Indians across the country on Saturday, with Kolkata leading in the field, celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, who was born on this very day as Narendranath Dutta.
The day is observed by Hindus with special prayers, meditation, devotional songs, religious discourses, yoga performances and short plays while people from other religions also pay their tributes.
Swamiji´s birthday is also celebrated as India´s National Youth Day that is commemorated with processions, youth conventions, seminars, yoga, sports, and other cultural activities.
The Calcutta born Bengali, who is known globally for his speech at Chicago in 1893 at a religious gathering that began with;"Sisters and Brothers of America," was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission.
He is considered as a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the "Western" World, mainly in America and Europe and is also credited with raising interfaith awareness.
Vivekananda is also credited in bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the end of the 19th century as well as to introduce Hinduism at the Parliament of the World's Religions at Chicago in 1893.
Several schools across the city from north to south were spotted hosting processions on road, with students marching, singing and preaching the lessons of Swamiji.
Many schools in north Kolkata organised picnics and short trips to take the advantage of the holiday.
Not limiting to schools only, people from different walks of life also hosted processions to commemorate the day.
Matadors and mini vans were spotted carrying boys and girls decked in the looks and make-ups of Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi.
Several localities across the city have also organised cultural shows with songs and skits based on his teachings to mark the day.
Saffrons marquees adorned with large photographs of Vivekananda were sported throughout the city.
Meanwhile traffic was slow in various parts of Kolkata as long processions held up the vehicles causing traffic clots.
Several organisations across the country have engaged in various initiatives to celebrate the 150 years of Vivekananda´s teachings.
The Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission have taken up a number of important service projects which were close to Swami Vivekananda.
These projects include integrated child development, empowerment of women, and alleviating poverty.
Besides, the Mission will produce films and distribute books on the message of Swami Vivekananda to various libraries and will hold national and international seminars in various places on Swamiji´s contribution to Indian and international cultures.
Not only Indians but to honour his 150th birth anniversary, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA is hosting a lunch celebration on Saturday.
Attendees will participate in a 30-minute yoga session led by Bhupendra Soneji of the Sarathi Yoga Foundation and hear from Swami Servadevananda of the Vedanta Society, a religious group Vivekananda founded in 1894.
(Writing by Shabarni Basu)