Swami Vivekananda burst upon the Indian horizon at the close of the last century as a leader and a teacher, an authoritative spokesman of India's culture, and the bearer of the message to the world as much as to his own people. His contribution to Indian national development has been deep as well as comprehensive. He was the first to lay bare our problems, social and educational, cultural and religious. He roused the thinking section to a sense of the urgency of these national problems and thus helped to stir the nation's conscience; he focused our attention on our national defects and stimulated our energies in the direction of the forging of our national character. In all that he did he was fully conscious of the vital role that he was playing-the role of being an architect of a nation's fate. The last fifty years have but seen the steady unfolding of that vision and that fate. And the Renaissant India of today with its radiant hopes and bubbling energies bears the unmistakable impress of Swami Vivekananda's personality and ministration.
Swami Vivekananda sums up the national problems in India in two words: the women and the people. He traces the downfall of India to the continued neglect of our women and of our masses. 'In India there are two great evils,' says he, 'trampling on the women, and grinding the poor through caste restrictions.' In one of his letters from America he speaks in agony 'of the ages of tyranny, mental, moral, and physical, that has reduced the image of God to a mere beast of burden; the emblem of the Divine Mother to a slave to bear children; and life itself, a curse'. The first condition of growth, according to him, is freedom. Social tyranny which denied liberty to these two vital elements of the nation should give place to social freedom. Emancipation of women and uplift of the masses formed the two most important items in Swami Vivekananda's programme of national regeneration. And the least suggestion of dictation of 'the male to the female was abhorrent to him, as is evident from his answer to the question on widow re-marriage put to him by a social reformer: 'I am asked again and again, what I think of the widow problem and what I think of the woman question. Let me answer once for all-am I a widow that you ask me that non-sense? Am I a woman that you ask me that question again and again? Who are you to solve woman's problems? Are you the Lord God that you should rule over every widow and every woman? Hands off ! They will solve their own problems'.
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