Sunday, April 3, 2011

Indian Institute Of Science And Swami Vivekananda

This article has been prepared in connection with the Centenary Celebrations of the Institute held during 2009

Best Wishes

B.M.N.Murthy, Saturday 16th May 2009

The Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
--The Role of Swami Vivekananda in its founding.

In today’s absolutely polluted political, economic and social atmosphere, it is impossible for any honest business entrepreneur to survive. But a hundred years back, things were not that gloomy and there were rays of hope which occasionally brightened the dim business horizon and made way for honest businessmen to succeed as enlightened entrepreneurs. Among such luminous stars which illumined the industrial horizon then, the brightest was the House of Tatas, the oldest business house of the country, founded by Jamshetji Navrozi Tata [popular as J.N. Tata]

J.N. Tata was obsessed with the idea that his motherland, India, with its vast iron-ore deposits, must have its own steel plant. He was an enlightened entrepreneur who thought that intense passion for a great and noble cause is the hallmark for starting an enlightened enterprise .With this idea, Tata identified a geologist in England and went to see him and seek his assistance. He wanted the geologist to visit India, inspect some of the iron ore mines in Bihar and Orissa and make an estimate of the iron ore requirements for the proposed steel plant. The geologist was taken aback and asked Tata “Are you aware of the huge financial and organizational requirements that are needed to put up a steel plant?” Tata’s confidence ultimately impressed the geologist and he visited India. India was not a free country then and we were all British subjects. Still, Tata dreamt of an Indian Steel Plant! At the request of Tata, the geologist did identify the iron ore mines.

A few years later, sometime in 1893, Tata traveled to United States to acquire steel technology. It was a providential design that the ship in which he travelled from Japan to Vancouver had another passenger, a young monk of thirty and sixteen years younger to him. Tata was travelling first class and the monk [who later became the world famous Swami Vivekananda] was also travelling first class, though reluctantly, because the Maharaja of Khetri, who had great admiration for the monk had insisted on it, as it was a matter of prestige for him. During the voyage, Swamiji had long discussions with Tata. Unfortunately detailed records of their discussions are not available. But, fortunately a letter dated. 23rd November 1898 from Bombay written by Tata to Swami Vivekananda is available. This is the full text of the letter:

Dear Sri Vivekananda,
I trust, you remember me as a fellow traveller on your voyage from Japan to Chicago. I very much recall at this moment your views on the growth of ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels..
I recall these ideas in connection with my scheme of Research Institute of Science for India, of which you have doubtless heard or read. It seems to me that no better use can be made of the ascetic spirit than the establishment of monasteries or residential halls for men dominated by this spirit where they should live with ordinary decency and devote their lives to cultivation of sciences—natural and humanistic. I am of opinion that if such a crusade in favour of an asceticism of this kind were taken by a competent leader, it would greatly help asceticism, science and the good name of our common country; and I know not who could make a more fitting general of such a campaign than Vivekananda. Do you think you would care to apply yourself to the mission of galvanizing into life of our ancient traditions in this respect? Perhaps, you had better begin with a fiery pamphlet rousing our people in this matter. I shall cheerfully defray all the expenses of publication.
With kind regards, I am, dear Swami,
Yours faithfully
Jamsetji N. Tata

A normal entrepreneur would not think of wasting his time on a monk for his business. But Tata was no ordinary businessman. He had such deep respect for Indian wisdom, tradition and culture that he remembered the monk even after five years and sought his assistance for the establishment of monasteries where people could cultivate the natural and humanistic sciences. No records are available to show what Swamiji wrote in reply. But Swamiji does appear to have signalled his approval of the scheme with open-hearted admiration and support, as is evident from the editorial of ‘Prabuddha Bharata’ dated April 1899 –a magazine founded by the Swamiji himself in 1896. Among other things, this is what the Editorial said:
“We are not aware if any project at once so opportune and so far-reaching in its beneficent effects was ever mooted in India, as that of the Post-Graduate Research University of Mr.Tata.-----No idea more potent for good to the whole nation has seen the light of the day in modern India. Let the whole nation therefore, forgetful of class or sect interests, join in making it a success”
The journal further reiterated and re-affirmed its support to the Tata Project two years later in 1901, on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s death. All sorts of suggestions were being made to perpetuate the Queen’ memory. But the most significant suggestion came from the ‘Prabuddha Bharata’ when it wrote in its issue dated March 1901:
“It would be an exceedingly happy arrangement if the Tata Research University Scheme could be combined along with other schemes for memorials, for the princely gift of the Parsi patriot fully deserves that honour of being associated with Her Majesty’s Memorial”

Inspired by Swamiji’s appreciation of Tata’s efforts, his Irish disciple, Miss Margaret Noble [who later became popular as Sister Nivedita] came forward and used her influence with the British Government and secured their permission for the project. Further, Tata got the support of the Viceroy, Lord Curzon and of the Maharaja of Mysore who gifted about 370 acres of choice land in Bangalore for founding the Research Centre. In July 1902, as the statutes for the proposed scheme were being drafted and the project finalized, Swami Vivekananda passed away in July 1902. Tata himself died two years later in 1904.

Motivated by the Monk, patronized by the Patriarch and implemented by the Industrialist, The Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore finally got of the ground only in 1909—exactly one hundred years ago.


ARTICLE NO. 502--The Indian Institute of Science,Bangalore--Swami Vivekananda's Role in Founding it
Created: Friday, May 15, 2009 9:12 PM


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