“So long as even a single dog in my country is without food, my whole religion is to feed it and serve it. Anything excluding that, is un-religious” – Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was perhaps the first English speaking saint who represented the East (particularly India) positively, and created a good impression of Indian scriptures, Advaita Vedanta and Yoga among westerners. Swami Vivekananda stayed at the Vivekananda House from 6th February to 14th February, 1897 after his return from his first journey to the Western countries. The Vivekananda House (Or Ice House/ Vivekanandar Illam) is located on the main road facing the Marina Beach. Its quite close to Queen Mary’s Womens College.
Timings: 10 AM to 12 PM; 3 PM to 7:30 PM. Weekly Holiday: Wednesday
The Vivekananda House is also called as Ice House because a Britisher used to have an Ice block storage facility here. But later, it was converted in to a residence where Swami Vivekananda stayed immediately after his visit from the West (en-route to Calcutta) and later on, it was given on a lease to Ramakrishna Missions by the TN Government to hold a permanent exhibition on life and works of Swami Vivekananda as well as to represent the cultural history of India.
The life and times of Swami Vivekananda are represented using a lot of nice photos, each with a short description. The photo essay on his life, enables one to quickly grasp the important events of his life.
There is a meditation hall in the room where Vivekananda stayed back then, and there is also an audio visual presentation on the life of Swami Vivekananda. The whole museum is arranged in to various rooms, each with a particular theme. There is even a room dedicated to the history of the Ice House.
There is a beautiful and extensive painting gallery which speaks about the important epics/ people in all major religions (founded in India). Some of the paintings even talk of the pre-religious days during which vedanta originated. Under every photo, there is a short description of the events/ people/ concepts etc.
There is a section on Tamil literature (Like Silappadhikaram, Manimegalai, etc) where paintings from important events in these stories are kept with a short description below them. Tiruvalluvar is a great Tamil poet, and you can see his statue in the above photo.
I have been to Marina beach many times, but never noticed this museum. Perhaps, I would have noticed – but didn’t know it was a museum! I have seen V.Illam/ Ice House to be an important Bus Stop/ Terminus for many busses in Chennai, but I never knew what it was! At least, I went there now 🙂