4)THE KALI TEMPLE AT DAKSHINESWAR
1. The cause of Ramkumar’s starting the Tol in Calcutta. The date of the starting
Probably Ramkumar was forty-five when he started his Tol in Calcutta in A.D. 1850. Worldly wants, mishaps, etc., had caused him anxiety for some time past. His wife died after giving birth to her only son Akshay. It is said that the Sadhaka Ramkumar predicted the death of his wife and said to some members of the household that she would not survive that period. The Master had then reached his fourteenth year. Many rich and middle class people lived in the wealthy city of Calcutta; Ramkumar could remain free from worldly anxiety if he could make the students of the school proficient in learning, as it would enhance his reputation as a scholar as well. He could perform religious worship and give written opinions on religious matters, which would fetch a few additional rupees. Some such thought was perhaps instrumental in bringing Ramkumar to Calcutta, when he was mourning the death of his wife. Or it may be that at the death of his wife he felt a great change and void in his life, and the idea that he would be free from them to a certain extent if he were engaged in various works in a far-off place made him take up that course. We have told the reader earlier the purpose for which he brought the Master to Calcutta a few years after the inception of the school at Jhamapukur, and the manner in which the Master spent the first three years after his arrival there in A.D. 1852.
We must turn our attention elsewhere, if we want to know the events of the Master’s life since that period. The reader must now direct his attention to the series of events that were taking place by the will of God in a very well-known family in another quarter in Calcutta. At that time Ramkumar had enrolled himself in the party of Chatu Babu in order to increase his income from farewell gifts and improving the condition of his school.
2. Rani Rasmani
The famous Rani Rasmani lived in Janbazar in the south of Calcutta. She was the mother of four daughters and became a widow at forty-four. She inherited the huge property of her husband Rajchandra Das. Since then she had managed it herself and improved it much and had thus become well known to the people of Calcutta. She became famous and endeared herself to all, not merely by her ability in managing the property, but also by her innumerable other virtues and good actions, such as her faith in God, her energy,1courage, intelligence and presence of mind, and above all, her sympathy for the poor2expressed through her unceasing gifts and unstinted distribution of food to all. By her noble qualities and actions, she, although born in a Kaivarta family, proved herself worthy of her appellation, “The Rani”, and attracted the heart-felt love and reverence of all groups of people irrespective of caste. The Rani’s daughters were married and had children at the time we are speaking of. Then the third daughter of the Rani had died and had left behind only a son. Thinking that the said event would estrange the debonair Mathuranath, her third son-in-law, from the family, the Rani married her fourth daughter Jagadamba Dasi to him and made him her own again. The descendants of the four daughters of the Rani are living till this day.3
3. The Rani’s devotion to the goddess
Endowed with many virtues, Rani Rasmani bore great devotion to the holy feet of the goddess Kali. “Sri Rasmani Dasi, longing for the Feet of Kali” were the words engraved in the official seal of her estate. We have heard from the Master himself that the Rani’s devotion to the goddess was expressed in all her words and actions.
4. The Rani got divine instruction when she was getting ready to go to Kasi
The Rani, it is said, had cherished in her heart for a long time a strong desire to go to Kasi and pay obeisance and offer special worship to Visvesvara, the Lord of the universe, and Annapurna, the divine Mother. It is also said that she had collected and set apart a vast sum of money for that purpose. But, as her husband had died suddenly and she had had to shoulder the responsibility of managing the whole property, she had not been able to carry out her intention so far. Now that her sons-in-law had learned to help her in this matter and particularly the youngest, Mathuramohan, had become her right-hand man, she was getting ready to start for Kasi. When everything was ready, she had the vision of the goddess in a dream the night before her departure.1The goddess gave her this instruction: “There is no need to go to Kasi; install my stone image in a beautiful spot on the bank of the Bhagirathi and arrange for my daily worship and food offering; I shall manifest myself in the image and accept your worship daily.” The devout Rani was highly delighted to receive this instruction. She put off going to Kasi and made up her mind to spend the accumulated money on that holy undertaking.
5. The Rani built the temple
We cannot say how far that rumour is true, but it is certain that the Rani’s long accumulated devotion to the Mother of the universe was about to assume a visible form in the shape of the temple and the image. She purchased a spacious piece of land on the bank of the Bhagirathi, spent a large sum of money and began to build on it a big temple with nine spires and other small temples, and laid out a garden attached to them. Though the work of construction was going on for seven or eight years, the whole edifice was not completed even in A.D. 1855. But the Rani reflected within herself, “As life is uncertain, the desire of installing the Mother of the universe may not be fulfilled in my lifetime, if it takes such a long time to complete the temple.” Revolving in her mind thus, the Rani had the ceremony of the installation of the Mother performed on the Snanayatra day on May 31, A.D. 1855.
As it is necessary for the reader to know a few events that took place before this, we narrate them below.
6. The Rani’s desire to offer cooked food to the goddess
Either because of the “instruction” she received from the goddess herself or out of a natural hankering of her heart-for devotees always love to serve their chosen Ideals with things they consider best-there arose a great eagerness in the mind of the Rani to offer cooked food daily to the Mother. The Rani thought: “Temples and other buildings have been built to my liking. I am going to dedicate property sufficient for the carrying on of the service. But, in spite of doing all this, if I cannot serve Her to my heart’s content and offer Her cooked food daily, everything will be in vain. It will fetch me at the most a little name; people will say, ‘Rani Rasmani has left behind her such a glory!’ But, of what avail are such words of the people to me?” “O Mother of the universe,” she fervently prayed, “Thou hast given me much name and fame in other respects, but in this case do not befool me by giving me this trash. It does not matter whether fame accrues to me or not, but pray remain always actually manifested here and fulfil the heart’s desire of this servant of Thine by accepting daily service.”
7. She procured Sastric opinions from Pandits. These proved to be obstacles to the fulfilment of her desire
The Rani saw that her low birth and the custom of society were the main obstacles standing in the way of her offering cooked food. Her own heart however, never doubted that the Mother of the universe would accept her offering of cooked food; in fact, for heart was always full of joy at that thought, and was never hesitant. Why was then that improper custom current? Who wrote the scriptures? Was the author of the scriptures a heartless man? Or, urged by self-interest, did he ordain a right for the higher castes superior even to the goddess? If so, she had no use for such scriptures. She would rather follow the sacred longings of her heart. But what was the way out even then? Were she to act against the prevailing custom, the devout Brahmins and good people would not come to the temple to take Prasada. What was then the solution? The Rani had the written opinions of Pandits brought from various places. But none of them was to her liking.
8. Ramkumar gave his opinion in her favour
Although the construction of the temple and the making of the image had been completed, there was no sign of the fulfilment of the Rani’s desire to serve Her to her heart’s content. The Rani had scriptural prescriptions from scholars, big and small, but failed to have her wish fulfilled. When all her hopes were almost dashed to the ground, one day a prescription came from the Chatuspathi at Jhamapukur, which read, “If the Rani makes a gift of the property to a Brahmin and he installs the goddess in the temple and makes arrangements about the offering of cooked food, the principle of the scriptures will be accurately observed; and the Brahmins and other high castes will not then incur blemish if they take Prasada in the temple.”
9. The Rani decided to consecrate the temple
Hopes revived in the Rani’s heart. She decided to consecrate the temple in the name of her Guru and, with his permission, take the position of an officer for superintending his property and the service in his temple. Afterwards the Rani informed other Pandits of her intention of following the scriptural prescription given by Ramkumar. Although they did not dare say plainly that it would be an unscriptural action, they nevertheless said, “The action is against the prevailing custom of society; the Brahmins and other good people will not take Prasada there even though it is done that way.”
10. Ramkumar’s catholicity
We can very well infer that the Rani’s attention was very much attracted to Ramkumar by this event. When one ponders, one finds that to issue such a prescription in those days was indicative of not a little catholicity on the part of Ramkumar. The minds of the Brahmin Pandits, the leaders of society, had got confined to a narrow groove in those days. There were few amongst them who could step out of it, read a liberal meaning in the injunctions of the scriptures and give opinions according to circumstances. Consequently people felt an inclination to set at naught their opinions.
11. The Rani’s search for a suitable priest
The connection of the Rani with Ramkumar, however, did not end there. Although she paid proper respect to the members of the family of her spiritual teacher, the intelligent Rani observed distinctly their ignorance of the scriptures and unfitness to perform divine service according to them Therefore, she made up her mind to see that the whole charge of the service of the new temple was permanently placed in the hands of Brahmins of virtuous conduct, well versed in the scriptures, taking care at the same time that the just and proper farewell gifts etc., due to her Guru’s family were not affected. Here again, the prevailing custom of society stood in her way. In those days, the Brahmins born of good families and devoted to religious traditions did not even salute the deities installed by Sudras, let alone worshipping them They regarded the degraded Brahmins, such as the family of the Rani’s spiritual teacher, virtually as Sudras. It was therefore no wonder that no Brahmin of virtuous conduct, able to perform worship and officiate as a priest, agreed to take charge of the worship in the Rani’s temple. However, the Rani did not give up hope, and increasing the remuneration and the pay, continued to search for a priest in various places.
12. Maheshchandra, an officer of the Rani, took the responsibility of procuring priests
The home of Hemangini Devi, the Master’s cousin, was in the village of Sihar, not far from Kamarpukur. Many Brahmins lived there. One Maheshchandra Chattopadhyaya of that village served in the estate of the Rani. Thinking perhaps that he might be able to earn a little money thereby, he came forward to procure Brahmins for the Rani’s temples to work as priests, cooks, etc. Mahesh undertook to make that arrangement and selected his elder brother Kshetranath for the post of a priest in the temple of Radha-Govinda, either with a view to convincing the poor Brahmins of the village that accepting employment in the Rani’s temples was not reprehensible, or with a view to improving the pecuniary condition of his family, or both. As he appointed one of his own family to work for the Rani, it became easy to a great extent to procure other Brahmins for service in the temples. But he became very anxious when, in spite of much effort, he could not procure a fit priest for the Kali temple.
13. The Rani requested Ramkumar to accept the office of the priest
Mahesh had been for a long time acquainted with Ramkumar. It seems, they had a conventional relationship established between them, which we can infer from the village custom. It was not unknown to Mahesh that Ramkumar was a devout Sadhaka and had long ago become initiated in the Mantra of Sakti of his own accord. We infer that Mahesh knew of the want and insufficiency in Ramkumar’s household. So his attention was drawn to Ramkumar at the time of seeking a priest for the temple of the Mother Kali. But the next moment he remembered that Ramkumar was a Brahmin who did not officiate in sacrifices performed by Sudras. Although he sometimes accepted the post of a priest in the houses of Digambar Mitra and others in Calcutta, would he accept it in the temple of the Rani, who was a Kaivarta by birth? It was very doubtful. But the day for the installation of the goddess was near at hand and a suitable priest was not available yet. Revolving all this in his mind, Mahesh thought it reasonable to make an effort once at least in that direction. However, he did not himself immediately set about doing that. He told the Rani everything and asked her to invite and request Ramkumar to accept the office of the priest for the day of the installation at least and perform all the rites on that day. The Rani had already a high opinion of Ramkumar’s fitness as she got the scriptural prescription from him So she was much delighted at the prospect of his officiating as the priest and sent him word with great humility. “I am now ready to install the Mother of the universe on the strength of your prescription,” wrote she, “and have also arranged everything in order to perform that ceremony at an auspicious moment on the day of the coming Snanayatra. We have got a priest for Radha-Govinda. But no suitable Brahmin is coming forward to officiate as the priest of the Mother Kali and help me in the act of Her installation. Therefore, please make an arrangement that may seem possible to you and deliver me from this predicament. As you are a good scholar, well-versed in the scriptures, it is needless for me to tell you that anyone and everyone cannot be appointed to officiate as the priest.”
Mahesh himself went to Ramkumar with the letter conveying the request, explained the situation to him in various ways and prevailed upon him to agree to officiate as the priest until a suitable one was available. The devout Ramkumar, devoid of avarice, came at first to Dakshineswar1lest the installation of the universal Mother should have to be given up. Then at the humble request of the Rani and Mathur Babu, he lived there for the rest of his life, as he saw that there was no other suitable priest available. All events of the world, great or small, come to pass by the will of the divine Mother. Who can say whether or not Ramkumar, a devotee of the goddess, knew the will of the Source of all wills and accepted that office?
14. Installation of the goddess by the Rani
The Rani got Ramkumar to officiate as the priest in that unexpected way and installed the Mother of the universe in the new temple with great pomp on Thursday, May 31, A.D. 1855, the day of the
Snanayatra. It is said that on that occasion the temple was continuously filled day and night with the noise of feasts and festivities. The Rani spent money unstintedly and did her best to make all the guests and others as happy as herself. Many professors of the Sastras and Brahmin Pandits came on that occasion from places famous for scholars, places such as the distant Kanyakubja, Kasi, Sylhet, Chittagong, Orissa, Navadvip, etc. Each of them got a silk cloth, a wrapper and gold coins as farewell presents. The Rani, it is said, spent nine hundred thousand rupees on the building and the consecration ceremony of the temple. She purchased from Trailokyanath Thakur for two hundred and twenty-six thousand rupees the Salbari Parganah in the sub-division of Thakurgaon in the district of Dinajpur and executed a deed of gift and dedicated the property to the service of the deities.
15. How the Master behaved on the installation day
Some say that Ramkumar was given provisions and he cooked them that day with his own hands on the bank of the Ganga. And after offering the cooked food to his own chosen Ideal, he took it as Prasada. But this sounds improbable, for, Ramkumar, a devotee of the goddess, had himself given the prescription about the offering of cooked food according to his knowledge of the scriptures, and without the expectation of any gain. It is quite unreasonable that he himself should not take that offered food and should act against his own prescription and the injunction of the devotional scriptures. The Master also did not tell us so. Therefore, our impression is that at the end of the worship he took joyfully the cooked food offered to the Mother of the universe. But, although the Master joined the joyous festival whole-heartedly, he acted according to his strict principle regarding food. He bought from the neighbouring market a pice worth of fried rice at the approach of the evening and ate it before he walked Backto the school at Jhamapukur for his rest at night.
16. What the Master said about the founding of the Kali temple
The Master himself told us on many occasions many things about the founding by Rasmani of the Dakshineswar Kali temple. He used to say: “Rani Rasmani made ready to go to Kasi, the abode of Visvanatha and Annapurna. She fixed a day for starting and had about a hundred small and big boats laden with various articles at the Ghat. She got a prohibitory instruction from the goddess on the night immediately before the day of starting and gave up that resolve. She then engaged herself in searching for a fit plot of land to build the temple on.”
He said further: “Under the conviction that ‘the western bank of the Ganga is comparable to Varanasi’, she at first searched for a piece of land in villages like Bali and Uttarpara on the western bank of the Ganga but failed to get one.1For although the Rani was ready to pay a vast sum of money, the famous landlords of those places said that they would not come to the Ganga down a Ghat constructed at the cost of anyone else at any place in their possession. Therefore, the Rani was compelled at last to buy this spot on the eastern bank of the Ganga.”
He used to say: “A part of the piece of land selected by the Rani at Dakshineswar belonged to an Englishman. In the other part of the land there was a Muslim graveyard, associated with the memory of a holy man. The piece of land had the shape of the Backof a tortoise. Such a graveyard, according to the Tantras, is very commendable for the installation of Sakti and for Her Sadhana. Therefore, as if guided by Providence, the Rani chose this piece of land.”
Again, he would raise the topic why the Rani installed the Mother of the universe on the Snanayatra day, a day of the festival connected with Vishnu, instead of on any other day auspicious for the installation of Sakti and say: “The Rani practised severe austerities according to the scriptures from the day on which the making of the image began; she bathed three times a day, took simple food, lay on the floor and practised Japa, worship, etc., according to her capacity. When the temple was built and the image made, an auspicious day was going to be leisurely fixed for the installation; and the image was kept packed in a box lest it should be damaged. But it suddenly perspired for some reason or other and the Rani got the command in a dream, ‘How long will you keep me confined this way? I feel suffocated; install me as soon as possible.’ No sooner had she got that instruction than the Rani became flurried and had the almanac consulted for an auspicious day. But, as no such day could be found before the Snanayatra, she resolved to perform the installation on that day.”
Besides this, we heard from the Master many other things including the consecration of the temple in the name of the Rani’s Guru so that cooked food might be offered to the goddess. We heard from Hriday two things only: firstly, that Ramkumar gave the scriptural prescription to the Rani about the consecration of the temple, and secondly, that he had recourse to the practice of Dharmapatra1to convince the Master of the propriety of his accepting the office of the temple priest.
We can know from the Master’s behaviour at this time that Ramkumar had at first no mind to accept permanently the office of priest at the Dakshineswar Kali temple. When we reflect over the event, it seems to us that the simple-hearted Ramkumar did not understand it at that time. He thought that he would give the prescription regarding the offering of cooked food to the goddess and return to Jhamapukur after personally offering cooked food on the day of the installation.
We come to the conclusion from his behaviour towards his younger brother at this time that he was not at all hesitant about offering cooked food and that he did not think he was doing anything wrong and unscriptural. We shall explain these things to the reader here.
Early next morning, the Master came to Dakshineswar either to inquire about his brother or to witness, out of curiosity, the ceremonies that were left over from the previous day. He was there for some time, when he saw that there was no probability of his brother’s returning to Jhamapukur that day. Therefore, although requested by his brother to stay there for the day, he did not obey him and returned to Jhamapukur at the time of his taking food. The Master did not go to Dakshineswar for about a week since then. He was staying at Jhamapukur thinking that his brother would return there in due time, after finishing the ceremonies at Dakshineswar. But when Ramkumar did not return even after a week, he grew anxious and came to Dakshineswar again to get news of his brother. He then came to know that Ramkumar had agreed to assume permanent charge of the worship of the divine Mother at the importunate request of the Rani. No sooner had he heard it than there arose various thoughts in his mind. He reminded his brother that their father neither officiated in the sacrifices of the Sudras nor accepted gifts from all, and tried to dissuade him from that course. It is said that Ramkumar tried to vindicate his action to the Master in various ways with the help of reason and scripture, but nothing touched his heart. Therefore he had recourse to the simple expedient of Dharmapatra, the leaf of impartiality, at last. The leaf of impartiality, it is said, read, “Ramkumar has not incurred blame in accepting the office of the priest. It will prove beneficial to all.”
17. The steadfastness of the Master regarding food
Although the Master now became free from anxiety regarding his brother’s decision, another thought occupied his mind. He thought over what he was to do, now that the Chatuspathi was abolished. The Master remained absorbed in that thought and did not return to Jhamapukur that day. But he could not be made to agree to take Prasada in the temple in spite of Ramkumar’s loving persuasion. Ramkumar said, “It is a temple and the food is cooked with the water of the Ganga; besides, it has been offered to the Mother of the universe; it will not be reprehensible for you to take it.” But these words did not appeal to the Master. So Ramkumar said, “Then take uncooked provisions from the temple store, cook them with your own hands on the sands of the Ganga under the Panchavati and have your meal. Don’t you accept that the Ganga purifies everything on its banks and bed?” The Master’s strict principle regarding food had now to yield to his devotion to the Ganga. His faith and devotion accomplished what Ramkumar, well-versed in the Sastras, could not do with the help of so much reasoning. The Master agreed, and continued to stay at Dakshineswar and take his daily meal prepared by himself in this way.
18. The Master’s devotion to the Ganga
Ah, what a deep devotion to the Ganga the Master had all his life! He used to call the water of the Ganga, Brahma-vari, i.e., Brahman in the form of water. He said, “Any person living on either bank of the Ganga has his heart changed into one like that of gods, and virtues manifest therein of themselves. The wind filled with the sacred particles of the water of the Ganga purifies the land on both sides as far as it blows. By the grace of the Bhagirathi, the daughter of the great mountain, goodness, austerity, generosity, devotion to God, and spiritual steadfastness are always manifest in the lives of the people living in those parts of the land.” If anybody talked of worldly things for a long time or mixed with worldly people, the Master would ask him to drink a little of the water of the Ganga. If a man, averse to God and attached to worldliness, sat in any part of the sacred abode of the divine Mother and polluted it by worldly thoughts, he would sprinkle there the water of the Ganga. He felt much pained if he saw anybody cleaning himself with that water after answering calls of nature.
19. The Master took his daily food cooked by himself and lived at Dakshineswar
The garden situated on the bank of the beautiful river and beautified with the Panchavati filled with the songs of birds, the divine service well performed by a devout Sadhaka in the beautiful spacious temple, the genuine affection of his father-like eldest brother, and the faith and devotion of the virtuous Rani Rasmani devoted to gods and the twice-born, and of Mathur Babu, her son-in-law – all these very soon made the Dakshineswar temple immensely attractive to the Master, who gradually made it his own, even like his home at Kamarpukur. Indeed he cooked his daily food for some time, but he lived there with a cheerful mind and discarded that attitude of uncertainty regarding his future duty.
20. The difference between illiberality and religious steadfastness
On hearing of the firm principle of the Master regarding food, some will perhaps think, “Such illiberality is generally seen in the minds of men like ourselves. Do you mean to say, by mentioning this instance that the ultimate goal of spirituality cannot be realized if one is not similarly illiberal?”. We say in reply, “Illiberality and religious steadfastness are not the same thing. The former is born of egoism. When it prevails, a man sets the highest value on what he himself understands and does, and thus circumscribing himself remains unconcerned. But the latter is born of the faith in the teachings of the scriptures and great souls; when it prevails, man curbs his egoism, makes progress in his spiritual life and gradually realizes the supreme truth. When that firm principle predominates, a person may, in the beginning, appear to be illiberal for some time; but he receives with its help, clearer and clearer light on the path of his life and the limiting narrowness vanishes of itself. Therefore, how can we deny that steadfastness is absolutely necessary on the path to spiritual progress?” Acquainted with this quality in the Master’s life in the manner mentioned above, we understand clearly that we too will be endowed with true liberality in time, and attain the ultimate peace, if we go forward to realize spiritual truths with a single-minded devotion to the teachings of the scriptures, and not otherwise. We have ‘to remove one thorn by another’ as the Master used to say. We must have recourse to religious steadfastness in order to reach the liberality of truth – we must follow rules and regulations in order to reach the state beyond them.
Noticing this imperfection in the beginning of youth in the Master’s life, some will perhaps say, “Why should he then be called an incarnation of God? Why not call him a man? But if you must make God of him, it is better to conceal such imperfections when you go to write his life.” We say, “Brother, there was a time when we also never believed it possible even in a dream that God assumed a human body and incarnated Himself. When, however, by His unbounded selfless grace, He made us understand that it was possible, we found that with the assumption of the human body, He had to assume the imperfections of the human mind in the same way as those of the human body. The Master used to say, ‘The shape of an ornament cannot be given to gold etc., if it does not contain some alloy.’ He never made the slightest attempt to conceal those imperfections from us, yet he clearly told us over and over again, ‘The One who became Rama and Krishna, has now come into this case (showing his body); but His coming down this time is incognito, just like a king going in disguise to see round the capital. It is like that.’ “
1. There was, it is said, a barrack of English soldiers situated near the Janbazar house of the Rani. Drunk and unrestrained, the soldiers, one day, overcame the gate keepers by force, entered the house and began to plunder it. Mathur Babu, the son-in-law of the Rani and other men folk were then out on business. Unopposed, the soldiers were almost ready to enter the inner apartment, when the Rani took up arms, ready to oppose them personally.
2. It is said that the British Government imposed a tax on the fishermen for catching fish in the Ganga. Many of these fishermen dwelt in the estate of the Rani. Oppressed on account of the imposition of tax, they narrated their tale of sorrow to her. The Rani heard it and told them not to be afraid. For a big sum of money she took on lease that part of the river for catching fish. The Government thought that the Rani would carry on a business in fish. And as soon as the said right was obtained, the Rani put chains across the river in many places. This made it almost impossible for ships and other vessels of the Government to enter the river. When
the Government protested against that action of the Rani, she sent word, ” I have purchased the right of catching fish in the river on payment of a large sum of money to you. What I have done is in accordance with that right. If ships and other vessels always pass through the river, the fish will flee elsewhere and I shall stand to lose much. How can I, therefore, remove the chains from the river? But, if you agree to abolish the new tax on the right to catch fish in the river, I, for my part, am ready to give up my right voluntarily. There will otherwise be litigation and the Government will have to pay damages to me.” It is said that owing to that reasonable statement of the Rani and also knowing that she was doing so in order to protect the poor fishermen, the Government abolished that tax in a short time. The fishermen then caught fish free of any tax and blessed the Rani.
The Rani evinced great interest in all matters conducive to the good of the people. We find the proof of it in the markets at Sonai, Beleghata and Bhawanipur; in the Ghat and the house for the dying at Kalighat; in the Ghat at Ganga at Halisahar; in the road to Puri for some distance from the other side of Suvarnarekha; and in many other virtuous acts. The Rani went on pilgrimage to Gangasagar, Triveni, Navadwip, Agradwip and Puri, and spent vast sums of money in the names of gods. Moreover, she protected the tenants of the estate of Makimpur against the oppression of the indigo planters. She spent ten thousand rupees and got the Madhumati connected with the Navaganga by the canal of Tona. These and various other acts of public utility stand to her credit.
3. For the information of the reader we quote here a genealogical table of Rani Rasmani from the booklet Sri Dakshineswar:
1. Some say that Rani Rasmani started by boat and came to the village of Dakshineswar to the north of Calcutta. She got that prohibitory instruction when she was passing the night there in the boat.
1. We heard from Hriday, the Master’s nephew, the description mentioned above, of Ramkumar’s coming to Dakshineswar, but Ramlal, the Master’s elder brother’s son, gives a different account. He says, “Ramdhan Ghosh of the village of Desra, near Kamarpukur, was an officer of Rani Rasmani. The Rani held him in high regard for his efficiency and he gradually rose to be her secretary. As he was known to Ramkumar, he sent him a letter of invitation to come to take his farewell gifts at the time of the consecration ceremony of the Kali temple.” Ramkumar came to the Janbazar house of the Rani and said to Ramdhan, “The Rani is a Kaivarta by birth. We are Brahmins belonging to the Rarhi class. We shall be boycotted if we accept her invitation to take gifts.” Ramdhan showed him a list and said, “Why? Just see how many Brahmins of that class have been invited. They will all come and accept gifts from the Rani.” Ramkumar agreed to accept gifts and came to Dakshineswar with the Master the day before the consecration. There flowed a current of bliss in the temple on that day on account of the performance of Yatra, the singing of the glory of Kali, the reading of the Bhagavata and of the Ramayana, and so on. There was no cessation of that current of bliss even during the night. Every nook and corner of the temple was as bright as day on account of innumerable lights. The Master used to say, “Going round the temple, one felt that the Rani had brought the silver mountain and placed it there.” Ramkumar came to the Kali temple to see the festival the day before the installation.
It is inferred from what Ramlal said, that Ramkumar came to Dakshineswar and accepted the office of the priest at the request of both Ramdhan and Mahesh.
1. The old people of these villages bear testimony to this fact even now.
1. There is still the custom in villages of people depending on Providence when there is no possibility of a decision being arrived at by reasoning on a particular matter, and taking recourse to Dharmapatra, the leaf of impartiality, to know the will of Providence. When they ascertain it thus, they act accordingly, without further argument or reasoning. The leaf of impartiality is made use of in the following manner:
“Yes” and “No” are written on some fragments of paper or on Vilva leaves, which are put into an empty water-pot and a child is asked to pick up one fragment or a leaf. If the child picks up a “Yes” fragment, the person who has recourse to this expedient knows that Providence sanctions the contemplated course. If the other piece is picked up, he takes it that the will of Providence forbids the course. The division of property and other things also is sometimes made with the help of this device. Take this for example: Four brothers have been living in a joint family; they want to live separately now and divide the joint property, but cannot come to any decision as to the particular portion to be owned by each. They then ask a few important people of the village to give a decision. They divide the whole property, both movable and immovable into four equal parts as far as possible. Then they decide by means of the impartial leaf which particular portion is to go to a particular brother. Almost the same practice is followed here also. The names of the owners of the property are written on small pieces of paper. They are folded so that no one can read the names and then put into an empty water-pot. Each portion of the property divided into four parts is marked A, B, etc., and small pieces of paper similarly marked are placed, as before, in another pot. Two children are then called and one of them is asked to pick up one piece from one pot, and the other child, to pick up one from the other. The fragments of paper are then read and each brother is to accept the portion corresponding to his name.