Sunday marked the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

The bare details of his extraordinary life are known to most educated Indians. His famous speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893 was historic. His empathy for the poor was unusual even then and is particularly important today when religious leaders have built giant business empires.

He was one of an extraordinary generation that built a new India out of the ruins of the defeat of 1857. These included the early nationalists who questioned the basis of colonial rule. The first social reformers spoke out against the evils of the caste system as well as gender discrimination. Homegrown capitalists set up modern factories to take advantage of the first era of globalization.

He was also a man of science. It is not well known that he encouraged Jamsetji Tata to fund what became the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

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