16 May 2014

How Was Narendranath Datta Named Swami Vivekananda?

Our this article's topic is "how was Narendranath Datta named Swami Vivekananda"?

Quick answer
Here is the quick answer—
Most probably, in 1893, just before Vivekananda's travel to the West, Ajit Singh, a king of Khetri conferred the name "Swami Vivekananda" on Narendranath Datta.

1891, Narendranath's first visit to Khetri

An Indian kig, in kingly attire
Image source: Wikimedia  Commons
In 1888 Narendranath Datta left Baranagore Math and started his life as a wandering monk. For next five years he travelled extensively in many parts of India.

On 4 June 1891, at Mount Abu, Narendranath met Ajit Singh, the Raja (king) of Khetri, Rajasthan, for the first time. After having long conversations with Narendranath, Ajit Singh was very impressed with his knowledge and wisdom and invited him to Khetri. Narendranath accepted the invitation and left Mount Abu with Ajit Singh. On 7 August (1891) they reached Khetri.

On his first visit to Khetri Vivekananda stayed there from 4 June 1891 to 27 October 1891, then he left Khetri and went to Ajmer.

1893, Narendranath's second visit to Khetri

In April 1893, Narendranath visited Khetri for the second time. This time he stayed in Khetri for three weeks — from 21 April to 10 May. At this time, Narendranath was preparing to sail to the United States to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions as a speaker. When Ajit Singh learned about Narendranath's plan, he encouraged him and provided him support, both morally and financially. On 10 May (1893), Narendranath left Khetri, and on 31 May, he started his journey to the West from Bombay.

Narendranath Datta → Swami Vivekananda

Higher detail image of Swami_Vivekananda.jpg Swami Vivekananda, September, 1893, Chicago, On the left Vivekananda wrote in his own handwriting: "one infinite pure and holy – beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee"
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
You may ask, why did I start discussing Narendranath's visits to Khetri, when my topic is something different? Actually I felt it was necessary to provide at least some details of Narendranath's first two visits[1] to Khetri before entering the actual topic.

After the first meeting at Mount Abu, and during Narendranath's stay at Khetri between 7 June 1891 to 27 October 1891, Ajit Singh became a close friend and disciple of Narendranath. He started considering Narendranath as his spiritual mentor. It was Ajit Singh who suggested Narendranath to wear a turban and also showed him how to wear it in the Rajasthani style. (Most probably) he also named conferred the title Swami Vivekananda on Narendranath Datta.

But the question is "when?", in 1891, or 1893?

Devika Rangachari wrote in her book Swami Vivekananda: A Man with a Vision
It was at Mount Abu, on 4 June 1891, that Naren first met Ajit Singh, the Raja of Khetri, with whom he was to form a lasting bond of friendship and mutual respect. In fact, it was the Raja who later conferred the name Vivekananda' on him by which he would be known in the West. This is the name by which he is known all over the world and in his own country today. .

Here too we don't get any hint that when actually he was named Vivekananda.

Complete Works confusion

It becomes more confusing when we try to consult The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. There we see even the letters written in 1889 or 1890, the sign is "Vivekananda". I'll provide two examples.

Letter written 7 February 1889 (see the letter)—
7th February, 1889.
Thanks a hundred thousand times, Master! You have hit Ramakrishna in the right point.
Few, alas, few understand him!

Another letter written on 2 April 1890 (see the letter)
2nd April, 1890.
. . .  . . . 
. . .  . . . 
With best wishes,
Yours affectionately,

If Narendranath Datta was signing his name as Vivekananda in 1890, then it was surely not Ajit Singh who named him Vivekananda.
Or is it an error in The Complete Works, like they replaced the actual signature ?

Another source

We have already discussed Devika Rangachari's work. Now let's consult Urmila Sharma and S.K. Sharma's book Indian Political Thought. The book states—
Before going to U.S.A. he went to Khetri, the king of this state was his disciple. It was this princely disciple who suggested the name of Swami Vivekananda which was adopted by Narendra Nath.

Here we get clear information. But the problem is the book Indian Political Thought is not a dedicated biography of Vivekananda. Here Vivekananda's biography is a small chapter only and the authors have not mentioned the source too.


Following the two sources, for now, we are going to conclude, what we wrote as the "quick answer"—
Most probably, in 1893, just before Vivekananda's travel to the West, Ajit Singh, a king of Khetri conferred the name "Swami Vivekananda" on Narendranath Datta.
If you can provide some other information, please post it in the comment section below. 


  1. Vivekananda visited Khetri for the third and the last time in 1897.


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    This page was last updated on: 16 May 2014,10:07 am IST (UTC+5:30 hours)
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    1. Wow that was really an interesting read...Is it not by Ramakrishna? ? As this name is more similar to the names of monks.I know monks like to add ananda means bliss to a particular name, still a practice in India amidst monks..

      1. Na, Ramakrishna did not know the name "Vivekananda", he used to call him "Naren" (Bengali: নরেন) or "Laren" (Bengali: লরেন)


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