We all know Swami Vivekananda’s iconic address at Chicago, but do we know the man who made that possible?

It was 1897,

It’s been four years since a saffron clad young sanyasi turned the world’s attention towards India to be precise towards Hindu Dharma. His address at the Parliment of World’s Religions held at Chicago had become widely popular.

The day was birth anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa , at Ramakrishna Asrama, Calcutta. Swami Vivekananda was moving around the ashrama closely with a Dhoti and Uttariya clad South Indian. This man was sporting a ‘nama’ on forehead and was taking pinch of snuff now and then.

An American woman who had been observing this, gestured a aversion filled look towards this man and expressed her displeasure.

Swami Vivekananda observed this and in a raised voice he said,

“who do you think he is? He is my dearest disciple. He is that faithful man who sent me to America and revealed me to the world.”

Everyone who had a despised look for the man a moment ago, looked at him apologetically now.

That man was none other than Alasinga Perumal.

He belonged to a Mandayan Iyengar family from Karnataka. His father Chakravarthi Narasimhacharya migrated to Madras in search of a job. Alasinga Perumal grew up in Triplicane. He finished schooling from Pachappayya’s high school at Madras and he rose to become head master of same school.

He into contact with Swami Vivekananda when the latter visited Madras in 1892. Alasinga Perumal was the key organizer of the meeting and Swami Vivekananda was highly impressed by his sincerity. They became close to one another but Alasinga Perumal accepted Swamiji as his guru. And thus he became the dearest disciple of Vivekananda.

When Maharajas of Mysore, Ramanad and Khetri requested Swami Vivekananda to attend Parliment of World’s Religion at Chicago, Swamiji agreed. And Perumal took responsibility of raising enough money via public donations for Swamijis safe voyage.

He succeeded too. And he went with Swamijis baggage to Bombay to book a ticket. He walked with Swamiji with the baggages till the cabin and gave him 187 pounds to meet expenses during the voyage. Swami Vivekananda embraced his loving disciple, after his flight took off Perumal returned to Chennai.

During Swamijis stay at America, he had to face financial problem and he only trusted Perumal to help him out. When his telegram reached Perumal, the latter took loan of thousand rupees and added his entire month’s salary if Rs 100 to it and sent it to Vivekananda.

After the iconic speech at Chicago, Swami Vivekananda wrote to Alasinga Perumal explaining his experience at the Parliment. He had asked Perumal to start a service organisation to serve cause of Hindu dharma and also to start a journal to propagate Vedantha.

Alasinga Perumal did both. He launched the journal ‘Brahmavadin’ on 15th September 1985, and it was in circulation till 1912.

When Swamiji returned from Chicago Alasinga Perumal was the one to receive him at Rameshwaram.

In 1899, Swami Vivekanda was traveling America for a second time. This time Perumal went him till Colombo by boat. That was the last meeting between the guru and shishya.

From America Swamiji constantly wrote to Perumal and their correspondence itself is an education on Vedanta, social service and works on awakening youth etc..

In 1902, the death of Swami Vivekananda shattered Alasinga Perumal. He considered himself an orphan and he became a worried man. His health started deteriorating and he passed away on May 11,1909. He was just 44 years old then.

Alasinga Perumal was a man of simplicity. He served Swamiji with utmost devotion. He is the one who set up Ramakrishna Ashrama at Mylapore.

To be referred to as ‘My dearest disciple’ from Swamiji himself is not an ordinary honour. He was a great scholar but found solace in the company of his guru.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth