IT remains now to record the incidents connected with the passing away of the Holy Mother. In January, 1919, she went to her native place, chiefly in the interests of Radhu, who was expecting a child. The period immediately following was full of anxiety for the Holy Mother because of the terrible ordeal that Radhu, with her bad health and unsound mind, would have to stand, at child-birth. Fortunately she came out unscathed through it, but that brought little relief to the Holy Mother, since Radhu continued to suffer from various ailments. Besides, this time she had to prolong her stay in the village for over a year, as she did not like to return to Calcutta before Radhu’s child was strong enough to stand the journey.
During the last three months of the Mother’s stay at Jayrambati, her health began to deteriorate very fast. On the 13th of December, 1919, the anniversary of her birth, she got fever, and thenceforth she began to suffer from it frequently. On coming to know of it, Swami Saradananda made arrangements to take her over to Calcutta. She was then in such a weak state that she could hardly walk up to the neighbouring temple of Simhavahini where she went for worship before leaving the village. And when she reached Calcutta, Yogin-Ma and Golap-Ma, seeing her emaciated body and pale face, were constrained to remark to a disciple, ” Oh, in what a pitiable condition you have brought the Mother to us ! Why, she is black as soot. You have brought here a skeleton covered with skin.”
She arrived in Calcutta on the 27th February, 1920, and for the next five months, she suffered from this malignant fever. Immediately after she reached Calcutta, she was placed under the treatment of the reputed Ayurvedic physician, Kaviraj Shyamadas Vachaspati. The treatment at first gave her some relief. But the medicine given was so bitter that the unpleasant taste persisted even at meal time, so much so that she could not take her food with relish. Since the physician could not prescribe any alternative medicine, allopathic treatment was next tried. Dr. Nilratan Sirkar, the renowned doctor of Calcutta, was called in, and he diagnosed the disease as kala-azar, a kind of malignant tropical fever resembling malaria. Under, his instruction Dr. Pradhan Bose treated the Holy Mother for two months, but with little result. So the Ayurvedic treatment was again tried.
The fever, in its early stages, used to appear in the evening and subside at night. In the second stage it appeared in the morning and evening, and in the last stage it continued without intermission, the temperature sometimes going up to 103 degrees. She also began to suffer from an intense burning sensation all over the body, to get a little relief from which she often used to clasp Yogin-Ma. She had constantly to be fanned and ice had to be applied to her palms to give her some relief.
Her diet during illness consisted generally of rice, milk and vegetables prepared according to medical directions, supplemented with fruits. The Ayurvedic physician had directed that, as she was anaemic, she should be given anything she liked to eat, because it might perhaps get digested and help to revive her failing strength. One day, as the girl disciple, Sarala, who nursed her in her last illness, brought the plate of food for her, Dr. J. N. Kanjilal, a homoeopathic physician and a close disciple of the Mother, came into the room. He thought that the food was too much and flew into a rage at the disciple. He said that she knew nothing of nursing, that she was killing the Mother through overfeeding, and declared that he would bring two trained nurses to replace her in the service of the Mother. The disciple was very much mortified, but when Dr. Kanjilal left the room, the Holy Mother consoled her saying that the doctor’s behaviour was quite unjustified, and that under no circumstance would she allow herself to be nursed by ‘ those booted women (meaning hospital nurses). After this incident even the little appetite she had for food disappeared.
During this protracted illness, her nature became like that of a little girl. Often she would say that she wanted to go to the Ganges, of which she was very fond all through life, and would refuse to eat any food until someone agreed to take her. Once late at night the attending disciple, Sarala, was trying to feed her. But the Mother, like a child, said, ” No, I won’t eat. You always ask me to eat and apply that ‘ stick ‘ (meaning the thermometer) under the arm.” At this the disciple said that she would call Swami Saradananda ; for generally she would take food when his name was mentioned. But this time she refused to eat and said, ” Call him. I won’t eat from your hand.” The Swami therefore came upstairs at once. All were astonished to notice the great change in her behaviour towards him on this occasion. Generally she appeared before him only veiled and talked to him through an intermediary. But this time she beckoned him to sit by her side, touched him endearingly on the chin by way of kissing, and taking his two hands into hers, said complainingly, ” My child, how they annoy me! They are always saying, Eat, eat and they know only one thing – how to put the ‘ stick ‘ under my arm. You tell her (the disciple) not to annoy me any more.” The Swami consoled her, saying that she would not do so thereafter, and asked her whether she would like to take something. She agreed, but as soon as he asked the disciple to bring some food, she added. No, you feed me. I won’t eat from her hand.”
After putting a little milk into her mouth, the Swarai said, ” Mother, rest a while and then eat.” Hearing these words, she said with delight, ” See how nicely he speaks! He said, ‘ Mother, rest a while and eat/ Can’t these people speak like that ? They have given so much trouble to my child at this late hour of the night. Go, my son, and rest now. Ah ! how much he has suffered for me ! “
Even when illness and physical suffering had reduced her to the last extremity, her great quality of motherliness persisted. She would never forget to make kind enquiries about people’s health, or to arrange to feed her disciples who had to go out on errands. When doctors came, she was very particular about giving them fruits and sweets. If any disciple fanned her, she would ask the fanning to be stopped after a short time, saying that it would pain the hand and that she would not be able to sleep thinking of it. Ramani, a woman of Jayrambati, came with some green palm fruits sent by a disciple and went Backwith some articles. The Holy Mother could not see her or receive her properly, because she was unconscious owing to high fever. She was very sorry for this and sent her apologies to the woman. Her nephew Ramlal and niece Lakshmi Devi came to see her in sick bed; when they left, she forgot to give any present to Lakshmi Devi, as she was required to do by custom. On remembering this omission her sense of courtesy would not allow her any peace, until she sent a fine cloth and some money to Lakshmi Devi through a messenger.
About a month before the Mother’s passing away, she surprised all by asking the Master’s picture to be removed from her room to an adjoining one. When asked for the reason, she said that thereafter she would not be able to go to the bath-room, and that under the circumstances she did not like her room to continue to be the Masters shrine as well. She also asked her own bed to be made on the floor, owing probably to the popular notion that one should pass away only lying on the floor.
Even in this state of her health, she would take anything only after offering it to the Master. When external offering became impossible, she would make the offering mentally. All through her protracted illness, the one theme she used to harp on was resignation to the will of the Master. If anyone asked her as to when she would recover, she would say that it depended on the Master’s will. One day she was speaking to Gauri-Ma of the happy and inspiring days she had spent at Dakshineswar in Sri Rama-krishna’s company. Gauri-Ma replied that even after the Master’s passing away she lived happily in worship and meditation, and that it was only after her assuming the responsibility of Radhu that those days came to an end.
This brings us to that remarkable episode in the last days of the Holy Mother’s life, namely, the way in which she broke that golden chain of attachment to Radhu, by means of which she had tied herself to the world all these years. A few days before her passing away, she ceased to make any enquiries about Radhu. This was quite unlike her usual habit; for ordinarily Radhu was the constant preoccupation of her mind. One day she said to Radhu, ” Go to Jayrambati at once. Don’t stay here any longer.” The disciple Sarala, who was standing by, intervened and said to the Mother, ” Why do you say so ? You will not be able to live without Radhu.” ” Certainly not,” said the Mother, ” I have withdrawn my mind from her.” The disciple reported this to Yogin-Ma and Swami Saradananda. Yogin-Ma at once went to the Holy Mother and asked her, ” Mother, why do you want Radhu to go away ? ” At this the Mother said, “Yogin, henceforth she will have to live at Jayrambati. You send her there. I have taken my mind away from her. I do not want her any more.” Yogin-Ma replied, ” Don’t say so, Mother. If you have taken your mind away from Radhu, then how shall we live ? ” But to these pleadings of Yogin-Ma, the Mother’s answer was, ” Yogin, I have cut off my ties of attachment for her. No more of this.” Yogin-Ma reported the whole thing to Swami Saradananda, who thereupon remarked, ” Well, it means that we shall not be able to keep her among us any longer. There is no hope of her life, as she has withdrawn her mind from Radhu.” And addressing Sarala, he added, ” You spend a great deal of time with the Mother, nursing her. Try your utmost to divert her mind again to Radhu.” The disciple attempted to do so in many ways, but could not succeed. Her vain efforts in this direction were put an end to when the Holy Mother said to her one day very emphatically, ” The mind that has been withdrawn will no more settle there. Remember this.”
And she proved the truth of her statement one day, when she was put to the test by a very moving incident. One noon Radhu’s little child came crawling from the side of her mother who was sleeping in the adjacent room, and tried to reach the Holy Mother’s body. At this she said to the child, ” I have given up attachment to you altogether. Go away, you cannot entangle me any more.” And addressing a disciple who was standing by, she said, ” Take this baby away. I don’t care for it any more.”
She was now fast sinking. When all medical treatment had failed, occult remedies were tried but to no purpose. Gradually, owing to anaemia, the legs began to swell. She could not even get up from the bed.
Five days before her passing away, a lady devotee known as ‘ mother of Annapurna ‘ came to see her. As no one was then allowed to enter the Holy Mother’s room, she sat at the door-way. The Mother caught sight of her and beckoned to her to come near. She bowed down and sobbed out, ” Mother, what will happen to us hereafter ? ” The Mother consoled her in a low, almost inaudible voice, ” Why do you fear? You have seen the Master.” After a pause she added, ” But I tell you one thing – if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child ; this whole world is your own ! ” Perhaps this embodies her last message to the world also.
During her last three days she spoke practically nothing, partly owing to physical weakness and partly owing to the deep introspective mood that was now upon her. When anyone went and talked to her, she expressed annoyance. Once Gauri-Ma went to her bed-side and announced herself several times, but the Mother only asked why she was thus disturbing her. In those last days she once called Swami Saradananda to her side and said, ” Sarat, I am going. Yogin, Golap and the rest are here. You look after them.” This was her last complete utterance. The day before her end, she called the Swami again and tried to say something, but could not speak more than one or two words.
Towards the close there was hard breathing for some time. Just before her passing away, her face and body became very dark and shrivelled, but to the astonishment of those who stood by her, a great change took place immediately after life was extinct. Her shrivelled form was seen to relax, and her face swelled up and assumed a radiant hue. To a disciple who stood by, her countenance seemed to resemble the face of the image of the Goddess Durga used in worship – mellow and golden in colour, with the expression of calmness and serenity writ large on it. This expression lingered in her face for some length of time.
She entered into Mahasamadhi at 1-30 a.m. In the morning arrangements were made to take the body in procession to the Belur Math for cremation. According to her oft-repeated desire, the body was bathed in the Ganges and was carried in a bier decorated with flowers, on the shoulders of pious devotees. Some of the prominent disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, like Swami Saradananda, Swami Shiva-nanda and Master Mahashay, accompanied by several respectable persons of the city, followed the procession, which at times swelled into thousands. By about 2 p.m. the body was consigned to the flames at a spot near the Ganges, within the Belur Math compound.
Today, besides the vivid impressions of her in the minds of devoted disciples, there are three shrines that specially commemorate her life and doings. In the Belur Math there is a beautiful small temple facing the Ganges, built on the spot where her body was cremated. In the shrine of the Udbodhan Office, her portrait is kept facing that of the Master, just as she used to face it in her lifetime. And lastly, at the village of Jayrambati, in the compound where she was born, the devotion of Swami Saradananda has erected a temple 1 in her memory, with a monastery attached to it. In that shrine is installed a life-size oil painting of hers, and in the solemn stillness and holy atmosphere of that sanctuary, seated before the Mother’s portrait – bearing a mild and meek, yet serene and dignified expression – one still gets a brooding sense of the Mother-Heart that was embodied as Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother.
The reference here is to the old temple. Since then a beautiful and well-designed temple has been built at Jayrambati in memory of the Holy Mother’s birth centenary celebrated in 1954.