School building’s forgotten link with Vivekananda
Tucked away in a north Delhi neighbourhood is an interesting piece of history connected with Swami Vivekananda during his stay here in February 1891. The Swami — then barely a 28-year-old sanyasi — had put up at Seth Shyamaldas Ki Haveli in Roshanara Bagh near Pul Bangash.
The building, altered over the years, is now a government-run Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, situated right across the road, to the east of Mughal gateways called Punjabi Gate. The gateways lead straight to a baradari which has the tomb of Roshanara, daughter of Mughal king Shah Jahan, all structures protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The then culture minister Jagmohan had declaring the building a national heritage building in 2002 because of its association with Vivekananda. “Such buildings should be preserved as they can continue to be an inspiration for one of the greatest stalwarts of our times,” Jagmohan told HT.
One clear remnant of the past is a huge Mughal-style arched entrance leading to a square courtyard, characteristic of Old Delhi havelis.
“After the 1857 Uprising, Britishers took over most of the area. Along with them came several Bengalis, who too stayed in the area,” said RV Smith, chronicler of Delhi’s popular history.
Unfortunately, a day ahead of Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary, when HT visited the area, none from the school or the locality are even aware of the school building’s history.
During his almost three-week stay, Vivekananda, along with his English disciple couple Seviers and his brother monks, visited all the monuments and ruins associated with the past glory of the Mughal emperors. He also walked down to the Yamuna regularly.
Recalled Smith, “In 1962, I met this elderly Muslim man in Fatehpuri, who told me he remembered Vivekananda. When the Swami walked in long strides from Chandni Chowk to the Yamuna, several youngsters followed him. He also recalled Swami’s thick neck and pehelwan-like personality.”
Road after Vivekananda
To pay tribute to Swami Vivekananda on his 150th birth anniversary, the NDMC is naming a road after him. Senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh along with North Delhi mayor Mira Aggarwal and councillors will unveil a statue of Swami Vivekananda at Fatehpuri Chowk in Chandni Chowk on Saturday, after which a road will be named after him. HTC