Modi meditates in Swami space - Room opens for CM who couldn't be monk
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- Published 10.04.13
|Narendra Modi with Swami Atmasthananda at Belur on Tuesday morning. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta|
The Ramakrishna Math and Mission headquarters made an exception on Tuesday morning for one Narendra to enter another’s sacred space, throwing open Swami Vivekananda’s room for the Gujarat chief minister to meditate for almost 25 minutes.
To the southeast of the old Ramakrishna temple at Belur Math stands the room where Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Datta, lived and died on July 4, 1902.
The room still houses several personal effects of Vivekananda and visitors are usually not allowed in, much less to meditate. But chief minister Narendra Modi, who now invokes Swamiji at the drop of a poll phrase, not only asked for permission to enter the room but also spend some time meditating there.
“When Naren asked for permission to meditate inside that room, we decided to throw it open. He sat in the room for almost 25 minutes. There was nobody else with him,” said a monk at the mission headquarters.
After stepping out of the room, Modi spent a few minutes watching the river from the verandah.
He had first visited Belur in the early Sixties as a 17-year-old boy aspiring to join the order and lead a monk’s life.
Math veterans recounted how the then president of the Mission, Swami Madhavananda Maharaj, had gently dissuaded the teenaged Modi from taking the step. He advised the boy who would become chief minister of Gujarat — and aspire to be Prime Minister — to complete his studies before contemplating becoming a monk.
Since that episode, Modi twice attempted to join the order, only to be advised against it, sources said.
“In the early Seventies, Modi met Swami Atmasthananda in Rajkot to say he was desperate to join the order. He was advised to pursue something else along with the suggestion that he should keep a beard,” recalled a veteran monk.
Modi apparently reminisced about those times with Swami Atmasthananda, currently the president of the Math and Mission.
“Modiji jokingly told president maharaj that whatever he is today is because of him,” said a senior monk who was privy to the meeting.
The duo conversed in Gujarati, occasionally breaking into laughter, sources said.
“I had the fortune of spending time with Swami Atmasthanandaji during my childhood. I have received a lot of affection from him. He has been by my side and supported me at every crucial juncture of my life,” the visiting chief minister said later.
Before leaving Belur Math, Modi added: “The atmosphere here has really touched my heart. My visits to Calcutta have always been my favourite, especially this time because it is also Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary.”
Modi had visited the nearby Dakshineswar temple and offered puja before arriving at Belur.
“I have come here after quite a long time. I feel very happy to have been able to come to the temple,” he said.