4. FIRST VISIT TO DAKSHINESWAR

At this period one could find a decided change in her conduct and behaviour. She now became more quiet and serious, an embodiment of love and sympathy for all, and ready to adapt herself to any circumstance. Her inward bliss was so great that no earthly difficulty or suffering could affect her. She would have continued in that exalted state except for the fact that whispers went round in that small village that her husband had gone mad. While Sri Ramakrishna passed his days in divine ecstasy, people interpreted his extraordinary behaviour as signs of mental derangement. And this news spread to all his relations. People of Jayrambati began to show sympathy for Saradamani's sad plight , little knowing that the expression of such sympathy made her suffering much worse. Saradamani avoided socializing and busied herself with work, so that she might not have to hear any gossip with reference to her husband. But the rumour was very strong that Sri Ramakrishna had gone mad, that he went about naked and muttered unintelligible words.

'Could it be true?' thought Saradamani to herself, 'Is he then not what I found him to be? If it be so, then it is my duty to be by him at this critical moment.' But how could she go to Dakshineswar? The idea was next to impossible for a person like her—situated as Jayrambati was at such a great distance and the communication also so difficult.

But the silent prayers of a sincere and devoted heart were heard by God and an unexpected opportunity presented itself to Saradamani for going to Dakshineswar. On an auspicious occasion, some women from neighbouring villages were going to Calcutta for a bath in the Ganga. Saradamani expressed a desire to be in that pilgrim party. When the news reached the ears of her father, he at once understood the real cause behind her desire. So he readily gave permission and himself accompanied the party so that his beloved Sarada might be well taken care of. The distance of about a hundred kilometers had to be covered on foot. Only the rich could afford to go in a palanquin.1 As that luxury was out of the question for poor Ram Chandra, he along with his daughter started on foot. Saradamani, unaccustomed to walking a long distance, found the journey strenuous. But physical suffering was nothing compared to the joy of meeting the Master. So she altogether ignored any hardship that came on the way. But on the third day, before the party could reach Calcutta, Saradamani had a high fever. It was impossible for her to walk in spite of her desire to continue the journey. So a shelter had to be found in a cottage built for travellers. At night the fever rose very high, and Saradamani lost all outward consciousness. The Holy Mother used to narrate afterwards that while she was in that condition she saw in a vision that a girl dark in complexion but exquisitely beautiful in appearance sat by her side caressing and nursing her. When asked who she was, the girl said that she came from Dakshineswar, that she was the Holy Mother's sister and had come all the way to receive her. After that Saradamani fell asleep. Strange to say, the next morning the fever was gone, and she was able to start. On the way she had fever again, but Ram Chandra somehow managed to reach Dakshineswar by nightfall.

What was the anxiety of Sri Ramakrishna to see Saradamani come in that condition! Immediately he busied himself in making all arrangements for the patient and set up a bed for her in his own room. Often he repeated in great sorrow, but with childlike simplicity: 'You have come when dear Mathur is no more. Had he been alive, no difficulty whatsoever would arise as to taking care of you. Now that he is gone, who can take his place?' But did Saradamani receive less care? Sri Ramakrishna himself began to nurse and attend to her day and night, and that so carefully that in the course of three or four days she was all right. After that Saradamani was shifted to the ground floor of the Nahabat,2 where she stayed with Chandramani, her mother-in-law, who was at that time at Dakshineswar.

Saradamani could hardly believe her eyes when she found her husband, who was reported to have gone mad, feeling so much anxiety at her illness and showing so much kindness and affection. Was there any woman in this world so blessed as to receive such loving care from her husband? Saradamani knew for certain that whatever might be people's opinion, her divine husband was perfectly sane; not only that, but there had not been the least change in his attitude toward her.

Ram Chandra was glad to see his daughter happy and comfortable at Dakshineswar. So he returned to his village home, leaving Saradamani in the privileged position of serving her husband and old mother-in-law. It was in March of 1872 that the Holy Mother reached Dakshineswar— about five years after she had last seen the Master at Kamarpukur.

Sri Ramakrishna at this time lived in constant divine communion. The greater part of the day and night he would remain in an ecstatic condition. Even a slight incident—the singing of a devotional song or the sight of anything which had a divine association, however remote— would throw his mind into samadhi, and he would become oblivious of his surroundings. He was more at home on the divine plane than we are on the earthly plane. But when Saradamani arrived at Dakshineswar he was not forgetful of his duties to his wedded wife. If she so desired, Sri Ramakrishna was willing to sacrifice his very mission for her. Saradamani also, on her part, was too pure and noble to have the slightest inclination to drag her saintly husband to a life of worldliness. She clearly told him about this and readily responded to his ideals and aspirations. All that she wanted was to be near him and to have the privilege of serving him and moulding her own life according to his direction. Sri Ramakrishna gave her that favour in abundance. Though the Holy Mother was accommodated at the Nahabat and in the course of the day could not meet the Master because he had visitors, at night she was allowed to stay in his room and share the same bed with him. Saradamani at this time would receive from her divine husband instructions in high spiritual matters as well as about mundane things. It was not a life of conjugal relations but of great spiritual training—so much so that the wife in Saradamani was merged in the disciple in her. Afterwards nobody could perceive in her utterances and behaviour anything that betrayed her special claim on Sri Ramakrishna. She was only the humble disciple of the Master, and this was to her a matter of supreme joy and privilege.

1

A type of carriage borne on the shoulders of bearers.

2

A very small two-storeyed building, close to Sri Ramakrishna's room, the upper storey of which was intended for temple music.