By now all my office colleagues know that I am into blogging and sometimes they come to me for their travel planning and sometimes they come to inform me about some new places that I might be interested in covering on my blog.
One fine day my colleague who just sits next to me whispers in my ear about an old train platform with some historic connection. He was not sure how or why it was historical but he knew that the old station which was located opposite side of the Budge Budge Railways sSation. He mentioned something about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who sat there at that old platform. I was a bit confused and found no reference to Subhas Chandra Bose and Budge Budge railway station. I gave it a pass and did not think about it much over the years.
Around a year back I had traveled to Achipur which of course if you visit you need to cross Budge Budge. So on our return journey, we stopped by Budge Budge railways station hoping to find something significant. Now Budge Budge railways station has been renamed as Komagata Maru Budge Budge due to an infamous incident which I shall cover in my next blog post. So I had assumed that my friend had got confused with it. While exiting the railway platform I saw a big statue of Swami Vivekananda and it somehow made me stop and go back inside to ask the railway authorities about any old platform. At once the pointed down towards the end of the platform and told that the old railway platform is out there. Still, I was not sure what to expect so I started walking along the old unused tracks which had rust all over them and some sections had weed covering up the track completely. All around were huge petroleum storage tanks belonging to Indian Oil, SK Oil Terminal, etc. the oldest I guess was the Burmah Shell.
After walking around five hundred meters and finding nothing I had to ask a few men posted at tracks belonging to RPF (Railway Protection Force). They were not Bengali but understood what I was looking for and pointed out the direction that we had to take to reach the old platform. After walking another kilometer we reached an unmanned rail gate which was right next to the Komagata Maru Memorial which I had visited earlier. There were just multiple railways tracks merging and some old abandoned railway quarters. However, there was one small structure that looked somewhat like a mini railways station from the old British era. My intuitions told me to check it out and I crossed over the railway tracks to check out that building.
There are very few trains to Budge Budge from Sealdah and this section mainly caters to goods train and petroleum tankers thus don’t be surprised to see several of these out here. The old building was not that well maintained and I could very well see being used as a temporary shelter by two homeless men. I could spot one marble plaque which I surely by now knew would be of some importance.
Reading the marble plaque gave me chills as this place has a direct connection with none other than Swami Vivekananda. Now everything made sense as I remember reading about it and its significance in history.
Swami Vivekananda had traveled to America to be a part of Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in the year 1893. This was possible for the very first time that a global platform had been created to have an interfaith dialog. Representatives from most of the world religions were represented out here and Swami Vivekananda had represented Hinduism as a monk. The conference lasted from 11th to 16th of September at the Art Institute of Chicago Building (World’s Congress Auxiliary Building).
His journey to Chicago started from Bombay (Mumbai) on 31st May 1983. He took the SS Peninsular ship that made stops at Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canton (Guangzhou), and finally to Yokohama. In Japan, after spending a few days he took another ship RMS Empress of India to Vancouver (Canada) and reached on 25th July 1893. From there he took a train to Chicago to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Parliament of the World’s Religions was supposed to start earlier in August but got delayed till September. The event in Chicago lasted from 11th to 16th of September. Perhaps the most famous speech of the entire event which still resonated today was that of Swami Vivekananda when he opened his speech with the words “Sisters and brothers of America!”. He also presented a paper on the ninth day of the event on Hinduism.
In America, Swami Vivekananda managed to impress by his knowledge and his wisdom and quickly started gaining popularity.
He left America on 15th April 1896 from New York to England on board SS Germanic. He reached England via Ireland on 19th April. Swami Vivekananda would spend some time across Europe visiting many countries. Finally starting his return journey in December 1896 from Naples (Italy) and reaching Ceylon on 15th January 1897. After that, he would go to Madras (Chennai) and continue with his lecture tour there.
Swami Vivekananda reached Budge Budge on 19th February 1897 on a steamer from Madras (Chennai) onboard SS Mombasa. He had reached the night before at Budge Budge and the entourage had to wait as the train was next morning to Kolkata.
At Budge Budge back then the old railway platform was active and this was the very railway station platform that Swami Vivekananda had used for catching his train back to Calcutta after the long tour of America and Europe.
After arriving in Calcutta (Kolkata) he was given a grand reception where thousands of his followers were there to welcome him back home.
What was just a casual stroll searching for the significance of a small railway platform turned out to be one very significant in the history of Swami Vivekananda and of course Ramkrishna Mission which he formed after the tour of America and Europe and last but not the least his speech at Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Location Of Old Budge Budge Railway Station
Trent University Library
Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography By Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya
UK National Archives
Swami Vivekananda: The Journey of a Spiritual Entrepreneur By Rakesh Tripathi