The lands end, where both Sunset,sunshine and moonrise is visible from the sea. Virtually making it an ideal place for meditation saints to meditate on the rocks. This rock island invited Swami Vivekanada to meditate, and to obtain gyaan beyond human imagination. Kanyakumari was known as Cape Commorin during the British times. Kanyakumari signifies virginity of mind, body and soul for the locale populace.
Inorder to understand the history of construction of Vivekanada Rock memorial one has to dwell into the literature published by the Vivekanada Ashram. A unique national monument was conceived by Swargiya Eknath Ranade. Immediately a controversy seems to have arisen with Christian missionaries claiming it was place of Saint Xavier.
Swami Vivekananda reached the lands end in December 1892. Swamiji had traveled the entire length and breadth of the country. He had suffered from hunger, from thirst, form murderous nature and insulting mankind. When he arrived at Kanyakumari, he was utterly exhausted and penniless to pay for a boat ride to take him across the sea on the island, he flung himself into the sea, and swam across the shark-infested strait and reached atop mid-sea rock on 25 December, 1892 ( Christmas day ) He spent three days there meditating, and returned to the shoreline on 28th December 1892. At last his task was at an end, and then, looking back as from a mountain he embraced the whole of the India he had just traversed, and the world of thought that had beset him during his wanderings. For more than two years hitherto he had lived in a seething cauldron, consumed with a fever, he had carried a soul on fire, he was a bundle of storm and hurricane.
Now on this mid-sea rock, There he meditated not on God but on Mother India who for Swami Vivekananda was Divine Durga incarnate. What a strange meditation ! It was as if all the pages of India's history opened up before him. The vast panorama of his experiences during his travels past before his mind's eye. He meditated on the past, the present and the future of India, the cause of her downfall and the means of her resurrection.
He felt in his heart of hearts that India would rise only through a renewal and restoration of that highest spiritual consciousness which had made her, throughout her history, the cradle of religions and cultures. He then, sitting at the last bit of rock in the Indian ocean, took the momentous decision to go to the West to give shape to his life's mission of spreading India's religion and culture throughout the whole world.
Let us get back to the main story relating to the establishment of Vivekananda Memorial to celeberate century of his preachings ( 1963 ) When the proposal for a memorial for Swami Vivekananda spread to Kanyakumari residents in the latter half of 1962, suddenly the entire atmosphere in Kanyakumari got surcharged with conflicting interest between the Hindus and the Christians in the area. The very idea of a memorial to Swami Vivekananda was not taken sportingly by sizable population of the local Catholic fishermen. The fishermen managed to put up a big Cross on the Rock which was visible from the shore stealthily . This led to strong protests by the Hindu populace who said the Rock was a place of worship for Hindus due Swamijis meditation.
A judicial probe was ordered by the then Madras Government and the finding of this Commission was stated in unequivocal terms that the rock was indeed known as Vivekananda Rock, and that the Cross put up by the Catholic fishermen was a clear case of trespassing. Amid all this controversy and acrimony, the Cross was one day removed secretly in the night. The law and order situation turned volatile and consequently the Rock was declared a prohibited area with armed guards patrolling it.
The Government of Madras realized that the Rock was turning into an area of communal conflict with Hindus claiming it to be the Vivekananda Rock and Christians claiming it as St Xavier's Rock. The Government made it clear that although the rock was Vivekananda Rock, there would be no memorial constructed on it. The then CM of Tamilnadu, Shri M. Bhaktavatsalam, said that only a tablet declaring that the rock was associated with Swami Vivekananda could be put up, and nothing else.
Accordingly, with government permission granted, a tablet was installed on the Rock on 17 January 1963 to mark the birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda. But the voices clamoring for a full-fledged Memorial on the Rock did not die. In May1963, some Christian elements who were seeking vengeance for the earlier removal of the Cross from the rock, demolished the Vivekananda commemorative tablet and threw it into the sea.
The first obstacle that Eknath Ranade had to cross was from Shri Bhaktavatsalam who was then Chief Minister of Madras State. He took a stand that he would not allow the memorial to come up on the mid-sea rock on the flimsy ground that it would pose a hazard to the environment by spoiling the natural beauty of the Rock. He was also concerned about hurting the religious sentiments of the Catholic fishermen in the area. Bhaktavatsalam's view was also endorsed by Shri Humayun Kabir, the then Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, who too had to give his clearance for this project.
To that end, on Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri's advice, Shri Eknath 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 Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who in turn directed both Humayun Kabir and Shri.Bhaktavatsalam to give their immediate clearance for the construction of the Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.
Shri Bhaktavatsalam had given permission only for a small 15" x 15" shrine. Knowing his reverence for the Paramacharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Shri Eknath Ranade approached the latter for suggesting the design of the Rock Memorial. Shri Bhaktavatsalam unhesitatingly agreed to the larger design (130"-1½? x 56") approved and suggested by the Paramacharya of Kanchi! Which was inspired by Ajanta cave arches. Thus all political hurdles for the construction of the Memorial were removed in one masterstroke by the shrewd move of Shri. Eknath Ranade
People’s Movement :
Ranade fervently believed that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was a national monument of timeless significance and that every Indian should be invited to contribute to its construction. Shri Eknath Ranade launched the campaign of sale of one-rupee folders throughout the nation, which were used to mobilize the donations of the common man, starting from as tiny an amount as one rupee. By launching such a national campaign for collecting just an amount of Rupee one from every willing citizen, Eknath Ranade succeeded in raising an amount of Rupees one crore. Thus by his grand vision he ensured that so many common people visiting the Rock Memorial could have a legitimate pride that they too had contributed to that splendid national monument.
He also approached and succeeded in persuading almost every State government to make a decent contribution towards the construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. What is amazing is that he succeeded in making even the States of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh participate in the work of construction of the memorial . All the State Governments put together made only a paltry a contribution of Rs.35 lakhs. It was solely on account of the outstanding leadership qualities of Eknath Ranade that the Vivekananda Rock Memorial mission never got entangled in any unseemly political controversy or agitation at any stage during the course of construction of the Rock Memorial from 1964 to 1970. All the petty politicians finally surrendered to his unconquerable spirit.
Eknath Ranade has recorded in telling words about his experiences in dealing with the Chief Ministers and politicians of India : "Leaders of every political party, whether in power or in the opposition became willing partners of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The only Chief Minister who sent me back empty handed without contributing any amount to the Rock Memorial fund was the then Kerala Chief Minister Comrade E M S Namboodiripad. I can say this much about my abortive interview with him. It was like conversing with a sphinx. It was monologue all the way on my part. Only an empty stare from the other side!".
In the beginning, the estimated cost of construction of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was Rs 30 lakh. Then it increased to Rs 60 lakhs, then later to 75 lakh. Finally the total cost after completion worked out to Rs one crore and thirty five lakh. Just think what a great achievement it was to mobilize such a huge sum of money forty years ago and complete the work in six years!
The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was inaugurated on 2 September, 1970, and dedicated to the nation by V V Giri, the President of India. Kalaigner Karunanidhi presided over the dedication ceremony. There can be no doubt whatsoever that without the catalytic and stellar role of Shri Eknath Ranade, this grand national monument could never have been completed in such a record time. Emerson, the great American thinker of the 19th century said, "A great and timeless institution is the lengthened shadow of one man". If that be so, I have no doubt that the final verdict of history will be that the magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari is the lengthened shadow of Eknath Ranade.
There are two mid-sea rocks off the shore of Kanyakumari. One of the rocks is the Vivekananda Rock, on which a memorial has been constructed. There is another smaller rock, not very far from the Vivekananda rock, and many of the Christian missionaries laid their claim for constructing a small church or a statue of Jesus Christ on this rock in 1979. Eknath Ranade showed his clairvoyant vision by persuading Dr MGR, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, agree to the installation of Thiruvalluvar statue on this rock. The foundation stone for the Thiruvalluvar statue was laid by Morarji Desai, then Prime Minister of India on 15 April, 1979. Eknath Ranade was a great statesman and he used the good offices of Prabhudas Patwari, the then Governor of Tamilnadu to make Dr MGR agree to this proposal. Like Mahakavi Bharathi, Eknath Ranade was a true nationalist and a true Tamilian rolled into one
Hundred acres of land was allotted to Vivekananda trust to construct the ashram and museum to propagate the teachings of Swamiji. This ashram is located approximately 3 kms from the Railway station and 5 kms from the local bus stand. The room tariffs are reasonably levied for the piligrims. The ashram contains a K V school, Ayurvedic farm, Prayer Halls, Museum, Sunrise beach, Ranade Memorial, Garden, Canteen, Shops and other basic amenities which include a browsing centre too.
“We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one's own feet.”
So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.