Swami Vivekananda was born in a traditional Kayastha family as Narendranath Datta on 12 January 1863, on the day of Makar Sakranti festival at Calcutta at his ancestral home 3 Gourmohan Mukherjee Street.
His father was Vishwanath Datta, who was an attorney at the Calcutta High Court. His mother was Bhubaneswari Devi was a housewife.
His grandfather was Durgacharan Datta who was a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit languages. Durgacharan Dutta left his family to become a monk at the age of 25 years.
Swami was interested in spirituality from a very tender age. He meditated before the deities and idols of gods. But, on the contrary he was also a very active, energetic child with a restless mind who was difficult to control even by his parents. His mother once said that "I prayed to Shiva for a son and he has sent me one of his ghosts.”
Swami was admitted to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s Metropolitan Institution at the age of 8 years in the year 1871. But, his family moved to Raipur in the year 1877. In the year 1879, his family again moved back to Calcutta and thus he took up the entrance exam to get admission in the famous and coveted college Presidency College at Calcutta. He was the only child to score first-division in the entrance exam.
He had an interest in reading varied subjects viz. Vedas, Hindu Scriptures, Bhagvad Gita, Ramayan, Mahabharata, Upanishads, Puranas, etc. He also leraned Indian Classical Music and was an active participant in games and sports during his student life.
He studied European history and Western philosophy at General Assembly’s Institution (formerly known as Scottish Church College).
In the year 1881, he passed the examination for fine arts and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884.
In the year 1861 he translated the work of Herbert Spencer titled ‘Education’ into Bengali.
He also studied the works of David Hume, Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, Auguste Comte, Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill.
His travel across India
In the year 1890, Swami went out for a long journey across India. He travelled the length and breadth of the country and visited places like Varanasi, Ayodhya, Agra, Vrindavan, Alwar etc. It was during this journey that he acquired the name of Swami Vivekananda. It is also said that he was rechristened as Vivekananda by Maharaja of Khetri for the former’s ability to discriminate between good and bad things. During his journey, Vivekananda stayed at the palaces of various kings as well as at the huts of the poor and thus got acclimatized with the cultures of different regions of India and various classes of people in India.
He also reached the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent i.e. Kanyakumari on December 24, 1892. He meditated on a lone rock there and swam in the sea. He said that he meditated for three days about the past, present and future of India. The rock on which he meditated is now popular as Vivekananda memorial and is a major tourist destination of the place.
Founding Ramakrishna Mission
After the death of Ramakrishna many of his disciples left for their homes due to the lack of funding to run the math. This was because the devotees and the admirers of the mission stopped supporting the Math financially. It was during this time that Vivekananda decided to convert a house at Baranagar into a new Math or Monastery. This Math became the first Ramkrishna Math building.
Parliament of the World’s Religions
In the year 1893, Vivekananda went to America to address the Conference of World Religions in Chicago. His speech there became world famous as he started it by saying the following words "Sisters and brothers of America." He was a very good orator and thus everyone sued to get mesmerized by his words. He spread the word about Indian Culture wherever he went.
Following was the sequence of events just before the death of Swami Vivekananda:
• Swami on July 4th, 1902 woke up early in the morning. Later he went to the chapel at Belur Math for a few hours of meditation.
• After the meditation he taught his pupils Sanskrit grammer and discussed with his colleagues about his plans for starting a Vedic college in Ramakrishna Math.
• In the evening at around 7 p.m. he went to his room and asked everyone not to disturb him.
• At around 9.10 P.M. he died and the reason for his death was declared a ruptre of the blood vessel in the brain.
His disciples believed that he died during his Samadhi due to the opening of the crown of his death i.e. ‘Brahmarandhra’ and thus he had attained Mahasamadhi.
Thus, the prophecy of Swami came true that he would not survive till forty years.
Later on he was cremated on the Sandalwood funeral pyre on the banks of river Ganges in Belur just opposite where Ramakrishna was cremated sixteen years earlier than him.