Birth and Childhood
Bhuvaneshwari Devi (1841-1911).
"I am indebted to my mother for the efflorescence of my knowledge."—Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was born in Shimla Pally, Calcutta at 6:33 a.m on Monday, 12 January 1863, and was given the name Narendranath Datta. His father Vishwanath Datta was an attorney of Calcutta High Court. He was considered generous, and had a progressive outlook in social and religious matters. His mother Bhuvaneshwari Devi was pious and had practiced austerities and prayed to Vireshwar Shiva ofVaranasi to give her a son. She reportedly had a dream in which Shiva rose from his meditation and said that he would be born as her son.
His thinking and personality were influenced by his parents—the father by his rational mind and the mother by her religious temperament. During his early years he became familiar with Western philosophy and science, and refused to accept anything without rational proof and pragmatic test. Another part of his mind was drawn to the spiritual ideals of meditation and non-attachment.
Narendranath started his education at home, later he was admitted to Metropolitan Institution of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in 1871 and in 1879 he passed the Entrance Examination. He had varied interests and a wide range of scholarship in philosophy, history, the social sciences, arts, literature, and other subjects. He evinced much interest in scriptural texts, Vedas, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita,Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas. He was also well versed in classical music, both vocal and instrumental. Since boyhood, he took an active interest in physical exercise, sports, and other organizational activities. Even when he was young, he questioned the validity of superstitious customs and discrimination based on caste and religion.
Narendranath's mother played a very important role in his spiritual development. One of the sayings of his mother Narendra quoted often in his later years was, "Remain pure all your life; guard your own honor and never transgress the honor of others. Be very tranquil, but when necessary, harden your heart." He reportedly was adept in meditation. He reportedly would see a light while falling asleep and he reportedly had a vision of Buddha during his meditation.