Activities of the Ashrama along the lines laid down by Swami Vivekananda – "Atmano Mokshartham Jagadhitaya cha" or "for the liberation of self & welfare of the world."
During his parivrajaka days, Swami Vivekananda visited Belgaum, in north Karnataka, where he stayed from 15 to 27 October 1892. Swamiji’s 13-day stay in Belgaum revolved around two buildings where he stayed as a guest—Bhate’s house and Haripada Mitra’s house. His first 4 days at Belgaum (15 to 18) were spent as a guest of a lawyer of the city, Shri Sadashiv Balakrishna Bhate.
Reminiscences of the visit of Swamiji to Bhate’s house have been noted down by Prof. G. S. Bhate, the son of Shri Sadashiv B. Bhate, who at that time was a small boy. These can be read in Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda published by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata.
This house, popularly referred to as the Bhate’s House, was sold in the early 20th century to Shri Dattatreya B. Belvi (Dattopant Belvi), another famous lawyer of the city. Shri Dattopant Belvi was a follower and associate of Lokamanya Tilak and involved himself in the activities of the Indian National Congress during the freedom struggle. He was also the president of the Karnataka Unit of Home Rule League. He was involved in organizing the Congress Session held in Belgaum in December 1924. Numerous leaders of that time including Mahatma Gandhiji, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Lala Lajpat Rai, Dr. Annie Besant, G B Pant, Chittaranjan Das, Sarojini Naidu, and others are believed to have visited this house either during the Congress Session or at other times.
In 1987 one third of the house including the room where Swami Vivekananda had stayed was gifted by Shri Balwant D. Belvi, the son of Shri Dattopant Belvi, to an independent group of devotees of Ramakrishna Movement based in Karwar in Karnataka. In 2006, this was transferred to the Ramakrishna Mission, which started a sub-centre there. The room where Swami Vivekananda stayed has been maintained as a shrine. The shrine also has a cot, a large mirror and a walking stick used by Swamiji that have been preserved there.
In 2014, the remaining portion of the house was purchased from its owner (the grandson of Shri Dattopant Belvi), thus making the Ramakrishna Mission the owner of the entire house.
As the Bhate’s House was partitioned among the descendants of Shri Dattopant Belvi, numerous partition walls and additional structures were raised both inside and outside the house for the convenience of the occupants. Over the years, due to indifferent maintenance, the structure developed cracks and weaknesses in different areas. Also due to a fire in May 2013, a portion of the top floor was burnt and required urgent repair.
It was felt that urgent restoration was required, to (i) strengthen and prevent further deterioration of the structure & (ii) to remove additional structures and restore the house to its original form when Swami Vivekananda stayed there.
After the Mission took possession of the entire house towards the end of October 2014, the restoration work was initiated. The restoration involves using laterite bricks and methods existing in those days for making lime mortar and seasoned wood.
Once complete, the house will be dedicated as a Memorial in the name of Swami Vivekananda. It will contain a museum-exhibition on Swami Vivekananda—his life and message. The museum will also include
exhibits portraying the spiritual/cultural heritage of India and a separate section throwing light on the role of Belgaum and its citizens in the freedom struggle. The upper portion of the house will also contain a small shrine and meditation room adjacent to the room where Swami Vivekananda had stayed.
Proposed future developments will include purchase of a vacant plot of land right next to the main house (which will provide much needed space around the house) and construction of buildings for carrying out some educational & welfare activities of the Mission on a piece of land behind the main house, donated to Ramakrishna Mission by the Government of Karnataka.
There is a need for the large-hearted support of the public to establish and develop this house where Swamiji stayed, to highlight the life and message of the great Swami and conduct activities for the service of the society.