Swami Vivekananda’s days of wandering throughout India ended when he reached Chennai in January 1893. His young, enthusiastic disciples in Chennai were primarily responsible for his historic participation at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Throughout Swamiji’s four-year-long stay in the West, he kept in close touch with his followers in Chennai. Swamiji was given a grand reception on his return from the West in February 1897. During that period, he stayed for nine days at the Ice House (now Vivekanandar Illam). When his devotees in Chennai requested him to start a permanent centre in the city, he readily agreed and deputed his brother disciple, Swami Ramakrishnananda, to initiate the Order’s activities in southern India.
Swami Ramakrishnananda was a great thinker, an erudite scholar, a forceful speaker. Above all, he was a God-realized saint. He not only founded Sri Ramakrishna Math in Chennai but was also responsible for spreading the movement throughout parts of southern India. The various activities that the Math carries on today were initiated by the great Swami himself.
According to Swami Vivekananda’s wishes, Swami Ramakrishnananda arrived in Chennai in March 1897. He stayed at a rented house in Triplicane for a few months. Then he came to the Ice House. The Math was based at the Ice House up until the end of 1907. Then it shifted to Mylapore, to a building constructed on a plot gifted by Sri A. Kondiah Chettiar, a close devotee of the Math. Surrounding plots were acquired in subsequent years. Due to structural damage to the existing building, another building was constructed and this building was consecrated by Swami Brahmananda, the first President of Ramakrishna Order, in the year 1917. This remains now as the ‘Old Temple’. Apart from the fact that the Math in Chennai was founded by Swami Ramakrishnananda, who lived here for a long time, the Math was also sanctified by the visits of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Swamis Brahmananda, Premananda, Shivananda, Abhedananda and Vijnanananda, all direct disciples of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna.