Spirit behind Vivekananda Rock Memorial & Vivekananda Kendra
Shri Eknath Ranade was the youngest of eight siblings (four brothers and four sisters). He was born on 19 November, 1914, at Timtala in Amaravati District of Maharashtra. The Ranade family was originally from Vilhe village in Rajapur Taluk of Ratnagiri District in Konkan region of Maharashtra. Shri Eknath Ranade’s father was Shri Ramakrishnarao Vinayak Ranade who served in the Great Indian Peninsular Railways in Vidrabha. He was married to Ramabai of Barve family from Pune. Nath (as Shri Eknath Ranade was called in his childhood) was sent to Nagpur in 1921 to stay with his eldest brother Baburao. He had his primary education in Government Primary School in Phadanavispura at Nagpur. When his father’s health failed, the whole family moved to Nagpur and stayed with the eldest son. Shri Eknath Ranade’s brother-in-law Shri Annaji Sohoni was closely associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which was established in Nagpur in 1925 by Dr. Hedgewar. Under Annaji Sohoni’s guidance, Nath attended a Sangh Shakha in 1926 and that became a turning point in his life. He completed his Matriculation from New English High School, Mahal, in 1932. After his matriculation, he straightaway wanted to become a Sangh Pracharak but was advised by Dr.Hedgewar to finish his graduation first.
Eknathji started studying the Upanishads to counter the propoganda of Christian Missionaries in hisEknath Ranade - founder of Vivekananda Kendra college. As he found it difficult to interpret them, he took up the works of Swami Vivekananda. And thereby, he first learnt about the life, works and vision of Swami Vivekananda. In 1938, Eknathji joined the Sangh full time as a Pracharak. His first assignment as Pracharak was in Mahakoshal Pranta, consisting of the central part of India. He enrolled himself for L.L.B. in Sagar University which he completed in first class in 1945. During his work as the Pranta Pracharak of Madhya Bharat, Shri Eknath Ranade’s superior organisational abilities and phenomenal memory came to be widely known.
Later, Eknathji was posted as Pranta Pracharak of Poorvanchal (the North-East) in 1950. In Calcutta, he organised the Vastuhara Sahayata Samiti to find, help, and provide accommodation for the refugees of the Partition. In 1953, Shri Eknath Ranade was given the additional responsibility of Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh. In 1956 he was given the charge of Sarkaryavah, or General Secretary, of the Sangh. He became Akhil Bharatiya Bauddhik Pramukh in 1962. In 1963, destiny took Shri Eknath Ranade to the purpose for which he was born. He was requested by Guruji Golwalkar to take up the cause of establishing the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
The second phase of the Rock Memorial: the Living Memorial, in other words, Vivekananda Kendra, was in Shri Eknath Ranade’s vision almost as soon as the first phase was underway. Shri Eknath Ranade was a prolific and punctilious letter writer. Since he took charge as the Organising Secretary of Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee in 1963 till his death in 1982, he wrote over 25,000 letters! He chose the North-East as the thrust area of the Kendra’s initial activities. After an extensive study of the area, seven residential schools were opened in Arunachal Pradesh where Jeevanvratis of the Kendra worked. He procured land in Kanyakumari to establish the headquarters of Vivekananda Kendra known as Vivekanandapuram. Apart from being involved in the publication activites of the Kendra in the periodicals Yuva Bharati and Kendra Bharati, Eknathji also took series of lectures for Jeevanvratis. The relentless pace of work claimed Shri Eknath Ranade’s health. In 1980, he collapsed during a walk and went into coma. When he recovered consciousness, he had lost partial vision and his memory almost completely. The second affliction was all the more saddening to him as he had such a phenomenal memory that he could remember the names of whoever he was introduced to. He was advised by doctors to slow down his pace of work, but this was not possible for him to adhere to. On 22 August 1982, Shri Eknath Ranade suffered a massive and fatal heart attack in Chennai. His body was brought to Kanyakumari and cremated on 23 August. As the sun set and the saffron flag with Om was lowered on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, the pyre was lit.