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January 12 marks the birth anniversary of one of the brilliant minds and inspiration — Swami Vivekananda. Since 1985, his birth anniversary is observed every year as the National Youth Day. Several youngsters have been inspired by his philosophy and the speech he gave in the Parliament of Religions in America in September of 1893. The speech gained the spotlight as Hinduism and its philosophy was introduced to the western world for the first time in Chicago.

He became India’s spiritual ambassador in America and tried to teach Vedanta philosophies in the west through rational and humanistic approach. Vivekananda’s teaching included seeing god in all and promoted peace and unity amongst all. William James, a philosopher at Harvard University, called Swami Vivekananda as the “paragon of Vedantists.”

“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true,” Swami Vivekananda had said in his speech at the Parliament of Religions.

“As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee,” he had said.

“Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now,” he had added.

Many political leaders paid their tributes to the great personality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to Swami Vivekananda while addressing the valedictory programme of the National Youth Parliament Festival. “Inspired by the great ideals of Swami Vivekananda and his vision for youth empowerment, the National Youth Parliament Festival gives a platform to India’s youth to showcase their skills. It also furthers the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ among youngsters,” the prime minister had said.

Born on January 12, 1863, he died in 1902 on July 4.