Swami Vivekananda (Famous Photograph)

The famous Chicago Pose of Swami Vivekananda comes from a photo session in Chicago in 1893. He had gone there for Parliament of World Religions. Photographer of this iconic photo was Thomas Harrison.

In this series of articles on famous photographs I have been giving a special emphasis on photographs related with India. Lately, I have written about iconic photographs of the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Rani Laxmibai etc.

Since many days I have been trying to find information about an iconic photograph of another Indian spiritual leader who is loved all over the world. My research succeeded today and I am quite excited while writing about this photograph.

The person in the photograph is Swami Vivekananda. You think of Vivekananda and the image of a turbaned Hindu monk comes to your mind. The monk’s face is beautifully glowing with divine radiance, immense intellect and unwavering confidence. His arms are elegantly crossed at chest and his gaze is to his right parallel to ground. But did you ever think who took this brilliant photograph? Well, I have been thinking about it ever since I was a kid. Today I have the answer to share with you.

The Chicago Pose of Swami Vivekananda. Photograph by Thomas Harrison.

The Chicago Pose of Swami Vivekananda. Photograph by Thomas Harrison.

The photograph shows Vivekananda in such a striking pose that this, undoubtedly, has became his most famous image. His pose in the photograph is so very much associated with him that it has come to known as the Vivekananda pose. However, you might not know, this pose has another name too: the Chicago Pose. The name is drawn from the fact that this photograph was clicked in Chicago after Vivekananda’s famous speech at the Parliament of World Religions in September 1893. And the photographer’s name was Thomas Harrison. He took eight photos of which five were autographed by Vivekananda. Below are two more photos from the same photo session:

Swami Vivekananda during a photo shoot in Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda during a photo shoot in Chicago.

Swami Vivekananda during a photo shoot in Chicago. Standing pose.

Swami Vivekananda during a photo shoot in Chicago. Standing pose.

Vivekananda was born as Narendranath Dutta on 12 January 1863 in an orthodox Hindu family in Calcutta, India. He was given the name Swami Vivekananda by his guru Ramakrishna Paramhansa after Narendranath was ordained as a monk. Vivekananda went on to become a key figure in Indian philosophy. He introduced the philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western countries. Ramakrishna Paramhansa taught his disciple that all the religions are true and they lead to the same goal (Advaita Vedanta). Vivekananda famously represented India as a delegate in the 1893 Parliament of World Religions. There this monk from India won hearts effortlessly. On returning to India, in 1897, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission —a philanthropic and spiritual organization.

Vivekananda had prophesied that he will not live to grow 40 years old and it turned out to be true when he died on 4 July 1902 at the age of 39 years. He died in the state of samadhi.

Did you know?

  • World celebrates “World Brotherhood Day” on the 11th September every year, the date Swami Vivekananda delivered his famous speech in Chicago. Ironically on the same date happened one of the bloodiest terrorist attack in 2001. These attacks were organized by Osama Bin Laden.
  • India celebrates National Youth Day on Vivekananda’s birthday (12th January) every year.
  • Work on the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was initiated in 1963 to mark his Birth Centenary. This memorial stands on a rock in the sea about 500 meters from the southernmost tip of Indian mainland. It took seven years to complete the monument.
  • Around 30 lakh (3 million) people donated 1 rupee each, minimum, towards the national endeavor.
  • Total cost of construction at that time was 1 crore and 35 lakh rupees (Rs. 13,500,000).
  • Swami Vivekananda was the first Indian to be invited to accept the chair of Oriental Philosophy at the Harvard University
  • He was also considered a very good singer and a poet. By the time of his death, He had composed many songs including his favorite Kali the Mother.

To make this article complete; below is the audio of what Swami Vivekananda spoke in Chicago.

And here is the complete text of what Swami Vivekanada spoke in his speech.

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions; I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. 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. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, sources in different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” 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. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.

Lalit Kumar is a web explorer and founder of www.TechWelkin.com. He loves finding useful things on Internet and knows how to put them together to create a bigger solution. He is passionate about technology, languages and literature. Sign-up for email newsletter for receiving technology tips.


  1. Kavita says

    Nice, to-the-point, sophisticated and informative post, presented with the beauty of simple yet elegant words.

    I dedicate this Swami Vivekananda’s quote to writely expressed :]
    “Our duty is to encourage everyone in his struggle to live up to his own highest idea, and strive at the same time to make the ideal as near as possible to the Truth.”

    You are doing a kind job Lalitji!!!


  2. Abha says

    What a relief!! after so many horrific and heart rending pics…here comes a picture which is giving an immense feeling of calmness and composure..filling the entire self with spirituality..
    A great person with a great mind and soul!!

    Thanx for sharing!

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