Sri Vivekananda Ashrama was founded by Swami Ambanandaji Maharaj, a disciple of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, in 1940.
Aim and Objective
Swami Vivekananda, the chief architect of modern India, once said in a course of conversation: "What you have to do now is to establish a Math in every town and in every village. Can you do that? A well-educated Sadhu should be at the head of that centre and under him there should be departments for teaching practical science and arts, with a specialist Sannyasin in charge of each of these departments."
Sri Vivekananda Ashrama is a humble attempt in fulfilling this wish of the great Swami Vivekananda. The ashrama is a monastic organization and functions in a way similar to the Ramakrishna Ashramas founded by Swami Vivekananda, whose motto is, 'the liberation of the Self and the good of the world.'
Swami Madhuranandaji, the second president of the ashrama, designed an emblem and explained the objective of the ashrama thus:
The (Sanskrit) Om in the emblem stands for God. The swan represents Jnana Yoga, the trident Karma Yoga and the lotus Bhakti Yoga. The meaning of the Upanishadic sentence (Thena tyaktena bhunjeethaah) is 'Protect yourself through sacrifice', i.e., 'Give up your selfishness'. The triangle stands for Yoga or concentration of mind. To sum up, the emblem means: The aim of life is to reach God, living a life of sacrifice with the help of Jnana, Karma, Bhakti Yogas.
Swami Ambanandaji, a disciple of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, founded this ashrama in 1940. He started off in a small thatched hut. Ever living in Mother-consciousness and radiating love, he inspired a small group of men and women to lead a holy life.
The swami organized to celebrate the birth days of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda and also the day on which he had the fortune of seeing Holy Mother used to be conducted in the ashrama in a grand way. He had kindly consented to the request of the devotees to celebrate his birthday also. He organized occasional satsanghs (puja, talks, bhajans etc.) In a humble way he helped the poor and needy. He had initiated a few pew people with mantra diksha. Leaving two monastic disciples viz., Swami Madhuranandaji and Swami Satyanandaji, the swami passed away in 1951.
After Swami Ambanandaji, Swami Madhuranandaji became the head of the ashrama. Under his guidance, the ashrama expanded its activities to various fields. Swami Vivekananda once said: 'He who gives man spiritual knowledge is the greatest benefactor of mankind and as such we always find that those were the most powerful of men who helped man in his spiritual needs, because spirituality is the true basis of all our activities in life.' Spiritual ministration became a way of life for Swami Madhuranandaji. He initiated many with holy mantras, opening the scared realms of their hearts. Swami Madhuranandaji also started conducting spiritual retreats in the ashram. Chanting and singing the glories of God, japa, meditation and discourses had been the main programmes of these retreats.
Religious preaching was another field that the swami made a significant contribution. He lived and taught religion in a simple way. He was accessible to people from all walks of life. Swami Abhedanandaji, a luminary who lived in Kerala in the last century, wrote of him: 'Swami Madhuranandaji was a sacrifice for the common masses in Kanyakumari District. Every day he had one programme or other for him. He participated in them to give the knowledge of our sacred religion. It was so easy for the organizers of functions to get Sri Madhuranandaji that they used to say of him "the easily available swami". Villages distant from main roads and village roads were visited by him on foot. Swami Madhuranandaji found there was a pressing need in Kanyakumari district for awakening Hindus to the glories of their own sacred religion. So, he instituted a three-pronged program:
Religious Sunday classes educated the Hindu children and youth and made them aware of the glory of their religion. Deepa puja united Hindu women, and brought divine light into their hearts and into their humble dwellings. Satsang enlightened the elders. Swami Madhuranandaji started these activities in Kanyakumari district. But the programme has spread today not only among nearby districts and states; it's also making a mark in Sri Lanka.
Swami Madhuranandaji started publishing books also. He conceived and wrote five graded text books for religious classes. These were taught to the students; annual exams conducted; certificates issued; awards presented. In due course, this publication has evolved into a publication section which has number of books to its credit. In 1984 He founded Hindu Dharma Vidya Peetam as a wing of the ashrama to consolidate these activities, which takes care of these activities.
He started Veda Murasu, the Tamil monthly of the ashrama, in 1986, to carry the valuable ideas of Hinduism as well as serve as a news magazine.
He also initiated various social service activities such as helping the poor get education and relief services during calamities.
As the activities grew, the single building of the ashram became insufficient. In 1979 Sri Ambananda Prayer Hall, a large hall for public gathering was built. In 1980s was built Balamurugan Illam, which served as a monks' quarters. A guest house was built in 1988, which was extended by an additional room in 1995.
Founding Sri Saradeswari Ashram, a separate wing for nuns, was another significant contribution of Swami Madhuranandaji.
Leaving Swami Chaitanyanandaji and Swami Pranaeanandaji,two monastic disciples, Swami Madhuranandaji passed away in 1999.
Swami Chaitanyanandaji, who succeeded Swami Madhuranandaji, continues to work in the line charted out by his guru.
Swami Chaitanyanandaji founded Sri Ramakrishna Seva Sangam in 1999 to streamline the human welfare activities of the ashrama. The Sangam caters to the educational, medical, and other such needs of the poor.
In 2002,Yatiswarananda Kuthir, a guest house, mainly for visiting monks, is built.
In 2009, a new temple for Sri Ramakrishna, together with an assembly hall and library building, has been planned. The work is in progress.