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187th Birth Anniversary of Ramakrishna Paramahansa


Dr Arvind G Kulkarni

Ramakrishna, originally called Gadadhar Chatterji, also called Gadadhar Chattopadhyaya, was born into a poor Hindu Brahman family on February 18, 1836 at Hooghly (now Hugli) in the Bengal state of . According to Hindu lunar calendar it was Dwitiya, Phalguna, Shukla Paksha, Vikram Samvat 1892. Each year the birth anniversary of Ramakrishna is celebrated as per Hindu lunar calendar across all Ramakrishna Mutts. The 187th Birth Anniversary of Ramakrishna Paramahansa will be celebrated this year 2023 on Tuesday, February 21.


Early Life

Ramakrishna had little formal schooling. He spoke Bengali and knew neither English nor Sanskrit. His father died in 1843, and his elder brother Ramkumar became head of the family.

In 1852 poverty forced Ramkumar and Ramakrishna to leave their village to seek employment in Calcutta (now Kolkata). There they became priests in a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali.

In 1856, Ramkumar died leaving Ramakrishna alone.


Revelations of the Vedantic Brahman

In grief, Ramakrishna prayed for a vision of Kali-Ma (Kali the Mother), whom he worshipped as the supreme manifestation of God. He wept for hours at a time and felt a burning sensation throughout his body while imploring the Divine Mother to reveal Herself. When she did not, the young priest sank into further despair.

According to traditional accounts, Ramakrishna was on the verge of suicide when he was overwhelmed by an ocean of blissful light that he attributed to Kali. Visions of Kali or other deities brought ecstasy and peace; he once described Kali as “a limitless, infinite, effulgent ocean of spirit.”

Soon after his first vision, Ramakrishna commenced on a series of sadhanas (austere practices) in the various mystical traditions, including Bengali Vaishnavism, Shakta Tantrism, Advaita Vedanta, and even Islami Sufism and Roman Catholicism.

Ramakrishna's interest in Roman Catholicism ended with a vision of “the great yogi” Jesus embracing him and then disappearing into his body.

After each of these sadhanas, Ramakrishna claimed to have had the same experience of Brahman, the supreme power, or ultimate reality, of the universe. Later in life he became famous for his pithy parables about the ultimate unity of the different religious traditions in this formless Vedantic Brahman. Indeed, seeing God in everything and everyone, he believed that all paths led to the same goal.

“There are in a tank or pool,” he said, ‘various ghats (steps to the water). The Hindus draw out the liquid and call it jal. The Muslims draw out the liquid and call it pani. The Christians draw out the liquid and call it water, but it is all the same substance, no essential difference.'

The message that all religions lead to the same end answered in classical Indian terms the challenges of British missionaries and colonial authorities who had for almost a century criticized Hinduism on social, religious, and ethical grounds. That all religions could be seen as different paths to the same divine source or, even better, that this divine source revealed itself in traditional Hindu categories was welcome and truly liberating news for many Hindus.


Married life of Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna married Sharada Devi, a five-year-old girl, at the age of 23, but because of his advocacy of celibacy, the marriage was never consummated, even though they remained together until his death on August 16, 1886, at Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sharada Devi was later deified and is considered a saint by devotees who treat her as the Divine Mother.


Proliferation of Ramakrishna's Message

Various incidents in an early life of Ramakrishna and spiritual revelations had turned him into a Hindu religious leader and founder of the school of religious thought that became the Ramakrishna Order.

Drawn by the appeal of Ramakrishna's message and by his charisma as a guru and ecstatic mystic, a small group of disciples, most of them Western-educated, gathered around him in the early 1880s. The Calcutta newspaper and journal articles first referred to him as “the Hindu saint” or as “the Paramahamsa” (a religious title of respect and honour).

After Ramakrishna's death, his message was disseminated through new texts and organizations. Ramakrishna's teachings are preserved in Mahendranath Gupta's five-volume Bengali classic Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita (1902–32; The Nectar-Speech of the Twice-Blessed Ramakrishna), best known to English readers as The Gospel of Ramakrishna, a remarkable text based on conversations with Ramakrishna from 1882 to 1886.

The disciple and successor of Ramakrishna Parmahansa, Narendranath Datta (1863 – 1902) became the -traveling Swami Vivekananda and helped establish the Ramakrishna Order, whose teachings, texts, and rituals identified Ramakrishna as a new Avatar (“incarnation”) of God. The headquarters of the mission is in Belur Mutt, a monastery near Kolkata. The Ramakrishna Order also played an important role in the spread of Hindu ideas and practices in the West, particularly in the United States.


-(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

and The Gospel of Ramakrishna).

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.


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