Home > Building, General Knowledge > 226/365 – Vivekanandar Illam

226/365 – Vivekanandar Illam

Vivekanandar Illam, 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 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.

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 1917, Ice House was acquired by the Government of Madras as part of their social welfare scheme after which the house functioned as training school for women and a hostel for widows.

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.


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.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivekanandar_Illam

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