(12 January 1863–4 July 1902), Indian Hindu monk. He was a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world and was credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion in the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India and contributed to the notion of nationalism in colonial India. He was the chief disciple of the 19th century saint Ramakrishna and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech beginning with “Sisters and Brothers of America,”[ through which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.
Parliament of the World’s Religions opened on 11 September 1893 at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition. On this day Vivekananda gave his first brief address. He represented India and Hinduism. Though initially nervous, he bowed to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning and began his speech with, “Sisters and brothers of America!”. To these words he got a standing ovation from a crowd of seven thousand, which lasted for two minutes. When silence was restored he began his address. He greeted the youngest of the nations on behalf of “the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.” He quoted two illustrative passages from the Shiva mahimna stotram—”As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take, through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee!” and “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths that in the end lead to Me.” Despite being a short speech, it voiced the spirit of the Parliament and its sense of universality.
Dr. Barrows, the president of the Parliament said, “India, the Mother of religions was represented by Swami Vivekananda, the Orange-monk who exercised the most wonderful influence over his auditors.” He attracted widespread attention in the press, which dubbed him as the “Cyclonic monk from India”. The New York Critique wrote, “He is an orator by divine right, and his strong, intelligent face in its picturesque setting of yellow and orange was hardly less interesting than those earnest words, and the rich, rhythmical utterance he gave them.” The New York Herald wrote, “Vivekananda is undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.” The American newspapers reported Swami Vivekananda as “the greatest figure in the parliament of religions” and “the most popular and influential man in the parliament”. The Boston Evening Transcript reported that Vivekananda was “a great favorite at the parliament…if he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded”.He spoke several more times at the Parliament on topics related to Hinduism, Buddhism and harmony of religions. The parliament ended on 27 September 1893. All his speeches at the Parliament had the common theme of universality, and emphasized religious tolerance.