In India, there was a time when childless couples performed penance and went on pilgrimages praying to their family deity for the birth of a child. There were no IVF or test-tube baby technologies then to replace Hiranyagarbha (who according to our scriptures, is the dispenser of the fruits of our karma, including our fortune in having progeny)! And India's spiritual history shows that such prayers were answered with extraordinary results sometimes, which no technology has been able to match even today.
The birth of a genius like Adi Sankara was preceded by his parents' visit to the famous Vadakkunathan Shiva temple in Thrissur, where they prayed for a son. In answer to their prayers, Siva appeared in a dream to Sankara's father and asked him to choose between a dull witted son who would live long and an intelligent son who would have a short lifespan. And we know what the wise father chose. Similarly, the parents of Sri Ramanujacharya performed a yajna at the Parthasarathi temple at Triplicane in Madras seeking a son. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was born after his father obtained the grace of Vishnu at Gaya during his pilgrimage.
Can the birth of a world-mover like Swami Vivekananda's be an exception to this tradition? Smt. Bhuvaneswari Devi, the wife of Sri Viswanath Datta was longing for a son after three of her children, a son and two daughters died in early childhood. She longed for a son and sent word to an old aunt in Varanasi to make special offerings to Vireswara Siva on every Monday for a period of one year. Bhuvaneswari Devi would also perform austerities on every Monday at her family shrine in Kolkata. It was believed that on completion of this one year vow, the prayers of childless couples would be answered.
One night, Bhuvaneswari Devi had a vivid dream. She saw Shiva himself take the form of a male child and come to her. Soon after, on January 12, 1863, she gave birth to the babe who would later on become the great Swami Vivekananda. It was a Makara Sankranti Day and the whole of India was immersed in worship and celebrations, thus welcoming the auspicious birth of the mahatma.
As he was born with the grace of Vireswara Siva, Bhuvaneswari Devi named him as 'Vireshwar' and the family fondly called him 'Bileh.' Later on, he assumed the name of Narendranath Dutta.
To be continued