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Spiritual master Swami Vivekananda was a foody: loved ice cream and dal
Vivekananda's fondness for food has been revealed by Manishankar Mukherjee in his latest book 'The Monk as Man: The Unknown Life of Swami Vivekananda', a work of non-fiction. The book says Vivekananda was fond of Bengali dal 'Kalai' and ice cream.
SO MUCH so that he knew exactly how 'Kalai' should be consumed. Vivekananda advised "his followers to eat the watery part of the 'dal' like the way South Indians do", reported news agency IANS, observing that, "the lentils were difficult to digest." The dal is prepared with split green chillies, salt, a pinch of tumeric and fennel.
Mukherjee did a massive amount of research for a number of years for his book - reading up many books and old newspaper cuttings. According to Mukherjee, "it appears that Swamiji was fond of cream too. “Once when he was eating with his companions in the US and they enquired whether he liked strawberries. Swami Vivekananda answered that 'he had never seen one'".
At this, Narendranath Dutta alias Swami Vivekananda's companions, were surprised and amused. They pointed out that the monk had been eating strawberries every day.
Vivekananda said that the strawberries were covered with cream; "even stones covered with cream would taste good!" as per the book.
Mukherjee in his book writes that Vivekananda's American host, the Legget family with whom the sage was boarding in the US, discovered that the easiest way to keep him at the dinner table was to announce: "There will be ice-cream for dessert".
"Then Vivekananda would wait patiently for his ice-cream like a little boy and consume it with great satisfaction," Mukherjee says in his book, reported IANS.
Ida Ansell, in the book, details another funny incident related to Vivekananda's fondness for ice cream.
"One evening, Swamiji was talking about the different interpretations of heaven and hell in Indian scriptures. Usually after a lecture, his devotees took him to a restaurant... On this particular occasion, it was a very cold night and Swamiji shivered in his raincoat. But in spite of the hellishly cold weather, he chose ice-cream and liked it very much," wrote Mukherjee.
Swami Vivekananda, the Bengali spiritual visionary, has been a source of inspiration to millions of people all over the world due to his democratic and secular opinions on religion and progressive philosophy.
It is perhaps for the first time that a book has detailed Vivekananda's purist, verging on the epicure, delight for food.
Mukherjee illustrates this with more incidents. "Vivekananda once told his disciple Sarat Chandra that 'one who cannot cook cannot be a great monk'. His disciple, native of East Bengal, had once cooked Vivekananda a 'Bangal' platter of 'rice, munger dal (lentils), koi macher jhol (koi fish curry), maccher tak (tangy fish) and maccher shuktuni (bitter fish with vegetables)'. Vivekananda, after eating, said he had never tasted anything like it before.
The act and joy of eating stayed with the spiritual master till his last moments on Earth.
Mukherjee in his book "The Monk as Man: The Unknown Life of Swami Vivekananda", reveals how a few days before his premature death at the age of 39 from ill health, Vivekananda was found 'gleefully eating chanachur (a hot and spicy mix of chickpeas and nuts) from a saal leaf at Ahiritola in north Kolkata on the bank of Ganges'.
Vivekananda, on July 4, 1902, had a lunch of 'hilsa' fish curry, rice, fried vegetables and a tangy dip (ambol). At 9.30 p.m., after a day of prayer, banter and meditation, he died of a heart attack, says the book.
Considered to be a brilliant spiritual leader of great intellect, Vivekananda’s short life, 1863-1902, was one of achievement. In his younger years Vivekananda was attracted to the agnostic thinking of Western civilization, and also admired science. At the same time he had a burning desire to know the truth. He questioned holy people, asking them if they had seen God.
A meeting with Sri Ramakrishna, who became his master, helped him to dissolve his doubts, and in time he was transformed into a sage with authority to teach. Soon after Ramakrishna's death, Vivekananda renounced worldly life and travelled across India as a monk - empathizing with India's multitude poor.
This encouraged him to seek help from the West. It was at this juncture that he agreed to represent Hinduism at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions in 1893. After this event Vivekananda gained recognition as a spiritual leader having reached a level of spiritual understanding that few possessed.
Then for three years he taught the Vedanta philosophy and religion in America and the UK, and then came back to India to found the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. Vivekananda's lectures and writings, which are immense, can be found in nine hefty volumes.
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