Quinton Memorial Hall: Where Swami Vivekananda set foot in 1901
Shillong's Iconic Structures, Episode XXXIII
Khyndai Lad or Police Bazar may give the impression of a busy and congested commercial area to tourists but, little do they know that within this vast land that is abuzz with different kinds of activities on a daily basis, there lies a centre of learning and devotion in the middle of it all – introducing the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Cultural Centre.
In this episode of Shillong’s Iconic Structures, allow us to enlighten you about the history and journey of the Quinton Memorial Hall, presently known as the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Cultural Centre.
Located at Quinton Road, just opposite the Police Reserve, this centre officially became a vocational institution in 1993 but its history dates back to 1901.
In a previous episode, we had already dwelled minutely on the history of the Ramakrishna Mission in Shillong and the several social services that it has been rendering to the people of Meghalaya since 1924.
In the present episode, our focus will be on the Quinton Memorial Hall – the same hall where Swami Vivekananda delivered his last public lecture on April 27, 1901 during his visit to Shillong. The occasion also marked the inauguration of the Quinton Memorial Hall.
In his speech, Swami Vivekananda spoke at length about providing service to fellow human beings. According to a documentary film produced by Ramakrishna Mission Shillong recently, Swami Vivekananda was quoted as saying, “First is to give alms to help the physical body with food and clothing, second is to give training on knowledge like teaching in a school and the third is to show to the human soul the way to God’s realisation… our work in India now is to open the eyes of the people.”
Spread across 1.5 acres of land, the Quinton Memorial Hall was once managed by the Quinton Memorial Trust until April 28, 1992 when it passed a resolution to hand over the property to Ramakrishna Mission in Shillong.
But during this time, the trust was engaged in a legal tussle over land ownership. It was not until 1993 that the Trust regained possession of the land and subsequently, handed over to the Mission.
How times have changed
From a semi-wooden and semi-concrete hall with pitch roofing and a large campus, over the years, the hall has transformed into a centre that connects different communities through education and art.
On the same spot where the old hall once stood, a new two-storeyed building with close resemblances to the old one was constructed and it was named the Vivekananda Cultural Centre. It is a wing of the Ramakrishna Mission Shillong. Its services were expanded in 2002 after the completion of the present building.
This centre works on activities to mould the youths in accordance with the ideologies of Vivekananda. It offers courses in computer training, drawing and painting, Sanskrit, spiritual discourses, youth forum where youth in the age-group of 15-35 gather in the institute on Sundays for self-development and discussion of relevant issues, English language and on communication skills. At present, about 6000 students are enrolled in the centre every year.
The institute also houses the first computerised public library with about 13,500 books and a number of journals, magazines and newspapers.
A seed of wisdom and all-encompassing devotion to mankind that was sowed by Swami Vivekananda in 1901 bore fruits decades later; credit goes to the Ramakrishna Mission for its continuing efforts to uplift the standard of education and skill development in the state.