GIRISH CHANDRA GHOSH
Girish Chandra Ghosh was the bright example of how the touch of a Seer can turn a sinner into a saint. From the depth of moral degradation he was raised by the influence of the God-man of Dakshineswar to a height of glory from where his moral and spiritual influence spread through different channels to a very wide area. “There is no sin which I have not committed,” Girish once said, “but still there is no end of grace I have received from the Master.” He did not seek God but God sought him. But once his mind turned towards God, he stormed the citadel of Heaven, as it were, and compelled God to love him with all his faults and weakness of the flesh. His was an indomitable and invincible spirit. He was heroic in every respect – in his self-indulgence in early days when his nature was turbulent, as also as in his dynamic faith in latter years when his thoughts turned towards religion. When he was an atheist, nobody dared argue with him about the existence of any Reality behind the material universe; when he was a social rebel, people thought he was lost beyond redemption; when he got interested in religion, his faith was so great that it was the despair of many religious-minded persons and it was so virile that many a lukewarm devotee would throng round him just to kindle the fire of devotion from him.
Girish Chandra was born on the 28th of February, 1844, at Bosepara Lane of Baghbazar in Calcutta. The eighth child of his pious parents, he became from his very childhood the recipient of the excessive love and indulgence of his father, Nilkamal Ghosh. The aged father, a bookkeeper in the office of a merchant, was held in high esteem by his neighbours for his piety, honesty, philanthropy and worldly wisdom. Girish Chandra’s mother was remarkable also for her simplicity and artless devotion to the Lord. But the premature death of her first son unnerved her so much that she did not venture to fondle Girish, and kept up an assumed air of indifference.
Thus reared up with the alternate love and indifference of his parents, Girish grew up to be a buoyant and healthy young lad. But his turbulent nature became a source of anxiety to all. His boyish importunities sometimes overstepped all bounds of decorum and reasonableness. But another trait that was noticeable in him was his unusual eagerness to listen to the recital of Pauranic stories. In the evening when the young and the old members of the family gathered together after the day’s work to hear the narration of these stories from the mouth of an aged aunt of Girish’s father, the boy would also silently take his seat in their midst and listen in an absorbed mood which would belie for the time being his erstwhile boisterousness. His eyes would even glisten with tears of alternate joy and grief when any pleasant or pathetic anecdote was recounted with deep emotion and fervour. Indeed these apparently contradictory traits of his early life disclose the real stuff he was made of. It was these elements of his nature that first led him astray and then to the right path and enabled him in after years to tide over the manifold trials and tribulations of his life and reach the plenitude of glory that rarely falls to the lot of ordinary human beings.
Girish lost his mother at the age of eleven, and he naturally began to depend entirely upon the love and guidance of his aged father from then on. Nilkamal was shrewd enough to fathom the depth of his son’s nature and extended as much freedom as possible to the boy to develop in his own way. But this undue indulgence interfered not a little with the boy’s early education. The rigour of discipline and the mode of teaching obtaining in schools did not find much favour with Girish, and he changed from one school to another with the tacit consent of his father. But human life is not always smooth sailing. Nilkamal, bent under the weight of his age and the repeated blows of family bereavements, very soon fell seriously ill. He began to sink day by day, and one day bade final adieu to this mortal life.
Exactly a year after the death of his father, Girish entered into married life. Thereafter his studies in school did not proceed satisfactorily, and, as expected, he was plucked in the Entrance Examination. Thus his academic education came to an end. Now, freed from the vigilance of a watchful father and the obligation of a student life, the dormant instincts of his truculent nature began to manifest themselves in all their nakedness. Within a few years he became a veritable terror to the neighbours. His father-in-law, who was a book-keeper in the John Atkinson Company, coming to know of his son-in-law’s wanton excesses and turbulent habits lost no time in employing him in his own office as a probationer. After that he acted in various capacities in different merchant offices for about fifteen years. It was during this period when some portion of the bubbling energies of his youth was harnessed to the wheel of official duty, that his latent literary ability was stimulated to activity under the careful guidance of his vastly erudite maternal uncle. But, notwithstanding this new-born fondness for study and literary work, Girish soon broke loose from all moral restraint. He was seized with an irresistible urge from within to drink life to the lees, and he was very soon dragged down to the worst state of moral turpitude. But his other qualities of head and heart – his love for the poor and the sick, his spirit of self-sacrifice and of service to mitigate the sufferings of the helpless, and, above all, his brilliance as a poet and litterateur – served to overshadow his moral foibles and soon earned for him a place of distinction in the circle of the intelligentsia of the time.
At this time Girish suffered from a number of family mishaps. One after another, two of his sisters, two brothers and eventually in 1874 his own wife departed from this earthly life, leaving Girish entirely forlorn in the vast wilderness of the world. These pangs of separation coupled with the rankling memories of his own immoral excesses rendered his life almost unbearable. So, to assuage the excruciating pains of his lacerated heart, he threw himself ardently into literary pursuits and thus got an opportunity to give expression to his pent-up emotions in and through a series of exquisite poetical compositions. But very soon a grave financial crisis stared him in the face: the Company in which he had so long been serving failed and he was thrown out of employment. Fortunately, his immediate appointment as Head Clerk in the office of the Indian League, started under the auspices of Sisir Kumar Ghosh, the then Editor of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, came to him as a welcome surprise and gave him temporary relief.
About this time, through the insistence of his eldest sister and other friends, Girish was once again united in wedlock. But six months had scarcely elapsed when he was suddenly attacked with a virulent type of cholera. His iron constitution, which his reckless habits and excessive drinking could not break down, soon became extremely emaciated and weak, and the physicians gave up all hope of his recovery. Girish, surrounded by his weeping relatives, lay almost senseless on the bed, and in that state of semiconsciousness he saw the vision of a resplendent lady1 clad in a red-bordered Sari just approaching him with comely deportment and a compassionate look, and asking him affectionately to take the holy “Mahaprasad ” (the offering made to Lord Jagannath at Puri) which she had brought for his recovery. Girish took it in his mouth as directed, and, to the infinite joy of all, he regained consciousness and was soon cured of this fell disease. But misfortunes do not come singly. Soon after this unexpected recovery Girish once again became involved in some serious trouble, and he found no means to get out of this hopeless predicament. In utter despair and in the agony of his heart he raised his unwilling hands to God Shiva and prayed for His divine grace to rescue him from the meshes of his present tribulations. His prayers were answered and the darkening clouds that were gathered on the horizon rolled Backto his great joy and relief. It must be remembered that Girish had from his youth been nurtured in the society of sceptics and atheists and had always plumed himself on his bold defiance of all that was divine or mysterious. But now, after his miraculous escape from imminent death and other dangers through divine intercession, his mind began to falter and question the supremacy of the intellect in solving the baffling mysteries of life. His mind, though released for the time being from the octopus of rank atheism, could not, however, settle down to a firm conviction, and continued to swing like a pendulum between doubt and belief.
Regarding this female figure Girish himself stated in after years to his brother-disciples thus: ” Sixteen years later (i.e., m 1891) when I first visited Jayrambati to see the Holy Mother (the wife of Sri Ramakrishna) I found to my surprise and delight that the lady that saved my life with the. holy Mahaprasad was none other than the Holy Mother herself.”
In 1879 he took a momentous step in his life which made his name immortal in the dramatic history of Bengal. So long his relation with the stage had only been that of an amateur. But from now on, his connection became more intimate, because he chose the Bnegali stage as the principal arena of his activity and also as the primary source of his livelihood. He not only threw himself heart and soul into the composition of Pauranic, social, historical and religious dramas but also trained actors and actresses in the histrionic art and thus popularised the stage as a national institution. He himself was an actor par excellence and his impersonations of many conflicting characters in one and the same drama in successive scenes were inimitable and drew unstinted admiration from one and all. In fact, with his creative genius he imparted a new life to the Bengali stage, placed it on a footing of dignity and honour and thus enlisted the much-needed support hitherto denied to it by persons of light and leading. He began to wield his powerful pen with consummate skill, and very soon his fame as a dramatist reached a very great height. In the hands of Girish Chandra the Bengali drama outgrew its infant stage and entered into a glorious period. In 1883 the Star Theatre was started under his initiative and placed on a stable foundation.
But this kind of material success could hardly silence the still sad voice of a guilty conscience. The pricking sense of a life that had suffered a moral shipwreck made him ill at ease. In calmer moments when the excitement and fever of daily activity became subdued, the lurid picture of his dissipated life became unrolled before his vision and he was smitten with grief and remorse. Regarding this state of mental tension and uneasiness as well as concerning his previous wanton excesses and training in the modem school of atheism Girish himself has written: ” My early training, want of a guardian from childhood, the tumultous youthful tendencies – all were • driving me away from the path of righteousness. Atheism was the order of the day. Belief in the existence of God was considered foolish and a sign of weakness. So in the circle of friends one was to prove the non-existence of God if one cared at all for prestige and dignity. I used to scoff at those who believed in God, and turning over a few pages of science, I concluded to the full satisfaction of my mind that religion was but a matter of imagination, that it was but a means to frighten people into keeping away from evil deeds, and that wisdom lay in achieving one’s selfish ends by hook or by crook. But in this world such wisdom does not last long. Evil days bring home hard truths. Under this tutorship I learnt that there is no effective means to hide evil deeds; somehow they all take air. Yes, I learnt. But the deeds had already begun to bear fruit. A hopeless future was painted in fierce colours on the mind’s canvas. But it was only the beginning of the punishment yet in store, from which there seemed no hope of any escape. Friendless, surrounded on all sides by dangers, with resolute foes aiming at my utter ruin, and my own misdeeds offering them ample opportunities of wreaking vengeance on me, – at such a juncture I thought: ‘Does God really exist ? Can He show a way out if one calls on Him ? ‘ “
We have already seen how his prayers were answered on more than one occasion. With the advance of years his true self began to reveal itself according as his arrogance and self-conceit received hard knocks from adversities in life. He instinctively began to feel that behind the sparkling variety of phenomena there must be an Inscrutable Power that shapes and guides the destinies of all, and this belief of Girish was strengthened in a large measure by a string of occurrences over which he had no control. He was now convinced that God was real; but as doubt had become ingrained in his very nature he still vacillated under the stress of peculiar circumstances and he oftentimes ran for help and guidance to friends, who were unanimous in their opinion that without the help of a Guru doubt could not be got over permanently. But reason refused to call man a Guru – for Guru, according to the scriptural injunctions, was to be looked upon as God on earth. The very idea seemed revolting to him, for nothing could be more blasphemous. And this struggle raged unabated in his mind and gave him no peace and rest. It was at this psychological moment that an incident of deep spiritual significance occurred which proved a turning point in his chequered career.
Girish had already come to know from the Indian Mirror that a Paramahamsa lived at Dakshineswar and that Keshab Chandra Sen with his disciples paid frequent visits to him. Out of curiosity he one day went to see Sri Ramakrishna when the latter had come to the house of the renowned attorney Dinanath Basu of Bosepara Lane. It was evening, and the lamps were lit. But Sri Ramakrishna, who was then in an ecstatic state, did not see the light. He inquired if it was evening. Girish thought this to be the height of absurdity and left the place in disgust. Some years after this incident Sri Ramakrishna paid a visit to the house of Balaram Bose of Baghbazar. Girish was also invited. He was agreeably surprised to find that the conduct of this Paramahamsa was quite different from that of other Paramahamsas and Yogis. Girish sat for a few minutes in silent admiration for the saint’s God-intoxication, humility and sweet demeanour, when Babu Sisir Kumar Ghosh, Editor of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, who was also present there and did not seem to have much respect for Sri Ramakrishna, said to Girish: “Well, let us go. We have had enough of this.” Girish wanted to stay, but had to yield to his friend’s request. This was his second visit.
It was the month of August, 1884, when Chaitanya Lila of Girish was first staged at the Star Theatre. The play created a sensation and brought forth the admiration of all for its profundity of thought and directness of appeal to the religious consciousness of people in general. One day Girish was pacing in the courtyard of the theatre, when a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna came to him and said: ” Paramahamsa Deva has come to see the play. Will you kindly give him a seat or shall we purchase a ticket ? ” ” He will be admitted free,” replied Girish, ”but others will have to pay.” He was about to advance and receive the Master, when he found that he was already within the compound. Sri Ramakrishna saluted Girish. Girish returned the salute, but the Master bowed again. This was repeated again. Girish stopped short lest the salutation should go on ad infinitum. He conducted the Master to a box, engaged a servant to fan him, and feeling indisposed, went home. This was his third meeting with the Master, which came on about the 21st of September, 1884.
About this time Girish had picked up an acquaintance with a devout Vaishnava painter with whom he had frequent intimate talks about domestic affairs and the Vaishnava religion. On one occasion in the course of a conversation he told Girish that his Chosen Deity every day actually partook of a portion of the food offered to Him, and added that none could experience such a divine favour without the grace of a Guru. The artless candour and devotion with which he narrated the affair so profoundly impressed Girish that on his return home he shut himself up in his own closet and wept bitterly. Needless to say, his heart now yearned for a spiritual guide.
A few days after this incident when Girish was sitting on the verandah of a neighbour near a crossing of two roads, he saw Sri Rama-krishna accompanied by a group of devotees slowly passing that way towards the house of Balaram Bose. One of the devotees pointed towards Girish from a distance and said something in whispers to the Master. He at once saluted Girish and went on his way. He had not gone far when Girish felt that something was pulling him towards Sri Ramakrishna. He could not sit still. He felt so much drawn towards him that he longed to run and overtake him. Just then a devotee came from the Master and invited him to go there. He followed him as one charmed. Sri Ramakrishna seated himself in the parlour of Balaram, and Girish also took his seat near him. Girish asked, “Sir, what is a Guru?” “He is like a liaison officer who brings about the union of the Lord and the devoted soul,” was the reply. He further added, “Your Guru has been selected.” “What is a Mantra?” – again asked Girish. “God’s name,” was the answer. The talk then drifted on to many topics – as if they were intimately known to each other for many years. He asked Girish to show him a theatrical performance again. Girish agreed. It was settled that he would come to see Prahlad Charitra. Shortly after, Girish saluted the Master and left with a devotee. The latter asked Girish, ” How did you find him?” ” A great devotee,” answered Girish.
He was now full of joy as he had no longer to trouble himself with the search for a Guru.
Some time after this meeting with the Master, Girish was seated in the green-room of his theatre, when a devotee, Devendra Nath Mazumdar, came to him in -haste and said that Sri Rama-krishna had come to see the performance (Pra-hlad Chariira). “Very well,” replied Girish, ” please conduct him to a box.” ” But won’t you come and receive him ?” he asked. ” Why,” said Girish, ” can’t he get down from the coach without me?” But he went nevertheless, and found Sri Ramakrishna about to alight. But as soon as he looked upon his serene countenance Girish was smitten with remorse for not having been more cordial in welcoming the saint. He took the Master upstairs, touched his feet without knowing why he did so, and presented him with a rose. The Master returned it saying: ” Flowers are for gods or for fashionable folk. I am neither.” In the course of conversation Sri Ramakrishna said, “Your mind is not all sincere.” Girish thought within himself that faults and foibles there were indeed many. So he asked, ” How will they go ?” “Have faith,” came the reply.
Another day in the house of Ramchandra Dutt Girish met the Master who was in an ecstatic mood. After the singing was over, Sri Ramakrishna went into the parlour where Girish also followed him. Girish asked, “Sir, will the crookedness of my mind ever be removed ?” “Surely,” replied Sri Ramakrishna. Thrice the question was repeated and thrice the Master gave the same answer. Among those present was Manomohan Mitra, who said: “You have been answered. Why do you tease him thus ? ‘ ‘ Pocketing the affront Girish thought: “He is right. If a man cannot take another’s word the first time, a hundred repetitions will not make’him do so.” He saluted the Master and returned to his theatre.
Girish now felt more and more drawn towards the Master. Some time after this he went to Dakshineswar and found Sri Ramakrishna seated on a blanket on the south verandah of his room. The Master was then talking with a young devotee. Girish bowed to the Master, and at once the words came out of the Master’s lips as if from one nearest and dearest to him, “We were just now talking of you; really, just ask him.” The Master, then, proceeded to give some instructions when Girish interrupted him saying: “I don’t want instructions. I myself have written many such in my books. Please do something tangible for me.” At this the Master was very pleased and smiled. This divine smile made Girish feel for the time being that his mind had become completely purged of all impurities. While taking leave, Girish asked: “Sir, I have come here and seen you. Shall I continue what I have been doing?” “Yes,” was the answer. Girish felt from this that his connection with the theatre was not harmful. He was now convinced that the great saint had given him shelter and that the realisation of God would now be an easy affair. He was filled with infinite faith and courage, for already he was beginning to have a glimpse of what Guru really meant. The fear of death – that great terror – too had gone. Girish became a steadfast devotee of Sri Ramakrishna.
Wonderful was his relationship with the Master. Sri Ramakrishna showed deep affection for him. As a father loves his children equally, so the Guru loves his disciples all alike. But he does not give equal indulgence to every one. The Master called Girish a heroic devotee and suffered him to have any indulgence he liked. The great Master used to call him a Bhairava (divine companion of Shiva). Regarding this particular epithet, Sri Ramakrishna himself once said: ” In the temple of Kali I was one day engaged in meditation. I found that a naked boy came tripping there with a tuft of hair on the crown of his head and a flask of wine under his left armpit and a vessel of nectar in the right hand. ‘Who are you?’ I asked. ‘I am a Bhairava,’ replied he. On my asking the reason of his coming, he answered, ‘To do your work.’ When Girish in mature years came to me, I recognised that Bhairava in him.” The Master knew that at heart Girish was tender, faithful and sincere.
A great vice of Girish was his inordinate incontinence. One night under the influence of liquor he abused the Master in the theatre hall in most indecent language. The enraged devotees were about to punish his insolence, but Sri Ramakrishna held them back. The Master realising the inner earnestness and sincerity of Girish kept quiet and returned to Dakshi-neswar. But Girish, like an excessively indulged and spoilt child, felt no qualms of conscience for having heaped so much abuse on the Master and moved about as freely as ever. Friends dinned into his ears that he had done wrong and he too understood it slowly. Many even complained to Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar against Girish and requested him not to go to him any more. But there was one amongst the devotees, Ram-chandra Dutt, who told the Master: “Sir, you will have to put up with this as well. He can only give what he has. He has worshipped you through abusing you. The serpent king of the Bhaga-vata said to the Lord Sri Krishna, ‘ My Lord, you have given me poison, where shall I get nectar to give you?’ Similarly, Girish has worshipped you with whatever you have given him.” Sri Ramakrishna simply smiled and said to the other devotees: “Just hear his words. Get me a coach. I shall go to Girish’s house to-day.” Thus without caring about the objections of the devotees and for the grilling heat of the noonday sun, Sri Ramakrishna went to the house of Girish and found him smitten with anguish and remorse. The kind and affectionate words of the Master banished all gloom from his mind and filled it with a flood of joy. A few days after this, the Master went to the house of a devotee in Calcutta. Girish was also present there. He was brooding with a broken heart over his own misdeeds when the Master in a semi-conscious mood spoke out, ” Girish Ghosh, don’t worry about it; people will be astonished at the marvellous change that will come over you.” Girish heaved a sigh of relief.
The Master knew that mere words would not induce Girish to break his deep-rooted habits. So while allowing him every freedom to pursue the dictates of his nature, he gradually brought him under the spell of his transcendent love which served as the greatest alchemy in Girish’s life and worked miracles. One day Girish went to see an actress who was ill, and became so tipsy from inordinate drinking that he had to spend the night at her house. It was the first time that he had slept in such a place. In the morning when he had become sober he understood what had happened, and stung with remorse, started directly for Dakshineswar, not however without a flask of wine. Dismounting from the coach, he ran to the Master and clasping his feet began to weep. In the meantime Sri Ramakrishna had told a devotee to bring Girish’s shoes, scarf and flask from the coach. When Girish’s emotion had subsided he felt a desire for a drink and was much disturbed when he found that the carriage in which he had left the flask was gone. But the Master produced the flask, and Girish drank before all. When he realised what he had done, he was much ashamed. Sri Ramakrishna only said, “All right, enjoy yourself to your fill; it won’t be for long.” After this Girish seldom touched liquor.
Regarding the boundless love of Sri Ramakrishna for him Girish himself has written: “Now and then he (the Master) used to come to my theatre. He would carry sweets for me all the way from Dakshineswar. He knew I would not take them unless he first took something of them. So he would just taste a bit and then give me the rest to eat, and I took them with infinite joy like a child. One day I went to Dakshineswar. He had almost finished his noonday meal. He asked me to take his porridge. 1 at once sat down to take it. He said, ‘ Let me feed you with my own hands !’ Like a little child I went on taking from his hands, and he, with his wonderfully soft hand, began to feed me. He scraped off the very last drop from the cup and took it to my mouth, just as mothers do when they feed their little ones. I totally forgot that I was an adult. I felt as though I was the darling of my mother, and mother was feeding her dear child. When I remember that these lips of mine had come in contact with unworthy lips and that his holy, divine hand touched and held up food to them, I go mad, as it were, with the surge of an ineffable emotion and think, ‘Did it really happen or was it but a dream?’ He would have me eat, sitting in front of me all the while. And when I had finished eating, he would himself pour water on my hand to wash it. One day he asked me to massage his feet. I was unwilling. ‘ What nonsense ! Who will now sit down and massage his feet?’ But now when its memory returns I become overwhelmed with remorse. It is only the thought of his infinite love that gives me solace. Sri Ramakrishna instructed all to desist from telling lies. I told him, ‘ Sir, I tell numerous lies. How shall I be truthful?’ He replied, ‘Don’t worry about that. You are above truth and falsehood.’ When I feel tempted to tell lies, I at once visualise the Master’s figure, and lies will not come out. Sri Ramakrishna has full sway over my heart – he has it by the right of his love. Lust, anger and all the terrible passions vanish if one feels this transcendental love of his – no other spiritual practice is required. This realisation is the highest goal of human life.”
One day in the course of a conversation Sri Ramakrishna told Girish that along with his work he must remember God at least in the morning and evening. He looked at Girish as if expecting a reply. ”That is a very simple thing to do,” Girish thought, ”but I am a busy man with no fixed hours for food or sleep. I shall surely forget to remember God at those stated hours. So, how can I promise that?” Sri Ramakrishna read his mind and said, ” All right, if you cannot do that, remember God before meals and at bed-time.” Girish was not willing to promise even that – such was the irregularity of his life, and besides he was by nature opposed to any hard and fast rule and the slightest restraint was galling to him. Sri Ramakrishna realised his perplexity and said finally: “So you are unwilling to agree to this even. All right, give me your power of attorney. Henceforth I assume responsibility for you. You need not do anything.” Girish heaved a sigh of relief. He said to himself: ” Ah, now I am saved. I shall now be free as air, and my bark will be guided to the haven of peace by his infinite power.” One day Girish said about some trifling matter, ”Yes, I will do this.” “No, no,” corrected the Master, ” you must not speak in that dogmatic way. Suppose you fail to do it ? Say, God willing, I shall do it.” Girish understood that he had given up his freedom and made of himself the Master’s captive. Thenceforth he tried to give up all idea of personal responsibility and to become a willing instrument of the Divine Will. The sincerity of Girish in this respect was beyond comparison.
When the Master was removed to the Cossi-pore garden, once an event of great importance happened. It was the 1st of January, 1886. Sri Ramakrishna felt much better that day and wished to take a walk in the garden. It was about three in the afternoon. As it was a holiday, about thirty lay disciples were present, some in the hall and others under the trees. When Sri Ramakrishna came down, those in the hall saluted him and followed him at a distance as he walked slowly towards the gate. Girish, Ram, Atul and some others, who were chatting under a tree, came and saluted the Master. Sri Ramakrishna suddenly said to Girish, “Well, Girish, what have you found in me that you proclaim me before all as an Incarnation?” Girish, not at all taken aBackby the question, knelt before him with folded hands and said in a voice shaken with emotion, “What can an insignificant creature like me say about One whose glory even sages like Vyasa and Valmiki could not measure?” Hearing these words, spoken with the greatest intensity, Sri Ramakrishna was deeply moved and said: ‘ ‘ What more shall I say ? I bless you all. Be illumined!” Saying this he fell into a state of semi-consciousness. He touched them all, one by one, with appropriate blessings. The powerful touch revolutionised their minds and all became mad with joy. Girish and others realised that the Master was showering his grace upon all without distinction.
The illness of the Master gradually increased and he became bed-ridden. Girish one day went to see him. It was the 16th of April. The Master was a little better that day. He inquired about the health of Girish and asked Latu (afterwards Swami Adbhutananda) to bring tobacco, betel and some refreshments for him. A devotee presented the Master with some garlands of flowers which he put on, one by one. Two of these he presented to Girish. When the refreshments were brought before him, he barely tasted them and with his own hands gave the rest to Girish. Girish ate them in his presence. It was summer. The Master said, ” There is no good water here.” He was too weak to stand, but he wanted to pour water for Girish. He moved, poured some water into a glass and took a little on his palm to feel if it was cool. It was not cool enough, but knowing that none cooler was available, he gave it to Girish. From his bed he began to talk almost in a whisper with Girish and others on various spiritual topics – Girish’s faith coming out in bold colours during the conversation. When Girish went to wash his hands, the Master sent word to him that he should not eat anything more that evening. Such incidents disclose how deeply Girish was loved by Sri Ramakrishna. The divine touch of his transcendental love and kindness transformed this rank atheist into a most warmhearted believer in God and religion.
Indeed, the abiding influence of the Master on Girish’s life and thought is the masterkey that unlocks, as it were, the mystery of the deep religious tone that pervades almost all the mature plays of this great dramatist. Anyone who has gone through the literary masterpieces of his later years cannot but find the lofty teachings of his Master mirrored in all their beauty and vividness in them. Rightly a great Bengali writer has remarked: “No other great dramatist of the world lays any special stress upon the sublime religious sentiments of man and his hankering after salvation….This feature distinguishes Girish from all other great dramatists. A living faith in God and ardent love for man glow almost in every page of the famous dramas of Girish. This was undoubtedly due to the blessings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, which were so liberally bestowed upon him.”
After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, Girish, like all the other brother-disciples, both lay and monastic, felt quite forlorn and spent most of his time in their company in all-absorbing talks about their beloved Master. On one occasion Swami Niranjanananda, one of the Sannyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, asked Girish also to embrace the life of a monk; whereupon Girish replied with a little pause: “I can take your words as those of the Master. But I have no freedom to take even to this life, as I have already given him the power of attorney.” Sometimes he would feelingly say: ‘ ‘ How much easier is it to follow the path of those who believe in the efficacy of self-exertion in religious life ! Now I have not the freedom even to breathe.” Such was indeed his self-surrender to the Master.
Girish now bethought himself of putting his household affairs in order. But very soon a series of calamities overtook the family. Two daughters born of his second wife passed away and the mother of the girls too just after the birth of a son breathed her last. This premature death of his wife and children weighed too heavily on his mind at this advanced age. His former buoyancy of spirit and bodily vigour were no more; but the one thing that sustained and comforted him in the midst of these repeated calamities and vicissitudes of fortune was his complete resignation to the will of the Lord. He always felt the benign hand of the Master guiding him through thick and thin, and consoled himself by saying, “Let his will be done.” Another blow was still in store for him. His little child, who manifested even at a tender age a wonderful love for the name of God, soon died; and thus all attractions for the world were removed through a mysterious combination of circumstances. Shortly after this, Girish lost his lucrative job in the Star Theatre. But Girish was no longer a Bohemian revelling in hedonistic thoughts and wanton excesses. The divine touch of his Master’s love had acted on him like a philosopher’s stone and brought about a thorough change in his mental outlook and nature. His life now stood firmly grounded on unflinching faith in God, and these catastrophes and calamities that visited him in quick succession could hardly shake him. Though thrown out of employment, he was not in the least perturbed at heart. He devoted himself once more to the study and practice of Homoeopathic medicine to mitigate the suffering of the poor and the helpless. In 1893 he organised the Minerva Theatre, and though his connection with other newly-started theatres was by no means less intimate, he made the Minerva stage the main theatre of his activities and extended to it his liberal patronage till the last day of his life.
In the winter of 1906 Girish began to develop symptoms of asthma, and from that time he became a prey to this ailment with the approach of cold. The stuffy atmosphere of Calcutta was suffocating to him and aggravated his disease. He therefore passed the winters of 1909 and 1910 in Benares and felt greatly improved in health. After his return to Calcutta he once more threw himself heart and soul into his profession, but the unusual strain thus put on his weak nerve undermined his already shattered health. He began to sink rapidly, but his spirit never gave way. His eyes and countenance radiant with a superb glow bespoke his inner illumination and his unswerving faith in the love and grace of his Master. During the last days of his life he used very often to utter the name of Sri Ramakrishna, and said to his brother-disciples: ” I do not want anything else; only bless me that I may always remember him as the ocean of infinite love and compassion. The world is no longer a terror unto me. I have transcended all fear of death through his grace.” On the night before the day of his final exit from the world, Girish calmly uttered the name of Sri Ramakrishna thrice and prayed, “Lord, let me have peace; let me have peace; take me into thy bosom.” So saying, the heroic devotee of Sri Ramakrishna closed his eyes for good and passed into the realm of eternal rest on Thursday, February 8, 1912.
Thus ended the chequered career of Girish who was a poet and a litterateur, an actor and a dramatist, a patriot and a saint in one. Everybody who came in contact with his magnetic personality in later years could not resist his great influence. Mrs. Gray Hallock, an English admirer of Girish, who had the privilege of sitting for some time at his feet rightly observed:
” Here was a man of whom in his closing years I could feel the manliness and strength, the sweetness and tolerance and devotion of spirit. If you heard rumours of wild youth, it was merely, as you looked at the fine old Roman face, to think how handsome he must have been. What a magnificent lover he must have been – fierce, delicate, poetic, tenderly masterful; assertive, not deliberate, yet humble by the strength of his love. My respect went out to this old man who had something to renounce, whose very strength sent him first to the devil and then, with equal impetus, to God. My reverence went out to him at once, as to the saint I had been looking for in a land of saints….Here was one who had genius and fire, who was not half dead nor atrophied, one who had renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil, knowing their charm, and yet lived actively and beneficently in the midst of life; who used his genius for his time and his people, yet knew that fame is bubble and laid his work at the feet of his God. A saint, this who meditated and had realised God – yet had time and compassion enough to help the small troubles of his world, who went to Calcutta slums with righteous indignation and medicines, who scolded and annihilated evil, but loved the sinner and gave spiritual, mental and physical comfort in a brotherly way. A saint, this, with a love of God that does not crowd out God’s children; his heart set on God, yet his brain, its servant, inspired to write great dramas and poems.” These glowing words of one who was a stranger to Indian life and tradition, clearly demonstrate how penetrating and abiding was the influence of his powerful personality on all who happened to come into intimate touch with him.
Even the great Swami Vivekananda was all praise and respect for Girish because of his sterling qualities of head and heart – his robust optimism, unique devotion and great patriotism. The Swami would very affectionately call him “G. C.,” and this was the name by which he was known to many devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. When “G. C.” would visit the Belur Math it would create a stir in the monastery – for he was full of the Master, he lived, moved and had his being in him. His frequent visits to the Belur Math were availed of by all monastic members to hear from him with eager attention the soul-enthralling reminiscences of the beloved Master and to catch inspiration from his living faith. But he was all simplicity and humility. His ego was completely effaced, and all his thoughts centred on the Master. Scratch him, however little, and you see the fire of his devotion to the Guru coming forth. How many times in the day would he not raise his hands folded in salutation to and in remembrance of the Master ! He considered himself a tool in the hands of the Guru in all his activities throughout the day. An eye-witness says:
” His diploma as a physician was his faith in regarding himself as merely an instrument in the hands of his Master for the relief of suffering. I have seen him take a medicine in his folded hands and offer it in worship and supplication for blessing before giving to the sick.” Many were the persons who would come to see him and get inspiration from his wonderful transformation. He was full of fiery encouragement to one and all. The message of the Master spread not a little through him – through his life and example, conversations and writings. Indeed one could see in him the proof beyond doubt of the truth of the Master’s vision that Girish came to the world to work for him and to fulfil his divine mission in his humble way.