Sri Ramakrishna, the God-man of modern India, was born on 18 February 1836 at Kamarpukur in the Hooghly district in India. His parents Khudiram and Srimati Chandramoni were exceptionally devoted persons and earned the love and respect of the villagers for their charity, truthfulness and kindness. Sri Ramakrishna’s early name was Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya or Gadai and later known as Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Paramhansa is a title of honor applied to Hindu spiritual teachers who have become enlightened. He learnt some lessons in the village pathshala but he was not very much interested in it. Sri Ramakrishna experienced spiritual ecstasies from a young age and was influenced by several religious traditions, including devotion toward the Goddess Kali, Tantra, Bhakti and Advaita Vedanta. Gadadhar was seven years old when his father died. At the age of sixteen, Gadadhar came to Calcutta (now Kolkata) with his elder brother Ramkumar, who wished his assistance in his priestly duties. At that time a rich widow named Rani Rasmani built a temple for the goddess Kali on the eastern bank of the Ganga at Dakshineswar. Being invited by Rasmani, Ramkumar with his brother Gadadhar came to the sacred temple garden and Gadadhar found greater opportunities to pursue his spiritual practices. In 1855 Ramakrishna was appointed as the priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, built by Rani Rashmoni. To Sri Ramakrishna, the image of Kali was not an inert stone, but the Mother herself. Rani Rashmani was greatly attracted to Sri Ramakrishna, for she felt that his strange behaviour was for the fullness of devotion to goddess Kali. Sri Ramakrishna had a catholic spirit from the very beginning and he made no distinction between one form of God in Hinduism to another in Islam or Christianity. Rumours spread to Kamarpukur that Ramakrishna had become unstable as a result of his spiritual practices at Dakshineswar. Ramakrishna’s mother and his elder brother Rameswar decided to get Ramakrishna married, thinking that marriage would be a good steadying influence upon him—by forcing him to accept responsibility and to keep his attention on normal affairs rather than his spiritual practices and visions. Ramakrishna himself mentioned that they could find the bride at the house of Ramchandra Mukherjee in Jayrambati, three miles to the northwest of Kamarpukur. The five-year-old bride, Saradamani Mukhopadhyay (later known as Sarada Devi; she is also considered as an avatar) was found, and the marriage was duly solemnised in 1859. Ramakrishna was twenty-three at this point, but this age difference for marriage was typical for nineteenth-century rural Bengal. They later spent three months together in Kamarpukur. Sarada Devi was fourteen, while Ramakrishna was thirty-two. Ramakrishna became a very influential figure in Sarada’s life, and she became a strong follower of his teachings. After the marriage, Sarada stayed at Jayrambati and joined Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar at the age of eighteen.
To spread his message to the world around Sri Ramakrishna needs a strong instrument. And such an instrument was found in Narendranath Dutta, his beloved Naren, later known to the world as Swami Vivekananda.
The last days of Sri Ramkrishna were with his devoted disciples. Ramakrishna’s condition gradually worsened, and he died in the early morning hours of 16 August 1886 at the Cossipore garden house. According to his disciples, this was mahasamadhi. After the death of their master, the monastic disciples led by Vivekananda formed a fellowship at a half-ruined house at Baranagar near the river Ganges, with the financial assistance of the householder disciples. This became the first Math or monastery of the disciples who constituted the first Ramakrishna Order.
Categories: Culture and History, Education, World
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