Forgotten Bhaskara Sethupathi ,the King who sponsored Vivekananda for Chicago Seminar
Sponsorship of Swami Vivekananda for Parliament of the World's Religions In 1892, Swami Vivekananda stayed with Bhaskara when he visited Madurai and he sponsored Vivekananda's visit to Parliament of the World's Religions held in Chicago. During his stay, Swami Vivekananda had extensive discussions on Hindu philosophy with eminent scholars like Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar. The estate of Ramnad included the Hindu holy island city of Rameswaram, from where, legend has it that the Hindu god Rama launched his invasion of Ravana's Lanka. On the conclusion of the war and Rama's success in it, he appointed a Sethupathi or "lord of the bridge" to guard the way to the island. The "bridge" referred to here is the legendary Rama's Bridge which was believed to have been constructed by Rama. The chieftains of Ramnad were entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the bridge, hence the appellation.
129 years ago this day, on Sept 11th 1893, Swami Vivekananda gave his famous Chicago address at the Parliament of World's Religions. The trip was sponsored by Bhaskara Sethupathi, Raja of Ramnad. A short thread on the Tamil king who made Vivekananda's iconic speech possible .
Bhaskara Sethupathy (Hiranyagarbhayaji Ravikula Muthuvijaya Raghunatha Bhaskara; 3 November 1868 – 27 December 1903) was a Raja of Ramnad.  He became the recognised proprietor of the Ramnad estate after his father's death in 1873 until 1895. From 1895, he assumed the Managership of Rameswaram until 1901. He was regarded as a pious, brilliant and generous ruler by his supporters. His supporters believed that he would regain control of Ramnad's estate someday. He died suddenly at the age of 35 in 1903.
Kamui temple case against Nadars Being the hereditary of Minakshi Sundareswara Temple in Kamuthi, he filed a lawsuit against fifteen Nadars on 14 May 1897 who had entered forcefully into the temple despite traditional customs which discouraged them. He sought compensation for the purification of the temple and establish that Nadars never had the right to enter the temple. However, the Nadars were eventually allowed to enter temples built by higher communities due to new legislation and movements. in Cinemas:- Bhaskara Sethupathy was portrayed by Malayalam actor Mammootty in the 1998 film Swami Vivekananda.
In 1868, Bhaskara Sethupathi was born in the Royal Sethupathi clan, considered independent kings of Ramnad Kingdom in south TN. Sethupathi means protector of the bridge, referring to Ram Setu. His ancestors were credited with the preservation of Ram Setu since time immemorial.
As a patron & great believer of the Hindu faith, Bhaskara Sethupathi hosted Vivekananda on his visit to TN in Madurai in 1893. Sethupathi accepted Vivekananda as his Guru & Swamiji conferred the title Rajarishi (Ascetic King) on the king for his selfless services to Hinduism. In 1893, despite his kingdom facing fiscal difficulty, at great personal expense, he sponsored his Guru's historic trip to Chicago to participate in the Parliament of World religions. Vivekananda credits Sethupathi's contributions in his writings on the voyage to Chicago.
Vivekananda's speech in Chicago is part of modern Hindu folklore. He records praying to Maa Saraswati before the speech, which introduced America & wider world to the glory & ethos of Hindu culture. Swamiji beginning with the humble words of 'Brothers & Sisters is now iconic. After spending 4 years in the west conducting 100s of public lectures disseminating tenets of Hindu philosophy & founding Vedanta Societies throughout the US & Europe, Vivekananda returned to India on 26th Jan 1897 at Rameshwaram, with Sethupathi awaiting to receive his Guru.
As Vivekananda disembarked, Sethupathi knelt down, pleading his Guru to place his foot on his head, as he felt Swamiji's feet should not touch soil first but the head of a King must have the fortune. Swamiji politely declined, choosing to touch his head, blessing the Raja. Sethupathi & Ramnad people gave a rousing reception to Vivekananda. The Raja drove Swamiji's chariot by himself to the palace, such was his respect. He constructed a 40 ft monument marking Swamiji's arrival, inscribed with ‘Satyameva Jayate’, the later motto of the Indian state.
Sethupathi also had a keen interest in Tamil literary works, his court patronized countless scholars & the 4th Tamil Sangam was held under his regime. Vivekananda's passing in 1902 left a grievous impact on Sethupathi who embraced an ascetic life, passing away at 35 in 1903. Vivekananda's Chicago speech & travels in the west were key in shaping world opinion on Hindu philosophy & culture. He became a global icon, introducing Vedanta & Yoga around the world. It wouldn't have been possible without the generosity & devotion of Raja Sethupathi.
Ramnad estate during the British raj
The estate of Ramnad was located between 9 degrees 6' and 10 degrees 6' N latitude and 77 degrees 56' and 79 degrees 19' E longitudes. It comprised the southern and eastern portions of the Madura district and included the whole Bay of Bengal coast of the district. The estate covered an area of 2,104 square miles (5,450 km2) and had a population of 723,886 in 1901. It was one of the largest and most populous zamindari estates in the Madras Presidency. The zamindar of Ramnad paid a tribute of ₹ 3.75 lakh for the years 1903-04 to the British government. T
hen part of the Madurai district, the estate was subdivided into five zamindari tehsils: Ramnad, Tiruvadanai, Paramakudi, Tiruchuli and Mudukulathur. The administration was based in the town of Ramanathapuram in Ramnad tehsil. Ramanathapuram, Kilakkarai, Paramakudi, Rameswaram, Mandapam and Pamban were some of the important towns in the estate.
The estate of Ramnad included the Hindu holy island city of Rameswaram, from where legend has it that the Hindu god Rama launched his invasion of Ravana's Lanka. At the conclusion of the war and Rama's success in it, he appointed a Sethupathi or "lord of the bridge" to guard the way to the island. The "bridge" referred to here is the legendary Rama's Bridge which was believed to have been constructed by Rama. The chieftains of Ramnad were entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the bridge, hence the appellation.