Extract from an article written Sabysachi Bhattacharya
I will begin with the story of Tilak’s contact with Vivekananda. Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1857-1920) was senior to Vivekananda byhalf a dozen years and at their first encounter in Bombay in 1892, Tilak was quite unaware of the momentous importance of that meeting. As you probably know, Vivekananda, in pursuit of his plan to travel all over India up to Cape Comorin as a mendicant, passed through many parts of Maharashtra. In April to September 1892 he visited Bombay, Mahabaleswar, Pune, Kolhapur, Belgaum, and Indore. Some of the letters Vivekananda wrote in 1892 provide a sketchy idea of his itinerary. These letters have been collected in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda,
vol. VIII.1 This was at a time when he was not yet famous. Fame came to him next year when he went to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. In 1892 he was a little known sannyasi, hosted by various local landlords and this picture comes out clearly in the reminiscences Tilak recorded in January 1934 in Vedanta Kesari. About the year 1892, i.e., before the famous
Parliament of Religions in the World’s Fair at Chicago, I was once returning from Bombay to Poona. At the Victoria Terminus a Sannyasin entered the carriage I was in. A few Gujarati gentlemen were there to see him off. They made the formal introduction and asked the Sannyasin to reside at my
house during his stay at Poona. We reached Poona, and the Sannyasin remained with me for eight or ten days. When asked about his name he only said he was a Sannyasin. Vivekananda seemed to be keen at that time to be anonymous. Incidentally, at this time Vivekananda sometimes used another
name, Sacchidananda. There is at least one document signed by him under that name SWAMI VIVEKANANDA’S IMPACT ON B. G. TILAK AND THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT
2010 Bulletin of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture 365 same Sannyasin and expressed his regret at not being able to visit Poona then. This lost letter from Vivekananda to Tilak must have been written between 1896 and 1899, the period between his two visits to USA. Tilak says that police search in his home led to the destruction of this letter from Vivekananda. The last contact between Tilak and Vivekananda took place in 1901. ‘During one of the Congress sessions at Calcutta’, Tilak recalls, ‘I had gone with some friends to see the Belur Math of the Ram[a]krishna Mission. There Swami Vivekananda received us very cordially. In the course of the conversation Swamiji happened to remark somewhat in a jocular spirit that it would be better if I renounced the world and took up his work in Bengal while he would go and continue the same in Maharashtra. “One does not carry,” he said, “the same influence in one’s own province as in a distant one.Tilak’s meeting with Vivekananda
Tilak says this meeting with Vivekananda took place during a Congress session in Calcutta without mentioning a date. Now, there were two such sessions in Calcutta, one in 1896 and the other is 1901.
My guess is that Tilak met Vivekananda during the 1901 Calcutta session of the Congress because I infer from dates of his letter that during the earlier session of 1896 Vivekananda was out of Calcutta.
To sum it up, from the time when Vivekananda was an unknown itinerant sannyasin in 1892, till 1901, the year before his death, Tilak had fleeting contacts with him. The relationship between these two