Swami Vivekanand and Rajarshi Bhaskara Sethupathi

Initially, Bhaskara Sethupathi Thever had decided to go to America to attend the Parliament of Religions. But after meeting Swami Vivekananda, the Raja decided that Swamiji was the proper person to attend the Conference.

Written by September 9, 2021 20:22
Rajarshi --- Vivekanand

Swamiji Vivekanand conferred on the Raja of Ramanad, Bhaskara Sethupathi Thever, the title Rajarshi, for the king possessed the attributes of both a King and a Sage.

Since he lost his father Muthuramalinga Sethupathi at the tender age of four, his grooming was conducted by a committee as per the British law. He was trained in British lifestyle, mannerisms, western music, and English language but this could not deviate his mind from his devotion with Hindu Gods and traditions. He had great devotion to Ramalingeswara of Rameswaram temple, Goddess Rajarajeswari, Thiruppullani Venkateswara. . In his short life of 35 years, he was generous king, reformer, and a detached soul much like a sanyasi.

The Setupathy royal family ancestors were the ruler of Ramanathpuram since time immemorial. They were credited with the protection and preservation of SriRam Sethu (Adams Bridge) built by Sri Ram and the Rameswaram temple where SriRam worshipped Lord Shiva. There is a stone slab in the Ramanathapuram palace on which SriRam installed their ancestor as Sethupathi for the first time. The stone can still be seen in the palace and is auspiciously used during important ceremonies of the royal family.

Initially, Bhaskara Sethupathi Thever had decided to go to America to attend the Parliament of Religions. But after meeting Swami Vivekananda, the Raja decided that Swamiji was the proper person to attend the Conference.


And on his return to India on 26 January 1897 Swami Vivekanand first set his foot at Pamban in Ramnathpuram, Pamban now called kunthukal which means ‘setting foot’. Swami ji was given a rousing reception by the ruler, Bhaskara Sethupathi Thever. In his address the Raja said –

“His Most Holiness,
Sri Paramahamsa, Yati-Râja, Digvijaya-Kolâhala, Sarvamata-Sampratipanna, Parama-Yogeeswara, Srimat Bhagavân Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Karakamala Sanjâta, Râjâdhirâja-Sevita, SREE VIVEKANANDA SWAMI, MAY IT PLEASE YOUR HOLINESS,We, the inhabitants of this ancient and historic Samsthânam of Sethu Bandha Rameswaram, otherwise known as Râmanâthapuram or Ramnad, beg, most cordially, to welcome you to this, our motherland. We deem it a very rare privilege to be the first to pay your Holiness our heartfelt homage on your landing in India, and that, on the shores sanctified by the footsteps of that great Hero and our revered Lord — Sree Bhagavân Râmachandra.

We have watched with feelings of genuine pride and pleasure the unprecedented success which has crowned your laudable efforts in bringing home to the masterminds of the West the intrinsic merits and excellence of our time-honoured and noble religion. You have with an eloquence that is unsurpassed and in language plain and unmistakable, proclaimed to and convinced the cultured audiences in Europe and America that Hinduism fulfils all the requirements of the ideal of a universal religion and adapts itself to the temperament and needs of men and women of all races and creeds. Animated purely by a disinterested impulse, influenced by the best of motives and at considerable self-sacrifice, Your Holiness has crossed boundless seas and oceans to convey the message of truth and peace, and to plant the flag of India’s spiritual triumph and glory in the rich soil of Europe and America. Your Holiness has, both by precept and practice, shown the feasibility and importance of universal brotherhood. Above all, your labours in the West have indirectly and to a great extent tended to awaken the apathetic sons and daughters of India to a sense of the greatness and glory of their ancestral faith, and to create in them a genuine interest in the study and observance of their dear and priceless religion.

We feel we cannot adequately convey in words our feelings of gratitude and thankfulness to your Holiness for your philanthropic labours towards the spiritual regeneration of the East and the West. We cannot close this address without referring to the great kindness which your Holiness has always extended to our Raja, who is one of your devoted disciples, and the honour and pride he feels by this gracious act of your Holiness in landing first on his territory is indescribable.

In conclusion, we pray to the Almighty to bless your Holiness with long life, and health, and strength to enable you to carry on the good work that has been so ably inaugurated by you.

With respects and love,
We beg to subscribe ourselves,
Your Holiness’ most devoted and obedient
25th January, 1897.


In reply to the address of welcome at Ramnad, Swami ji words were,
“Your Highness and gentlemen of Ramnad, accept my heartfelt thanks for the cordiality and kindness with which you have received me. I feel that you are cordial and kind, for heart speaks unto heart better than any language of the mouth; spirit speaks unto spirit in silence, and yet in most unmistakable language, and I feel it in my heart of hearts. Your Highness of Ramnad, if there has been any work done by my humble self in the cause of our religion and our motherland in the Western countries, if any little work has been done in rousing the sympathies of our own people by drawing their attention to the inestimable jewels that, they know not, are lying deep buried about their own home — if, instead of dying of thirst and drinking dirty ditch water elsewhere out of the blindness of ignorance, they are being called to go and drink from the eternal fountain which is flowing perennially by their own home — if anything has been done to rouse our people towards action, to make them understand that in everything, religion and religion alone is the life of India, and when that goes India will die, in spite of politics, in spite of social reforms, in spite of Kubera’s wealth poured upon the head of every one of her children — if anything has been done towards this end, India and every country where any work has been done owe much of it to you, Raja of Ramnad. For it was you who gave me the idea first, and it was you who persistently urged me on towards the work. You, as it were, intuitively understood what was going to be, and took me by the hand, helped me all along, and have never ceased to encourage me. Well, is it, therefore, that you should be the first to rejoice at my success, and meet it is that I should first land in your territory on my return to India.”

(The writer is a Phd in Sociology and senior fellow with Delhi based think tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra)

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