Meeting Between Swami Vivekananda And Mangal Singh (Alwar)
In the beginning of 1891 (most probably February 1891) Vivekananda
reached Alwar (currently a district in Rajasthan) where he met the king
of the state Maharaja Mangal Singh Bahadur or Mangal Singh.
Mangal Singh Bahadur, the king of Alwar was Westernised in his
outlooks and had no respect for Indian and specially Hindu culture and
traditions and used to feel proud for his attitude. He used to spend all
his time in the company of Westerners, in hunting and other luxuries.
Swami Vivekananda reached Alwar and went to meet Mangal Singh at his
palace. When Mangal Singh met Vivekananda he started making fun of him.
He first asked Vivekananda — "Well Swamiji, I hear you are a great
scholar. You can easily earn a living and live a comfortable life, then
why are you living a beggar's life and roaming like a vagabond?"
Vivekananda immediately retorted— "Maharaja, tell me why you constantly
spend your time in the company of Westerners and go out on shooting
excursions, neglecting your royal duties?"
Everyone present in
the court was shocked and taken aback. The king too became confused. He
tried to give an excuse, "Well, I like it, I enjoy it", he continued,
"don't your Indian rishis and munis waste all their lives meditating and
worshipping for the same reason?"
Now Vivekananda saw some
stuffed animals and paintings of the king's huntings in the court's
walls. The king used to consider those as his achievements. Vivekananda
criticized Mangal Singh saying, "Even an animal does not kill another
animal unnecessarily, then why do you kill them just for amusement? I
find it "meaningless"."
Mangal Singh smiled and replied— "The
idols you worship are nothing but piece of clay, stones or metals. I
find this idol-worship "meaningless"".
It was a direct attack
on Hindu belief and Vivekananda had to give a strong reply to it. He
started explaining to the king that Hindus worship God alone, using the
idol as symbol.
But his reply failed to convince Singh. Thereupon,
Vivekananda saw a portrait hanging in the wall of the court. Vivekananda
approached towards the painting, looked at it, and asked the dewan of
the court to take it down from the wall. It was a painting of Singh's
deceased father. When the dewan took the picture down from the wall,
Vivekananda asked him to spit on it. All were taken back, The dewan was
horrified. The king was furious, "How dare you ask him to spit on my
father?", he cried, in a tone of demanding an explanation.
Vivekananda saw, the king was gripped. He smiled and quietly replied,
"Your father, where is he? It is a just a painting— a piece of paper,
not your father."
Vivekananda's reply followed the logic of the
king's previous comment on Hindu idols. So, he was perplexed and
speechless and did not know what to say.
Vivekananda once again started explaining to him,
"Look Maharaja, this is a painting of you father, but when you look at
it, it reminds you about him, here the painting is a "symbol".Similarly
when a Hindu worshipper worships an idol, the idol reminds him about his
beloved deity and he feels the presence of the deity in the idol. Here
too it is a "symbol". Maharaja, it is all about anubhuti (feelings and
Now Mangal Singh quickly realized the real
meaning of idol worship. He apologized to Vivekananda for his frivolity
and rudeness and thanked him for giving him the lesson. He also
requested Vivekananda to stay at his palace for few days.