IN THE PASSING OF EVENTS
DURING the period of thirteen years that the Holy Mother spent at Dakshineswar, there were several events in her life that had no direct bearing on her relation with Sri Ramakrishna. It is necessary to make a rapid survey of these events in order to complete this period of her life. In the course of these years, she went at least seven times from Dakshineswar to Jayrambati and back. One need not note the dates of these visits except a few which are connected with important incidents in her life.
Her stay at Dakshineswar on the first occasion lasted for about a year and a half. In October, 1873, nearly one and a half years after her first arrival at Dakshineswar, she returned to Jayrambati. Within a few months of this, her aged father Ramachandra Mukherji died, on the 26th April, 1874. His death put the family into great financial difficulty. The income from priestly duties with which Ramachandra used to supplement the all too inadequate returns of his paddy fields, was now completely stopped. Not only that; even the yield of the paddy fields
diminished for want of efficient supervision. The four sons of Ramachandra, the younger brothers of the Holy Mother, were too young, and even the eldest of them had not yet completed his priestly education. The whole responsibility of the family, therefore, fell upon their widowed mother Syama-sundari Devi. She was, however, a very resourceful and energetic woman, and refused to be overwhelmed by these adverse circumstances. To supplement the meagre income of the family, she began to husk paddy for the Banerji family of the neighbourhood, and as for the education of her children, she sent three of them to the houses of her relatives who undertook to teach them.
In those trying days her daughter Sarada (the Holy Mother) was a great source of strength to her. Not only did she encourage her mother by her advice and companionship, but relieved her of much heavy labour by doing herself the hard manual work of husking, by which the family now earned its precarious living.
As time went on, conditions improved a little. The eldest of the brothers, Prasanna Kumar, having completed his education, began to earn something, though small, by priestly work in Calcutta. The two other brothers next to him in age, Kali Kumar and Barada Prasad, became useful in the management of their lands, while the youngest, Abhay Charan, who was the most intelligent among them all, was sent for school education through the help of some kind friends,1 Eventually he qualified himself as a medical man, but, as we shall see, met with premature death. The Holy Mother took a considerable interest in the fortunes of all these brothers; for her life was inextricably connected with theirs. As the eldest girl of the family, she was their nurse in their infancy and they all grew up under her charge. Even in later life they always looked up to her for help and guidance.
The improvement in the material condition of the Holy Mother’s family is also associated with the institution of Jagaddhatri Puja in their home some time after the demise of Ramachandra Mukherji. Once at the viilage Kali Puja conducted by one Nava Mukherji, that gentleman, owing to some quarrel with the Holy Mother’s family, refused to accept the rice that Syamasundari Devi had vowed to the Deity. The poor lady was much aggrieved at it, and spent a whole night weeping. She was at a loss to decide what she should do with the rice set apart for the Deity. She was, however, relieved of her grief and worry when at night she saw in a vision the Deity as Jagaddhatri asking her to offer to Her the rice she had vowed to Kali. From that day the
1 About the education of this brother the Holy Mother said in later days : “My youngest brother had passed the matriculation examination. He was very well up in the school, and then he studied medicine. After Naren met him, he said of him,
I never knew that Mother had such an intelligent brother. The others are all like ordinary priests/ Yogen defrayed his educational expenses, and then Yogen died. Rakhal paid forty rupees for his books.” This brother was the father of Radhu who, as we shall see, played such an important role in the latter part of the Holy Mother’s life.
idea of worshipping Jagaddhatri became an obsession with her. Although in straitened circumstances she performed the worship with due eclat, meeting the expenses of it from the sale of a quantity of paddy she secured from a neighbouring house. Next year Syamasundari Devi wanted to perform the worship again and asked the Holy Mother to help her in making preparations. But the Holy Mother objected to it, saying that it had been done once and that there was no need to bother themselves again with all the heavy work involved in it.
” That night “, said the Holy Mother in later days, ” I saw in a dream that three of them arrived – Jagaddhatri and Her two companions, Jaya and Vijaya. I remember it distinctly. They said to me,. ‘ Shall we go away then ? Who are you all ? ‘ I asked. One of them said, ‘ I am Jagaddhatri.’ In reply I said,’ No, why should you go ? Stay here. I did not ask you to go away.’ “
From that time onwards the Jagaddhatri Puja became an annual function in the Holy Mother’s home, and she used to take a leading part in arranging for the celebration. As she said later on: ” Since that time I have been going home as far as possible every year at the time of the Jagaddhatri Puja. I am to help in polishing the utensils and look after other things. Formerly there were not many people in the family. I would go home to cleanse the pots and pans. Later Yogen (Swami Yogananda) got a set of wooden utensils. He said to me, Mother, you do not have to scour pots and pans any more.’ He also secured a piece of land to provide for the expenses of the Puja.”1
Shortly after her father’s death the Holy Mother came Backto Dakshineswar about April, 1874. It was on this occasion that Shambhu Mallick built a small cottage for her. She lived in it only for about a year ; for, as already said, she had to come Backto the Nahabat in order to nurse Sri Ramakrishna during an attack of dysentery. The Master was soon cured, but the Holy Mother in turn suffered from an attack of the same illness. It was dysentery of a very virulent type, and only with the best medical help rendered to her by the devoted Shambu Mallick could she get a little relief from it. When she was better, she went to Jayrambati in September, 1875. Unfortunately, after her arrival there, she had a severe relapse. Her mother and brothers treated and nursed her to the best of their capacity, but everyone doubted whether she would recover at all. Even the Master felt anxious on hearing of her condition, and remarked sorrowfully to Hriday, ” Is she born only to die ? Is she not destined to gain the end of human life ? “
1 This worship of Jagaddhatri is still continued at Jayrambati. The function is now organized and performed not by any of the members of the Holy Mother’s family, but by the branch of the Ramakrishna Math established at the birth-place of the Holy Mother. In the later days of her life, the Holy Mother purchased three acres of agricultural land for meeting the expenses of the annual worship. According to the stipulation of Swami Saradananda, this land is in the possession of the families of the Holy Mother’s brothers, but they are to contribute a fixed quantity of paddy every year for the worship.
In this extremity, the Holy Mother decided on a bold measure. Since all human remedies had failed, she would now try the chance of obtaining some divine aid. In the neighbourhood of her home there was the temple of the Divine Mother in Her aspect as Simhavahini. She decided to go there and perform the rite of Hatya, according to which one was to lie before the Deity giving up food and drink, with the determination to starve to death if no divine remedy was revealed. Her condition was now desperate. In consequence of the dysentery, her whole body was swollen. Her nose and eyes were running, and by constant loss of tears she was practically blind, even a full moon night being, as she said, absolutely dark to her. In that condition, unknown to her mother and brothers, she went into the temple with the help of a friend and laid herself down before the Deity in a mood of supplication. We have it on her own authority that within a short time the Goddess revealed two medicines – one to her mother for the dysentery and the other to herself for the trouble in the eye.1 Both the medicines were tried. As a result she got Backher eyesight that very day while her other ailments disappeared in a short time.2
1 As regards the medicine revealed to her, she said, ” I heard the Goddess say to me, ‘ Press out the juice of the gourd flower, mix it with salt, and apply it drop by drop to your eye.’ “
2 Since that time Simhavahini of Jayrambati has become a living Goddess. People have a strong faith that great power la manifested through the Deity in that temple. While before the
Next year the Holy Mother again fell ill, this time of malaria with enlargement of the spleen. Her mother took her for treatment to a quack in the neighbouring village of Koyapat. This man s peculiar way of treatment consisted in branding the region of the spleen with burning plum wood, keeping a kind of green leaf over the surface to be branded. He also introduced a religious element into his system of spleen therapeutics, as he administered his treatment within the precincts of the Siva temple of Badanganj in the name of the Deity. The Holy Mother was subjected to this operation. We do not know what curative effect it had on her, but it is known that she bore the painful operation calmly and did not require any one to hold fast her limbs, as it had always to be done in the case of the other patients of this physician.
She went to Dakshineswar for the third time in January, 1877. Chandra Devi, her mother-in-law, who had been residing at Dakshineswar, had passed away in the meantime.
Her fourth visit to Dakshineswar took place in February, 1881. Unfortunately the occasion was marred by the insolent conduct of Hriday towards the Holy Mother and her party. The respect which
cure of the Holy Mother very few used to visit the temple, now many people hailing even from distant parts go there on the special days of the week. Pilgrims carry earth from the foot of the shrine, thus causing a pit of considerable size to be formed. This earth is supposed to possess great curative power. Members of the Holy Mother’s family officiate in this temple.
everyone in the temple showed him, and the consciousness that even Sri Ramakrishna was under his control, had of late brought about a transformation in Hriday. His greed had increased, and he had begun to bid openly for people’s respect by posing as a saint. Proud, haughty and overbearing, he got into the habit of insulting everyone he came in contact with, including even Sri Ramakrishna. In the blindness and folly of this new mood, he lost his old love for the Master, and even seemed to entertain a grudge against him for his rejection of Lakshmi-narayan’s offer of ten thousand rupees. As a consequence he began to oppress and tease him in various ways. Sri Ramakrishna, however, put up with all his overweening behaviour, considering the great services he had rendered him in the past.
It was in the days when Hriday was on the war path that the fourth visit of the Holy Mother to Dakshineswar took place. To narrate the events in her own words : ” I came to Dakshineswar for the fourth time with mother, Lakshmi and several other women. I had vowed an offering to Siva of Tara-keswar during my previous illness. I redeemed that vow on our way to Dakshineswar. We spent the first night in Calcutta. It was spring time. The next day we came to Dakshineswar. At the sight of us, Hriday said, ‘ Why have you come here ? What’s your business ? ‘ He was discourteous to us. Hriday and my mother hailed from the same village; so he showed her scant respect. Displeased at his behaviour, my mother said, ‘ Let us go back. With whom shall I leave my daughter ? The Master, afraid of Hriday, did not say ‘ yes or ‘ no ,’ though he heard and saw everything.1 All of us started back for Jayrambati that same day. While leaving the place I said to myself, addressing Mother Kali in the temple, ‘ O Mother, I shall come here again if you deign to bring me back.’ Shortly after, Hriday was sent away from the Kali temple, because he worshipped the daughter of Trailokya (son of Mathur Babu), placing flowers at her feet.2 Ramlal, the Master’s nephew, became the permanent priest of the Kali temple. That turned his head! He began to neglect the Master. The Master would be lying down somewhere, in an ecstatic mood, and his food would dry up. There was no one else in the Kali temple to look after him. So whenever anyone came to our part of the country from Dakshineswar,
1 The Master’s conduct on this occasion is a little puzzling. Perhaps he maintained this attitude, knowing full well that it would lead to endless quarrels and insults if they were asked to stay there against Hriday’s will. And, perhaps he also foresaw that Hriday’s days at Dakshineswar were fast coming to a close.
2 Trailokya, the proprietor of the temple, belonged to a lower caste. It is believed that if a Brahmin worshipped a girl of lower caste in that way, she would become a widow. Hence the proprietor was angry with Hriday and dismissed him immediately from his position as the priest of Kali, with the order that he should never enter the precincts of the temple. It is to be noted that this misfortune befell Hriday, not long after his insulting the Holy Mother. Hriday’s life afterwards was miserable, compared with bis earlier days, and he himself came to repent of his conduct. In this connection may be remembered the Master’s words, quoted earlier, that one might insult him (the Master) with impunity, but dire consequences would befall one who did the same with the Holy Mother.
the Master would request me through him to come. Once he sent me a message through Lakshman of Kamarpukur, ‘ I am in difficulty here. Ramlal, since becoming a priest, has joined other priests of the temple. He does not look after me much. Please be sure to come. Take a litter, a palanquin, or any other conveyance. I shall bear the cost whatever it is – be it ten rupees or twenty rupees or more.’ At last I came to Dakshineswar after an absence of about a year (February, 1882).”
Subsequently, she had occasion to return to Dakshineswar only twice (in 1884 and 1885) during the Master’s lifetime. There are no events worth recording in connection with these visits, except that at the time of the visit in 1884, Sri Rama-krishna had an accident resulting in a dislocation in the left arm.
It was during one of these several visits of the Holy Mother to Dakshineswar that an event, revealing certain striking features of her character, took place.1 She was then travelling on foot, along with a party consisting of some of her relatives and several others, both men and women. In those days people travelling from Jayrambati to Calcutta had first of all to go up to Arambag, then proceed to Tarakeswar, passing through the wilderness of Telobhelo and Kaikala for about ten miles, and from there go to Baidyabati and cross the Ganges. The wilderness referred to was in those days infested by dacoits, and even today in the middle of it one can see a terrible image of Kali, to whom the dacoits at one time used to make human sacrifices. On this occasion, the Holy Mother’s party was crossing the wilderness towards the evening with a view to reaching Tarakeswar before nightfall. As there was not much time left for the approach of night, the party was proceeding rather fast, but the Holy Mother, who was already tired, lagged behind. Twice her companions waited for her, but on finding her still lagging behind, they told her that, if they proceeded at that rate, they would not be able to cross the wilderness even by the close of the first quarter of the night, and that consequently all would fall a prey to the dacoits. The Holy Mother did not want that others should risk their lives for her sake. She asked them, therefore, to proceed without waiting for her, and agreed to meet them at a particular shop at Tarakeswar.
The party soon passed out of sight. The Holy Mother walked as fast as she could, but being very tired, could not proceed much farther than the middle of the wilderness by nightfall. She was now filled with fear and did not know what to do. Just then she saw a tall man of very dark complexion coming towards her, with a long staff resting on his shoulder. At a little distance behind him was .another, who seemed to be his companion. Within a short time the man drew near her and called out to her in a harsh voice, ” Who is standing there at this time of the night ? “
Though terror-stricken, the Holy Mother now showed great resourcefulness and presence of mind. She replied to him in an appealing tone, “Dear father, my companions have all gone away leaving me here. I seem also to have lost my way in the darkness. Would you please help me to reach my companions? Your ‘son-in-law’ is staying at Ras-mani’s temple at Dakshineswar. I am going to meet him. If you accompany me so far, he will be highly pleased with you”
By this time the second person also came up. The Holy Mother now understood that it was a woman and the wife of the man with the staff. She, therefore, felt very much encouraged, and approaching the woman and holding her by the hand, said, ” Mother, I am your daughter Sarada. I am in great difficulty. Fortunately father and yourself have come here. Otherwise I do not know what I would have done”
The Holy Mother’s gentle words, her simplicity and innocent behaviour, her perfect trust and fearlessness – all made a deep impression on the man and his wife. They felt a parental affection for her and consoled her as they would do their own -daughter. As she was very much tired, they did not allow her to proceed that night. They took her to a small shop in the village of Telobhelo and gave her some refreshments. The woman then made a bed for her with her own clothes and protected her the whole night like her own daughter.
Next morning they took her to Tarakeswar and made arrangements for her food and accommodation in a shop. Her companions, who had gone in advance of her the previous evening, met her in that shop. She introduced the couple, her new ‘ father ‘ and ‘mother ‘ to them and told them of the great service they had rendered her. Some time later, after having finished worship in the temple and taken food and rest, she took leave of her benefactors tearfully, and accompanied the party to Baidyabati.
Referring to this incident, the Holy Mother used to say in later days: ” In one night we became so intimate that, when we parted, I began to weep. With great difficulty I came away from them. I requested them again and again to meet me at Dakshineswar, whenever they found it convenient. They accompanied me for a considerable distance. The woman then collected some peas from a wayside field and tying them to my cloth, said with tears in her eyes, ‘Daughter Sarada, when you take popped rice at night, use these also with it.’ They also came to Dakshineswar several times with sweets. The Master, hearing the whole story from me, behaved towards them very cordially like a son-in-law. My surmise is that though these people are now good and gentle, my ‘ dacoit father ‘ must have committed many highway robberies.”
We cannot conclusively say on which occasion this event took place, except that it could not have been during the first or the fourth visit.