After the passing away of Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Narendranath along with other young disciples took the formal vows of sannyasa. He assumed the name Swami Vividishananda. However later at the behest of Ajit Singh, the Maharaja of Khetri, he took the name Vivekananda. Along with the other disciples Vivekananda began to live together in a dilapidated building at Baranagar in North Kolkata. After establishing the new monastic order, Vivekananda heard the inner call for a greater mission in his life. He wished to spread the messages of his master's to the modern world and to India in particular.
So in the middle of 1890, after receiving the blessings of Sri Sarada Devi, the divine consort of Sri Ramakrishna, known to the world as Holy Mother, who was then staying in Kolkata, Swamiji left Baranagar Math as a Parivrajaka or wandering monk and embarked on a long journey of exploration and discovery of India. With his sole possession of a kamandalu (water pot), staff, and his two favorite books-Bhagavad Gita and The Imitation of Christ Swamiji travelled the length and breadth of India for five years. He visited all the key centers of learning, acquainting himself with the diverse religious traditions and culture of social life. During his travels all over India, Swami Vivekananda was deeply moved to see the appalling poverty and backwardness of the masses and resolved to uplift the nation.
Swami Vivekananda in Northern India
Swamiji began his journey from Varanasi considering it to the holiest place in India. He visited the temples and paid his respects to many holy men like Trailanga Swami and Swami Bhaskarananda. After Varanasi he visited many other places like Ayodhya, Lucknow, Agra, Vrindavan, Hathras and Rishikesh. While on his visit to Haridwarhe met Sharat Chandra Gupta at Hatras. He was the station master who later took up the name Sadananda and became Swamiji's disciple. He also visited Baidyanath, Allahabadand Ghazipur.
Swami Vivekananda in Himalayas
Swamiji continued his journey as a wandering monk to other places like Nainital, Almora, Srinagar, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar and the Himalayas. During these travels, he met his brother monks -Swami Brahmananda, Saradananda, Turiyananda, Akhandananda and Advaitananda.
Swami Vivekananda in Rajputana
At the end of January 1891, the Swami left his brother monks and journeyed to Delhi alone. There he visited the palaces, mosques, and tombs. He next proceeded towards the historic Rajputana. He also visited Alwar, Jaipur, Ajmer. In Ajmer he visited the palace of Akbar and the famous Dargah and left for Mount Abu. At Mount Abu, he met the maharaja, Ajit Singh of Khetri, who later became one of his devoted disciples.
Swami Vivekananda in Western India
Swamijee continued his journey to western India where he visited Gujarat and Kathiawar. In Ahmedabad he refreshed his knowledge of Jainism. He spent eleven months in Porbandar and especially enjoyed the company of the Prime Minister, Pandit Sankar Pandurang who was a great Sanskrit scholar. Swamiji continued his journey visiting places like Wadhwan, Limbdi, Junagadh, Girnar, Kutch, Porbander, Dwaraka, Palitana, Nadiad where he stayed at Diwan Haridas Desai's house Nadiad ni haveli and Vadodara. Swamiji next came to Khandwa where he for the first time expressed willingness to participate in the Parliament of Religions to be held shortly in Chicago. He later traveled to Mahabaleshwar and then to Pune. After visiting Mumbai, Puna, and Kolhapur, the Swami arrived at Belgaum. While in Mumbai he met Swami Abhedananda.
In a Pune bound train he met Bal Gangadhar Tilak and stayed with him for three days. Swamji before travelling to south India visited other places like Panaji, Margao in Goa and Dharward. From there he went to Bengaluru, in Mysore State.
Swami Vivekananda in Southern India
At Bangalore, the Swami became acquainted with Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, the Dewan of Mysore state. He later stayed at the palace as guest of the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wodeyar. There he also addressed a meeting of Sanskrit scholars and gained their applause for his knowledge of Vedanta.
From Bengaluru, he visited Trichur, Kodungalloor, Ernakulam. At Ernakulam, he met Chattampi Swamikal, contemporary of Narayana Guru in early December 1892. He went to Malabar and then to Thiruvananthapuram. On the Christmas Eve of 1892 Swamiji set his foot on Kanyakumari. At Kanyakumari, the Swami meditated on the "last bit of Indian rock", famously known later as the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, for three days. At Kanyakumari, Vivekananda had the "Vision of one India", also commonly called "The Kanyakumari resolve of 1892"
From Kanyakumari he visited Rameshwaram where he met the Raja of Ramnad, Bhaskara Setupati, to whom he had a letter of introduction. The Raja became the Swami's disciple and The Raja urged the Swami to represent India at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago and promised to help him in his venture. From there he went Madurai and Puducherry and then travelled to Chennai. There he met his devoted disciples who played important roles in collecting funds for Swami's voyage to America. With the help of funds collected by his Madras disciples and Rajas of Mysore, Ramnad, Khetri, Dewans and other followers Vivekananda left for Chicago on 31 May 1893 from Mumbai.