Vivekananda Rock Memorial
The majestic architecture of the memorial is divided into two major sections, namely- the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam. The Vivekananda Mandapam has the following sections- Dhyana Mandapam (which is the meditation hall with six adjacent rooms), Sabha Mandapam (which is the assembly hall), Pralima Mandapam (statue section) two rooms, a corridor and an open prakaram (outer courtyard) round the Sabha Mandapam, Mukha Mandapam, Namashtubhyam to the Son of jagadamba. This Mandapam was erected in honor of Swamiji and is believed to be the place where he got the aim of his life.
The Shripada Mandapam is the square hall and has the following sections- Garbha Graham, inner prakaram, outer prakaram, and the outer platform. Shri Padaparai Mandapam is also present in the vicinity, which is a shrine that was erected to mark the footprint of the virgin goddess on the rock.
Bhaktavatsalam had given permission only for a small 15’ x 15’ shrine. Knowing his reverence for the Paramacharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Ranade approached the latter for suggesting the design of the Rock Memorial. Bhaktavatsalam unhesitatingly agreed to the larger design (130’-1½” x 56’) approved by the Paramacharya.
Once all the political hurdles were removed, construction was underway. Ranade was in the forefront facing all the challenges that came his way: to establish scientifically that the Rock 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; provision of water and power supplies; the growing demand for skilled artisans, craftsmen, and labor; building of jetty platforms on the rock and the shore (the pedestrian footbridge idea to the Rock was dropped); the de-silting around the jetty platform areas to enable bigger crafts to approach the shore, and so on.
The twin objectives of Vivekananda Kendra are man-making and nation-building. Shri Eknath Ranade decided that Vivekananda Kendra was to be a cadre-based organization. Young men and women whose hearts long to serve the nation would be provided the opportunity and the right platform to serve God in man.
When Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial was blueprinted, it was modeled by E. Thanumalayan, a student of the S. T. Hindu College, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu. He modeled it with paraffin wax. The Memorial is the fusion of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu architecture and the design of Ramakrishna Math, Belur, West Bengal. He was deeply appreciated by the then Madras Chief Minister Bhaktavatsalam for its aesthetic quality.
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