11 May 2014

Swami Vivekananda's Education Life

The topic of our this article is Swami Vivekananda's education life.

 In this first section of this article we'll discuss the schools and colleges Narendranath Datta (pre-monastic name of Swami Vivekananda) attended.
In the second section, you'll find Narendranath's examination marksheets.
And in the third and the last section we'll discuss on Swamiji's examination results.

Swami Vivekananda's school and college
Calcutta Chapter 1871—1877
Swami Vivekananda was born Narendranath Datta on 12 January 1863. In 1871, when he was eight years old, he was enrolled at Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's Metropolitan Institution. He continued his schooling at Metropolitan Institution till 1877, when his family moved to Raipur, Madhya Pradesh.

Raipur Chapter 1877—1879
In Raipur the Datta family stayed from 1877 to 1879. Most probably Narendranath did not attend any school at Raipur. Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya wrote in his book Swami Vivekananda in India: A Corrective Biography
There was no school in a remote place like Raipur. So he spent time with his father. It was not only academic. They used to talk and argue a lot during their one-and-half year's stay. Some educated and learned people used to visit their home. Among them Mahendranath remembered Roy Bahadur Bhutnath De, father of future linguist Harinath De, who lived in the same building with them. . .

Calcutta Chapter 1879 High School Graduation
Swami Vivekananda
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
In 1879, the Datta family moved back to Calcutta. Again, we'll follow Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya's Corrective Biography (most of the biographies have unclear infromation, for example, Swami Nikhilananda wrote in his Swami Vivekananda – A Biography
In 1879 the family returned to Calcutta, and Narendra within a short time graduated from high school in the first division. In the meantime he had read a great many standard books of English and Bengali literature.
It is not clear which school he joined after returning to Calcutta. Anyway, Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya has given us details. He wrote, after returning to Calcutta at 1879, Narendranath applied for readmission at his old school Metropolitan Institution. The school authority was initially reluctant, but later accepted him. Narendranath passed school leaving examination in the First Division from Metropolitan Institution in 1879.
We find support for this information in William Radice's book Swami Vivekananda and the Modernisation of Hinduism too.

1879 Presidency College
In 1879, after passing school examination, Narendranath entered the Presidency College, Calcutta. Again Nikhilananda's information is unclear here. He wrote—
. . . in 1879 Narendranath entered the Presidency College of Calcutta for higher studies. After a year he joined the General Assembly's Institution, founded by the Scottish General Missionary Board and later known as the Scottish Church College.
There is not much information why Narendranath left Presidency College. We get some information in Life And Philosophy Of Swami Vivekananda, written by Gopal Shrinivas Banhatti. Banhatti wrote—
. . . Presidency College, Calcutta, which Vivekananda attended so irregularly that he was not sent for the B.A. degree though he had passed the examination

1880—1884 Scottish Church College
Very soon, Narendranath left Presidency College and joined General Assembly's Institution (now known as Scottish Church College) and studied Philosophy. In 1881, he passed F. A. examinations.[1] In 1885, he earned his B. A. degree[2] from the same college.

Swami Vivekananda's examination results/marksheet
Now, we'll start our second section — Swami Vivekananda's examination results/marksheet. The immediate source of these information is Manishankar Mukhopadhyay's The Monk as Man: The Unknown Life of Swami Vivekananda.

Entrance Examination 1879

SubjectFull MarksMarks obtained

Fine Arts Examination 1881

SubjectFull MarksMarks obtained

Bachelor of Arts Examination 1884

SubjectFull MarksMarks obtained

Please DO NOT judge Swamiji's examination marks following the present education system
This is the last section of this article. In many internet forums, discussions I have seen people commenting like—
  • "Oh, Swamiji obtained only 56 out of 100 in his F.A. and B. A. examinations."
  • "45% in psychology — very poor marks".
Manishankar Mukhopadhyay, in his book, tried to encourage the students who are disappointed with their grades that Swamji too had low grades.

Now please note,
You read above that Swamiji obtained 206 out of 400 in the Entrance examination, that is slightly more than 50%.

But did you know that. . .
He was the only student of his school that year to obtain first division marks? Source: Gopal Shrinivas Banhatti's Life And Philosophy Of Swami Vivekananda. Banhatti wrote—
Naren passed the Entrance Examination in the first division, being the only student of his school to be so distinguished.

Someone obtained slightly more than 50% marks, and became "the only student of his school to be so distinguished". Is not it surprising?

Education system has changed, evaluation procedure has changed, I feel, we should not judge Swamiji's examination marks following our current education system.

But, of course, there will be some writers, who'll start Swamiji's Reassessment, and will try defaming Swamiji saying he received only 50% in the Entrance examination, without being aware that that was the best marks in his school that year.

See also

You may read this article too—
Swami Vivekananda on "Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana"


  1. F. A. means Fine Arts. It is similar to current Higher Secondary or 10+2 examination.
  2. B. A. means Bachelor of Arts. It is similar to current graduation or 10+2+3 examination.


We have studied the following books to collect information for this article—

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This page was last updated on: 11 May 2014, 12:32 pm IST (UTC+5:30 hours)
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  1. The % of marks doesn't value as that's the score one is given for the training government is providing to fit into the system since age 3 1/2....so it clearly shows he was not interested in the structured education but in cosmic one...unlike most he was not a parrot...but an enlightened soul...love this one to bits...reminded me of my spiritual growth probably not as powerful as his but somewhere at the corner ringing and standing tall with its uniqueness....

    1. That's a good comment. Yes, Swamiji was not satisfied with India's that time's education system:

  2. The % of marks doesn't value as that's the score one is given for the training government is providing to fit into the system since age 3 1/2....so it clearly shows he was not interested in the structured education but in cosmic one...unlike most he was not a parrot...but an enlightened soul...love this one to bits...reminded me of my spiritual growth probably not as powerful as his but somewhere at the corner ringing and standing tall with its uniqueness....

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Sea dont need a drop of water

  5. sea doent need a drop offf water

  6. I am 80 and even in my days in India, 65 - 60 years ago (shortly after Independence), the examination papers had essay type questions and answers were essays. The length of the answers depended on how much the student knew about the subject and how well he/she could write. 60% score was first class, and 34% was pass. The 'multiple choice" answers for examination (call them "tic-tac-toe" system) had not arrived in India. There was no "negative scoring" - in which if you made one mistake, you lost one point, if you made 10 mistakes, you lost 10 points and got a score of 90 and "A" grade! How wonderful. Making mistakes is no big deal! In USA, these days, the promotion through high school is almost "social." Every child moves with the class - prepared or not and unprepared students finally drop out of high school. "No child left behind" has not solved it. Education also has to do with family and society and culture; it is not just schools,teachers, programs and facilities. In short, Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) was obviously a gifted child (witness the acumen he showed later) who was also fortunate to be born in a well to do and highly educated family with educated friends and other family members. The rest is history.

  7. Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya30 April 2018 at 13:14

    This is Prof. Rajagopal Chattopadhyaya from Calcutta, author of 'SV in India : A Corrective Biography' (1999). Thank you for citing my book, but Narendranath's marks in various examinations were first published by late Sailendranath Dhar in his 'Comprehensive Biography' (1975, 1990), as I have mentioned. However, it lay hidden in his footnotes (or references). Actually, most readers learned about those mediocre results from my 'Corrective Biography' (pp.30-31) and even earlier from my Bengali book, 'Mythmukta Vivekananda' (1998, p.14). Therefore Manishanker got this info from my books, as not many had bothered to read Dhar's footnotes. I have not read Gopal Shrinivas Banhatti's book so I don't know how he came to the conclusion that Narendranath was the only one to obtain first class from Metropolitan Institution in 1879. I don't see how the discussions by Piusa or Hitesh are relevant, when late Swami Gambhirananda (famous biographer and president of the Ramakrishna Math & Mission) has admitted that Narendranath's results were mediocre by contemporary standards.


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