About Ramakrishna Math, Barasat
Ramakrishna Math, Barasat, a branch centre of Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math, Howrah, West Bengal is running with its motto, “Atmano Mokshartham Jagaddhitaya Cha” i.e. “Liberation of oneself and wellbeing of others”. At present it has the following activities to fulfill the motto –
- Daily Puja of Shree Ramakrishna, Shree Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda in temple,
- Daily religious and scriptural classes after evening arati and chanting, group reading from hymns, scriptures or songs at morning in the temple,
- A library with 5718 books, 20 periodicals and 3 daily newspapers is used by devotees, students, scholars etc.,
- A show-Room of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Vedanta literature,
- A Charitable Dispensary with multifarious departments mainly for the poor and needy people,
- Yearly celebrations like Durga-Puja, Kali-Puja, special puja on the birth-tithis of Shree Ramakrishna, Shree Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda, Public Celibration centering the holy-trio and Mahapurush Maharaj,
- Occasional Diksha-Programme where spiritual aspirants are initiated with Mantra-Diksha by Revered Vice-Presidents or other senior Revered monks of Ramakrishna Math.
Daily Puja of Shree Ramakrishna, Shree Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda are performed in the temple to keep alive the flame of spiritual thinkings among the hearts of devotees and sadhus. The temple is kept open
from 4.00 am to 11.45 am and 4.00 pm to 8.45 pm for the months of April to September &
from 4.30 am to 11.45 am and 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm for the months of October to March. At the very dawn just after opening of the temple Mangalarati, in the morning puja and in the evening evening-arati are performed. Evening-arati is performed with chorus aratrika-bhajan sung by hundreds of devotees and sadhus. The devotees can do their meditation and japa at any time in the temple when it is opened.
Religious and Scriptural Classes
Two times a day daily scriptures are discussed in the temple in two ways. i) In the morning the devotees chant from parts of Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagabad Gita or hymns in chorus, devotional chorus songs are also sung. Readings from some religious books like Gospel of Shree Ramakrishna are also done. ii) In the evening after evening-arati of Shree Ramakrishna, any of the scriptures like Bhagabad Gita, Bhagabatam, any Upanisad, The Great Master, Gospel of Shree Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi are read and discussed by any monk or scholar as per scheduled programme. There these scriptures are discussed in the light of Shree Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
The Library of Ramakrishna Math, Barasat which is known as Shivananda Library is enriched with Ramakrishna –Vivekananda-Vedanta literature, literature of eminent writers like Rabindranath, Bankim Chandra, Madhusudan, Sarat Chandra, Bibhutibhusan etc., books on science and other different subjects. Any person can use the Free-Reading-Room and can use any book at the running time of the library. Anybody can lend a book to his home by being a member. For being a member one has to deposit a sum of Rs.100/- as security charge or caution money and has to pay Rs.20/- as yearly charge. Library is kept closed on Monday and it is kept open two times a day for all other days from 9.00 am to 11.30 am and 4.00 pm to 5.00 or 6.00 pm. At present average daily attendance in Reading Room is 15 and total number of members is 287.
A Show-Room of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Vedanta Literature
To spread the ideas and ideals of Vedanta as interpreted by the life and teachings of Shree Ramakrishna, a show-Room of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda & Vedanta literature has been initiated from where any such book can be purchased. Devotees or any other eager person on the subject can collect any such literature to keep it for his / her own possession.
Ramakrishna Math, Barasat runs a Charitable Dispensary with departments of i) Allopathic, ii) Homeopathy, iii) Ayurvedic, iv) Physiotherapy with the specialist doctors in i) Medicine, ii) Gynecology, iii) Eye, iv) Orthopedic, v) Gastrology, vi) Sonology, vii) Radiology, viii) Audiology, ix) Dental etc. with free medicine and other cost as far as possible. Here 1) Pathology 2) ECG, 3) X- ray and 4) Ultrasonography tests are supplied with very lower rate and sometimes free of cost for the wretched people and in the last year i.e. 2015-16, the number of total patients was more than 50,000 (fifty thousand). Medical treatments are catered also in the distant places twice a week with its Mobile-Unit.
Every year distress-relief is done by distributing cloth, garments etc. among poor people just before Durga-Puja. In the last year i.e. in 2015-16 cloth and garments were distributed among 712 poor people. Similarly blankets are distributed at the starting of every winter season, in the year 2015-16, 300 blankets were distributed among 300 families. Relief-Works are done in necessity during the natural calamity. During the Tornado-Relief in last year at Ashokenagar and Habra zone of District North 24 Parganas, relief materials like Tripal, Bucket, Umbrella, Blanket, Shari, Utensils etc. household materials worth Rs. 3,56,471/- have been distributed among 320 families.
Yearly Celebrations are organized with the following occasions – i) Durga-Puja: At the time of greatest joyous festivals of the Bengali, this Math arrange the worship of Divine-Mother-Durga in image for the well being of devotees and common people as a whole. Kumari-Puja is also performed during this time. Cooked Prasad was distributed among 7000 devotees during the last year i.e. 2015-16 Durga-Puja. ii) Kali-Puja is also performed during the scriptural prescribed time – in the night of Kartick-Amabasya. Devotees can spend the whole night with meditation, japa etc. in the Puja-Pandal. Iii) The Birth-Tithi-Pujas of Shree Ramakrishna, Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda are performed with great solemnity and gravity by performing special puja, homa, discussion, devotional songs etc. on the auspices days. Cooked prasads are distributed among the devotees on these four thiti puja days. iv) Public Celebration is performed here starting from the Holy-Mother Sarada Devi’s tithi puja up to the Mahapurush Maharaj – Swami Shivanandaji’s tithi puja, generally for 5 days. The celebration starts with morning procession where hundreds of devotees take part with colorful portraits of Shree Ramakrishna, Shree Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda. The days are passed with special puja, Prasad distribution, devotional songs, different cultural programmes etc. The main attraction of this Public-Celebration is the everyday Dharmasabha in the afternoon where discussions are done on Shree Ramakrishna, Shree Maa Sarada Devi, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Shivananda mostly by the learned senior monks, thousand of eager devotees from far and near attend the Dharmasabha to enrich their spiritual life and to satisfy them.
his visit in connection with Diksha-Programme, May 2016”
Occasionaly the Diksha-Programmes are organized in this holy birth place of Mahapurush Maharaj where the eager spiritual aspirants are blessed by getting initiation of Mantra-Diksha from Revered Vice-President Maharajas or other authorized senior monks of Ramakrishna Math.
Olden Days of Ramakrishna Math, Barasat
The present-day Ramakrishna Math, Barasat stands on the holy birth place of Swami Shivanandaji (Mahapurush Maharaj), a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Like the incarnations of God, their divine companions also come to pious parents and pure land where their pure minds get the ambience to develop in the company of the incarnations and to enlighten the masses with the new spiritual teachings of the incarnations. We can thus imagine the purity of the land of Barasat where Mahapurush Maharaj spent his childhood. The air of Barasat was also consecrated with the holy presence of Sri Ramakrishna when he passed through this town on his way to visit a few places in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Mahapurush Maharaj, an ego-less embodiment of a pure soul, himself said, “Is Barasat an ordinary place? This body (pointing to his own body) took birth there.” Ramkanai Ghosal, father of Mahapurush Maharaj, was a great Tantrika Sadhaka who was much admired even by Sri Ramakrishna. And it is on this holy land that Ramakrishna Math, Barasat came into existence. With the earnest endeavour of some sannyasins and household devotees of Mahapurush Maharaj, the Math began to take shape from the year 1954 onwards during the centenary birthday celebrations of Mahapurush Maharaj, 20 years after the death of his mortal body.
In 1954, some devotees of Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj, under the leadership of Swami Sangshuddhanandaji (Bhavataran Maharaj), purchased 30 kottahs of land with the old house of the Ghosal family where Swami Shivanandaji took birth and spent his childhood, for establishing an Ashrama. It was then named Shivananda Dham. Afterwards more land was purchased, and at present the area of the Math is about 127 sataks. The construction of the temple was initiated on 21 June 1958 under the supervision of Swami Yogatmananda. The foundation stone was laid by Srimat Swami Vishuddhanandaji Maharaj, then Vice President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Heramba Bhattacharyya, Justice BK Guha, Ashu Dey, Hirendra Chattopadhyay and others helped in construction of the temple. It was opened to the public on the holy Shankar Panchami in 1962, the birthday of Sri Shankaracharya. Many sannyasins, including Swami Kailashanandaji, Swami Shivaswarupanandaji and Swami Apurbanandaji, were present at the function. A picture of Sri Ramakrishna was installed in the temple. Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj performed the Chandipath. The Ashrama was registered in 1961 under the Society Act, and thenceforth it came to be known as Ramakrishna Shivananda Ashrama. A managing committee was formed with Justice BK Guha as president, Ashu Dey as secretary and Dhirendranath Chakraborty as assistant secretary. The tradition of performing special pujas on the holy birth tithis of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Maa Saradadevi and Swami Vivekananda, as well as Durga Puja and Kali Puja, has been continuing since the early days of the Ashrama. The first Durga Puja was held in 1958. The marble statue of Sri Ramakrishna was installed in the temple by Srimat Swami Vireswaranandaji Maharaj, then President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, on 8 May 1979. Swami Abhayanandaji, Swami Hiranmayanandaji and Swami Lokeswaranandaji were present there. On this occasion, special puja, homa, etc. were performed by Swami Hitanandaji and Swami Sulabhanandaji.
The Ashrama had to pass through much hardship in its early days due to the scarcity of funds. Then there was no sadhu at all, or only occasionally a sadhu stayed here. It was mainly with the earnest endeavour of some devotees that the Ashrama had run during these days and gradually developed. Its charitable dispensary was from the very beginning a homeopathic one. In spite of financial constraints, the Ashrama began distributing clothes among the poor before Durga Puja and blankets before the onset of winter. During these days of hardship, money earned from the sale of some valuable and useful books written by Swami Apurbanandaji Maharaj, the principal attendant of Mahapurush Maharaj who had given the copyright on the books to the Ashrama, immensely helped to keep things going. The volunteers would hawk the books to train passengers and go from door to door to collect money for the benefit of the Ashrama. From the very beginning, the Ashrama acted as a place of inspiration for the devotees in their thinking and meditation on Sri Sri Thakur. Scores of spiritual aspirants were blessed with mantra diksha (initiation) by spiritual stalwarts like Swami Yatiswaranandaji Maharaj, Swami Nirvananandaji Maharaj and Swami Kailashanandaji Maharaj at this Ashrama, even before its official acceptance by the Ramakrishna Math.
Although many monks of the Ramakrishna order had always kept close contact with this Ashrama due to its significance as the birthplace of Mahapurush Maharaj, its official affiliation as a branch of Ramakrishna Math happened on 5 February 1985. Consequently, its name was changed from Ramakrishna Shivananda Ashrama to Ramakrishna Math, Barasat. In this connection a festival was organised on 23 April 1985, where lectures were delivered by Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj and Swami Gahananandaji Maharaj. In this newly affiliated centre of Ramakrishna Math, the first initiation of mantra diksha was given by Swami Gambhiranandaji Maharaj in 1985. After the affiliation, sadhus began to stay here regularly, and the authority of the Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math appointed a monastic head of this centre. This Math thereupon started developing rapidly in different aspects.
The first head of this centre, Swami Purushananda, was sent here in December 1984. Subsequently, the post of the Adhyaksha was ornamented by Swami Puranananda, Swami Swagunananda, Swami Maheshananda, Swami Dharmadananda, Swami Shrinivashananda, Swami Muktikamananda and Swami Shantidananda successively. During this period, new buildings were constructed, such as ‘Ramakrishna Math Shatabdi Jayanti Bhavan’ (ground floor) in 1985. The foundation stone of the three-storey dispensary building was laid on 26 January 2000, and it was inaugurated on 26 January 2002 by Srimat Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. After that, the activities of the multi-department, charitable dispensary flourished rapidly with the voluntary help of devotees and doctors. Monks’ quarters on the first floor of the Shatabdi Jayanti Bhavan, cooking room for Sri Sri Thakur, quarters for senior monks, a kitchen block including the Adhyaksha’s quarters and a hall over the kitchen block were inaugurated on 3 January 2006, 14 July 2008, 5 August 2009, 3 January 2011 and 14 February 2014 respectively. The main campus of this Math, spread over nearly one acre of land and comprising the holy birth place of Srimat Swami Shivanandaji Maharaj and the sacred place of sadhana of his father Sri Ramkanai Ghosal, was handed over by Ramakrishna Shivananda Ashrama to the authority of the Ramakrishna Math, Belur Math on 30 January 1985. The present dispensary campus, situated right across Jessore Road, the highway that separates the two campuses of the Math, was purchased on 17 August 1990 from the heirs of Sri Ramkanai Ghosal. Ramakrishna Math, Barasat is steadily progressing with the ideas and ideals of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
(Most of the material has been taken from a Bengali article titled ‘Punyadham Ramakrishna Math, Barasat’, published in ‘Mukhapatra 2007–08’, the annual souvenir of Ramakrishna Math, Barasat.)