In a life-span of only 39 years, Swami Vivekananda, who spread the message of India's spiritual heritage across the world, battled several health problems all along and no less than 31 diseases and ailments.
'The Monk as Man' by renowned Bengali writer Shankar lists insomnia, liver and
kidney diseases, malaria, migraine, diabetes and heart ailments as some of the 31 health problems that the Swami faced in the course of his life.
Shankar describes Swami Vivekananda's health problems using a sanskrit quote 'shariram byadhimandiram' --- the body is the temple of diseases.
Ironically, Vivekananda used to emphasise greatly on physical strength and is known for the shocking statement 'Better to play football than read the Gita'.
One of the perennial problems that Vivekananda lived with was chronic insomnia and in a letter to Shashi Bhushan Ghosh dated May 29, 1897, he confided "I never in my life could sleep as soon as I got into bed."
The previous year, Vivekananda seemed to have written to his 'dhira mata' (Sara Bull) from New York complaining about his lack of sleep. "My health has nearly broken down. I have not slept even one night soundly in New York since I came ... I wish I could go to the bottom of the sea and have a good, long sleep."
It is also known that Vivekananda used to suffer from diabetes like his father and at that time suitable drugs were unavailable.
Shankar writes that Vivekananda had tried different modes of treatment ranging from allopathic, homoeopathic to ayurvedic and had also taken advice from all kinds of quasi-medical experts from various countries.
He narrates that in the summer of 1887, Vivekananda (whose real name was Narendranath Dutta) had fallen very ill due to overstrain and lack of food.
During this period, he also suffered from gallstones, and acute diarrhoea. Later, during the same summer, he came down with typhoid and problems in the urinary tract.
"Narendranath's abdominal pains were a source of great anxiety," Shankar says.
Shankar wonderfully chronicles the various medical problems Swami Vivekananda faced during his stint as a wandering monk in the country and across the world, and why he cut short his journey in Cairo, Egypt, to return to India.
It was to French operatic soprano Rosa Emma Calvet that Vivekandanda had declared in Egypt that he would die on July 4.
"Swami Vivekananda's eyes filled with tears. He said he wanted to return to his country to die, to be with his gurubhais," Shankar wrote.
The fateful evening of July 4, 1902, Vivekananda passed away following a third heart attack, completing 39 years, five months and 24 days.
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