Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk, and disciple of the famous Indian mystic Ramakrishna Paramhamsa. Vivekananda played a key role in the introduction of Indian yoga and Vedanta philosophy in the West. These reformers played a huge role in awakening Indian Society and bringing them closer to today's Modern India. These were prominent part of  India Freedom Struggle which is part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.


  • Swami Vivekananda


  • He made a strong impression at the inaugural World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893 – giving a powerful speech on the underlying unity of world religions.
  • He taught a philosophy of traditional meditation and also selfless service (karma yoga). He advocated emancipation for Indian women and an end to the worst excess of the caste system.
  • He is considered an important figurehead of India’s growing self-confidence and later nationalist leaders often said they were inspired by his teachings and personality.


  • Swami Vivekananda was born Narendra Nath Datta on 12th January 1863 in an educated and well-to-do family in Calcutta. He studied the Western thought which ingrained in him the quality of critical enquiry and analysis.
  • His inborn spiritual characteristics and his rational outlook  were  at  tussle.  He  turned  towards  the  Brahmo  Samaj  which  rejected  idol  worship and formulated the formless worship  of  God.
  • His  meeting  with  Swami  Ramakrishna in the year 1881 was the turning point in his life. He accepted Swami Ramakrishna as his friend, philosopher and guide. In all most all the fields of social or national life he propounded his unique visions to help the ignorant mass of this country.
  • His preaching regarding nationalism, universal humanism, education, socialism, equality greatly impressed the contemporary leaders and freedom fighters.
  • He was a Hindu spiritual leader and reformer in India who attempted to combine Indian spirituality with Western material progress, maintaining that the two supplemented and complemented one another.


  • The philosophy of Vivekananda is born out of his strong awareness of the social, religious and economic conditions of Indian masses. He realized that the orthodoxy, superstitions, loss of faith in spiritual values etc., are the reasons for at  least  some  of  the  social evils.
  • The Hindu philosophy, especially, Vedanta which made him  known  as  a  Vedantist and the Buddhist philosophy made a great impact upon Vivekananda. Along with these Indian influences, he also carried, on his thought, the influence of Christianity.
  • There were certain other influences too. For some time  he  was  under  the  influence  of  Brahmo  Samaj.   It  also  seems  that  he  was  also  influenced  by  the  personality  of  Dayananda  Saraswati.
  • The Gita was also a source of  constant  inspiration to Vivekananda. But it must be admitted  that the profoundest influence was that of his master Swami Ramakrisha Paramahamsa.
  • It is right to say that swami Ramakrishna revealed him the spiritual path,  unravelled  and  opened  his soul, flooded the  spiritual  consciousness  into  his  soul  and  removed  the  ignorance  which obstructed and covered the wave and tide  of  the  unbounded  spirit  within  Vivekananda. David Hume, Kant, Hegel, Comte, J.S. Mill, Charles Darwin and became fascinated with the evolutionism of Herbert Spencer.


Vedanta Religion and Socialism

  • To him religion is a key note of social and national life. This religion was the vedic religion. Vivekananda was a world spokesperson for Vedanta. Swami Vivekananda’s vision of Vedanta is his lasting legacy to contemporary spiritual thought.
  • Swami Vivekananda's ideas on nation-building in India come down to us through his concepts of 'Practical Vedanta' and 'Man-Making'. The Vedanta teaches men to have faith in themselves first.
  • To him, the goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. He popularized yoga  as the practical aspect of Vedanta. it elevates religion into spiritualism and at that stage all  faiths, all scriptures, and  idolatry  appear  to  be  different faces  of the  same  truth.
  • Swamiji  felt that Indians are essentially bound by religious ties and only a  spiritual  elevation  of  religion could unite them beyond faiths, caste, community and sub-national and  ethnic identities.
  • Then and only then all Indians will be permeated by  a  common  bond  of nationalism. By the Neo-Vedantism of Swami Vivekananda is meant the new Vedanta as distinguished from the old traditional Vedanta developed by Shankaracharya.
  • Swamiji was an ardent supporter of Vedantic socialism. No doubt, Vivekananda took pride in the country’s inheritance from the past, but he was not an obscurantist revivalist with undiscriminating admiration for all that had come down from the past.
  • To him, India meant the people and the people meant the masses. Removal of poverty, eradication of illiteracy, restoration of human dignity, freedom from fear, availability of spiritual and secular knowledge to all, irrespective of their caste and class and the ending of all monopolies, religious, economic, intellectual, social and cultural – all these formed a part of what he derived from his practical Vedanta or Vedantic socialism.
  • Vivekananda’s Vedantic socialism centres round his progressive ideas on education which are more modern than those of professional educationists who moulded the education of modern India.
  • From the beginning of his mission, he stressed the importance of universal literacy as an essential condition for mass uplift and development. Though he laid great stress on the traditional values of chastity and family life for women,
  • Vivekananda was totally against their subjection. Vivekananda’s Vedantic socialism is also reflected in his endeavour to give India’s traditional religions a new orientation of social service.

Social Reforms

  • Swami Vivekananda was a great social reformer. As a social reformer, he preached elimination of all exploitation. He has done many social activities to change the social problems.
  • He felt that the three problems are the resistance of our progress: education, poverty and castism. Swami is considered as the messiah of downtrodden.
  • Swamiji was the first leader in modern India to speak for the poor and the downtrodden masses. He travelled extensively within the country to understand their problem. He firmly believed that the main cause of Indians’ downfall was the neglect exploitation of the poor.
  • According to Vivekananda religion is that will be equally philosophic, equally emotional, equally mystic and equally conductive to action. Religion is a social institution; worship is a social activity and faith a social force.
  • Swamiji changed the focus of religion from God to Man on rather, to God in man. His master Sri Ramkrishna had taught him that service to man was service to God.
  • Swamiji made this principle the basis of his social service programme. He taught that the best form of worship was to see God in the poor, the downtrodden, the sick and the ignorant and to serve them.
  • He was the first Indian represented India and Hinduism in the world parliament.
  • Swamiji enhanced Indian prestige in the world through his speeches at the world parliament of Religion held in Chicago in 1893 and his subsequent work in America and England.
  • Swamiji showed the universal relevance and significance of Indians ancient philosophy and spiritual culture in solving many of the problems associated with modern living. He enabled thousands of people in the west to appreciate Indian philosophy and culture.
  • He believed that socio economic change can be brought about through education. He wanted both moral and secular education to be imparted to the common man of this country.
  • On 1 May 1897 at Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission—the organ for social service. The ideals of the Ramakrishna Mission are based on Karma Yoga.
  • Swamiji laid the foundation for harmony amongst religions and also harmony between religion and science. He always said with his Guru, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, that, “religion is not for empty stomachs.”
  • Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary, also called Swami Vivekananda Jayanti, is celebrated on January 12. The day is also observed as National Youth Day. Vivekananda had a firm conviction that for the youth, life is larger than livelihood.
  • Their aim is to break the shackles of the established society to revolt against whatever breeds inequality, injustice, bondage of mind and all kinds of backwardness.
  • Vivekananda welcomed the youth to come forward and join in the struggle for achieving freedom of all kinds, political, economic and spiritual.
  • Vivekananda’s clamant call to the Indian youth “Awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached” is resounding all through India, rousing their social consciousness and kindling their damp spirits.
  • He felt that because the youth had no possession, they could be sincere and dedicated souls. They can sacrifice everything for a noble cause.


  • Swami Vivekananda was a true nationalist in heart and spirit. He believed that there is one all dominating principle manifesting itself in the life of each nation.
  • He said, “in each nation, as in music, there is a main note, a central theme, upon which all others turn. Each nation has a theme, everything else is secondary India’s theme is religion.
  • Social reform and  everything else are secondary. Vivekananda felt that Indian nationalism had to be built on the stable foundation of the post historical heritage.
  • In the past, the creativity of India expressed itself mainly and dominantly in the sphere of religion. Religion in India has been a creative force of integration and stability.
  • When the political authority had become loose and weak in India, it imparted event to that a force of rehabilitation. Hence, he declared that the national life should be organized on the basis of the religions idea.
  • As supporter of this idea, he revived the eternal things of the Vedas and Upanishads to strengthen nation’s growth and faith in its individuality.
  • Vivekananda was a keen student of History. Analyzing the historical facts available he comes to the conclusion that four fundamental social forces are ruling society in succession: Knowledge, military power, wealth and physical labour.
  • These forces are in the hand of four classes, Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. He point out the importance of each of the varna in social history and maintained that each will rule one after the other.
  • After analysing the merits and defects of the three different kinds of rules Vivekananda prophesied that Sudra rule is bound to come in the near future: nobody can resist it.
  • At the same time he predicted that during the Sudra rule, there will be spread of general education but the number of geniuses on talented people will be few.
  • History shows that Sudras were condemned in society in different periods. They were deprived of all opportunities to receive education. If a Sudra is absorbed in a higher class he will be lost to his own community and may not feel any urge necessary uplift of his own community.


  • Society is a divine institution. Vivekananda’s concept of society, though derived from Vedantik philosophy, seeks to integrate both the spiritualistic and materialistic interpretations of both man and society; it is both individualistic and socialistic. Believing in the divine nature of man, Vivekananda seeks to establish a continuum between society,  culture  and  civilization, like the wick, oil and the flame.
  • This approximates the integral view  of  both  man  and  society. “Love, renunciation and unselfishness are the three great manifestations of spirituality.
  • In India love and sacrifice to be the basis of society. To him, in the tradition of Indian philosophy there is an organic relationship between individual and the society and therefore the good of either depends upon the other.
  • The aggregate of many individual is called samashti (the whole), and each individual is called Vyashti (a part). Human beings are vyashti and society is samashti.
  • It is an aggregate of numerous individuals whose self sacrifice is required for its welfare. Collective happiness becomes his own happiness. Religion is the backbone of this structure. Dharma or religion is the keynote of the social solidarity.
  • In Vivekananda’s view, “The Western man is born individualistic, while the Hindu is socialistic–entirely socialistic.” The Hindu demands that the individual shall bow down to the needs of society, and that those needs shall regulate his personal behaviour.
  • As a result of these two attitudes, the West has granted freedom to society,  so  that  society  has  grown  and become dynamic, whereas the Hindu society has become cramped in every way.
  • Life differs in the East and the West, because the goals are different. He asseverates, "Of the  West,  the  goal  is  individual   independence,  the   language  money-making  education, the   means   politics;  of  India,  the   goal   is   Mukti,   the   language   the   Veda,   the means renunciation.”
  • In   India, the emphasis on spirituality, reinforced by renunciation, has produced a type of culture that is different from that in the West.

Swami Vivekananda is generally approached as a patriot-monk par excellence. He is simply credited with revealing the soul of India to the Western world. He is mostly regarded as a spokesman of Hinduism. The spiritual dimension of his personality seems to have obviously got the better of the social. It looks as though the “Vivekananda” was drowned under the heavy weight of the “Swami”. A dominant theme of Vivekananda’s speeches was the universality and harmony of the world religions. Swami Vivekananda created a national consciousness amongst all Indians. Swamiji interpreted the significance of Indians ancient culture in the modern world.

Swami Vivekananda's inspiring personality was well known both in India and in America during the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. His vast knowledge of Eastern and Western culture as well as his deep spiritual insight, fervid eloquence, brilliant conversation, broad human sympathy, colourful personality, and handsome figure made an irresistible appeal to the many types of Americans who came in contact with him. People who saw or heard Vivekananda even once still cherish his memory after a lapse of more than half a century. To read more articles on Modern India History click here