Kathmandu: More than a century after his death, the electrifying ideology of 19th century Indian philosopher and social reformer Swami Vivekananda is gathering momentum in neighbouring Nepal with people as diverse as police officers, the president of the national boxers` association, and top bankers and businessmen coming together to spread the thoughts of the man often revered as a saint.
On Wednesday, the 148th birth anniversary of the monk who preached one would be closer to heaven by playing football than ritualistic divine worship, the newly found Swami Vivekananda Vedanta Kendra in Kathmandu kicks off its campaign to take his words to the masses in Nepal, especially the youth.
For the first time, the Advaita Ashram in Kolkata, the publishing wing of the monastic order founded by Vivekananda to serve society - the Ramakrishna Mission - is publishing the Nepali translation of three books on the saffron-robed monk who wowed the west with his charisma, the mystic who inspired him - Ramakrishna - and the latter`s wife, Sharada Devi.
"Many people in Nepal are aware of Swami Vivekanda and his humanistic philosophy," Dr Jagadish Ghosh, chief of the National Insurance Company in Nepal and advisor to the Kendra, told reporters. "In the 1980s, Swami Kripamayananda, a Nepali follower from Dang in western Nepal, joined the order and is now chief of the Vedanta Society in Toronto. More than a century after his death, Vivekananda`s message that there should be no caste barriers in society and harmony and brotherhood should prevail throughout the world, still remain highly relevant."
The Ramakrishna Mission founded by Vivekananda in 1897 for education, medical and relief work has branches throughout the world. But strangely, there`s none in India`s immediate neighbour Nepal.
Legal complexities, like the ban on acquisition of land by foreigners and difficulties in registering an NGO, has held the Ramakrishna Mission back so far. However, with Vivekananda`s 150th birth anniversary coming up two years later, there is hope that a new branch could be started in Nepal.
"I don`t believe in god," says Gopal Bhattarai, a deputy superintendent of police in Kathmandu. "I don`t like self-styled godmen who claim to be able to perform miracles. But I was moved by Vivekananda`s philosophy that `jeev` was Shiv - meaning all beings are divine and you worship god best by serving mankind."
The 34-year-old police officer is now the proud author of nearly a dozen songs, based on the life and teachings of Vivekananda, that were released as a musical album last year - Awake, Arise.
The Kendra, which has begun functioning from two rooms in his own residence in Kirtipur town donated by a follower, Homlal Shrestha, who is also its chairman, now has its own web site and funding from unexpected sources.
The first sponsorship of the year for the three books came through a social networking site.
The Kendra`s members came across a businessman in Mumbai, Bharat Churiwal, who described himself as a disciple of Vivekananda, and approached him for help. To their joy, he agreed immediately.
Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Dutta in Kolkata, had never been able to fulfil his dream of visiting Nepal. Though he planned twice, they had to be postponed due to emergencies in India, like the great plague.
But 148 years after his birth, his dream has come true with his spirit visiting Nepal.