Meeting Between Swami Vivekananda And Mangal Singh (Alwar) — Real Meaning Of Idol Worship

Background:- In the beginning of 1891 (most probably February 1891) Vivekananda reached Alwar (currently a district in Rajasthan) where he met the king of the state Maharaja Mangal Singh Bahadur or Mangal Singh. The meeting between Swami Vivekananda and Mangal Singh and the conversation between them has historical significance and has been discussed and analysed by various scholars and biographers. In this post, we’ll talk about that meeting between Mangal Singh and Vivekananda.

Mangal Singh Bahadur, the king of Alwar was Westernised in his outlooks and had no respect for Indian and specially Hindu culture and traditions and used to feel proud for his attitude. He used to spend all his time in the company of Westerners, in hunting and other luxuries.

Incident:- Mangal Singh told vivekananda — “The idols you worship are nothing but piece of clay, stones or metals. I find this idol-worship “meaningless””.

The Wanderig monk

It was a direct attack on Hindu belief and Vivekananda had to give a strong reply to it. He started explaining to the king that Hindus worship God alone, using the idol as symbol. But his reply failed to convince Singh. Thereupon, Vivekananda saw a portrait hanging in the wall of the court. Vivekananda approached towards the painting, looked at it, and asked thedewan of the court to take it down from the wall. It was a painting of Singh’s deceased father. When the dewan took the picture down from the wall, Vivekananda asked him to spit on it. All were taken back, The dewan was horrified. The king was furious, “How dare you ask him to spit on my father?”, he cried, in a tone of demanding an explanation.

Vivekananda saw, the king was gripped. He smiled and quietly replied, “Your father, where is he?  It is a just a painting— a piece of paper, not your father.”

Vivekananda’s reply followed the logic of the king’s previous comment on Hindu idols. So, he was perplexed and speechless and did not know what to say.

Vivekananda once again started explaining to him, “Look Maharaja, this is a painting of you father, but when you look at it, it reminds you about him, here the painting is a “symbol”.
Similarly when a Hindu worshipper worships an idol, the idol reminds him about his beloved deity and he feels the presence of the deity in the idol. Here too it is a “symbol”. Maharaja, it is all about anubhuti (feelings and realization).

Now Mangal Singh quickly realized the real meaning of idol worship. He apologized to Vivekananda for his frivolity and rudeness and thanked him for giving him the lesson. He also requested Vivekananda to stay at his palace for few days.

The Full quote can be found in


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