Vivekanandar Illam

Vivekanandar Illam

Vivekanandar Illam (Tamil: விவேகானந்தர் இல்லம்) or Vivekananda House[1] (Tamil: விவேகானந்தர் வீடு), earlier known as Ice House or Castle Kernan at Chennai, India is an important place for the Ramakrishna Movement in South India. It is remembered as the place where Swami Vivekananda stayed for nine days when he visited Chennai (then Madras) in 1897. Vivekananda House now houses a Permanent Exhibition on Indian Culture and Swamiji’s Life, maintained by the Chennai branch of the Ramakrishna Math and is a source of inspiration to thousands of people who visit it every year.


Vivekanandar Illam (Tamil: விவேகானந்தர் இல்லம்) (or Vivekananda House, also called Ice House (Tamil: ஐஸ் ஹவுஸ்), Castle Kernan, etc.) is a structure at Chennai, India, used by the British to store ice brought from Great Lakes in North America for about 30 years.

Ice King Frederic Tudor built an ice house at Madras facing the Bay of Bengal in 1842 as part of his ice business. Around 1880, the business collapsed and the building was sold to Biligiri Iyengar of Madras. Biligiri Iyengar was a famous advocate in the Madras High Court and was fairly well-to-do in those times. He remodelled the house, renamed it Castle Kernan after his friend, Justice Kernan in the Madras High Court and used it as a residence.[2]

When Swami Vivekananda visited Madras in 1897 after his return from the West, Iyengar, being a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, made him stay at the Ice House. Vivekananda stayed at the Ice House between 6 February 1897 to 14 February 1897. During his nine-day stay, he shook India’s national consciousness through his fiery lectures at Chennai. When Vivekananda was about to depart, he agreed to his disciples' request to set up a permanent centre at the Ice House.

Later, Ramakrishna Math (Monastery) Chennai was founded by Swami Ramakrishnananda, a brother disciple of Swami Vivekananda. The mission activities continued till 1906. The Math functioned from here during its first 10 years (1897–1906) until it got moved to the current location at Mylapore, Chennai and the property came up for mortgage and was purchased by a zamindar.

In 1914, Ice House was acquired by the Government of Madras as part of their social welfare scheme to function as the hostel and training school for the child widow's home run by Sister R. S. Subbalakshmi, a social reformer and educationist.

In 1963, during the Birth Centenary of Swami Vivekananda, the Government of Tamil Nadu renamed the Castle Kernan as Vivekanandar Illam (Illam means house in Tamil) or 'Vivekananda House'. In 1997, on the eve of the Centenary of Swamiji’s return to India (and his stay at House), the Government of Tamil Nadu at the request of the Ramakrishna Math, leased out the Vivekananda House and it’s valid up to 2020.

Swami Vivekananda (on the chair, third from left) and Biligiri Iyengar (on the floor, second from left) at the Ice House in 1897


Spherical in shape and rising to three-storeys, Vivekananda House stands majestically on the busy Kamarajar Salai and it’s a well-known landmark in modern-day Chennai. It finds a mention in Madras, The Architectural Heritage, an INTACH [Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage] Guide for the architecturally important buildings in Chennai. The Vivekananda House structure is distinctive and has several unique features. Though it has undergone several changes over the course of time in terms of spatial functionality, styles and the materials used, it stands out as an important monument connecting contemporary times to the days when it was built. This is reflected clearly in its distinct architectural features such as the circular core, the semicircular corridors, the hemispherical dome and the square plan.


Phase 1

Cultural heritage of India (Paintings)

43 paintings of exquisite artistry trace the evolution of our culture from Vedic times to the advent of Sri Ramakrishna. While other great cultures of history like those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome have flashed across the sky for a while like meteors and vanished, the stream of Indian culture flows on uninterrupted down the ages. Unity in diversity is its saving principle which has enabled it to tolerate, accept and absorb into itself the best in the other cultures. These paintings are colorful commentaries on the secret of the longevity of our culture. They illustrate the reach and range of India's spiritual heritage. Every region in the land, for over 4000 years, has bequeathed something rich to Indian culture and contribution of Tamil Nadu in this regard is quite substantial. One section, therefore is devoted to elucidate how Tamil Nadu has enriched the national heritage. The Vedas, the Epics and the Puranas come alive in these paintings. Adornin the exhibition are also some special paintings and models by well-known artists of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and New Delhi.

Swami Vivekananda (Photo Gallery)

The large circular verandah exhibits 120 photographs relating to Swamiji from his days as an itinerant monk to his spiritual conquest of the West, which has become a part of World History. Rare photos are on display, elegantly laminated, with English and Tamil sub-titles and footnotes. These serve to remind the devotees and admirers some of the striking incidents in the life of Swamiji. They have been donated by the Vedanta Society of St. Louis, U.S.A., and are remarkable for their sharpness and clarity, though taken a century ago.

The walls are embellished with the aesthetically handcrafted plaques with floral motifs, and the circular walls proclaim the thrilling messages and exhortations Swamiji gave on different occasions. They have become quotable quotes in the hands of great writers and speakers, since they are as relevant as today when uttered a century ago.

Swami Vivekananda's Room

It is in a room on the second floor that Swamiji stayed in February 1897. This room, full of sacred memories, is now maintained as a meditation room. Anyone who sits here even for a few minutes cannot but feel the 'peace that passeth understanding'. Meditation can be done here comfortably seated.

Show Room

Books by and on Swamiji and photos of Swamiji with his Quotations are available for sale.

Phase 2

Experience Vivekananda Project

As part of 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai is launching Experience Vivekananda, a project to promote the personality and ideology of Swami Vivekananda using state-of-the-art multimedia gallery at Vivekananda House.

Short Inspirational videos, 3D animated movie clips and a Holographic presentation on Swami Vivekananda's life and message will help in motivating the modern youth. The "Experience Vivekananda" project also focuses on enhancing the Art exhibition on Indian Culture so as to get the public assimilate our rich cultural and spiritual heritage as envisioned by Swami Vivekananda. A Meditation Room where Swami Vivekananda stayed in 1897 will be preserved with utmost sanctity. Social welfare activities conducted at Vivekananda House will also be expanded in a larger scale.

With the Experience Vivekananda Project coming alive, the following changes are much awaited

The Indian Culture – In the Eyes of Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda, a great proponent of revival of ancient Indian culture rich in its spiritual, philosophical and cultural heritage, firmly believed that its resurgence will help in removing the problems plaguing the modern society. An effort has been made at Vivekanandar Illam through exquisite paintings by eminent artists to chronologically depict these grand traditions from the Vedic to the present times.The proposed plan is to enhance the art gallery by introducing fiberglass models and dioramas illustrating turning points of our cultural heritage.

The Making of Vivekananda

Sri Ramakrishna, the master and mentor of Swami Vivekananda, stands as 'the consummation of five thousand years of the spiritual life of three hundred million people of India.' 'Making of Vivekananda' would present how the traditions of India that consummated in Sri Ramakrishna got transmitted to young Narendranath and transformed him into Swami Vivekananda.

The Man and His Message – Vivekananda's Personality and Ideology

Photo Exhibit of Swami Vivekananda's life, from his childhood, training under Sri Ramakrishna, itinerant days, his appearance at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, return to India, triumphal reception given in Madras and other parts of India, founding of Ramakrishna Mission, his second visit to the West, return to India and passing away in 1902. All the photos are in black and white, and are displayed on laminated frames affixed on wall panels.

     View short videos of Swami Vivekananda to know more about him and his teachings.

     Experience Vivekananda in 3D his lecture: My Message to the Youth. Refer India's first 3D stereoscopic movie on Vivekananda [3]

     Watch Vivekananda come alive in a 3D Holographic Display delivering a lecture on My Rousing Call to the Hindu Nation.

     Interact with slideshow of Vivekananda through gestures.

The World Mover – Vivekananda's influence in the Modern World

In the words of an eminent British historian,

"It is very difficult to evaluate his importance in the scale of world history. … In centuries to come he will be remembered as one of the main moulders of the modern world".

This new section presents the impact of Swami Vivekananda’s thoughts on national and international leaders.

The Meditation Room where Vivekananda Stayed

Swami Vivekananda stayed in this room (second floor) during his return from west in February 1897. This room, full of sacred memories, is now maintained as a meditation room. Anyone who sits here even for a few minutes cannot but feel the ‘peace that passeth understanding’. Meditation can be done here comfortably seated.


"The Vivekananda House is interesting
not only for the displays on the famous 'wandering monk',
but also for the semicircular structure in which it’s housed."


Ranked #6 of 89 Things to do in Chennai, India


Sri Ramakrishna Math conducts a number of other activities for the benefit of local population

Meditation Class

Every Saturday evening (earlier, it was Wednesday), from 7 to 8 P.M., a class on the 'Purpose and Method of Meditation' is conducted for the benefit of the general public and no fee is charged for attending it. A monk of the Ramakrishna Order conducts the class and everyone is welcome to join the class which is held in the hall next to Swami Vivekananda's room.

Yoga Class

On Sunday mornings, in the two halls in the Illam, separate Yoga classes are held for men and women. One has to register oneself beforehand to attend the class for which a nominal fee is charged.

Vivekananda Youth Forum

Personality development, especially for youths, is the need of the hour. And to this end, a meeting of local youth is held every Sunday evening at the Vivekananda House. It consists of readings from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda and discussion, Question-Answer session, group singing, prayer, voluntary work and other related activities.

Book Sales

Books on Ramakrishna-Sarada Devi-Vivekananda, Vedanta and self-improvement published by the Ramakrishna Math are kept for sale here. The visitors are welcome to go through and select the books they wish to buy. The book sale counter is located at the entrance of the Indian Culture Art Exhibit.

Computer Center

A computer center has been functioning in the two adjacent rooms in the rear portion of the Illam building. Training in basic computer skills is given free of charges to the poor children living near the Vivekananda House.

Coaching Center for Children

Coaching classes are held for poor school children from the vicinity so that they can be independent in completing their own assignments and are also provided guidance to improve in the subjects in which they are weak.

National Youth Day Celebrations

National Youth Day – Swami Vivekananda's birthday (Jan 12th) and the National Youth Day, is celebrated at Vivekananda House in a befitting manner every year. As part of this, recitation competitions for students, a procession and public meeting are held. Eminent persons are invited to address the gathering of students. A procession of students is also held on this occasion. India's first "Stereoscopic 3D Animated Short Movie" on Swami Vivekananda was also launched on the same day.[5]


On 12 January 2012, to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math in Chennai launched Holographic Display System (HDS) at the Vivekananda House. Designed by Inboxel, a Delhi IIT-incubated company, the HDS enables users to see Swami Vivekananda in a 3-dimensional perspective, with his silhouette delivering his great speeches aloud.

For volunteers

  Volunteers  and guide can contact the Office for registration.

Public Transport to reach here from within Chennai

V.House or Vivekananda House is a famous bus terminus in Chennai. V.House is also a stopping on the Beach Road bus corridor. Refer to Public Transport Facility to reach Vivekanandar Illam Beach Road It is near to chepak railway station . Within five minutes walk we can reach Vivekananda House.

Refer to


Phone :044-28446188. Address :Vivekananda House, Kamarajar salai(Marina beach road) Triplicane, Chennai-600 005, Tamil Nadu

See also



  1. "Vivekananda House".
  2. Nair, Sashi (2003). "Ice House through the years". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  3. Swaminathan, Atul (25 March 2012). "India's first 3D stereoscopic movie on Vivekananda". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  4. "Lonely Planet Review on Vivekananda House".
  5. "Vivekananda now on YouTube". Deccan Herald. Chennai: Deccan Herald. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 Jan 2012.


Coordinates: 13°02′57″N 80°16′49″E / 13.04917°N 80.28028°E / 13.04917; 80.28028

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 4/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.