On the Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Famous Speech

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The Goan and Indian media recently marked the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s celebrated speech, made in Chicago to the ‘World’s Parliament of Religions’. Now, 125 years is an odd anniversary to commemorate, but then this was no ordinary speech. It was a speech that made Vivekananda a hugely popular figure across the country – as seen by the hundreds of streets named after him – is still celebrated in school textbooks, and seen as something for all Indians to be proud of, even though it was not about India but about the Hindu religion. The fact that Vivekananda visited Goa just before making this speech has evoked some excitement here too, given the strong likelihood that the visit contributed to his ideas.

 

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Caste wins the Gold Medal

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

What is Indian culture? In a Marathi television soap-opera that I happened to be watching the other day, one Brahmin character talks to another about the importance of sanskaar (culture, or values); one of the examples offered of this sanskaar is having a bai (domestic worker) to wash your clothes, instead of a washing machine. It was a surprisingly accurate presentation of the Brahmanical understanding of culture—everybody in their traditional (i.e. caste-decided) and lowly-paid place.

 

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