Celebrating heritage, promoting tourism, and relocating Sv�mī Vivek�nanda: a study of the Sv�mī Vivek�nanda Rock Memorial

Beckerlegge, Gwilym (2022). Celebrating heritage, promoting tourism, and relocating Sv�mī Vivek�nanda: a study of the Sv�mī Vivek�nanda Rock Memorial. International Journal of Hindu Studies (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11407-021-09302-x

Abstract

Sv�mi Vivek�nanda’s (1863-1902) relationship with his guru Śri R�makṛṣṇa (c. 1836-1886), and his role in the creation of the R�makṛṣṇa Maṭh and Mission in the final decade of the nineteenth century, has attracted far more scholarly attention than the meanings invested in Vivek�nanda after his death by devotees and admirers beyond the R�makṛṣṇa Maṭh and Mission and by the various organisations that have disseminated these meanings. To redress this imbalance, this article examines the message embodied in, and projected by, the Sv�mi Vivek�nanda Rock Memorial at Kanniyakumari. It explores the Memorial’s contribution to Kanniyakumari’s expanding role as a tourist destination, and the problematic nature of the story that has provided the rationale for the Memorial’s location. It shows how evolving versions of this story have fed the different understandings of Vivek�nanda’s mission now institutionalised respectively in the R�makṛṣṇa Maṭh and Mission and the Vivek�nanda Kendra, which manages the Memorial. It argues that the creation of the Memorial has directed attention away from Kolkata (Calcutta), the scene of Vivek�nanda’s relationship with his guru R�makṛṣṇa, and thus away from that relationship. The Memorial presents, instead, Vivek�nanda’s experience at Kanniyakumari as the defining moment in his evolving mission as a “spiritual nationalist�. The article concludes by noting implications of this shift for the critical understanding of Vivek�nanda, emphasising the importance of the Rock Memorial’s function as an increasingly popular portal to “Vivek�nanda of Kanniyakumari�.

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