Kolkata, Jan 18 : Hailing Swami Vivekananda as the one who brought back self-confidence in a shaken nation through his teaching and philosophy, President Pranab Mukherjee Friday said the monk would continue to be relevant for as long as the march of civilisation continued.
In an extempore speech after inaugurating Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary celebrations at his ancestral house in north Kolkata, Mukherjee described the founder of the Ramakrishna Mission as a "great visionary, a great humanist".
"The more I read, the more I am fascinated that in such a short span of life a man could transform society, which had lost its self-confidence," Mukherjee said, recalling the state of affairs in the country when Vivekananda was born in 1863.
"It was a very momentous decade. In 1861 Rabindranath (Tagore) was born, in 1863 Swami Vivekananda was born. And in 1869 Mahatma Gandhi was born. But what was the state of affairs?... Even educated people, who were the proud products of the (Bengal) renaissance, had lost confidence in themselves," the president said.
In such a scenario, with the blessings of his spiritual mentor Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda inspired the nation.
"He took the gigantic task and shook us vigorously. All the quotations (of Vivekananda) which are around us speak of the philosophy which brought back confidence in a shaken nation, all over the country," the president said to a packed audience at the famous Simla Street address, the ancestral house of the monk.
Referring to Vivekananda's humanism, Mukherjee said he was the first to recognise that India could not develop so long as the poor and the underprivileged were exploited.
"He was a great traveller, travelled all over India, a large number of countries, and he recognised for the first time and could articulate the problem: How could you expect the country to develop so long as the poor and the underprivileged were exploited," the president said, in a 11-minute address.
Mukherjee agreed with former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's observation that Vivekananda was "rooted in the past, and full of pride in India's prestige, yet modern in his approach to life's problems and a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present".
Mukherjee pointed out that Vivekananda stressed that every educated Indian was a sinner because he does not care for the exploitation of the teeming millions, at whose cost they have educated themselves.
"He is relevant now, and he will continue to be relevant as long as civilization continues," he said.
Mukherjee, who earlier inaugurated Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary celebrations in Delhi Jan 12, the philosopher-monk's birthday, expressed satisfaction that a memorial had been built in Chicago at the hall where he gave his famous address at the parliament of religions in September 1893.
He said a chair has also been established in the prestigious Chicago University for the study of the teaching, philosophy and relevance of Vivekananda.(IANS)