The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13: The classification of the field and the knower of the field

The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13: 

The Classification of the Field and the Knower of the Field

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita

In this chapter, Shri Krishna, with his deep insight, has classified the material and the non-material part of beings and of the universe.

Shri Krishna explains the following: (1) what is the field, (2) who is the knower of the field, (3) the spiritual practices to attain the knowledge of the field, (4) what has to be known, and (5) the view of the Sankhya Philosophy.

Sri Krishna said that according to him, the knowledge of ‘the field and the knower of the field’ is the Supreme Knowledge.

The Field (Body & Universe)

Shri Krishna said that he would briefly describe the field which has been described by the Rishis (the Seers of the Ultimate Truth) and the Upanishads, and which has been logically established by the Brahma Sutras.

The field is made of the following parts:

(1) Five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.

(2) Ten Senses: Five senses to comprehend the universe, which are represented in the body as ears (hearing), skin (touch), eyes (vision), tongue (taste), and nose (smell), and five senses of action, namely mouth for speech, hands, legs, sense of generation and sense of evacuation.

(3) Five objects of the senses: This includes sound, the objects we know by touch, all forms we perceive through the eyes, all kinds of tastes, and all kinds of smells.

Note:  The items in (1), (2), and (3) are connected and there is an underlying order. In the creation of the universe, first Space was created. Sounds need space. So, to perceive the sound the sense of hearing was created. Then, Air was created.  To perceive air, the sense of touch (i.e. the skin) was created. Air has a sound and touch. Then, Fire was created. Fire has a form. To perceive the form, the sense of sight (i.e. the eyes) was created. Fire also has a sound and it can be perceived through touch. Then, Water was created. Water has a taste. Hence the sense of taste (i.e. the tongue) was created. Water also has a sound, it can be felt by touch, and has a form.  Finally, the Earth was created. It has a smell. For this the sense of smell (i.e. the nose) was created. Earth also has a sound, can be perceived through touch, has a form, and has a taste.

We perceive ourselves and the universe with these senses.

(4) Mind: Our senses perceive when the mind is connected with them.

(5) Intellect: The intellect, which is the analytical part of the mind, classifies all that we have perceived through our mind and senses.

(6) Desire and hatred: Somehow every mind has likes and dislikes. It desires what it likes and hates what it dislikes.

(7) Joy and sorrow: We are happy when we get what we like and sad when we get what we dislike.

(8) Fortitude: The mind makes resolves to obtain what it likes. The stronger our desire for something, the more intense will be our determination to get it.

(9) Physical Body: Our body or the universe is a structure which is needed to hold all of these things.

(10) Consciousness: Nothing is perceived or functions without the consciousness.

(11) The soul: As long as there is a soul in the body, there is consciousness. This soul is un-manifested, meaning it cannot be perceived through our senses.

All these constitute our body. Also, these things constitute the universe. The knowledge of this field is the Supreme Knowledge.

Knower of the Field: Shri Krishna says that the Almighty God (the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe residing within us) is the knower of the field.

What is Knowledge?

How do we know if we have that Supreme Knowledge? What are the characteristics of a person who has acquired this Supreme Knowledge? Another way of looking the following is to find out what kind of virtues we acquire or practice to have the supreme knowledge.

(1) Humility (2) Modesty (3) Non-violence: not to hurt anyone with thought, speech, or action (4) Forgiving nature (5) Simple mindedness (6) Giving respect and rendering service to all from whom one has learned something (7) Purity: maintaining internal and external purity (8) Whose mind and intellect are steady (9) Has control of one’s senses and mind (10) Understands that the pleasures of the senses are limited and they are followed by suffering (11) Not egotistic (12) Understands that life has few joys, but it has the unavoidable suffering of birth, disease, old age, and death (13) Understands that family members and wealth have been given by God, and he/she is simply a caretaker of the loved ones and the wealth. (14) Keep the mind balanced in favorable and unfavorable circumstance (15) Realizing that the goal of human life is to realize the God lying within (inner divinity of the Self) and loves God intently (16) Loves to be in solitude to reflect upon the meaning of life and the importance of realizing God (17) Avoids gossip (18) Always keeps focused on and makes efforts to achieve one’s own spiritual development and (19) Understands the essence of the scriptures.

Shri Krishna says that anything other than the virtues described above is a sign of ignorance.

What has to be known?

Shri Krishna says, “I will tell you what has to be known, by knowing which one attains immortality.”

(1) It is the Supreme Brahman which is without beginning and is beyond being and non-being.

(2) It works through all hands, walks through all feet, sees through all eyes, listens through all ears and thinks through all heads. Its existence envelops all.

(3) It shines through the functions of all senses, but It is devoid of senses.

(4) It is unattached, but It nourishes all. It is beyond all three gunas, but It enjoys the gunas. It is inside and outside of all beings. It is movable and also immovable. It is far as well as near. It is Indivisible, but appears as divided in beings. It is subtle. Therefore, It is difficult to comprehend.

(5) This Supreme Brahman is the Light of all lights. It is the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe.

(6) It is Knowledge, the object of Knowledge, and attainable through Knowledge. It resides in the hearts of all.

One who knows the field, the knowledge, and the object of knowledge becomes one with Brahman.

View of Sankhya Philosophy:

Know that the Purusha (the Consciousness) and the Prakruti (the matter, the divine power of Purusha) are without beginning and all the modifications and gunas are created by Prakruti.

Know that the Prakruti is the cause of the creation of the body and the sense organs while the Purusha is the cause of the experience of happiness and suffering.

Purusha embodied in Prakruti (as the Jiva who thinks: “I have a body and mind”) experiences the results of actions initiated by the three gunas. As a consequence of the results of these actions, the Jiva takes birth in favorable or unfavorable environments.

Actually, the Jiva without the consciousness of the body and the mind is the Supreme Purusha, the Pure Consciousness or the Absolute Existence which is called Paramatma, the Supreme Self. It is the Brahman, the Nourisher of all. It is the witness consciousness. By Its will, everything happens. It is the cause of all our experiences.

One who knows Purusha and Prakruti along with its three gunas as described above will not get deluded again in this life while performing his/her responsibilities.

How can people get such knowledge?

Some people acquire this knowledge through meditation on the Supreme Purusha residing within. Some acquire this knowledge through Pure Reasoning, while some acquire through unselfish service.

Some people acquire this knowledge through properly listening and following the teachings of the people who had acquired this knowledge.

Know that whatever has been created, whether living or non-living, is the combination of the Field (the Prakruti) and the Knower of the Field (the Purusha).

The Right View:

One who has realized the following has acquired the right understanding:

The Paramatma (the Supreme Self) is abiding alike in all beings and does not perish when the body perishes. Prakruti is the doer of all actions and not the Paramatma who resides in all.

Note:  It is like electricity, which does not do anything, but which allows a fan, heater, or cooker to perform its action when plugged in.

The Paramatma is imperishable, beginning-less, and devoid of the three gunas. That is why it resides in the body, but is not performing any actions and does not get affected by the actions of the body.  As the subtle space is everywhere, but is not affected by the things residing in the space, similarly the Paramatma is not affected by the functions of the body.

As one sun illumines the whole universe, the Paramatma illumines the field, the body, mind, intellect and the universe.

One who realizes that all various beings are in One Brahman (Paramatma, the Supreme Self) and that everything is created by the Brahman, becomes one with Brahman.

With the eye of wisdom, those who perceive the distinction between the field and the knower of the field and know how to be free from the Prakruti become one with the Paramatma, the Supreme Self.

(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post)






The Essence of Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: The Path of Devotion

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12:  The Path of Devotion

Shrimad Bhagavad Gita

 Arjun’s Question:

Arjuna asked Shri Krishna, “There are two kinds of devotees: those who sincerely make efforts to realize God with form and those who contemplate on the Imperishable and the Un-manifested formless God, called Brahman.  Among these two kinds of devotees, who are the better yogis?”

Shri Krishna’s Answer:

Shri Krishna replied, “Those who focus their minds on God with form with supreme faith and constantly make efforts to realize God are better yogis.  However, those who worship Infinite, Immovable, Imperishable, Un-manifested, Omnipresent, and incomprehensible Brahman with total self-control, and serve all beings with their whole heart, considering them as manifestations of Brahman, are also able to reach Me.

People, who cannot comprehend the Self as their true divine identity, which is beyond their body and mind, have greater difficulty in realizing the formless aspect of God.  On the other hand, I (God) immediately lift up the devotees from the ocean of this mortal world who constantly focus their mind on Me (God with form) and offer the results of their actions to Me.

Who Can Realize God?

Shri Krishna says, “If you focus your mind and intellect on Me, then, without a doubt, you will live in Me, meaning you will attain the highest state of divine awareness possible for a human being.”

Alternate Spiritual Practices:

(1) If you cannot focus your mind on Me, then make repeated efforts to focus it by refraining from having other thoughts.

(2) If you cannot make efforts to focus your mind, then perform all actions that help you think of Me, such as performing worship, taking the name of God, or similar practices.

(3) If you cannot perform such actions, then offer the results of all your actions to Me.  One instantly attains supreme peace by renouncing the results of all actions.”

The Characteristics of a Devotee Who is Most Beloved by God:

Shri Krishna then said that his most beloved devotee has the following characteristics.

“My most beloved devotee is one who: (1) hates none (2) is a friend to all (3) is compassionate towards all (4) has nothing of his own (meaning one who considers everything as belonging to God) (5) is egoless (6) remains balanced in pain and pleasure (7) is forgiving (8) is satisfied with whatever he/she gets, after making sincere efforts in any endeavor (9) is constantly engaged in spiritual development (10) has self-control (11) is determined to attain the highest knowledge (12) has given his/her mind and intellect to God, the innermost divine Self (13) does not get disturbed by others, nor becomes the cause of disturbance for others (14) is free from the disturbances created by excessive joy, jealousy, fear, and anxiety (15) has no meaningless expectations (16) is pure (17) is skillful and prompt (18) is unbiased (19) is free from worries  (20) will not get engaged in fruitless selfish activities (21) who does not deviate from a spiritual path in joyful moments (22) does not grieve (23) does not crave for worldly pleasures, as they are limited and are followed by suffering (24) has gone beyond auspicious and un-auspicious  (25) sees the same God in friends and foes (26) remains calm within, whether receiving honor or insults (27) does not deviate from his spiritual path in joys and sorrows or heat and cold—the opposite situations of favorable and unfavorable (28) is unattached, meaning attached to God, who is the Ultimate Reality, and attached to all things of the world through God (29) considers praise and blame to be two sides of a coin, or in other words, knows that both come together (30) is silent, speaks when needed, and is contemplative (31) is happy with whatever he/she has (32) is constantly connected with God and sees that God dwells everywhere (33) has steady intellect and (34) is filled with devotion.

Those who practice the above-mentioned nectar-like characteristics (Dharma) with supreme faith are most beloved by God.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post.)


Laugh and Learn – 8


This is an age of consultation and counseling.  We seek consulations and couseling for college applications, job search, marriage, divorce, raising children, financial growth, stress, sickness, anxieties, problems related to pats, gracefully aging and dying, and many other things. Many times we learn valuable lessons from funny stories.

The following incident was described in one of Swami Adiswarananda’s discourses.

There was a teacher who was looking for ways to make more money because he was not making enough by just teaching. He wished he would have been a businessman or in the corporate world, but he was not trained for it.

One day, he read an advertisement in a major newspaper of New York about a consulting firm that was offering its services to advise people on how to make more money with nominal fees.  He was very happy and was waiting for the day that the consultations would begin.

On that day, he got up early, got dressed up, and reached the consulting firm on Park Avenue in New York.  He was early, so he walked up and down on Park Avenue and started imagining himself as a rich man with a condo in Midtown Manhattan.   He looked at his watch and saw that it was 9:05 a.m.


He rushed to the consulting firm’s service door.  To his surprise, he was the only one there.  He expected that there was going to be a big crowd waiting to get in.

With little hesitance, he went inside. Another surprise! There was no secretary to receive him. There was not a single person there.  He looked around.  Then, he heard a voice: “Please register on the computer.”  He went to the computer and filled out the registration form.  The nominal fee was $100.  He paid $100 through his credit card and, as all people do, he clicked “I Accept” without looking at the terms and conditions.


Then, the computer said, “Proceed to the door on your right.”  He thought this must be a big sophisticated company.

He proceeded through the door and again, to his surprise, he found no one was there.  He looked up and saw two signs.


The signs read: “If you are earning $500,000 or more, enter through the right door, or if you are earning less than $500,000, enter through the left door.”

He mumbled, “I wish I was making $500,000 or more! I am here to make that kind of money.”  He entered through the left door.

Again, there was no one there, except two doors and two signs.

sneha-image_3of5-12102016He read the signs: “If you are earning between $250,000 and $500,000, then enter through the right door, or if you are making $250,000 or less, then enter through the left door.”

He was annoyed by this in-humane treatment and humiliation created by the divisions of people by their salaries.  Well, he was here to make more money, so he proceeded through the left door. Now, there was a greater surprise waiting for him.

As soon as he walked through a semi-dark passage, he found himself again on the Park Avenue Street!


Lesson Learned:

Consultation and counseling are good as long as they help us solve our problem. However, many times we unnecessarily run to seek help from outside.  I know someone who takes a handful of aspirins from his big bottle at the slightest headache.  Many times we run to take a heavy dose of medicine to cure our minor bodily discomforts. The body has a mechanism to cure itself, but we do not have the patience to let it do so.

Shri Krishna in the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says, “Rise yourself to a higher level of Consciousness by yourself. Do not lower yourself.  You are your greatest friend and you are your greatest enemy.” (6.5)

Shri Krishna explains further: “When one has self-control, then one is one’s own friend. When one has no self-control, then one becomes one’s own enemy.” (6.6)

What a wonderful message! Self-control and contentment are great virtues. They bring us success, joy, and satisfaction. In many situations, with patience, self-control, and satisfaction, we can avoid running around for external help. By helping ourselves, we build self-confidence and with that we will start finding solutions from within.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing this post and Sneha Shah for providing illustrations.)



Laugh and Learn – 7

The Wise Man’s Skull

The following post is based on a story I heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Minister of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.  This story is not funny, but it has an excellent message.

Let us go back in the past when in India walking was the only way of transportation.  People had to go from one village or town to another on foot, and most of the time, they had to go through forests.

At that time, the environment was not disturbed and one could breathe fresh air, but they had to go through the dangers of being killed by animals and sometimes by the highway men. When someone walked through the forests, the relatives of the person would not know for many days whether their family member was killed or reached the destination. If someone survived out of a group of people who were attacked, then only would their family receive the news about the killing.

This is how one group of people found out that in one particular forest there was a crazy giant. If anyone passed by the forest, he would stop the person and ask a question.  If the person did not give a satisfactory answer, then he would kill the person. So, people avoided that forest.

One day a wandering monk came to a town near that forest.  In the past, in India, wandering monks devoted their mind on God. They would not live at a place for more than three days.  Wherever they went, they would guide people to take the name of God and live a decent human life.  They helped people solve their personal problems and would try to remove their miseries.  In return, people would take care of their basic needs like food and shelter.  This monk helped many people of the town and he was ready to move on.  When people found out that the monk was planning to go through the forest where the crazy giant lived, they all requested him not to go through that forest as the giant had killed many people.  The monk said that he was completely dependent on God and was ready to take on the challenge of the crazy giant. The monk told people not to worry about him.  He started walking on the road going through the forest.  All people said “goodbye” to him with a heavy heart. They all prayed for him.

The fearless monk was walking through the thick forest.  The track was less travelled. So, he had a hard time finding the track, which would hopefully lead him to the next town.  Various kinds of birds were chirping.  Everything was green and beautiful.  He was enjoying the beauty of the nature.  He heard some wild animals. As the monk was completely dependent on God, he continued his journey without any fear, repeating God’s name.

After some time, the road broadened and on the sides of the road, he saw a few bodies of people who were killed savagely.  The monk remembered the story told by the people of a crazy guy living in this forest and killing people.

The monk continued and thought “Whatever is God’s wish is what will happen.” Within a few minutes he saw a huge, terrible-looking guy standing in the middle of the road laughing.


As the monk went closer to him, the crazy guy said, “Ah!  After a long time I found a victim.” And then he again laughed loudly.  Anyone else would have died by this laughter, but the monk was fearless.  The monk asked him why he was killing innocent people.  The crazy guy said, “Well! I want an answer to my question.  If a person cannot answer my question, he or she has to die. Your fate is not different from them.”

Again, he laughed for a long time.  The monk asked, “What is your question?”  The crazy guy said, “The question is very simple.  Here are three skulls of three people.  Can you tell me which skull is of a wise person?  If you cannot give me a satisfactory answer, then you will die.”

The monk was calm.  He smiled and went to the three skulls.  He took a small pebble and put into the ear-hole of one of the skulls and then he shook it.  The pebble came out from the other ear-hole.  Then, he took the second skull and did the same thing.  The pebble came out from the mouth-hole.  The crazy man sat on his knees and start watching the whole thing.  Finally, the monk put the pebble in the third skull’s ear-hole and shook it.  The pebble did not come out!  The monk smiled and handed the third skull in the hands of the crazy guy and said, “This is the wise man’s skull.”  The crazy guy said that he should explain why this was the wise man’s skull.

The monk said that the first man heard a good thing from his one ear, but it all went out from the other. The good things did not retain in the head. The second man heard good things, but these good things came out from his mouth.  After listening, he gave lectures to others and did not practice them himself.  But, the third person whatever good things he heard, he practiced them and assimilated them into his life.

The crazy guy bowed down to the monk.  He got up, laughed again and with a great speed ran away.  The monk had a sigh of relief and he continued his journey.

Lesson Learned:

I am sure you must have guessed the message after the monk examined the three skulls.

In our scriptures, the following three spiritual practices have been described for a seeker of the Highest Knowledge:

(1) Shravana:  The word means to listen to scriptures from a realized person or a person who is committed to realize the Atman (our True Divine Identity lying within) and who is sincerely making all attempts for the realization.  This person must have understood the essence of the scriptures.  Listening to scriptures from such a person is far better than reading the scriptures by ourselves because by listening we easily get the essence of the scriptures.  Shri Shankaracharya says that the scriptures are like deep forests and people easily get lost in them.  It means that there are various teachings in the scriptures, many of which look contradictory and many may not be applicable to our situations. Thus, listening to scriptures is a very important spiritual practice for a sincere seeker of Truth.

(2) Manana:  This word means reflecting upon what we had listened to and had read from the scriptures.  The real thing to hear from the scriptures is about our True Divine Identity lying within ourselves. This is also described as Atman in Vedanta philosophy.  This Atman is eternal.  That is why It is without birth and death.  It does not change.  Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says that weapons cannot cut the Atman, fire cannot burn It, wind cannot blow It away, and water cannot drown It. This Atman is the support of our existence and because of It our body and mind function.  Its nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute). When we go closer to It through reflections and meditation, we feel the divine bliss within, acquire the knowledge of our True identity, and become fearless by realizing Its eternal nature. By realizing Atman, we know our minds (and thereby, all other minds) in and out. We become free from all bondages which tie us with our little selves, consisting our body and mind. We have to reflect upon the nature of Atman and also reflect upon our imaginary identity of body and mind.  The body and mind are constantly changing. They have a beginning and an end. The constantly changing body and mind cannot be our True Identity.

Atman is a part of Brahman, which is the Ultimate Reality of the universe.  There is only one Existence which Vedanta describes as Brahman.  From Brahman the universe has come.  Brahman nourishes the universe and the universe dissolves in Brahman.  Also, what is in the universe is in an atom, just as a whole tree lies within a seed. Thus, Atman is nothing but Brahman.

(3)  Nididhyasana: This means we have to make efforts to realize this Atman within.  The realization of Atman is not an intellectual knowledge. We have to feel within that our true nature or identity is the Atman and our body-mind are like clothes that the Atman is wearing.  Once we realize Atman, we find that it is the same Atman residing in all beings, animals, and all the things of the universe.  With this awareness of unity, we love all and hate none. We always are ready to serve all with unselfish love, without expecting anything in return. We feel that the purpose of our life is fulfilled and all our doubts go away from our mind. Once we attain the Highest Knowledge, we feel that all the basic questions of life have found their answers. Sages and saints are great because they have attained this knowledge.

Thus, the message of the story is to listen to scriptures, reflect upon the essence of the scriptures, practice the essence of the scriptures, and realize our True Identity (Atman).

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing and Pamela C. Beniwal for providing an illustration.)

Laugh and Learn – 6

The Goat’s Goatee

(The following post is based on a story I heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Minister of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.)

Long before the radio and television were invented, the main principles of the Hindu culture were communicated throughout India by the holy people.  They would wander around telling the stories of the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and expound on scriptures like Bhagavatam and other puranas. Shrimad Bhagavatam is a great book filled with stories of holy people and the life of Shri Krishna, which help develop love for God.


In one village of India, one holy man was expounding on Shrimad Bhagavatam.  Usually, this is a seven-day program.  Every day the holy man reads and explains a few pages of Shrimad Bhagavatam.  Village people come and listen to these stories and, at the end, give money or food to the holy man.

One day, the holy man found that one woman was continuously crying while listening to the discourse.  The holy man thought that his explanation was really touching the heart of a devotee.  His heart was very much impressed by the devotion of the woman.  The holy man was greatly encouraged and he went much deeper into the explanation of the book.

After the discourse, he went to the woman and asked her which part of the book touched her heart.  The woman wiping her tears said, “It was not about the book that I was crying.  I had a goat.  It was such an adorable goat and I loved it dearly.  That goat passed away today.  I am sorry to say that when you were talking, your goatee constantly reminded me of my goat!”



Lesson for the expounders:  Never be over-impressed by the listeners’ reactions or responses. It is hard to find out what is going on in the minds of the listeners.

Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings to expounders are very clear and appropriate.

He said, “There is no harm in teaching others if the preacher has a commission from the Lord…When the lamp is lighted, the moths come in swarms.  They don’t have to be invited.  In the same way, the preacher who has a commission from God need not invite people to hear him. He doesn’t have to announce the time of his lectures. He possesses such irresistible attraction that people come to him of their own accord.” (from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna).

Lesson for the Listeners: When we are listening to discourses, we have to put aside all our unrelated thoughts and focus on the essence of the discourse; then only can we learn something from it.

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing and Sneha Shah for providing an illustration.)

Laugh and Learn – 5

What is the Solution?

The following post is based on a story I heard from Swami Adiswarananda, the Spiritual Leader of the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York from 1973 to 2007.

In the U.S., we see monkeys only in zoos.  Many cannot imagine a group of monkeys wandering around in cities or villages, from place to place, mainly in search of food, and maybe in order to maintain or develop their “jumping” skills.  They climb up on a tree and swing from branch to branch or jump around on the terraces of buildings a few stories high. In India, we see many such groups of monkeys.

Photo – 1

This is the story of one such group of monkeys in search of food.  In India, the weather is mostly sunny, so the windows remain open most of the time.  In order to stop monkeys from entering into houses through the windows, houses have iron window grilles built in. Those people who cannot afford such windows have uninvited monkey guests in the house. I have known a few people who were shockingly surprised to see monkeys in their house. If the windows are without grilles, monkeys simply go to the kitchen, grab food, and jump out of the house.  If windows have grilles and any food is near the window grilles, monkeys extend their hands inside and grab it.

A group of monkeys is made out of a family or a few families. One such group of monkeys was jumping on the terraces of houses looking for food. Among them was a small monkey who was learning all the monkey tricks and ways to get food.  He was jumping around and all of a sudden he saw an apple lying inside a grilled window.  It was a big, red apple.  Any mouth becomes watery by seeing this apple. The little monkey jumped to the window, extended its hand inside the grille, and grabbed the apple.

Sketch – 1

The monkey was delighted to grab the apple. But, as soon as it tried to bring its hand out with the apple, it found that its hand is not coming out of the grille. The apple was much bigger than the space between the grilles.  It tried grabbing the apple in different ways, but its hand could not come out with the apple.  It seemed that there was no one in the house. The small monkey started screaming for help.  The other monkeys came running to help this little one. They saw the problem and they all started thinking about how to solve it.

One monkey said, “Let us find some sharp object. Then slowly we will cut the grille.” That monkey found a sharp object and started cutting the grille.  One monkey said, “Let us try to pull out the whole window.  Then the little monkey will have to walk around its whole life with a window on its hand.”  That monkey tried to pull out the whole window.  One monkey said, “Let us pray to God.  I am sure God will find a solution.”  It started praying to God.  One monkey said, “Try to think that your hand is not caught by the grille.”  Among all the commotion, one elderly monkey came and told the little monkey, “Just let go of the apple and pull out your hand.”

Lesson learned:  Many times we unnecessarily suffer because we have some desire to fulfill.  If the desire is useless or unneeded, then it is better to give it up.  With that act of giving something up, we may not lose anything. In fact, our mind will be free from hundreds of worries and struggles.

Sri Ramakrishna gave an example of this.  A bird picked up a fish and wanted to eat it.  The bird sat on a branch of a tree to eat the fish.

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But, several crows saw that the bird had a fish.  They all followed the bird with piercing cawing.  The bird tried to run away from the craws and tried to sit on various trees and places.  But, all the crows followed it and started poking it with their beaks.  Finally, the fish fell from the bird’s mouth.  All of the crows followed the fish and left the bird alone.  The bird then peacefully sat on a tree.  Thus, worries and struggles follow a desire.

The question might arise that, knowing this fact, should we give up all desires? It is true that each desire brings worries and problems.  But, as long as we have a body, we will have desires; like desire to live and survive.  So, what we should do?

Well, desires are of various kinds.  The Shrimad Bhagavad Gita says, “I am the desire in all beings that is not contrary to dharma (7.11).” That means God, the Creator of the Universe, has created righteous desires in all beings.  The desires which uplift us from the physical level to the spiritual level, destroy our bondages, and are not harmful to anyone are okay to fulfill.  But, our mind runs around and fills itself up with hundreds of other desires, which make us slaves to our senses and are harmful to us and/or others. Such desires should be shunned.  These useless and harmful desires bring us many worries and frustrations.  Buddha said that the cause of suffering is desires.  In life, we get tired by carrying a baggage of extra desires.  If we want peace of mind, then we have to reduce the desires to a minimum—the desires which free us from all bondages.

Deeper Meaning of the Story:


Imagine an ocean filled with millions of waves.  The Ultimate Reality (Brahman or Consciousness) is like an ocean.  Each wave is an individual being or an object. All beings and objects appear as waves (as names and forms) for a little time and then merge into the ocean of The Ultimate Reality.  When each wave thinks of itself as a separate entity, then it has conflicts with all other waves and has fears of disappearing as a wave. Similarly, if we think ourselves with our names and forms as separate entities from the Ultimate Reality, then all the problems start.  We think that the whole world is against us, that nature is against us, trying to crush us down, and we have a constant fear of death.  When we give up our separate identity, then all the problems and fears go away.  At that time, keeping in mind ourselves as the Spirit (or Atman, a part of the Ultimate Reality), we just act, like actors/actresses of a play, in the world as separate entities with names and forms.

Notes:  (i)  The photo -1 is from the Bangalore Gallery , India (ii) Photo – 2 is from and (iii) the sketch -1 is made by Sneha Shah.       

(Thanks to Radha Dhar for editing and Sneha Shah for providing an illustration.)

Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 7 Evening at Nilambar’s Garden House and Belur Math Arati

August 9, 2015

(I am very happy to publish today the last post of the series of posts titled “Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015”.  It is a coincidence that exactly one year ago we completed our last trip of the pilgrimage on this day.  All of the 91 people felt that this pilgrimage was a life-long inspiring memory.)

Going to Belur Math:

Around 2:30 p.m. all of the pilgrims gathered, wearing the Vidyapith uniform, at the Hyatt entrance.

At Hyatt -1 At Hyatt -2 At Hyatt -3

We were ready to once again get into the three buses for our last trip of this pilgrimage – going to the Belur Math.  We were all both happy and thankful that everything in our trip had gone according to plan and had worked out successfully.

As the last part of the pilgrimage, all wanted to go to the Belur Math, attend the evening arati, and salute Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda. We wanted to take their leave and also to take leave from Revered Manager Maharaj Swami Girishanandaji,Tapas Maharaj and Bhandari Maharaj.  We also wanted to visit Nilambar Mukherjee’s Garden House, which we could not do it in the earlier visit.

Before we boarded the buses, each group took a picture in front of the Hyatt entrance to keep as a memory.

Group - 2 Group - 3


The groups in each bus loudly uttered “The Five Jai” – “Jai Shri Guru Maharajjiki Jai,” “Jai   Mahamayiki Jai,” “Jai Swamiji Maharajjiki Jai”, “Jai Gangamayiki Jai, and “Jai Sab Santanaki Jai.” Once again, we were blessed with good weather.  There was no rain.  By this point, the buildings and the roads were more familiar than before as we had traveled this route quite a few times.  During the ride, people were singing, chatting or trying to catch up the sleep.

Since this was our last visit during our trip, our buses were allowed by the Belur Math to park inside the campus, closer to the main building.  Revered Tapas Maharaj had arranged a guide for our final visit.  After getting off the buses, we all went to the Nilambar Mukherjee’s house.  The road leading to the house was very pleasant.  The various kinds of green trees were eye-catching.

Going to Nilambar's House - 1 Going to Nilambar's House - 2 Going to Nilambar's House - 3 Going to Nilambar's House - 4

The Ganga was filled with water up to both the sides of its banks.  The waves were gently splashing.  We could see a few boats traveling on the river.  It was a serene atmosphere.

Ganga - 1 Ganga - 3

Holy Mother in Nilambar Mukherjee’s house:

Nilambar's House - 1

Sign - Old math

This place is very special and holy because Holy Mother stayed here.  There is a shrine room of Holy Mother on the second floor.

Sign - Mother's Shrine

When entering, one can feel the serenity and divinity in the environment.  Our group went to the shrine room upstairs in batches.  Each pilgrim quietly offered salutations and did japa.

Holy Mother's shrine in Nilambar Babu's house

Those people who were not in the shrine room, sat outside in the open area of the house and enjoyed the view of the Ganga.

Ganga - 2

After we all had offered our salutations, we remembered that the following important events of Holy Mother’s life which took place here.  (Swami Chetanananda’s book “Sri Sarada Devi and Her Divine Play” describes all these events in great detail)

Holy Mother’s First Stay (May 1888 – October 1888):

After Sri Ramakrishna passed away in August 1886, Holy Mother lived in Kamarpukur and Jayarambati.  Upon the request of devotees, Holy Mother came to Kolkata in May 1888.

Holy Mother 002

She stayed in Balaram Babu’s house for a few days.  After this, devotees rented Nilambar Mukherjee’s Gardan House for six months for Holy Mother’s stay.  Holy Mother moved into the Garden House with two women devotees, Yogin-ma and Golap- ma.  Swamis Yogananda and Adbhutananda were taking care of Holy Mother’s needs.  During her stay in the Garden House, Holy Mother’s mind remained in God-consciousness and went into Samadhi quiet often.

  1. Experiencing Nirvikalpa Samadhi:

Yogin-ma recalled, “One evening Holy Mother, Golap-ma, and I were meditating on the roof. When my meditation was over, I noticed that Mother was still absorbed in meditation – motionless in Samadhi.  After a long time, she regained some consciousness and said, ‘Oh Yogin! Where are my hands? Where are my feet? I pressed her limbs and said: ‘Here are your hands and feet.’  It took Holy Mother a long time to regain consciousness of her body.”

  1. Hymn on Holy Mother (Prakrutim Paramam…):

A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna named Kali (Swami Abhedananda) had composed a hymn on Holy Mother in Sanskrit.  One day, he approached Holy Mother and expressed his desire to recite the hymn to her.  Holy Mother was startled and asked, “What kind of hymn? Whose hymn is it?” Swami Abhedananda humbly replied, “Mother, I composed a hymn on you.” Amazed, Holy Mother asked, “My son, what is the need for composing a hymn on me?” Upon repeated requests, Holy Mother listened to the hymn “Prakritim Paramam…”  Swami Abhedananda said that when he recited the line “Ramakrishna gata pranam” (meaning whose soul is absorbed in Sri Ramakrishna), the Mother’s whole body became motionless as one seats in meditation.  When he recited the lines, “Tan nama shravana priyam” (meaning who loves to hear Sri Ramakrishna’s name), tears of joy and love started rolling out from her eyes.  When Swami Abhedananda recited the lines “Tad bhava ranjitakara” (meaning whose mind being absorbed in Sri Ramakrishna became one with Him), he saw that Holy Mother was completely absorbed in meditation and has become one with Sri Ramakrishna.   Afterwards, Holy Mother blessed Swami Abhedananda saying, “May Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge) sit on your tongue.”

Devotees love this hymn and we see that all over the world, wherever there is worship of Holy Mother, they sing this hymn.

  1. The First Chapter of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:

On July 11, 1888 M. (Mahendranath Gupta) read a chapter of the Kathamrita (the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna in Bengali) to Holy Mother.  M. had not told anyone about this chapter.  He wanted to read it to Holy Mother first.  After listening to the chapter, Holy Mother praised M. and encouraged him to write more.

Kathamrita The_Gospel_of_Sri_Ramakrishna

 Holy Mother’s Second Stay (July 1893 – October 1893):

Five years after Holy Mother’s first stay, devotees again rented the same garden house of Nilambar Mukherjee for Holy Mother’s stay.  Holy Mother stayed there with Yogin-ma and Golap-ma.  This time, Swami Trigunatitananda took care of Holy Mother’s needs.  Holy Mother spent most of her time in worship, japa, and meditation.  Swami Trigunatitananda used to pick flowers for Holy Mother’s morning worship. During her stay at this time, two important events took place in the life of Holy Mother.

  1. Panchtapa Austerity:

For various other reasons, including doing some austerity, Holy Mother practiced the “Panchatapa” on the flat roof of this house.

Panchatapa Roof

“Pancha” means five and “Tapa” means austerity.  On the flat roof of the house, four fires were set in a square not too far and not too near to Holy Mother.  Holy Mother set in the middle of these fires from dawn to dusk under the blazing sun (the fifth fire) doing japa and meditation.  This was not easy an easy practice for most people.  This austerity is intended to keep the mind calm under the pressing circumstances.  Holy Mother had kept her calm demeanor during the adverse family and social circumstances in Kamarpukur and Jayrambati for years.  This austerity showed externally how Holy Mother kept her calmness within during all kinds of favorable and unfavorable circumstances.   She later on said, “My child, I went through it for the sake of all of you. Can you practice austerities? This is why I had to do it.”  Mother Sita had gone through the “fire test” when people questioned her purity.  Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “Sa, Sa, Sa,” which had the same pronunciation in Bengali . These “sa’s” refer to the phrase “Sahan Karo” (in Gujarati), or “Shajhya” in Bengali. The phrase suggests that in this world the greatest austerity is to “endure, endure, and endure.”  If we want to remain grounded in our true identity, Our Soul, or Our Atman, and live in the constantly changing world with a steady intellect, we have to learn “endurance.”

  1. Holy Mother’s vision:

It was a moonlit night.  Holy Mother was seated on the steps leading to Ganga.  The soothing light of the full moon illumined everything around her including the river Ganga.  The reflection of the full moon was dancing with the waves of the water.  Suddenly, she saw Sri Ramakrishna come from behind and proceed swiftly towards Ganga.  As soon as he touched the water, his body dissolved in it.  Holy Mother sat in amazement.  Then, from nowhere, Narendra appeared. He went to Ganga and while loudly chanting “Victory unto Ramakrishna!” started to sprinkle the Ganga water on innumerable men and women.  Immediately, these people were liberated.  This vision went so deep into Holy Mother’s mind that she could not bathe in Ganga for several days.  This vision has significance.  Sri Ramakrishna loved the Ganga and his life was pure like the Ganga.  Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) elaborated on Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings and spread them everywhere.  This helped (and is still helping) people attain the Knowledge of Ultimate Reality (Brahman) and destroy their ignorance and bondage.

We were fortunate enough to see the steps leading to Ganga from Nilambar Mukherjee’s house.  Seeing the same house, the same roof, and the same steps, we felt the presence of Holy Mother and deep within we experienced a feeling of blessedness.  Several youngsters later mentioned that by visiting these places, Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda became real to them. They were no longer legends and stories of imagination.


Holy Mother also stayed at this house for one day in April of 1898, one day in November of 1898, and five days in October of 1901.

  1. Monastery at Nilambar Mukherjee’s Garden House:

In February 1898, the monastery was moved from Alambazar to Nilambar Mukherjee’s Garden House. It was then that the Belur Math land came into the possession of the Ramakrishna Math. There was a dilapidated building that existed on the northern side of the land, which was renovated under the supervision of Swami Vijnanananda.

Swami Vivekananda (2)

Swami Vivekananda had stayed at the Garden House during this time.  In the morning he used to take bath in Ganga, salute Sri Ramakrishna’s “padukas” (slippers) and then meditate.

  1. Composition of “Khandan Bhava Bandhan…”:

The Nilambar Mukherjee’s Garden House was also the place where, in February 1898, Swami Vivekananda composed the famous Arati “Khandan Bhava Bandhan…” This aarti is sung all over the world in the shrines where Sri Ramakrishna is being worshiped.  In November of 1898, Swami Vivekananda composed “Om Hrim Ritam..” here – a hymn on Sri Ramakrishna which Usually follows by the Arati “Khandan…”

The following are links to the lyrics and meaning of the Arati and hymn:

Khandana Bhava Bandhana

Om Hrim Ritam

Furthermore, Swamiji also composed the following hymn on Sri Ramakrishna in this location:

आचण्डालाप्रतिहतरयो यस्य प्रेमप्रवाहो
लोकातीतोऽप्यहह न जहौ लोककल्याणमार्गम्।

The Garden House was truly a blessed place to have been the setting of such influential moments.

Swamiji’s Mango Tree:

Afterward visiting the Garden House, we were guided to the Belur Math office buildings.

Belur Math Map Modified

During our previous visit, we had seen the Old Math and Swami Vivekananda’s room.  This time, we learned more about the big mango tree in the courtyard.  One of the favorite seats of Swami Vivekananda was under this mango tree.

Swamiji's mango tree 2 Swamiji's mango tree 1

In the morning, he would usually be found seated on a canvas cot under this mango tree. This is where he would attend to his correspondences, write articles, read, or engage in conversation.  Devotees called it “Swamiji’s mango tree.”  There are few striking incidences took place under this tree.  Here are two such incidents.

  1. Gayatri Avahan Mantra:

It was evening.  Swami Vivekananda had just taken a bath in the Ganga and was returning to this place.  On the way back, he chanted, “Gayatri Avahana Mantra” (Ayahi Varade Devi….)*.    Swami Vivekananda’s soul-touching chanting made the surrounding people spellbound.  He then came to the mango tree and stood under it as if he were in Samadhi.  Then, he started pacing back and forth.  With this divine inebriation, his steps faltered.  All of those around him were deeply touched by his divine state and felt uplifted.

Many of us had attended Swami Adiswaranandaji’s talks at Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York, USA.  They remembered that Swami Adiswarananda used to recite this Gayatri Avahan Mantra before his talks.

  1. Where will you go to seek God?

One day, Swamiji was sitting on the cot under this tree facing west.  His eyes were luminous and he was filled with spiritual consciousness.  Pointing to the Brahmacharis and Sanyasins, he said, “Where will you go to seek God? He is immanent in all beings.  Here, here is the visible God!”  All around him stopped and became motionless.  At the time, Swami Premananda was coming from Ganga after his bath to go to the shrine for worship.  He heard these words and became overpowered by spiritual consciousness.  He just stood there in front of Swamiji being unconscious to the outer world.  After a while Swami Vivekananda came back to a normal state, so did Swami Premananda.  Swami Vivekananda then asked Swami Premananda to go for his worship.

Special Snack:

Thinking that we would not be at the hotel until late at night and to express their love for us, the Swamis of the Belur Math and Bhandari Maharaj arranged a special snack for all of us. We were guided to a dining area behind the offices. There, we found a small snack including tea, biscuits, dhokla, and chevda. Bhandari Maharaj made sure that all the items were delicious.  We were overwhelmed with the Swamis’ love and enjoyed the treat.

Right next door to the room where we were eating was the Leggett House, which was nothing short of grand, with large pillars and doors.

The evening was descending.  Just a few steps away from our location were the bank of the Ganga, where we could see countless Swamis walking around.

We still had some time before the Aarti began so few of us decided to visit the bookstore to buy books and other things. Others few walked on the grounds of the Belur Math.  As we gathered again, we found that the time before evening aarti was very special at the Belur Math.  Evening was entering.  The rays of the sunset were falling on the Ganga, creating a colorful sight.  Hundreds of birds were chirping.  Many Swamis in ochre clothes were quietly walking around absorbed in the thoughts of God.  Devotees were offering their salutations in the temples. Because the environment in the Belur Math campus was so serene and because it was the weekend, hundreds of families from the neighboring areas were either sitting or walking around enjoying the beauty of the place on the bank of the Ganga.  We too enjoyed this serene environment.

Evening Arati:

As the arati time was nearing, we all went into the main Prayer Hall.  We were again fortunate to have a reserved area just behind the Swamis and Brahmacharis of the Belur Math.  We sat quietly and meditated in silence before the arati. One Swami blew a conch on all sides of the Prayer Hall.  The long, continuous sound of the conch reminded all to think of God.  The tanpuras and other instruments were fine tuned. The Prayer Hall was fully packed with several hundreds of people. The atmosphere in the temple was absolutely captivating. The Swami who was doing arati inside the shrine room stood up with a special lamp to offer arati and began to ring bell. With melodious voices, the leading Swamis started to sing arati “Khandan Bhava Bandhan…”  Hundreds of people joined in the singing. The mridangam and other percussions lifted up the singing into another level.  It was such a spiritually uplifting experience. Most of the Vidyapith people knew the arati by heart. They enjoyed singing with all. The arati was followed by the “Om Hri Ritam..” hymn and the “Sarva mangala mangalye…”hymn. The singing was tuneful, melodious and filled with devotion. Finally, all joined in two Jai’s: “Jai Mahamayiki Jai,” and “Jai Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna Devaki Jai.”

The following are links to the Belur Math Evening Arati:

Khandana Mp3 Link

Om Hrim Ritam Mp3 Link

Sarva Mangala Mangalye Mp3 Link

All of the Swamis and Brahmacharis offered their salutations. We were allowed to offer our salutations before other people. All of us offered our salutations and went out through the doors on the Ganga side. A Swami was giving “batasa” (“Patasa” in Gujarati) as Prasad.  We took Prasad with great respect and went to the Belur Math offices to salute Swami Giritshanandaji and say “Good Bye.”

When we arrived, Revered Swami Girishanandaji came out from his office and blessed us all.  He was very happy to see us.  We all saluted him and took his leave.  He said, “Come again.”  We also saluted Revered Tapas Maharaj and took his leave.  We then started walking towards our buses.  Our minds were thankful to God for making our pilgrimage successful against all the odds of the weather and other unpleasant surprises.

A Surprise Meeting with Swami Tyagananda:

Yet, as we were walking towards our buses, we had another pleasant surprise.  We ran into Swami Tyagananda, spiritual head of the Boston Vedanta Society, USA.  We all knew him very well because he had visited Vivekananda Vidyapith. A few devotees had also visited him at The Boston Vedanta Society. What a coincidence! Among many unfamiliar faces, seeing a familiar face of someone whom we love and respect filled our hearts with great joy. We also saw joy on his face.  He greeted and blessed us and joked about how we are so close in distance to each other in America yet our paths crossed in Belur Math.

After a brief conversation, we made our way back to the buses for our last ride together, a bittersweet moment as we concluded the final excursion of this enlightening trip. We all sat in the bus and recited our five Jai’s.  To maintain the mindsets created by the beautiful aarti, we sang in the bus until our tired voices finally could not sing anymore.  In one of the buses, the air-condition broke down. It was very hot and humid evening. People in that bus opened all the windows, but it was very uncomfortable. All realized that it was a blessing that this did not happened during all our previous travels on this trip. But even in such a circumstance, the pilgrims in that bus happily sang dhoons, bhajans and enjoyed the trip.

A Special Dinner:

Dinner at night

We arrived at the hotel for our last dinner in the Hyatt Hotel. We had yet another pleasant surprise waiting for us. The dinner consisted of many delicious and popular Kolkata dishes including Kati Rolls, Pani Puri, Chaat, and much more.  All of us enjoyed to our hearts’ content.

Thank You and Good Bye:

During the dinner, Krishnan Uncle took the microphone to give a more than well-deserved thank you to Uncle, Aunty, our doctors, and Deba Uncle for making our trip as exciting, educational, and smooth as it was.

As dinner ended, we took a photo of all the students and alumni of Vidyapith.


After that, a bittersweet series of goodbyes were said as we started to leave to our rooms for packing and to rest before our flights the next day.

Many of us had flights at different times, but the Club7 members took care of the airport transportation for all of our pilgrims with love and great care.

Our trip had ended, with new knowledge in our minds, with a refreshed love for India, with Thakur, Sri Ma, Swamiji in our hearts, and with invaluable spiritual progress for our souls.

(The original report was written by Kanchan Railker and Apurva Shah. Thanks to Ronak Parikh for editing this post and Deba Saha for providing some important information and photos.)

Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 7 Morning Bus Tour and Lunch

August 9, 2015

Club 7, with Deba Uncle’s help, arranged a bus tour that transported us back 200 years in time. We were going to attempt to cover two to three centuries of history in a couple of hours. Our general bus route took us through Chowringhee Road, then through the Maidan, and finally to Dalhousie Square. A map below highlights our bus route. You’ll also find below historical information about each landmark.

Uncle and Deba Uncle reminded us of how Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda must have wandered through some of these very streets, perhaps soaking in similar sites and sounds. Thanks to Mahendranath Gupta, we have an account of some of Shri Ramakrishna’s observations and experiences. With Deba Uncle’s help, we have tried to include some of these relevant conversations; they appear in italics.

* * *

The British ruled India for nearly two centuries. Calcutta was the central backdrop for the Company Raj and British Raj for nearly all of this time. During this period, Calcutta grew to become India’s first modern “metropolitan cosmpolis,” perhaps even the first in Asia. Calcutta was an important commercial center, and also the center of the Bengal Renaissance. The “Bengal Renaissance” referred to a period of revitalization of ancient philosophies and art, a period of social and religious reform and enthusiastic public discourse. Concurrently, western science, reasoning, and methodologies of scholarship highly influenced the Indian educated elite. It was in this social, political, and economic milieu that Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda came to be. In this context, it is rather confounding to understand how Shri Ramakrishna, an “illiterate man” from rural Bengal, found himself continually surrounded by the Calcutta intelligentsia – scholars, zamindars, doctors, lawyers, educationists, etc. Their skepticism and questions mirror ours today. Shri Ramakrishna challenged their worldview and brought them face-to-face with ideas that paradoxically upended their idea of “modernity.” Using simple metaphors and with refreshing humility he spoke of Vedantic ideals in daily practice…

As we explored the historical quarters of the city and drove past beautiful buildings with stately architecture, the scenes of the 19th century came to life before us. The tour not only gave us a glimpse of that time, but it enabled us to better contextualize the phenomenon of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.

Timeline of Important Events
1690 – Arrival of British East India Company
1757 – Battle of Plassey
1764 – Battle of Buxar – East India Company attains Diwani and Nizamat (right to collect land revenue and right to exercise criminal jurisdiction respectively).
1772 – 1850 – East India Company Raj
1772 – East India Company appoints Warren Hastings as 1st Gov General
1784 – Asiatic Society of Bengal founded by Sir William Jones
1828 – Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded what later evolved into the Brahmo Samaj
1830 – Foundation of what later became the Scottish Church College (SV’s college)
1836 – Birth of Shri Ramakrishna
1854 – 1st Railway line in India built (Calcutta to Hooghly)
1857 – Sepoy Mutiny/First War of Independence
1858 – End of control by East India Company. Power transferred to British Crown.
1861 – Birth of Rabindranath Thakur (Tagore)
1863 – Birth of Swami Vivekananda (SV)
1869 – Birth of Mahatma Gandhi
1877 – Queen Victoria declares herself “Empress of India”
1881 – SV first meets Shri Ramakrishna
1885 – Foundation of Indian National Congress (INC)
1886 – Shri Ramakrishna attains mahasamadhi
1893 – Swami Vivekananda comes to the US. Gandhi arrives in South Africa.
1902 – Swami Vivekananda attains mahasamadhi
1905 – Partition of Bengal under Lord Curzon’s (viceroy)
1911 – British move their capital to Delhi. Bengal Partition rescinded.
1913 – Tagore receives the Nobel Prize
1915 – Mahatma Gandhi returns to India.

Kolkata Bus Tour Map

Click on this link to open a larger map: Kolkata Bus Tour Map

1. Mother Teresa’s House (Nirmala Shishu Bhavan) – Please see previous post.

2. Rani Rasmani’s Jan Bazar Palace –
Rani Rasmani founded the Dakshineshwar Kali temple, where Shri Ramakrishna served as the priest.

She was an exceptional example of woman leadership in the 19th century. After the death of her husband, a wealthy zamindar and social reformer, Rani Rasmani oversaw and expanded her husband’s business with the help of her son-in-law, Mathur Mohan Biswas (Mathur Babu). She was a philanthropist and an outspoken champion of the poor, often challenging unfair British regulations.

Though a Shudra according to conventional social stratification, Rani Rasmani defied social norms by building the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar. At first, society shunned the temple making it difficult for her to find a priest. Finally, Ramkumar, the eldest brother of Shri Ramakrishna, was appointed as the chief priest. Ramkumar served the temple for several years and eventually brought along his younger brother Gadadhar, later Shri Ramakrishna, to train for the priestly profession. After Ramkumar passed away, Rani Rasmani handed the responsibility of worshipping Mother Kali—the principal deity of the temple complex–to Shri Ramakrishna.

Rani Rasmani’s palatial home still stands in Janbazar.Rani Rasmani's Palace - Photo Credit Lavinia Melwani Kolkata_House_of_Rani_Rashmoni House-of-Rani-Rashmoni-Calcutta-2006 Christoper Taylor


3. Metropolitan Building – Built in 1905 on of the busiest intersections of Chowringhee Road, the Metropolitan Building, with its neo-baroque architecture, epitomized fashionable shopping during the British Raj. It once housed Whiteways Laidlaw & Co., then Asia’s largest department store. With the help of World Monuments Fund, the building was restored beginning in 2003 and now is a commercial complex.
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4. Chowringhee Road (now named Jawaharlal Nehru Road)
– In the 18th century, this road was referred to as the “road leading to the Kalighat” and was one of the fifty-one Shaktipeethas. Running through the heart of Kolkata, Chowringhee Road was one of the first modern roads built in the city. Because of its proximity to the Hooghly, the area around Chowringhee Road was referred to as the Esplanade. Most of the Kolkata’s heritage structures are located within the Esplanade, including the Metropolitan Building (described above), which was known as the “Queen of Esplanade Square.”

During British Rule, this “Paris-esque boulevard” became associated with opulent British real estate. The English built grand mansions and stately complexes on Chowringhee, because of which Calcutta was once referred to as the “City of Palaces.” Some of the prominent landmarks that dot Chowringhee Road are: Metropolitan Building, Oberoi Grand Hotel, Indian Museum, Asiatic Society of Bengal, Geological Survey of India, and various heritage Chowringhee Mansions.
esplanade4 c1885 The Esplanade and Government House from Chowringhee - Calcutta (Kolkata) 1865 2161748_f1024 Esplanade

5. Grand Hotel
– The Grand Hotel, is among the oldest luxury hotels in India. It was often known for its lavish parties and elite clientele. During World War II, it was appropriated by the British army and used as a station for British soldiers, housing as many as 4000 soldiers.Grand_hotel 1940s 57371814


6. Indian Museum – The Indian Museum is one of the “oldest such foundations in Asia.” In 1796, the Asiatic Society of Bengal announced its intention to found a museum. The Asiatic Society Museum was founded in 1814 within the Society building. Later known as the Imperial Museum, and more commonly the Jadughar or Ajabghar, the museum was moved to a newly constructed building in 1875. It has among its archives, a rich collection of Persian, Mughal, and Rajasthani paintings, status and bronzes from antiquity, and even the Great Rock Edicts of Asoka and pillar inscriptions. It also houses the largest Indian coin collection that date from 5th century BCE to the present day. The Museum has recently partnered with the Google Culture Institute to make its exhibits available for 360-panaromic viewing online.
Indian Museum 7 indianmuseum-02 tumblr_inline_n5i4ejnduj1s2pxze

Shri Ramakrishna had visited the original Kolkata Museum, when it was housed within the Asiatic Society. Here are a few instances during which Shri Ramakrishna referred to the museum:c1906

* * *

MASTER: “Once, a long time ago, I was very ill. I was sitting in the Kāli temple. I felt like praying to the Divine Mother to cure my illness, but couldn’t do so directly in my own name. I said to Her, ‘Mother, Hriday asks me to tell You about my illness.’ I could not proceed any farther. At once there flashed into my mind the Museum of the Asiatic Society, and a human skeleton strung together with wire. I said to Her, ‘Please tighten the wire of my body like that, so that I may go about singing Your name and glories.’ It is impossible for me to ask for occult powers.

In the context of Influence of company: MASTER (to the devotees): “I visited the museum once. I was shown fossils. A whole animal has become stone! Just see what an effect has been produced by company! Likewise, by constantly living in the company of a holy man one verily becomes holy.”

Geological Survey of India – (Located right behind the Museum.) The Geological Survey of India was established in 1851. It was the leading source of earth science information for the government and for industry. The institution can be traced to the 1836 Coal Committee and other organizations that lead coal exploration – coal was needed to power steam transportation in the empire.Geological Survey of India
Asiatic Society – Sir William Jones, the Chief Justice of Bengal and a well known “Oriental scholar” prior to coming to India, founded the Society in 1784. Sir William Jones recorded a memorandum of his plan of study and the subject of scholarship at the Society, “the laws of the Hindus and Mahomedans; the history of the ancient world; proofs and illustrations of scripture; traditions concerning the deluge; modern politics and geography of Hindusthan; Arithmatic and Geometry and mixed sciences of Asiaticks; Medicine, Chemistry, Surgery and Anatomy of the Indians; natural products of India; poetry, rhetoric and morality of Asia; music of the Eastern nations; the best accounts of Tibet and Kashmir; trade, manufactures, agriculture and commerce of India: Mughal constitution, Marhatta constitution etc.” The Asiatic Society became the first formal institution for “Oriental studies” and a pioneer for research in the field. For instance, “in [Sir William Jones’] 1786 presidential discourse to the Asiatic Society, he postulated the common ancestry of Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek, his findings providing the impetus for the development of comparative linguistics in the early 19th century.”

Some facts: The Asiatic Society library contains many rare archives including texts and manuscripts from Tipu Sultan’s library that the British acquired after they defeated the Mysore ruler. When the Indian Museum was founded, the Asiatic Society donated much of its archives to the Museum.  …It wasn’t until 1829 that Indians were allowed membership. The Tagores were among the first members.

7. Birla Planetarium– The Birla Planetarium in Kolkata is Asia’s largest planetarium and the world’s second largest. It was the first of it’s kind in India and was inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962. The architecture is loosely based on the Buddhist stupa at Sanchi.birla-planetarium-kolkata


8. Victoria Memorial – The Victoria Memorial, which currently sits in the Maidan, was built in memory of Queen Victoria (UK Reign 1837-1901, Declared “Empress of India” in 1876). The memorial was built between 1906-1921.

 The vision for the building was set by Viceroy Lord Curzon. Curzon wanted to build a grand public building, describing the idea as follows:

“Let us, therefore, have a building, stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Calcutta will turn, to which all the resident population, European and Native, will flock, where all classes will learn the lessons of history, and see revived before their eyes the marvels of the past.”

The cost of the construction amounted to one crore, five lakh rupees, all of which came from voluntary subscriptions from princes and the people of India. There is some distant resemblance to the Taj Mahal, which earned it the title of “Taj of the Raj.” Some say this was not entirely coincidental given Curzon led the restoration of the Taj Mahal.

Some facts: The memorial has historical artifacts such as a dagger belonging to Tipu Sultan, a cannon used in the Battle of Plassey, manuscripts by the famed Abu Fazal of Akbar’s court, and belongings of Warren Hastings, Dwarkanath Tagore, and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. Lord Curzon had marble brought from the same Makrana quarries in Rajasthan that supplied Shah Jahan  DSC_0742 Victoria Memorial Victoria Memorial 2


9. Kolkata Race Course -The Race Course was laid out in the Maidan in 1812 during the Company Raj, mainly for army officers. Maintained by the Royal Calcutta Turf Club which was founded in 1847, it is one of the largest horse race venues in India. During the British Raj, it became one of the leading horse racing organizations in India, and at one time even served as the governing body for all such sports in the sub-continent. The races, opened by the Viceroy of India, brought together the upper echelons of society and were a major component of the British elite’s social scene.Royal_Calcutta_Turf_Club_Race_Stands_-_Viceroy's_Cup_Day

Fort William – The old Fort William was constructed in 1696 at the site of the General Post Office. It was seized by Shiraj-Ud-Daulah, then the Nawab of Bengal. However, following the murder of Nawab during the Battle of Plassey in 1758, a new fort was constructed under the order of Robert Clive of the British East India Company. The area around the fort was cleared to form the “Maidan.”

* * *

Once Ramakrishna went to see Fort William, the British fort in Calcutta. Just as he arrived by carriage, the Sikh regiment was marching there. When the soldiers saw him, they dropped their rifles on the ground and bowed down to him, shouting, “Victory to the guru!” The British commander‑in‑chief was nonplussed. When he asked the Sikh soldiers about their unusual behavior they replied that it was the custom of their religion to show respect for their guru in that manner. Thus Ramakrishna conquered the British fort by merely siting in his carriage. It was not even necessary for him to step out of the vehicle. This was truly amazing!

For the householders Sri Ramakrishna did not prescribe the hard path of total renunciation. He wanted them to discharge their obligations to their families. Their renunciation was to be mental. Spiritual life could not he acquired by flying away from responsibilities. A married couple should live like brother and sister after the birth of one or two children, devoting their time to spiritual talk and contemplation. He encouraged the householders, saying that their life was, in a way, easier than that of the monk, since it was more advantageous to fight the enemy from inside a fortress than in an open field. He insisted, however, on their repairing into solitude every now and then to strengthen their devotion and faith in God through prayer, japa, and meditation. He prescribed for them the companionship of sādhus. He asked them to perform their worldly duties with one hand, while holding to God with the other, and to pray to God to make their duties fewer and fewer so that in the end they might cling to Him with both hands. He would discourage in both the householders and the celibate youths any lukewarmness in their spiritual struggles. He would not ask them to follow indiscriminately the ideal of non-resistance, which ultimately makes a coward of the unwary.

10. Maidan – Similar to New York’s Central Park, the Maidan is the largest and oldest urban park in Kolkata. It was created by the East India Company military in order to clear the line of view for Fort William’s cannons. The park is located between the Hooghly (on the West) and Chowringhee (now Jawaharlal Nehru) Road.

Fort William, the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s House), Shaheed Minar, the Eden Gardens, Victoria Memorial, and the Kolkata Race Course are all located in the Maidan.maidan-kolkata victoria-memorial-from

* * *

Master at the circus
Sri Ramakrishna, accompanied by Rakhal and several other devotees, came to Calcutta in a carriage and called for M. at the school where he was teaching. Then they all set out for the Maidan. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to see the Wilson Circus. As the carriage rolled along the crowded Chitpore Road, his joy was very great. Like a little child he leaned first out of one side of the carriage and then out of the other, talking to himself as if addressing the passers-by. To M. he said: “I find the attention of the people fixed on earthly things. They are all rushing about for the sake of their stomachs. No one is thinking of God.”

They arrived at the circus. Tickets for the cheapest seats were purchased. The devotees took the Master to a high gallery, and they all sat on a bench. He said joyfully: “Ha! This is a good place. I can see the show well from here.” There were exhibitions of various feats. A horse raced around a circular track over which large iron rings were hung at intervals. The circus rider, an Englishwoman, stood on one foot on the horse’s back, and as the horse passed under the rings, she jumped through them, always alighting on one foot on the horse’s back. The horse raced around the entire circle, and the woman never missed the horse or lost her balance.When the circus was over, the Master and the devotees stood outside in the field, near the carriage. Since it was a cold night he covered his body with his green shawl.

Necessity of spiritual discipline
Sri Ramakrishna said to M: “Did you see how that Englishwoman stood on one foot on her horse, while it ran like lightning? How difficult a feat that must be! She must have practised a long time. The slightest carelessness and she would break her arms or legs; she might even be killed. One faces the same difficulty leading the life of a householder. A few succeed in it through the grace of God and as a result of their spiritual practice. But most people fail. Entering the world, they become more and more involved in it; they drown in worldliness and suffer the agonies of death. A few only, like Janaka, have succeeded, through the power of their austerity, in leading the spiritual life as householders. Therefore spiritual practice is extremely necessary; otherwise one cannot rightly live in the world.”

MASTER (to the devotees): “I shall look upon them as the Blissful Mother Herself. What if one of them acts the part of Chaitanya? An imitation custard-apple reminds one of the real fruit. Once, while going along a road, a devotee of Krishna noticed some babla- trees. Instantly his mind was thrown into ecstasy. He remembered that the wood of babla-trees was used for the handles of the spades that the garden of the temple of Syamasundar was dug with. The trees instantly reminded him of Krishna. I was once taken to the Maidan in Calcutta to see a balloon go up. There I noticed a young English boy leaning against a tree, with his body bent in three places. It at once brought before me the vision of Krishna and I went into samādhi.

11. Red Road (Now Indira Gandhi Sarani) –
The original Red Road was made in the 1720s. The name came from the color of the material that was used for paving. Construction for the current road began in 1820 under Colonel Watson. The road spans between the Raj Bhavan and Fort William. British used this road for state parades. Interestingly, during World War II, the road even served as a landing strip for fighter planes. Mother Teresa’s funeral procession by the Indian government made its way through historic thoroughfares of the city, including Red Road.fort-william-and-red-road-calcutta-1870s Red Road Today


12. Shaheed Minar (loosely called the Monument, formerly known as Ochterlony monument) – The 158 ft minar or tower was originally built on the Esplanade by the East India Company in 1828 in memory of major General David Octherlony, the commander of the British East India Company, to commemorate soldiers that defended Delhi from the Marathas and also the British victory in the Anglo-Nepalese War (the result of the latter was that a third of Nepalese land was handed to the British, including present day Sikkim and Darjeeling).

The monument’s design was influenced by Egyptian, Syrian, and Turkish architecture. In 1969, the minar was rededicated to memorialize the Indian Independence Movement. It was then rechristened and called the “Shaheed (martyr) Minar (tower),” which means “martyrs’ monument”.shahid-minar-kolkata

* * *

(To M. and Prankrishna) “Many people talk of Brahmajnāna, but their minds are always preoccupied with lower things: house, buildings, money, name, and sense pleasures. As long as you stand at the foot of the Monument, then so long do you see horses, carriages, Englishmen, and Englishwomen. But when you climb to its top, you behold the sky and the ocean stretching to infinity. Then you do not enjoy buildings, carriages, horses, or men. They look like ants…………………………………….

“The nearer you come to God, the more you feel peace. Peace, peace, peace-supreme peace! The nearer you come to the Ganges, the more you feel its coolness. You will feel completely soothed when you plunge into the river.

13. Akashvani Bhavan (All India Radio)
– “Radio Broadcasting started in India in the early 1920’s. The first programme was broadcast in 1923 by the Radio club of Bombay. This was followed by setting up Broadcasting Services in 1927 with two privately-owned transmitters at Bombay and Calcutta. The Government took over the transmitters in 1930 and started operating them under the name of Indian Broadcasting Service. It was changed to All India Radio (AIR) in 1936 and it came to be known as Akashvani from 1957.” –Know India: Culture and Heritage, Website

It is obvious to us now that state control over all communication systems was certainly advantageous to the colonial government. Radio could also be used to “manufacture an illusion of political consensus.” Yet, just like with the development of the railway, telegraph, and postage system, the radio too played a role in sparking Indian national sentiment, “allowing latent ideas and attitudes to travel and ferment into broader political movements.”  However, the development of the radio in India was deflected by turmoil on the ground and differences among organizing parties.
Radio Station 3 Radio Station - 1st Radio Akashvani Bhavan

. Eden Garden & Eden Garden Cricket Stadium – Eden Garden consists of the land between the Hooghly and the Raj Bhavan (Governor General’s House). In the 1840s, it belonged to the then Governor General Lord Auckland. Auckland’s sisters, Emily and Fanny Eden supervised the cleaning of the land, and opened it to the public as a recreational ground in 1841.

The Eden Gardens Stadium, located in Eden Garden, is the largest cricket stadium (in terms of capacity) in India, and the second largest in the world (second only to Melbourne) with a seat capacity of over 65,000.
DSC_0747 9186-200831-mcgaerialj

15. Netaji Indoor Stadium (Eden Garden Cricket Stadium)
– The stadium is the only indoor sports arena in Kolkata. It is a fully air-conditioned stadium and seats 12,000 people.NSCBI_International_airport

. Babu Ghat – Babu means Bengali person of aristocracy or higher stratum of society. Babu Ghat was built out of the patronage of Babu Raj Chandra Das, Rani Rashmoni’s huband, in 1830. It is the second oldest ghat in Kolkata. Babu Ghat reminds us of an incident relating to Rani Rashmoni’s dealings with the British. British had imposed a tax on fishing activities on the Hooghly, threatening the livelihood of the local fisherman. The fisherman turned to Rani Rashmoni for help. In protest, the spirited Rani bought some land on the other side of the river and blocked river traffic with iron chains. The British were forced to concede with the Rani’s demands for her people.
babu_ghat 1912 RCAHMS Copyright
Baboo Ghat - Rani Rasmani Baboo Ghat 2 Inaugural_Marble_Plaque_-_Babu_Ghat_-_Kolkata_2014-01-05_5580

17. Howrah Bridge
(Now Rabindra Setu) – As far back as 1862, the Government of Bengal began researching the idea of building a bridge across the Hooghly. The Calcutta Port Trust was thus created in 1870, and the construction of the first bridge was completed in 1874. By 1905, it was evident that this bridge could not handle the load. Construction faced delayed because of WWI and WWII. As a result of WWII, steel that was supposed to be used for the construction was diverted; Tata Steel provided almost 90% of the necessary steel. Bridge construction was finally completed in 1942. The British did not open the bridge with much fun fanfare, fearing bombing by the Japanese. Howrah Bridge marked a engineering feat by the British Raj. The bridge is the 6th longest cantilever truss bridge in the world.Howrah Bridge 3


18. High Court – The Calcutta High Courtis the oldest High Court in India. It was preceded by the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William, which hosted the judiciary system from 1774 to 1862. The Calcutta High Court, built in 1862, was the first High Court in India and one of the three chartered courts in India (the others were the High Courts of Bombay and Madras). These were the highest courts for all cases in India until the establishment of the Federal Court of India in 1935. The current court building was constructed in 1872 (the prior Court existed on the Esplanade.)
highcourtofcalcuttakolk kolkata-high-court-banner-copySwami Vivekananda, known as Naren in his youth, came from a family of lawyers. Naren’s great grandfather was a “Farsi lawyer” of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William. Naren’s grandfather, Durga Prasad, worked in an Attorney’s office and was to become a partner in his father’s law firm, but he soon took up monasticism. Naren’s first cousin, Tarak Nath used to handle litigations for the famed Jorasankho Tagore family. Naren’s father too had a successful legal practice, and would travel to distant places such as: Lucknow, Lahore, Delhi, Rajputana, and Raipure. Even Naren was to complete his law studies, but was not able to due to the death of his father and the circumstances that this brought to his family.

Town Hall – The Town Hall was constructed in 1814 as a public meeting space for “elite European gatherings.” The ground floor was open to the public to view paintings and sculptures while the second floor was used to host state events for the East India Company along with other receptions and balls.

In 1898, Jagdish Chandra Bose’s famous experiment was carried out at the Town Hall in front of the public. In this experiment, Bose ignited gunpowder and rang a bell at a distance using electromagnetic waves. It was the first experiment that demonstrated how communication signals could be sent without wires.

Tagore’s 50th and 70th birthdays were also celebrated at the Town Hall in Tagor’e presence.

Today the library at Town Hall houses rare books, journals, and manuscripts from the colonial period. The Kolkata Museum is located on the ground floor and the first floor hall is often used for lectures, exhibitions, cultural events, etc. The Town Hall [Calcutta] 1865Town Hall 5


20. Raj Bhavan – This grandiose structure was formerly known as the Governor’s House, and was the official residence of the Viceroy of India. Today it is the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal.

Construction for Raj Bhavan ran between 1799 and 1803. The Governor’s House was an imposing building, clearly built as a symbol of power and imperial success.
4. Picture used for Thackeray's Guide 1906 4aThis is reflected in the type of social gatherings that took place at the House. The first major event hosted in the Governor’s House was in 1802 during the anniversary of the Battle of Seringapatam, the battle in which Tipu Sultan was defeated. “The Governor General gave a breakfast to ‘above seven hundred of the principal ladies and gentlemen of the settlement’ and ‘on this occasion, the great apartments of the new Government House were opened for the first time.’“ The throne of the aforementioned Tipu Sultan actually sits in a room in Raj Bhavan, aptly named the “Throne Room”. (Below are pictures of the Throne Room and Ballroom, respectively.)
5 Throne Room 1918.jpg 5 Massey Ballroom 1918To understand the importance of the role of the Governor-General of Bengal, it is important to understand the structure of the British Government in India and the appointment of the Governor-General office. In 1851, the British designated four presidencies (provinces):
Bengal – In Calcutta … this was once the largest presidency.
Bombay – In Bombay (Now Mumbai)
Madras – In Madras (Now Chennai)
North-Western Provinces – In Agra

Until 1857, the Director of the East India Company appointed a Governor General. In 1858, after the 1857 uprising, the East India Company territories came under the direct control of the British Crown. As a result, from 1858 to 1914, it was the King of England that appointed the Governor General, henceforth known as the Viceroy of India. A Governor headed each presidency; all Governors were to report to the Viceroy, the chief officer in India. The Viceroy was to report to Parliament. For many years, the Governor of Bengal was concurrently the Viceroy of India.
1. Eastern_Gate_of_Raj_Bhavan,_Kolkata_01 2

* * *

Mani Mallick and Bhavanath referred to the exhibition which was then being held near the Asiatic Museum. They said: “Many maharajas have sent precious articles to the exhibition-gold couches and the like. It is worth seeing.”

MASTER (to the devotees, with a smile): “Yes, you gain much by visiting those things. You realize that those articles of gold and the other things sent by maharajas are mere trash. That is a great gain in itself. When I used to go to Calcutta with Hriday, he would show me the Viceroy’s palace and say: ‘Look, uncle! There is the Viceroy’s palace with the big columns.’ The Mother revealed to me that they were merely clay bricks laid one on top of another.

21. St. John’s Church
– The church, built between 1784 and1787, was one of the first public buildings constructed by the British East India Company. The site of St. John’s Church was originally the burial ground of Calcutta’s “founder” Job Charnock and his family. Maharaj Nabakrishnadeb donated the land to Warren Hastings, who wanted to build St. John’s at this location. Lord Cornwallis* was present at its consecration ceremony. The church contains plaques and tombstones dedicated to prominent people associated with East India Company as well as many interesting memorials that date to the early British colonial period. One of these include the gravestone of the Company doctor, Dr. Hamilton, who saved the Mughal Emperor, as a result of which the emperor granted the Company free trading license.

Trivia – Supposedly the floor of Gaur was made from ruins of Gaur and ancient city in Bengal.

(*Cornwallis, a famous British General in the American War of Independence, was appointed as Governor General of Bengal and Commander in Chief in 1786. He is known not only for his defeat of Tipu Sultan, but also for the many reforms he made in the East India Company operations that solidified British rule in India.St. John's Church Calcutta 1850- 1870 St John's Church - Founder of Kolkata Cemetery Job Charnock index

GPO (General Post Office) – The GPO is notable for its imposing high domed roof (rising over 220 ft or 22 storied building) and tall iconic Corinthian pillars. Located in what was originally a famous British outpost named Fort William, the General Post Office (GPO) is the central post office of both the city of Kolkata and the state of West Bengal. The GPO was constructed in 1868, 91 years after William Hastings introduced the postal system to Kolkata. The GPO signified the coming of age of the postal system – a system that introduced India to large-scale, streamlined mail/parcel delivery – and one that reflected the modernization of India. It was the same system that handled Swamiji’s inspirational letters and important colonial government correspondences among other historic conversations and negotiations. The popular landmark continues to handle most of the city’s inbound and outbound mail and parcels.
gpo 1885 (1) General Post Office

23. BBD Bagh 
– BBD Bagh was once known as Dalhousie Square, named after Lord Dalhousie who served as the Governor General of India from 1847-1856. (Lord Dalhousie was infamous for his “Doctrine of Lapse” which forbid Indian rulers from adopting an heir in the absence of a natural heir. This measure allowed the British to annex the territories of such rulers.)

Dalhousie Square is located at the site of the old Fort William, which was constructed in 1696. The Square surrounds what was locally called the “Lal Dighi” or Red Pool. Lal Dighi was a water tank that was the source of drinking water for the nearby European residents until the 19th century. Its name referred to the reflection of the red bricks of the colonial buildings that were mirrored in the pool.41_bigDalhousie Square was the seat of power during the British Raj. “In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Calcutta was the capital of British India and Dalhousie Square was the city’s financial, social, and political nucleus.”

In and around the square, you’ll find important administrative buildings such as:
Writer’s Building (1777)
St. John’s Church (1787)
Kolkata Town Hall (1814)
Currency Building (1833)
Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1853)
General Post Office/GPO (1868)
Kolkata Port Trust (1870)
Central Telegraph Office/CTO (1876)
East Indian Railway headquarters (1879)
Calcutta Stock Exchange (1908)
Royal Insurance Building (1911)BBD Map 1After India’s independence, the Square was renamed “BBD Bagh” after three the young martyrs Benoy, Badal, and Dinesh that were hung by the British for their protest against the partition of Bengal in 1905.

Many of the original buildings from the Square have been knocked down by developers to create office spaces. Recently, 55 buildings around Dalhousie Square have been declared to be heritage sites by the World Monuments Fund. Many of these offices are important political and commercial offices of Bengal.
BBD Bag - Freedom Fighters Binoy Badal Dinesh kolkata-benoy-badal-dinesh

24. Writer’s Building –
By the time the East India Company arrived in Bengal, it was already in existence for nearly a hundred years and had presence in various cities in India. Under Governor Warren Hastings, the Company underwent many major reforms, one of which included an effort to consolidate the administration and staff. It was in this context that Hastings conceived of the Writer’s Building. By 1778 the building was ready for use.

The Writer’s Building was named after the labor force that essentially became the operating system for colonial rule. Employees of the Company were organized under a very strict layered hierarchical structure. “Writers” ranked just above the lowest position (that of the apprentice). They were junior clerks or scribes, and their job was to keep all the accounts and to correspond with London. It was tedious work to keep all the ledgers organized and updated and creating hand written duplications of important documents. The working conditions weren’t entirely pleasant, yet, there was no dearth of candidates for the job. The Company attracted young men, as young as 16, who saw the job openings as their key up the social and economic ladder. The Writer’s Building served as the training ground for these workers. In 1800, the College of Fort William, founded to train the writers in Persian, Sanskrit, and Hindi, was moved to the Writer’s Building complexes. Initially, the writers were expected to study, live, and work in the building during their probationary period of 5 years, after which they could earn the opportunity to slowly move up the ranks.

The operations conducted in the Writer’s Building, especially after the significant reforms introduced by Hastings, were exemplary of an efficiently managed colonial empire. Hastings laid the foundation for what later evolved into the Indian Civil Service.3. writersbldgs Writer's Building 1912 RCAHMS 2. WRITERS_BUILDING_1545175g 1. DSC01862_


25. Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque –Tipu Sultan’s youngest son, Prince Ghulam Mohammand Sultan Khan, built this mosque in 1832 in memory of his father, Tipu Sultan of Mysore.

Tipu Sultan was known for his fierce resistance to the British in the Anglo-Mysore Wars – battles in which Tipu Sultan allied with the French. There are controversial accounts of Tip Sultan’s rule, though modern scholarship attributes this to British historians from that era. In 1799, joint Maratha and British forces defeated Tipu Sultan in the fourth Anglo-Mysore War. After his death, his entire family was exiled. They were later brought to Calcutta by the British in 1806.
miltonlinkspic2dharmatakw6 455_1

26. Bhim Chandra Nag’s Sweet Shop 
– This famous sweet shop dates back to 1826. Shri Ramakrishna especially loved Bhim Chandra Nag’s sandesh sweet.

“According to Haradhan Nag, an aged scion of Kolkata’s oldest sweet shop, Bhim Chandra Nag, [Rani Rashmoni] is said to have bought over a ton of SANDESH from the confectioner, for the celebration of its inauguration. …whenever, Rani Rashmoni, went to Dakshineshwar she invariably bought two big baskets of Bhim Chandra Nag sweets–one for the goddess Kali and other for Ramakrishna who would then apparently share them with his disciples.”

Birth of another Bengali Sweet dessert item “Ledikeni” – Lady Canning was the wife of the Lord Canning, the last Governor General of the East India Company, and later the first Viceroy when the British Crown took over in 1857. On the eve Lady Canning’s birthday, Lord Canning’s men came to Bhim Nag’s shop and ordered a special sweetmeat, which would be entirely different in shape and size than the existing range of sweets and would also outclass them in taste The Nags after pondering over it for days made a new kind of sweetmeat, much above the expectation of Canning’s men. It was partially a ‘Pantua’ and partially a ‘Lancha’. It resembled both to some extent but at the same time, was different from them. From the name of Lady Canning, this sweet came to be known in Bengal as “ledikeni” and is very popular even to this day.

Sources Include

Free Time / Shopping Time:
Many of our 91 pilgrims were coming to Kolkata for the first time. Kolkata is a big city and had many attractive things to offer in terms of shopping, etc. While we had kept no time for shopping as this was strictly a pilgrimage, our bus tour arrived at Hyatt one hour earlier than it was planned. Thus, everyone welcomed an hour of free time before our 12:30 lunch.  People had choices to relax, to go for shopping, or start packing for our departure.

A group of about 20 uncles, aunties, and students went to a street market in Kolkata about 20 minutes away from our hotel to do some afternoon shopping. Surrounded by tea stands, purse vendors, and an array of saree stores to choose from, they walked around like tourists for almost an hour going from shop to shop, collecting bags of new outfits and souvenirs along the way.

Shopping2 Shopping3 Shopping1

Special Thanks to Club7 Members:
During our, once again, wonderful meal at Topaz and Sapphire, Mahendra Uncle came up to the podium  and wished to express his, and our, thanks to Club7 for going above and beyond in making this trip the lifetime memory that it was.

Thanking Club7 Afternoon Meeting 1
Every aspect of Club7’s thorough work was shown during our trip, from the constant water bottles supplied at every corner, to the hotel booking, meal organizations, extremely skillful bus drivers, and comfortable buses. Club7 members expressed their joy for having us and gave us hearty welcome for whenever we wished to come back.

Afternoon Meeting 2 Afternoon Meeting 4 Thanking Club7 2 DSC_0773

After this, we all went to our rooms to get ready to visit Belur Math one last time.

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(Thanks to Nisha Parikh for writing this post and Ronak Parikh for editing.  Thanks to Deba Uncle for creating the Bus Tour Map and providing us the information that connected the incidences and conversations from Shri Ramakrishna’s life to the Bus Tour landmarks.)


Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 7 Morning at Mother Teresa’s Place

August 9, 2015

On our final day of the pilgrimage, we had our breakfast at the Guchhi after getting to sleep in a little more than the previous days. Embarking on our penultimate excursion around 8 am, we boarded the buses and sang our morning prayer, which ended just as we reached our destination.

We arrived at Mother Teresa’s house which consisted of an exhibition, her tomb, and the room she stayed in while in Kolkata.

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Agnes Bojanxhiu, later known as Mother Teresa, was born on August 26th, 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, which at that time was under the Ottoman Empire. Even during her very early years, Agnes was fascinated by the work of Missionaries, especially their service work in Bengal. At the age of 12, she committed herself to a religious life. At 18, she left her home to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland with hopes of becoming a missionary. She arrived in Darjeeling in 1929 and learned Bengali while teaching at a schoolhouse named St. Mary’s School. Teresa taught for almost 20 years and also became appointed headmistress of the schoolhouse. It was near the end of this time when Teresa witnessed the intense poverty around her through tragedies such as the Bengal famine and acts of Hindu and Muslim violence.

In 1946, Teresa received her second calling, this time to help the poorest of the poor. She requested the Church for permission to leave the convent and work outside the order. “Rare for any member of the clergy, in 1946 it was unheard of for a nun.” In 1948, after a few months of receiving basic medical training, Mother Teresa began her work in Calcutta’s slums. She was joined by a group of young women. Together, they formed a new religious community to help the poor. Although Mother Teresa’s help was tremendously appreciated by the local authorities, she was offered very little assistance and faced many difficulties early in her work in Calcutta, having to beg for food and supplies. However, Mother Teresa persisted and selflessly served those living in extreme poverty. In 1950, she finally received permission from the Vatican to start what would be the Missionaries of Charity to help the “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” In the 1950s and 1960s, Mother Teresa’s work led to the creation of a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic, and a number of mobile clinics. In the 1970s, she established an American house of charity in New York City and also won the Nobel Peace Prize. In the 1980s, she secretly traveled to Beirut where she served both Christian and Muslim children. Mother Teresa passed away in 1997 – at that time there were more than 4,000 Missionaries of Charity with over 610 foundations in 123 countries.

4d4cAs we walked through the house, we saw many aspects of Mother Teresa’s life. In one part of the exhibit, we could view some of her possessions such as combs, brushes, utensils, clothing, and her wheelchair.

motherteresa-06In this room, there were posts of Mother Teresa’s teachings and writing, including The Greatest Injustice.

DSC_0739One of the most wonderful aspects of this exhibit was a voice recording of Mother Teresa herself. The displays here also contained many of her life works and accomplishments, such as the coveted Nobel Peace Prize that she received on December 11, 1979. Near the exit of the room was a notebook filled with pages of notes written by those who wish to convey a message to Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa’s tomb sits within one of the rooms of the the Missionaries of Charity building. Upon entering this room, we felt a serene yet somber atmosphere. Mother’s tomb was adorned with red roses in the shape of her rosary, a set of candles, and a statue of Mother Mary.

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On the walls, there were three paintings depicting her life’s work and her image to the world. Each piece of art was paired with a beautiful quote expressing the essence of the work. Mother Teresa’s tombstone read:

“Love one another as I have loved you” ­St. John 15:12

Mother M. Teresa M. C.

26.8.1910­ – 5.9.1997

Our Dearly Beloved Mother Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity

10dNext to her tomb were a few rows of benches where visitors paid their respects to Mother Teresa and her legacy. Many of us sat on these benches and either recited a
prayer or did japa.

On our way out of the room, one of the sisters handed us a photo of Mother Teresa, a specialized pendant, and an informative pamphlet on the Mother’s life.

After visiting her tomb, we walked up a set of narrow stairs to Mother Teresa’s room. The room was narrow and very small. In fact, it was built on top of the kitchen and the room would get very hot. Yet, Mother Teresa never used a fan!

11bID:68531785In the room we caught a glimpse of Mother Teresa’s simple life. We saw a thin cot covered in a plaid blanket, a simple wooden table, and  her desk where Mother Teresa answered letters sent to her. Also kept in the room was a glass case displaying her rosary, first cross, and a pendant.

As we were getting ready to leave, we came to know that Sister Gertrude, a direct Sister-nun to Mother Teresa herself, was present in the house.  We learned of Sister Gertrude’s background much later. Sister Gertrude, an aspiring medical student, met Mother Teresa in 1946, at age 17, when she was a boarding student at Loreto. Soon after, in 1948, Mother Teresa had left the convent to begin Missionaries of Charity. Once Sister Gertrude returned from her medical course, she learned of Mother Teresa’s whereabouts and joined her, becoming the third woman to join Mother Teresa in founding Missionaries of Charity. It was at Mother Teresa’s urging that Sister Gertrude completed her medical studies. She dedicated her life to the Mission, becoming it’s first doctor, and was often said to be Mother Teresa’s “right hand.” She cared for Mother Teresa and was at her side at the time of Mother’s passing. We were so blessed to be in her presence! We quickly walked up the stairs to meet her. She lovingly and humbly received all of us and gave us her good wishes and blessings. A few of us had a small conversation with her about loving all, not discriminating against people of different faiths, and keeping family close to you. As she held our heads to bless us, we could feel the pure love and power behind her.

Visiting Mother Teresa’s house truly put into perspective the universal language that is service. We hurriedly returned to the buses to begin the bus tour of Kolkata.

Here are some of Mother Teresa’s quotes and teachings:

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

“Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.”

“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.”

“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

“Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.”

“Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.”

“Prayer in action is love, love in action is service.”

“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.”

“The fruit of Silence is Prayer
The fruit of Prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Love
The fruit of Love is Service
The fruit of Service is Peace”

(Report written by Apurva Shah and Kanchan Railkar, and edited by Ronak Parikh. Thanks to Nisha Parikh for adding photos.)

Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 6 Visit to Shantiniketan

August 8, 2015

Memories of Jorasanko:

On August 7th, we visited Jorasankho, the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s house.  He was born in this house and also had left his body here. His father, Debendranath Tagore, his grandfather, Dwarkananth Tagore, and many of his family members were well-known public figures and talented personalities. We were amazed to learn about the Tagore family’s contributions to Indian Culture and to the world.  In this environment, while walking through Jorasankho, we felt that we were touching a part of history.

Today, on August 8th, we were going to visit “Shantiniketan,” the place that brought Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of education and culture to life and practice.  During our visit to Shantiniketan, we thought of the incidents in the lives of the Tagore family that connected them to Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Saradadevi, and Swami Vivekananda.

Connections of the Tagore Family and Swami Vivekananda:

Sri Ramakrishna had met Debendranath Tagore.  Swami Vivekananda also met Debendranath Tagore, and as a young boy (Narendra), asked him, “Sir! Have you seen God?”  Debendranath replied that Narendra had the eyes of a “Yogi” and that he should practice meditation.

Narendra was a member of the Brahmo Samaj where he was one of the lead singers in the choir.  Rabindranath Tagore had written a few songs for the Brahmo Samaj and Narendra would go to Jorasanko for musical rehearsals.

Later, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore’s mission in life took different turns.  However, Rabindranath Tagore showed great respect for Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.  Also, Swami Vivekananda’s disciple, Sister Nivedita, played a crucial role in making Rabindranath Tagore known to the Western World–catapulting him to fame and leading him to becoming the first Asian recipient of the Nobel Prize.

Rabindranath Tagore on Sri Ramakrishna:

Day 6 - Original quote of Tagore on SRK (1)

To the Paramahamsa Ramakrishna Deva

“Diverse courses of worship
from varied springs of fulfillment
have mingled in your meditation.
The manifold revelation of the joy of the Infinite
has given form to a shrine of unity in your life
where from far and near arrive salutations
to which I join my own.”

Rabindranath Tagore on Swami Vivekananda:

  1. Swami Vivekananda’s Gospel:

Day 6 - Tagore's Quote on Swamiji

“Some time ago Vivekananda said that there was the power of Brahman in every man and that Narayana (God) wanted to have our service through the poor. This is what I call real gospel. This gospel showed of infinite from man’s tiny egocentric self beyond the limits of all selfishness. This was no sermon relating to a particular ritual, nor was it a narrow injunction to be imposed upon one’s external life. This naturally contained in it protest against untouchability— not because that would make for political freedom, but because that would do away with the humiliation of man— a curse which in fact puts to shame the self of us all. Vivekananda’s gospel marked the awakening of man in his fullness and that is why it inspired our youth to the diverse course of liberation through work and sacrifice.



  1. Swami Vivekananda’s Message:

“In India of modern times, it was Vivekananda alone who preached a great message which is not tied to any do’s and don’ts. Addressing one and all in the nation, he said: In every one of you there is the power of Brahman (God); the God in the poor desires you to serve Him. This message has roused the heart of the youths in a most pervasive way. That is why this message has borne fruit in the service of the nation in diverse ways and in diverse forms of sacrifice. This message has, at one and the same time, imparted dignity and respect to man along with energy and power. The strength that this message has imparted to man is not confined to a particular point; nor is it limited to repetitions of some physical movements. It has, indeed, invested his life with a wonderful dynamism in various spheres. There at the source of the adventurous activities of today’s youth of Bengal is the message of Vivekananda—which calls the soul of man, not his fingers.

  1. Study Vivekananda:

Tagore's quote on Swamiji

“If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative.”

Bus Tour to Shantiniketan & a break

Early in the morning, at 5:30 a.m., we began assembling in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in preparation for our departure to the university town of Shantiniketan. Once more, the Club7 staff had graciously put together lunch boxes for each of us to take on the bus ride. Like our visits to Jayrambati and Kamarpukur, the trip to Shantiniketan was a long drive, and we traveled in two big buses instead of our usual three. We left the Hyatt shortly after 6:00 a.m. and sang morning prayers as we drove through Kolkata.

Our BusesWe took a short break along the way.  As a result of some construction, a part of the road was blocked from all sides with huge trucks, buses, vans, cars and other vehicles.  Our bus drivers and their helpers used all of their skills and experience to avoid our delay.  They even drove safely on the opposite side of the road when needed. The helpers stood on the road to stop other vehicles in order to make the way for our buses. The total journey took us four and a half hours. Without the bus drivers’ skills, we would have  probably arrived hours later, in the afternoon.

Traveling in Totos:

At Shantiniketan, the path was inaccessible to our huge buses.  So we boarded around twenty  four-passenger, battery operated toto rickshaws to drive us to our destination.  This was an exciting experience for the young and old.  As we rode down the dirt road in the open totos, we could begin to feel Shantiniketan’s peaceful natural aura.

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Special Lunch:

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After a brief ride, our caravan of totos arrived at the Hotel Camelia Restaurant, where we were greeted with cold bottles of Thums Up and a buffet lunch of mutter paneer, dum aloo, naan, and the famous Bengali rasgulla.  Club7 members had made all the arrangements for our lunch.  The place looked like a royal palace with the impressive red colored furniture and excellent paintings on the walls.

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Chhatimtala:  After lunch, we boarded the totos once more and rode to Chhatimtala.

1. Toto On Way to Amra Kunj

The Chhatim tree is also known as the Devil’s tree. However, in Sanskrit it is called “Sapta Parni,” Sapta means seven and Parni means leaves. The tree has clusters of beautifully arranged 7 leaves.

2. Chatim Leaves 1

Chhatimala is considered the starting point of Shantiniketan. Debendranath, and later Rabindranath, would sit under these Chhatim trees in meditation. It was here, under a tree of Chhatim, that Maharshi Debendranath Tagore found peace of mind and soul.  The original tree is no longer there.  Another such tree has been planted and it is growing well. The green surrounding with the sacred ‘bedi’ made us feel at peace.

Chhatimtala 2 Chhatim tala Chhatimtala


In 1863, on a seven-acre plot at the site of the present institution, Debendranath Tagore, Rabindranath’s father, built a small retreat for meditation, and in 1888 he dedicated the land and buildings towards the establishment of a Brahmavidyalaya and a library.

Shantiniketan Griha– Very near Chatimtala, we find the oldest building where ‘Shantiniketan’ was founded in 1863.  We were fortunate to have the Principal of the school “Patha Bhavan” as our guide.

Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-1 Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-2 Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-3 Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-4

Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-5 Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-6 Shanti Niketan Badi - old Shaniti Niketan-7

In front of this building, there is a sculpture known as the ‘Anirban Shikha’– made by the genius sculptor Ramkinkar Beij, a renowned ‘Shantinikatani’. The sculpture depicts burning flames of fire. Yet the astonishing thing about this sculpture is that in the early morning light, it generates a shadow of a ‘mother and child’.

Anirban Sikha with Shantiniketan Griha in Vishwa Bharati Campus

Anibarn Shikha Anirban Shikha

Amro-Kunj and Patha-Bhavana – Institute of Primary and Secondary Education:

School Girls in Colorful Saris - 5

Going to Amra Kunj Complex Entrance to AC Entering Paath Bhavan Entering Amra Kunj Complex

Walikng in Amra Kunj ground with Head Mistress of Paath BhavanaShimul - red silk cotton tree Amra Kunj - Mango tree

We learned that Debendranath used to bring young Rabi (as Rabindranath was affectionately called in his young age) here. Rabi loved to immerse himself in the natural beauty of Shantiniketan. He hated traditional book learning and believed that education should be a part of life and carried out in nature instead of separately inside schools. With this ideal in mind, he established a school which later became the Visva Bharati University.

Banyan Tree - 2 Pampa Lake - AC DSC_0696 Mango Tree - 4 coorful bugs on trees - Amra Kunj Banyan Tree

Near Lili Pond - 2 Bkul flower

Its unique feature is open-air classes. We found a park with many huge mango trees.  This is known as the Amro-Kunj.  Under the mango trees, in this serene environment, we found a teacher’s seat made out of stone and in front of it, circular round stone seating for students.

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The atmosphere adds something to the learning experience that is missed in walled classrooms. Just imagine learning under the shade of a tree instead of sitting at a desk within the confines of a conventional classroom!

Rabindranath’s school Brahmacharyasrama which started functioning formally from December 22, 1901 with no more than five students on the roll, was, in part, a fulfillment of the wishes of his father who was a considerable figure of his time in the field of educational reform. From 1925 this school came to be known as Patha-Bhavana. It is partly a residential co-educational school for elementary and secondary education, preparing students for the School Certificate Examination. Our tour guide informed us that Shantiniketan was the first co-ed school in India, where boys and girls studied the same curriculum.

The teachers among our Vidyapith family were particularly interested in the institution’s progressive curriculum. Rabindranath Tagore’s legacy lives on through the school’s educational program which encourages children to engage in singing, dancing, writing, painting, and various other creative fields. From 9th grade onwards, the university adopts a more traditional curriculum so that students can take standardized exams and seek employment after graduation.

Amra Kunj Complex - 2 AC - 3 - amlaki tree Amra Kunj complex - garden IMG_1510


Rabindranath founded a school for children at Shantiniketan and it was around this nucleus that the structure of an unconventional university called the Visva-Bharati was developed through careful planning.  On December 23, 1921 Rabindranath formally started the college with proceeds from the Nobel Prize that he received in 1913 for his work, Gitanjali.

After India’s independence, in 1951, the college was given the status of a university and named Visva-Bharati University.  It grew to become one of India’s most renowned places of higher learning. Its list of alumni consists of many renowned personalities including the Nobel Prize Winner economist Amrtya Sen, the world renowned film-maker Satyajit Ray, India’s leading art historian Shri R. Siva Kumar, and others.

The university’s 1,150 students are taught by around 80 teachers with a relatively small class size of approximately 25 students per class. Although few in number, international students from Korea, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Spain, Russia and other countries attend this university.  We were told that many Visva-Bharati alumni pursue their careers in research and art.

Rabindranath himself said the following about Visva-Bharati:

Visva-Bharati represents India where she has her wealth of mind which is for all.  Visva-Bharati acknowledges India’s obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India’s right to accept from others their best.”

The Entrance of Visva-Bharati:

Singha Sadan Prubo and Paschim Toran

The main gateway to the Visva-Bharati complex is called “New Ghanta Ghar” Or “Simha –Sadan”.  Simha is used to denote the main entrance.  There is a beautiful bell and clock tower on both sides, which regulate the timing of the daily routine for the ashrama inmates. The square-looking gateways flanking the Simha-Sadan are known as the Purva-toran and the Paschim-toran.  The Simha-Sadan was built out of a donation by Satyendra Prasanna Simha of Raipur. It was in this building that Oxford University conferred its honorary doctorate to Rabindranath.

4. Visva Bharati Entrance - Better Resolution



The Uttarayana Complex is the enclave of Rabindranath’s own houses, built over the last three decades of his life (1919-1941), where he lived at different times. The entire complex is divided into many buildings with varying architectural styles. Tagore’s five houses inside the Uttarayan Complex are: Konarka, Shamali, Punascha, Udichi, Udayana. 

The gardens of Uttarayana were planned and laid out by the Poet’s son, Rathindranath, a horticulturist by training. He planted exotic plants and trees in the Uttarayan complex and in the surrounding area. The African Tulip from Equatorial Africa, the Sausage tree and Rhodesian Wistaria from Tropical Africa, the Baobab tree from Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean Trumpet tree from Latin America are some of the trees that have survived in Shantiniketan. They are a testament to the ideas and research studies produced by foreign scholars who came to Shantiniketan.

(1) Konark:

Originally a mud house, this was the earliest dwelling that Rabindranath built for his own seclusion from activity and as a place for his own work. It contained an east-facing verandah with rows of pillars used as a stage for plays and dance-dramas composed by the Poet. Natir Puja was first staged here. Since there were no walls in the central large room, nature was the effective backdrop. The Konark verandah was used for poetry readings by the Poet. The Mrinmoyee Patio is a beautiful cemented floor with seating arrangements. This was built on the foundation of the other mud house when it was pulled down. Rabindranath would sit in this open patio and write.

near Lili Pond

(2) Shyamali:

This house was an experiment in mud house construction. Rabindranath wanted to see if instead of a thatched roof, which was always vulnerable to fire hazards, a permanent mud roof could be built. It was to be a low-cost structure and would serve as a model house for villagers. The walls were heavily built so that the weight of the mud roofs could be borne. One of the rooms was constructed by using earthen water-pots arranged inside plaster-casings as its roof and walls.  Rabindranath believed that when hot air would pass through the earthern pots, it would lose some of its heat, and thus keep the rooms cool.  Keeping Rabindranath’s ideas in mind, Surendranath Kar prepared the architectural plan and Nandalal Bose prepared the visual perspective based on the Borobudur style. The entire outside wall was decorated with beautiful relief work by Kala-Bhavana students under the guidance of Nandalal Bose. The Santals on either side of the main door and on the eastern corner were made by Ramkinkar Baiz.  Mahatma Gandhiji and Kasturba stayed as guests in this house. Rabindranath loved this mud roofed house very much. On the wall there are also works of Ramkinkar Baij.

Near Shyamli Gate Way to Shyamali Shyamali-One of Tagors'Five residancies

(3) Punascha:

Punascha means “P.S.” postscript–an afterthought after a letter has been written and signed. The chosen name suggests the Poet’s change of mind.  This house was built on the eastern side of Shyamali. Rabindranath lived in this house for a short time, but it was here that he created most of his paintings.


(4) Udichi:

This was the last house built for Rabindranath. He felt claustrophobic, he said, and wanted a room to be constructed on four pillars. However, changes were gradually made according to the owner’s needs. Rabindranath held poetry classes on the ground floor.

Udichi(5) Udayan:

The most imposing house in Uttarayana, is Udayan.

Udayan in Uttarayan complex

Udayan, unlike the other houses, was conceived by Rathindranath, son of Rabindranath. When Rabindranath came to live in Konark, Rathindranath and his wife lived in an outhouse by its side. Starting from these modest and functional rooms, the elaborate structure of Udayan was gradually evolved. Udayan has many suites of rooms─ each on a different level which gives this house its individuality. Distinguished visitors who have stayed here are Stella Kramrisch, Margaret Milward, Sir Maurice Gwyer, S. Radhakrishnan (later, President of India) and Jawaharlal Nehru.

A Special Talk:

We were fortunate that with the help of Club7 we were invited by Dr. Tapati Mukherjee, the Director of Culture and Cultural Relations and Prinicipal (Adhyaksha) of Rabindra-Bhavana, the institute of Tagore Studies and Research, Visva-Bharati. We entered the historical building as a group, and were asked to sit in the main hall.  The main hall was nicely decorated with important photographs and paintings.  It appeared as though this hall was used for major gatherings.

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Dr. Tapati Mukherjee welcomed us and talked to us about the history of the Visva-Bharati and its current programs and activities.  We all felt honored to have been invited to this place and to have the opportunity to listen to one of Visva-Bharati’s top-ranked persons.

Famous Sculptures:

Opposite the Udayan, is the immortal larger-than-life sculpture ‘Santal Family’ by Ramkinkarl Beij (Baij).

Santhal - 3


Another famous sculpture in the Udayan complex by Ramkinkarl’s Beij’s student, KS Radhakrishnan:

Scuptor - Womenpower -1 Scuptor - Womenpower -2

Rathindranath’s studio is also known as Guha-ghar/Chitrabhanu:

Within the Uttarayan complex of houses that Rabindranath built for his own work, we visited the Rathindra Museum, which commemorates Rabindranath Tagore’s son Rathindranath. We also visited Chitrabhanu, which was a studio built for Rathindranath’s wife, Pratima Devi, near a beautiful Japanese-style garden with a small pond.


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Rathindranath's Wife's Museum IMG_0844

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The studio or Chitrabhanu was built on a higher level on the ground and later the space below was converted into a room to be used as a workshop for Rathindranath. The workshop is a low-ceiling room; its entrance wall is embedded with rough stones and has  creepers growing over it, giving it the resemblance of a cave-dwelling or Guha-ghar.

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Here is a photograph of Rabindranath Tagore with his son Rathindranath and his daughter-in-law Pratima Devi.

Rabindranath with Rathindranath and Pratima Devi

The attractive gateway below is a part of the Uttarayan complex.

DSC00568 Entrance in Uttarayan Complex -2-wheel of a bullock cart

The Rabindra Bhavan:

Rabindra Bhavana is an Institute of Tagore Studies and Research.  Founded in July 1942, just a year after the Poet’s death, Rabindra Bhavana is an important component of Visva-Bharati. It is, in fact, the focal point of the University. Rabindra Bhavan houses a museum which is called The Bichitra Bhavan.

The Bichitra Bhavan (The Rabindra Bhavan Museum):

In Sanskrit Vaichitra means “diversity”. The diverse collection of Tagore is displayed in The Bichitra Bhavan, including the replica of Tagore’s Nobel Prize medal.  This Bhavana includes among its treasures a very major part of Tagore’s manuscripts, correspondences, paintings, and sketches. It also has the poet’s personal library, various objects used by him, his musical instrument the Esraj, his voice-recordings, and thousands of photographs taken of him at different times and places. Along with these things, the many gifts and honors that he received from different parts of the world enrich the Bhavana’s archival holdings. The following is a photo of one side of the Bichitra Bhavan.

Bichitra (Rabindra Bhavana) the museum designed by Rathindranath Bichitra (Rabindra Bhavana) the museum designed by Rathindranath 2

The following Tagor’s saying engraved on the wall of The Bichitra Bhavan’s (museum’s) wall.

Bichitra the museum Front designed by Rathindranath

Still, every day, the dawn

Brings a blessing

To whatever is growing

Towards the sun.


Here, Tagore says that every morning the sun brings a blessing in the direction of all that is still a mere sprout or sapling, growing, not fully grown. A sprout or sapling signifies hope or peace. This is why the tree planting ceremony is of high significance at Shantiniketan.

Rabindranath’s car and a letter-press treadle machine were beside Konark, one of Tagore’s five residences in Shantiniketan.

Tagore's Car -1

9. Shantiniketan Printing Press Tagore's photo near the press

Around Rabindra Bhavana - old printing machine - Tagor's picture

In 1917, the citizens of Lincoln, Nebraska presented to the boys of Shantiniketan, a letter-press treadle machine. The gift initiated the Shantiniketan Press from whIch the Shantiniketan Patrika newsletter was printed.

Upasana Griha

 In 1863, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Tagore’s father, constructed a Prayer Hall where Bramho prayers were conducted. The prayer hall opens on Wednesdays and for occasional meetings. Prayers at Shantiniketan are non-denominational. Yet, major holidays of various faiths are celebrated here including Christmas and Buddha Jayanti. This concept of harmony of religions along with the ashram style seating arrangement and general open-minded attitude reminded us of our own Vidyapith in many ways.

Road way to Upasana Griha-2 Upasana Griha - Prayer Hall Upasana Griha Upasana Griha Closeup


7. Upasana Griha - Square YardBeside the Prayer Hall is a massive Banyan tree – it is said Rabindranath loved to sit under this tree.

Banyan TreeBecause we were short on time, we were unable to visit the Kala Bhavan, the Institute of Fine Arts, a noted institution of education and research in visual arts, founded in 1919. It is the home of the Fine Arts faculty of the Visva-Bharati University, Shantiniketan.

Vriksharopan Celebration (Planting Trees Celebration):

As we made our way back to our totos, we caught a glimpse of Shantiniketan’s school girls dressed in colorful saris. They were assembling for the tree planting ceremony presentations.  Rabindranath Tagore himself had started the “Vriksharopan Celebration” (Planting Trees Celebration).  We could see that this was a major Shantiniketan festival. There were so many nicely dressed students, and people were walking to the ceremony.  The traditional dance makeup, colorful costumes, and classical tones drifting into the air from the direction of the open stage were reminiscent of our own Annual Function.

School Girls in Colorful Saris - 2 School Girls in Colorful Saris - 4

School Girls in Colorful Saris - 8

The girls above are from Santoshalaya, the girls’ hostel. Santoshalaya, a single-story house, is named after Santoshchandra Majumdar, one of the first students of the Santiniketan Vidyalaya. The walls of this house have frescoes prepared by artists of the 1920s. It includes other hostels.

School Girls in Colorful Saris - 7

With a long bus ride back to Kolkata ahead of us, we were not able to stay and watch the program, but we left feeling a resonating sense of familiarity.

DSC00639 DSC06789 DSC06791 DSC00640

Bus Ride Back:

The bus ride back was filled with devotional singing. Reflecting on the day’s experiences, it was evident that Rabindranath Tagore had created in Shantiniketan, an oasis that upheld the poet’s spiritual and educational ideals. This can be understood from the lines of Poem “Let My Country Awake!” from his most renowned book of poems, Gitanjali (“Song Offerings”):

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action–

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


(I would like to thank Sneha Shah for writing the original report, Deba Saha for providing important information and photos and Nisha Parikh for editing the blog.)

Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 5 Evening Bus Tour of Special Places

August 7, 2015

Bus Tour:

(Deba Saha Uncle had planned the whole tour with the help of Club7 members.  Many thanks to Deba Saha Uncle for writing this post, and providing the map and several photos.)

From Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral house (A), we went on a short bus tour to glance a few places where Thakur’s footprints remained as silent witnesses of his divine play.

Street of Kolkata

A.  Jorasanko Thakur Bari:  (Click here to see previous post for details)

Afternoon short bus trip map

From our drop off point for our visit to Tagore’s house, our bus started going north on Central Avenue and made a right turn on Vivekananda Road by Girish Park. Our first stop was at Ramtanu Bose Lane on Vivekananda Road. From the bus we looked to our left to find 7 Ramtanu Bose Lane (B). The significance of this point was as follows:

B.  7 Ramtanu Bose Lane:

7 or 9 Ramtanu Bose Lane Ramtanu Bose Lane Swamiji's grandmother Raghumani Devi

  • Here once stood Narendranath’s (Swami Vivekananda) maternal grandmother, Raghumani Devi’s house. Naren used to spend most of his time studying in an attic (‘Tong’ in Bengali word) of this house as his house was quite noisy because of the constant presence of guests.
  • For quite some time Narendranath (Naren) didn’t go to Dakshineshwar and Ramakrishna was very anxious to meet him. Thakur, accompanied by Ramalal, visited Naren here who was staying in this house with his friends. Thakur met Naren in an emotionally choked condition and fed Naren the sandesh that he had brought for him with his own hands. After feeding Naren, Thakur asked him to sing a song for him. Naren then sang the song “Jago ma Kulakundalini”. As soon as he heard the song Thakur went into Samadhi. Narendra continued singing for a long time. After he stopped singing Ramakrishna came out of his trance and asked Narendra to visit him at Dakshineswar.
  • Swamiji’s family took shelter in this very house, after being removed from his ancestral house due to a family feud, with the help of his grandmother.
  • In this house Bhupendranath Dutta, Swamiji’s youngest brother received news of Swami Vivekananda’s mahasamadhi by Nadu, Swamiji’s attendant at Belur Math. Subsequently his mother, Bhuvaneshwari Devi, got the news and immediately ran to Belur Math.

While we were proceeding on Vivekananda Road towards our next stop, we peeked at Swamiji’s ancestral house which is in the vicinity of the house of his grandmother. We then crossed over the main street that led to his college, the Scottish Church College which was also in the vicinity of his house. The bus took a right turn on Amherst St. (currently renames as Raja Ram Mohan Sarani) and we stopped at Raja Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum (C) which was on the right side of our bus. The highlights of this place is summarized below:

C. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s house (converted to museum):

Raja Ram Mohan Roy Hall Ram Mohan Roy's House Ram Mohan Roy's House 3 Ram Mohan Roy's House 2

  • Raja Rammohan Roy was a great social reformer, instrumental in abolishing age old Sati Daha (burning alive the widows) practice
  • He was also a founder of the Brahmo Sabha that eventually inspired the conception and establishment of the Brahmo Samaj.
  • This was Ram Mohan Roy’s garden house built for his family. However, he never lived in this house. The house was converted to a museum.

Our bus moved forward towards the next stop (D). We looked to the left and we saw a park, locally known as Hrishikesh Park. The area behind the park is known as Badur Bagan. In this area Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, also known as दयार सागर or the ocean of kindness once lived. His Kolkata house was on 36 Vidyasagar Street and some highlights about the house are given below:

D: Vidyasagar’s house in Kolkata: (now called Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir):

Vidyasagar's house 1 at Kolkata converted to college for Girls and Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir (museum) Vidyasagar's house 2 at Kolkata converted to college for Girls and Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir (museum)

  • This is the very house where Shri Ramakrishna came here to meet him. This incident is referred to in the Kathamrita or Gospel. An excerpt is given as follows:

“……………..On the afternoon of August 5 the Master left Dakshineswar in a hackney carriage, accompanied by Bhavanath, M., and Hazra.  Vidyasagar lived in Badurbagan, in central Calcutta, about six miles from Dakshineswar.  On the way Sri Ramakrishna talked with his companions; but as the carriage neared Vidyasagar’s house his mood suddenly changed.  He was overpowered with divine ecstasy.  Not noticing this, M. pointed out the garden house where Raja Rammohan Roy had lived.  The Master was annoyed and said, “I don’t care about such things now. ” He was going into an ecstatic state………………………………” 

“………..After taking some of the sweets, the Master, with a smile, began to speak to Vidyasagar.  Meanwhile the room had become filled with people; some were standing and others were seated. 

MASTER: “Ah! Today, at last, I have come to the ocean.  Up till now I have seen only canals, marshes, or a river at the most.  But today I am face to face with the sagar, the ocean.”(All laugh.)

VIDYASAGAR (smiling): “Then please take home some salt water.” (Laughter.)

MASTER: “Oh, no! Why salt water? You aren’t the ocean of ignorance.  You are the ocean of vidyā, knowledge.  You are the ocean of condensed milk.” (All laugh.)………………….”

  • The house is now converted to the Vidyasagar Girls College as well as the Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir (museum).

We then advanced to our next stop at the point (E). We looked to the right and saw a building that houses three colleges: Ram Mohan College for Girls (the morning session), City College (the day session) and Ananda Mohan College (the evening session). The importance of this area is given below:

E. City College area:

RMR College - City College 2 RMR College - City College 3 RMR College - City College 1

  • The area behind this college is known as Jhamapukur. In 1850, Ramkumar, Ramakrishna Dev’s elder brother, opened a Sanskrit school in this area. He rented a room with a tiled roof in the house of Govinda Chattopadhyay on 61 Bechu Chatterjee Street behind this college. He brought Thakur, then the young Gadadhar or Gadai, there in 1852 when he was 17 years old. Thakur lived there for over two years after which he stayed sometimes at ‘Nather Bagan’ in Beniatola area of northern Kolkata. As Thakur was averse to a bread-winning education, Ramkumar engaged him in performing rituals in some of his clients’ houses. He used to perform puja to Radha-Krishna deity in Govinda Chattophadhyay’s house and Nayaran in a nearby local king’s palace, known as Jhamapukur Rajbari (king’s palace). Currently the Radha-Krishna’s image of Govinda Chattophadhyay’s house had been moved to a nearby temple locally known as ‘Shyam Sundar Tola’ on Bechu Chatterjee St.

We advanced a little further south on Amherst St. towards our next stop at the point ( F ) where we looked to the left at a red dilapidated girls’ school, the Hindu Academy. Some highlights of this building are given below:

F: Morton Institute (currently a dilapidated school, Hindu Academy):

M's Last School 9 M's Last School 2  M's Last School 8 M's Last School 3 M's Last School 7 M's Last School 6 M's Last School 4 M's room in Morton Institute 

  • This unimpressive red 4 storied primary school was once known as The Morton Institution. Mahendranath Gupta or M, the author of Kathamrita, was the headmaster or principal of the institute. He also used to meet his own devotees upstairs. In 1905, 3 years after Swami Vivekananda passed away, he retired from the active life of a principal and devoted his remaining 27 years exclusively to the preaching of the life and message of Ramakrishna. He bought this school from its original owners and moved to this place permanently. Under his management this institute turned out to be one of the most efficient schools in Kolkata. He occupied a staircase room at the top, and used to cook his own meal that consisted only of milk and rice without variation. His dress also was the simplest possible. It was his conviction that limiting one’s personal needs to a minimum is an important factor to holy living. For about an hour in the morning, he would inspect the classes of the school. He would then come back to his staircase room to write his diary. He continued to live in a divine atmosphere as long as he lived, unless devotees and admirers had already gathered in his room seeking his holy company. However, just to clarify– the Kathamrita was written in his previous residence, not in this institute. You can also visit his room upstairs in this red building.
  • Paramahansa Yogananda (Mukunda Lal Ghosh), a 20th century Yogi popular in the USA, was a student of M and he was taught in the Morton Institute with Ramakrishna’s teaching. In fact this red house is Paramahansa Yogananda’s ancestral house and M bought from the family.

Our bus went further down to an intersection of Amherst St and Keshab Sen St for us to have a glance to our right at the two points ( G ) and ( H ); the significance of these two places is given below:

G: Jhamapukur Rajbari (Jhamapukur local king’s palace)

Jhamapukur Rajbari 2 No.1 Jhamapukur Lane Jhamapukur Rajbari 3 old picture Jhamapukur Rajbari 4 only part left where Ramakrishna used to come for worship Jhamapukur Rajbari 5 only part left where Ramakrishna used to come for worship Jhamapukur Rajbari 6 part of ruins Jhamapukur Rajbari 7 Holy trinity being worshipped Jhamapukur Rajbari 8 Holy trinity being worshipped Jhamapukur Rajbari 9 Ramakrishna_Memorial_Plaque Jhamapukur_Rajbari_-_1_Jhamapukur_Lane_-_Kolkata_2014-01-01_1863-1871 High Resolution

  • This was once a local king, Digambar Mitra’s palace. Mitra family was a client of Ramkumar and Ramakrishna Deva, then Gadai, used to come and perform puja to their family deity, Narayan every day during 1852/53-1855/56. Currently many parts of the palace were sold except one part where Thakur used to come and stay. This part of the palace is currently owned by Jhamapukur Ramakrishna Sangha.
  • There is a marble plaque that validates Thakur’s stay in this area during the above time frame and it says:

“Bhagavan Shri Ramakrishna lived in Jhamapukur area for a little over two years. In Bengali calendar, 1259-1262. In English calendar, 1852/53-1855/56. At that time King Digamabar Mitra’s palace was one of the places for his divine play.”

Underneath the paper poster says:

‘Shri Ramakrishna Sharanam, Jhamapukur Ramakrishna Sangha, No. 1, Jhamapukur Lane (Jhamapukur Rajbati), Kolkata 700009, etc.’

 In 1905, M quit his post as the headmaster (principal) and bought the Morton Institution. At that time, the institution was located at Jhamapukur Lane. M later moved this Institution to 50 Amherst Street, (the red dilapidated building that was our previous stop point), the ancestral house of Paramahamsa Yogananda. He would bow down to the place on Bechu Chatterjee Street where Thakur’s elder brother, Ramkumar had once run a school, as well as bow down to house of the Mitra family at Jhamapukur Rajbari, where Thakur had once worked as a priest. M. used to say, “Do you know that anyone who walks through this street will become a yogi?”

  • Also in the Jhamapukur (27 Jhamapukur Lane) area Ramakrishna dev’s Brahmo devotee, VIJAY Krishna Goswami, once the leader of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, lived in a rented house. Thakur visited him when he was sick

H: Bharatvarshiya Brahmo Mandir (Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj)

DSCN0144 intersection of Keshab Sen St and Raja Ram Mohan Sarani Keshab Sen's house Kamal Kutir (Lilly Cottage) Native Ladies Normal and Adult School later converted to Victoria College for Girls  Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj Mandir 2 Sri_Ramkrishna's picture in Lily Cottage (Kamal Kutir) Victoria Institutions modified-1871 Writing in front of Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj mandir 1 Writing in front of Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj mandir 4 Writing in front of Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj mandir 2 Writing in front of Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj mandir 3

  • On the right corner of Keshab Sen Street, close to the intersection, one can find Bharatvarshiya Brahmo Mandir, established by Keshab Sen. It was through Keshab Sen that Ramakrishna became known to the elite class of Kolkata. At an early age, Keshab Sen came under the influence of Christ and he strove to introduce Christ to the first Brahmo Samaj (Adi Brahmo Samaj). This created great tension in the organization. In 1868, Keshab Sen broke with the original organization and founded the Brahmo Samaj of India (Bharatvarshiya Brahmo Mandir). The leadership of the first Brahmo Samaj, currently called the Adi Brahmo Samaj, (the original Brahmo Samaj), was retained by Devendranath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore’s father). However, at about the time of his first contact with Sri Ramakrishna, he began to discover the harmony of religions, became sympathetic toward the Hindu gods and goddesses, and preached God’s newly revealed law, the New Dispensation (Navavidhan). Pertaining to Keshab’s new organization Thakur commented, as referred in Gospel:

Ramakrishna: I was talking with Keshab Sen of this Brahma-Jnana. Keshab asked me to say more about the Absolute. I replied: “If I say more, your sect and creed will vanish.” Keshab answered: “Revered Sir, then I do not wish to hear more.” Still, I said to Keshab: “‘I, me, mine,’ this is ignorance; ‘I am the doer,’ ‘I am the actor,’ ‘This is my wife, these are my children, my property, wealth, fame,’ all these arise from ignorance.” Keshab replied: “Revered Sir, nothing will be left, if the sense of ‘I’ be abandoned.” The unripe and ripe “I. “I answered: “Keshab, I do not ask you to abandon the whole of the sense of ‘I’; but leave out the unripe ‘I’—’I am the doer,’ ‘my wife, my children, I am the teacher,’ abandoning this sense of ‘I,’ retain the ripe ‘I’—’I am His servant, I am His devotee,’ ‘I am not the doer, but He is the Actor.'”

Devotee: Can the ripe “I” make a sect?

Ramakrishna: I said to Keshab: “I am the leader of a sect, I have founded a sect, I am teaching others, all these proceed from the sense of the unripe ‘I.'” Therefore I asked Keshab to abandon this “I.” I also said to him: “You talk of your sect, many members of your sect have resigned.” Keshab replied: “Revered Sir, after remaining for three years under my instructions, they have now joined another sect, and at the time of leaving, they criticised and slandered me.” I said to him: “You do not understand the inner nature of your disciples. You must study their predominant traits and you must not make disciples indiscriminately.”

Ram Babu : Bhagavan, I do not see what good has been done by the New Dispensation of Keshab Sen. If Keshab himself had realized God, the condition of his disciples and followers would have been different. In my opinion he has had no realization.

Srî Ramakrishna: Oh yes, he must have some realization; otherwise why should so many people honor and respect him? Why do they not honor and respect the leaders of other branches of the Brahmo-Samaj in the same way? Without Divine will no one can command such respect from the masses. A spiritual leader must renounce the world. A man cannot become a true spiritual leader unless he practises absolute renunciation. Without this people will have no faith in him. “

Although it’s not clear if Ramakrishna Dev visited Keshab Sen’s Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj, it is known that he visited the Adi Brahmo Samaj. It was at the Adi Brahmo Samaj where Thakur saw him for the first time on a podium in deeply meditative state. Thakur once said,

” Many years ago I went to Adi Brahmo Samaj, where I saw everyone sitting silent with eyes closed. It appeared to me that internally they were all fighting. But seeing Keshab I found that his float had sunk”, i.e. he was near God-realization.

The Adi Brahmo Samaj (follow the west ward lavender arrow in the map) is located close to Jorasanko Thakurbari ( point A ). Because of our time limitation, we couldn’t make it to this place.

  • On the west ward of Keshab Sen Street, close to Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj and Jhamapukur palace, another Thakur’s devotee, Ishan Mukerjee once lived (19 Keshab Chandra Sen St). Thakur came to his house twice and also met Ishan’s second son, Shirish on 25th June, 1884. Also from this house Thakur went to meet Pundit Shashadhar of nearby Thanthania area where the famous Thanthania Siddheshwari Kali temple is located . As excerpt from Gospel is given below:

“ It was the day of the Rathyatra the Car Festival of the Hindus. At Ishan’s invitation Sri Ramakrishna went to his house in Calcutta. For some time the Master had a desire to meet Pundit Shashadhar. Tarkachudamani, who had been staying with one of Ishan’s neighbours. So it was decided that he would visit the pundit in the afternoon.

A few devotees, including Hazra, accompanied the Master to Ishan’s house. Ishan had invited one or two brahmin scholars and a devotee who followed the Tantrik method of worship. Shrish and Ishan’s other sons were also present.

The Master noticed that the Tantrik worshipper had a vermilion mark on his forehead, and smilingly said, “I see he is branded.”

After a while M. and Narendra arrived and bowed before Sri Ramakrishna. The Master had previously informed M. that he would be at Ishan’s house.

The Master joked about the delay in serving their meal. One of the scholars quoted a Sanskrit verse about the anxiety created in people’s minds by the pangs of hunger. Proceeding to explain the verse he said: “The study of philosophy is indeed edifying, but poetry is more fascinating than philosophy. People listening to good poems think of the study of philosophy-Vedānta, Nyaya, Samkhya, and so forth  as dry and insipid. Again, music is more attractive than poetry. Music melts even a heart of stone. But a beautiful woman has an even greater attraction for a man’s heart than music. Such a woman, passing by, diverts a man’s attention from both poetry and music. But when a man feels the pangs of hunger, everything else  poetry, music and woman  appears as of no consequence. Thus, hunger is the most arresting thing.”

The Master remarked with a smile, “The pundit is witty.”

Soon Narendra began to sing. A few moments later the Master went upstairs for a little rest. M. and  Shrish accompanied him. M. introduced Shrish to the Master, saying: “He is a scholar and a man of peaceful nature. We were fellow students in our boyhood. Now he is a lawyer.”

MASTER: “It is a pity that such a man should practise law.”

M: “Yes, sir. It was a mistake on his part.”

MASTER: “I know a few lawyers. One of them shows me great respect. He is a straightforward man. (To Shrish) What is your idea about the most essential thing in life?”

SHRISH: “God exists and He alone does everything. But the attributes we ascribe to Him are not the right ones. How can a man conceive of Him? His nature is infinite.”

MASTER: “What need is there of your counting the number of trees and branches in an orchard? You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Do that and be happy. The aim of human birth is to love God. Realize that love and be at peace.

“Suppose you have entered a tavern for a drink. Is it necessary for you to know how many gallons of wine there are in the tavern? One glass is enough for you. What need is there of your knowing the infinite qualities of God? You may discriminate for millions of years about God’s attributes and still you will not know them.”

  • Keshab Sen’s house, known as Lilly Cottage (Kamal Kutir), can be reached if one walks east ward on Keshab Sen St. following the lavender arrow as shown in the map. Inside the house there was a lily pond that was used to be decorated and illuminated during fair and attracted by the children and hence his house was named. Currently the house is completely converted to a full scale Girls’ college known as Victoria Institution. In this house the famous standing picture of Thakur, who was in the deep state of SAMADHI and supported by his nephew, HRIDAY was taken. Also Thakur came to this house for his last visit to Keshab on 28th Nov, 1883 as illustrated in Gospel:

“ At two o’clock in the afternoon, M. was pacing the foot-path of the Circular Road in front of the Lily Cottage, where Keshab Chandra Sen lived. He was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sri Ramakrishna. Keshab’s illness had taken a serious turn, and there was very little chance of his recovery. Since the Master loved Keshab dearly, he was coming from Dakshineswar to pay him a visit.

On the east side of the Circular Road was Victoria College, where the ladies of Keshab’s Brahmo Samaj and their daughters received their education. To the north of the college was a spacious garden house inhabited by an English family. M. noticed that there was a commotion in the house and wondered what was going on. Presently a hearse arrived with the drivers dressed in black, and the members of the household appeared, looking very sad. There had been a death in the family.

“Whither does the soul go, leaving behind this mortal body?” Pondering the age-old question, M. waited, watching the carriages that came from the north.

About five o’clock a carriage stopped in front of the Lily Cottage and Sri Ramakrishna got out with Latu and several other devotees, including Rakhal. He was received by Keshab’s relatives, who led him and the devotees upstairs to the verandah south of the drawing-room. The Master seated himself on a couch.

After a long wait he became impatient to see Keshab. Keshab’s disciples said that he was resting and would be there presently. Sri Ramakrishna became more and more impatient and said to Keshab’s disciples: “Look here, what need is there of his coming to me? Why can’t I go in and see him?”.

“ MASTER (to Keshab’s mother): “Please pray to the Divine Mother, who is the Bestower of all bliss. She will take away your troubles.

(To Keshab) “Don’t spend long hours in the inner apartments. You will sink down and down in the company of women. You will feel better if you hear only talk of God.”

The Master uttered these words in a serious voice and then began to laugh like a boy. He said to Keshab, “Let me see your hand.” He weighed it playfully, like a child. At last he said: “No, your hand is light. Hypocrites have heavy hands.” (All laugh.)

Umanath again said to the Master from the door, “Mother asks you to bless Keshab.”

MASTER (gravely): “What can I do? God alone blesses all. ‘Thou workest Thine own work; men only call it theirs.’

God laughs on two occasions. He laughs when two brothers divide land between them. They put a string across the land and say to each other, | ‘This side is mine, and that side is yours.’ God laughs and says to Himself, ‘Why, this whole universe is Mine; and about a little clod they say, “This side is mine, and that side is yours”!’

“God laughs again when the physician says to the mother weeping bitterly because of her child’s desperate illness: ‘Don’t be afraid, mother. I shall cure vour child.’ The physician does not know that no one can save the child if God wills that he should die.” (All are silent.)

Just then Keshab was seized with a fit of coughing, which lasted for a long time. The sight of his suffering made everyone sad. He became exhausted and could stay no longer. He bowed low before the Master and left the room, holding to the wall as before.”

  • Victoria Institution then adjacent to Lily Cottage, was originally named as ‘The Native Ladies Normal and Adult School’ and it was founded on 1st February, 1871, by Keshab Chandra Sen for building a scheme of education that suited to the female mind and women’s position in the society.

From the intersection we advanced a little on Amherst St (now known as Raja Rammohan Sarani) and saw a church on our left ( I ); its significance is detailed below:

I: Holy Trinity Church:

Near Holy Trinity Church 1 Near Holy Trinity Church 2 RK Visited Church After Vision 1 RK Visited Church After Vision 1a RK Visited Church After Vision 4

  • On the left by St. Paul’s School one can see this little church known as Holy Trinity Church. The Church was known as ‘Long Saheb-ka girja’ for a long time due to the fact that the famous Rev. James Long was associated with this Chapel and St Paul’s College and School. Rev. James Long is still remembered and revered by the people of Bengal for his association and active participation in siding with the Indians in the anti-indigo plantation movement in Bengal even though he was a British citizen.
  • After Shri Ramakrishna had a vision of Jesus Christ in the Panchabati of Dakshineshwar, he wanted to visit a church to see how Christians performed worship. This is the church he visited while the service was being conducted after his vision of Christ. He also visited another church in Kolkata during its service. This church is known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, located on S. N. Banerjee Rd in central Kolkata.

Our bus then proceeded to the intersection of Raja Rammohan Sarani and Mahatma Gandhi Rd. From the intersection, we made a right and another right at College Street to go north on a tram road. Although it was very difficult, we tried to glance at point ( J ) to our left. Thakur’s divine play around this place is detailed below:

J: Geratala Mosque:

DSC00528 DSC00529 Tram

  • The area on the left is known as Kalabagan. There was a very old Mosque, locally known as, ‘Geratalar Masjid’ (or Geratala Mosque) in this area.
  • According to Manmatha Nath Ghosh’s reminiscience (Sri Ramakrishna as we saw him by Swami Chetanananda):

“One evening as I was passing by the Geratala mosque, I heard the loud prayer of a Muslim fakir (holy man): “प्यारे आ जाउ, आ जाउ “ (Oh my beloved please come, please come)” He was repeating this prayer with love and longing as tears rolled down his cheeks. Suddenly I saw Sri Ramakrishna climb down from a hired carriage and rush up to the Fakir. The two embraced each other. This incident happened when the Thakur was returning from Kalighat after visiting the Divine Mother there. What a wonderful sight it was! Two other people were in the carriage. One of them was Ramlal, a nephew of Sri Ramakrishna.

We further proceeded north towards the point ( K ) where a very old Kali temple was located by a tram stop.

K: Thanthani Kalibari (Thanthania Kali temple):

Thanthania Kalibari, founded by Shankar Ghosh in 1803, is a revered Kali temple in Kolkata. The idol of the presiding deity Siddheshwari is made of clay and it is replaced every year by a new one. Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered auspicious for a visit to the temple.
Thanthania Kalibari, founded by Shankar Ghosh in 1803, is a revered Kali temple in Kolkata. The idol of the presiding deity Siddheshwari is made of clay and it is replaced every year by a new one. Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered auspicious for a visit to the temple.

Thanthania Kali Temple 2 Thanthania Kali Temple 3 Thanthania Kali Temple 4 Thanthania Kali Temple 5 inside Thanthania Kali Temple 6 Siddheshwari Kali Thanthania Kalibari 1 tram-Taxi-Bus-Rickshaw only possible in-kolkata

  • On our left we saw Kali temple that is more than 300 years, known as the Siddheswari Kali Temple, popularly known as Thanthania Kali Temple. While Shri Ramakrishna, then young Gadadhar was living in this area from 1852/53 to 1855/56, he used to walk down the Bechu Chatterjee St. (as mentioned before, from our previous point of stop at E ) to visit this Kali temple and sing for Siddheshwari Kali every now and then.
  • M according to Thakur’s advice brought the Prasad from Siddheshwari Kali and walked about 1.5 miles barefoot to Shyampukur. The incident is also referred to in the Kathamrita/Gospel; see the excerpts below:

“ Friday, November 6, 1885 It was the day of the Kali Puja, the worship of the Divine Mother, Sri Ramakrishna’s Chosen Ideal. At about nine o’clock in the morning the Master, clad in a   
new cloth, stood in the south room on the second floor of his temporary residence at Syampukur. He had asked M. to offer worship to Siddhesvari at Thanthania, in the central part of Calcutta, with flowers, green coconut, sugar, and other sweets. After bathing in the Ganges, M. had offered the worship and come barefoot to Syampukur. He had brought the Prasad with him. Sri Ramakrishna took off his shoes and with great reverence ate a little of the Prasad and placed a little on his head.

At the Master’s request M. had purchased two books of songs by Ramprasad and Kamlakanta for Dr. Sarkar.

M: “Here are the books of songs by Ramprasad and Kamlakanta.

MASTER: “Force songs like these on the doctor.”

  • Thanthania Siddhesvari Kali temple is owned by the family of Thakur’s direct disciple, Swami Subodhananda (Khokha Maharaj).

 We advanced a little towards the north and stopped at the front of a narrow street and glanced to our right for the points ( L )  and ( M ). The significance is elaborated below:

L: Shankar Ghosh Lane:

Sankar_Ghosh_Lane leading to M's house 1 Sankar_Ghosh_Lane leading to M's house 2 Sankar_Ghosh_Lane leading to M's house 3 showing Vidyasagar College

  • The narrow street on our right is Shankar Ghosh Lane. This lane was named after a person named Shankar Ghosh who established the Thanthania Kali temple in 1703. Shankar Ghosh was great grandfather of Ramakrishna’s one of the direct disciples, Swami Subodhananda (Khoka Maharaj). More than 300 years ago, the devotee, Shankar Ghosh replaced the clay image with a stone image of Kali. Ramakrishna used to tell Swami Subodhananda that he used to visit his great grandfather’s house before he was even born. The house is still there and located at 41 Shankar Ghosh Lane.
  • In this narrow lane, we find even today the Vidyasagar College (previously named Metropolitan College) where another one of Thakur’s devotee, Swami Ramakrishnananda (Shashi Maharaj) took admission for his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) study. His special subjects of study were Sanskrit, English literature, Mathematics and Philosophy. While studying in this college, he and his cousin brother Sharat (Swami Saradananda) who was attending Calcutta Medical College, the premier medical school, heard about ShriRamakrishna through Keshab Sen and finally went to Dakshineshwar to visit Thakur.

M: M’s house (newly named Kathamrita Bhavan):

M's house front gate M's room M's shrine installed by the Holy Mother M's slipper

  • Through the narrow, Shankar Ghosh Lane and by Vidyasagar College one can reach Mahendranath Gupta or M’s house at 13/2 Guruprasad Chaudhury Lane. He used to live in this house and wrote a substantial portion of Kathamrita, the original gospel of Ramakrishna in Bengali here before he moved to live in the staircase room of Morton Institute that we’ve visited before. M came back to this house 3 months before his Mahasamadhi on completion of the final volume (5th volume) of Kathamrita in 1932.
  • Thakur visited this house more than once. Swami Vivekananda, Swami Ramakrishnanda, and their brother disiciples visited this house on multiple occasions. M’s shrine was installed by Holy Mother. The slipper of Thakur, bundles containing holy hair and nails of Thakur and Holy Mother, the Rudraksha Mala of Holy Mother, etc. are preserved here.

Within stone’s throw of Shankar Ghosh Lane is the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj at point ( N )  on our left.

N: Sadharan Brahmo Samaj:

Sadharan Bramho Samaj 3 Sadharan Bramho Samaj 1 Sadharan Bramho Samaj 2

  • The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj was founded by Thakur’r Brahmo devotees, Shivanath Shastri and Vijay Krishna Goswami. Their followers split from Keshab Sen’s Navavidhan Brahmo Samaj.
  • The Samaj is close to Narendranath’s (Swami Vivekananda) ancestral house. Young Narendranath frequently visited the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj before he met Ramakrishna Dev.
  • Shri Ramakrishna Dev also visited the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj as illustrated in the Gospel:

“Friday, September 26, 1884

A little after three the Master’s carriage drove up. As soon as Sri Ramakrishna stepped out he saluted the temple of the Brahmo Samaj with folded hands. Hazra and a few other devotees were with him. M. bowed before the Master and took the dust of his feet. The Master told him that he was going to Shivanath’s house. A few minutes later several members of the Brahmo Samaj came and took him to Shivanath’s. But Shivanath was not at home. Shortly afterwards Vijay Goswami, Mahalnavish, and several other Brahmo leaders greeted the Master and took him inside the Brahmo temple.

Sri Ramakrishna was in a happy mood. He was given a seat below the altar. There the Brahmo devotees sang their devotional music. Vijay and the Brahmo devotees sat in front of the Master.

MASTER (to Vijay, with a smile): “I was told that you had put up a ‘signboard’ here that people belonging to other faiths are not allowed to come in. Narendra, too, said to me: ‘You shouldn’t go to the Brahmo Samiij. You had better visit Shivanath’s house.’”

We moved further ahead and stopped at the point ( O )and looked to our right.

O: Arya Samaj Mandir:

Arya Samaj School affiliated with Arya Samaj Estb 1961

  • On our right stands Arya Samaj Mandir, a branch of Arya Samaj. The greater organization was founded by Swami Dayanand Sarasvati. Once Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, came to Bengal on a tour and lived for some time in a gentleman’s garden (currently became Indian Statistical Institute, the premier Institute for Statistics in India) in the village called Sinthi in Baranagar, located in the north of Kolkata. Although he was very well-known for his scholarship, he had not then begun to preach his own doctrine, nor had he founded his organization, Arya Samaj.

“On hearing of him, one day the Master went there to pay him a visit. In the course of a conversation on Dayananda, the Master said to us on one occasion, ” I went to see him in the garden of Sinthi; I found that he had acquired a little power; his chest was always red. He was in the state of Vaikhari, speaking on scriptural subjects night and day; by the application of grammar, he was twisting the meaning of many words. He had in his mind the egoism , ‘I will do something, I will preach a doctrine.’ “

  • Dayananda saw Sri Ramakrishna and witnessed him in the state of samadhi, he lamented,

” We people have just studied so much of the Veda and Vedanta but in this great man we see its manifestation. On seeing him it is proved that the learned only take buttermilk when they churn the scriptures. Such great men as he only eat butter. “

We further went ahead and stopped at Machhua bazar area, our final point ( P ) of the tour. Thakur’s divine play in this area is summarized as follows:

P: Machhua bazar area:

Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 1 Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 2 Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 3 Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 4 Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 5 Machhua Bazar and surrounding buildings 6

  • After Thakur completed about 4 years of intense Sadhana, a doubt came to Rani Rasmoni and her son-in-law Mathur Babu’s mind since Thakur was not acting in a normal way. They thought that he was dwelling on a very high plane and living an absolute life of continence that appeared abnormal to the regular people. They felt he should be brought down to the normal plane by breaking his vow of continence. They came up with a plan to tempt Thakur initially through sending an ill-famed woman to his room at Dakshineshwar. Then Thakur was further tested with Lachhmibai (Lakshmibai) and other women of lowly characters in a house of Machhua Bazar in Kolkata. Thakur immediately saw divine mother in these women of ill-fame and cried ‘Mother, Mother’ and went into ecstasy. Thakur’s astonishing reaction led to the emergence of Vatsalya Bhava (loving God as one’s child) in these women who then asked him for pardon and left.

We were mesmerized by learning the divine plays and imagining and feeling the footprints of Thakur within such a little perimeter of Kolkata. Having such an experience that would reverberate in our memory for a long time, we finally proceeded towards our hotel for dinner.

(Thanks to Nisha Parikh for editing this post.)


Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 5 Special Lunch and Afternoon at Jorasanko

August 7, 2015

 Special Lunch and Afternoon at Jorasanko (Rabindranath Tagore’s House)

At Cossipore Garden House there was a peaceful environment. A couple of devotees questioned, “Why are we going back to the hotel?  Can we stay here and then go to Jorasanko?”  But most of the people wanted to go to hotel, eat lunch, and relax for a bit before we began the busy schedule of the afternoon.

 Special Lunch:

When all pilgrims got down from the bus at the Hyatt, a surprise was waiting for them. They were told that today there was a special “Italian Lunch” for everyone and it was going to be hosted in the other restaurant La Cucina in the hotel.  It was a surprise arranged by the CEO Aprana Didi of Club7. Everyone was happy to have Italian food in India. The youngsters were extremely delighted and they almost rushed to the restaurant.  We had always had a great variety of dishes during our lunches, but this was a special treat.

3 4

The restaurant was soon filled with the joyful noise of youngsters as they enjoyed freshly cooked Italian dishes with an Indian touch.  The dishes included appetizers like salads, Carprese, and Funghi trifoltai. The main dishes included various kinds of pastas and hot brick-oven pizzas served with minestrone soup and freshly made bread.

15 13 14 19 7 5 6 6b 16a 12 11 10819a

After the first serving—the various pastas were brought to our tables—people had to wait because they were specially preparing fresh dishes for us. But everyone felt that it was worth waiting for the freshly cooked Italian food.

The delicious deserts included Tiramisu and chocolate cakes, ice-creams, and melting chocolate tart served with homemade vanilla ice cream.   We had a sumptuous feast!


18b 18c

 Jorasanko Visit:

After some rest, everyone got onto the three buses.  Those who were familiar with Rabindranath Tagore’s life and his great contribution to literature, music, paintings, and other fields, were thrilled to see his house.  Rabindranath Tagore is only person to have written national anthems for two countries for India and Bangladesh.

Since the big buses could not go to the gates of Jorasanko (Rabindranath Tagore’s house), everyone was dropped off at a far distance. We all started walking in organized groups, enjoying the city shops, people and the traffic.  The youngsters had a good experience of what life was like in Kolkata.

1b 1b11c 3 5

After a long walk, we arrived at the Jorasanko gate.  As soon as we entered the gate, we were surprised by the beauty of the building and its surrounding. There was a spacious green lawn in front of the building, thoughtfully planted trees and shrubs.  At one place, construction work was going on.  All of the groups wanted to have group photos in the front of the beautiful structure.

6a1 8 10b 10c1 10c8 12b 12a 20a 1 20a 1a 20a 3

When we went close to the building, we saw Rabindranath Tagore’s statue surrounded with decorative plants.  While thinking about the glory of the Tagore family and enjoying the aesthetic of the architecture around us, we entered the building through a gate.

19 14e 14b  20f 20h 20i 1

Wow! We saw a huge open ground encircled by beautiful and impressive colonial style buildings.  We were told that this was called “Thakur Dalan.”  We were sure that several important gatherings with important people must have taken place here, including with British leaders.   On one side there were steps and a large corridor, and on the other side there was a stage where various dramas had taken place in the past.  It seemed like a good size open air theatre.  In fact, this was known as “Permanent stage.”

20i 2 20i 3 20i 4 20i 15 20i 17b

An exciting thing happened when we were there.  The organizers were playing Rabindra Sangeet on the speakers as a background music.  All of a sudden the youngster’s faces were lit up and a few of them said loudly, “Oh!  They are playing the song “Ekla Chalo Re…”  In Vivekananda Vidyapith these students had learned this song and had presented it on a few occasions.  They were excited and started singing with the tune.

In that excited mood, everyone wanted to take group photos.  First, we took a group photo of the first groups that had arrived. Once all the groups were present, we took a memorable group photo in this very special place.

20i 22

We were soon allowed to go and see the inside of the building.

20i 21 21c 22

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take our cameras inside, but thanks to Deba Saha Uncle’s research, we have pictures of the inside of the building.  Inside Jorasankho, we saw: various photographs of Rabindranath Tagore and his family members, a room where he was born, a room filled with gifts he had received from other countries, his paintings, and the room where he passed away.   We learned that Rabindranath Tagore passed away on August 7th and we were in that room on August 7th!  It was a divine coincidence.  They had special function for this special day and we saw some of the preparation that was going on for this.

_1 Floor Plan 1 _1 Floor Plan 2 _1 Floor Plan 3 _5 _6 _7 _8

3 Study Room 4 Mrinalini Devi's Kitchen 5 Dining Room 6 Music Room 7 Living Room 7a Living Room 7b Chairs used by Tagore in Study Room 8 Prayan Kaksha 8a Prayan Kaksha 8b Bed used by Tagore at Jorasanko 8c Mirror Used by Tagore at Jorasanko 8d Mirror Used by Tagore at Jorasanko 8e Tagore's Dresses 9 Art Gallery (Bengal School) 9a Art Gallery (Western) 9b Renaissance Gallery

11 Janma Kaksha 11a Janma Kaksha

13a Before Renovation 13b After Renovation 15 Abhinindra Kaksha 16 Dwarkanath Kaksha 17 Devendranath Kaksha 18 Library

Tagore's Painting 1 Tagore's Painting 2 Tagore's Painting 3 Tagore's Painting 4 Tagore's Painting 5 Tagore's Painting 6

Rabindranath Tagore’s father, grandfather, and many family members were celebrities. We were able to see photographs of the family and were amazed to learn about their many achievements. The Tagore Family made great contributions to Indian Culture and to the world.  We felt that we were touching history in that environment.

After visiting all the rooms, we came outside of the building and saw a car that was used by Rabindranath Tagore and his family.  It was interesting to see the model of the car.


We were all happy with this visit.  We all joyfully started walking to our buses and were ready for the next thing on our itinerary–a bus tour of a part of Kolkata, guided mainly by Deba Saha Uncle and the Club7 guides.

(Thanks to Arundhathi Johri and Kanna Pichappan for writing the original report, Deba Saha Uncle for providing the necessary information including photos needed to write this post and Nisha Parikh for editing.)

Biography of Rabindranath Tagore

Upon my request, Deba Saha Uncle was kind enough to write the following brief biography of Rabindranath Tagore and his notable work:

Rabindranath Tagore or Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur [in Bengali] was a Bengali poet, novelist, essayist, short-story writer, lyricist, composer, singer, actor, playwright, playwright for dance, inventor of a new dance style, inventor of new Tālas (rhythmic cycle of beats) for Indian drums, painter, patriot, philosopher, educationist, critic, humanitarian, social and religious reformer as well as constructive worker.

Rabindranath was born on 7 May 1861 in Jorasanko (Tagore House), Calcutta, India. He was the fourteenth child born to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. He was nicknamed ‘Rabi’. Tagore was just 14 years old when his mother died. Tagore’s grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore was a social reformer and wealthy landowner. The Tagores were a progressive family; their home served as a hub of social activity and culture. They often hosted theatrical and musical performances in their mansion. Many of the Tagore children became respected authors, poets, musicians, and civil servants. His father, Devendranath, traveled widely during his career and was a proponent of the Brahma Samaj faith, a social and religious movement also known as the Bengal Renaissance. Rabindranath had also embraced its philosophy.

After failing to flourish in the conventional school system, Rabindranath obtained his early education with tutors at home where he studied a wide array of subjects including: art, history, science, mathematics, Bengali, Sanskrit, and English, Hindu Scriptures Upanishads, Romantic poetry like that of Shelley, and classical poetry, notably that of Kālidāsa..

At a very early age, Tagore was writing his own poetry. He wrote his first play, ‘Pritthvīrāj Parājay’ at the age of 12 and first poem, ‘Abhilāsh’ at the age of 13. At the age of 17, he moved to Brighton, East Sussex, England, to study Law. He attended University College of London for some time, following which he started studying the works of Shakespeare. He returned to Bengal with no degree; however, after two years from his return he wrote one of his most acclaimed poems, ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’ [The Fountain Awakened from its Dream]. Some poems, popularly known as ‘Bhānusimha Thākurer Padābali’ were published anonymously or under his pen name, “Bhānusimha” (Sun Lion), but he was soon a regular contributor to various magazines.

At the age of twenty-two, on 9 December 1883, Tagore married Bhabatarini (later known as Mrinalini) Devi, with whom he had five children: three daughters Madhurilata (eldest), Renuka, and Mira (youngest), and two sons Rathindranath (eldest) and Samindranath (youngest). However, within a span of 5 years (1902-1907) he lost his wife (1902), daughter Renuka (1903) and son Samindranath (1907). His deep sadness was reflected in the compostion of Gītāñjali (1910) in Bengali.

As a patriot, he composed the music and lyrics for India’s national anthem “Jana-Gana-Mana” (Thou Art the Ruler of All Minds) and when Bangladesh became independent in 1971 they chose Tagore’s song “Āmār Sonār Bānglā” [My Golden Bengal] as its national anthem. Thus he is the only poet to have composed national anthems for two nations. The book, Gītāñjali, Song Offerings (1912) in English contains Tagore’s English prose translations of religious poems from several of his Bengali verse collections, including Gītāñjali in Bengali. The book was introduced to the West, and was hailed by W.B. Yeats and André Gide and it won him the Nobel Prize in 1913 in literature. Thus he became the first non-European Nobel laureate.

Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. However, he was not just a mere poet or writer, he was the harbinger of an era of literature which elevated him to the stature of the cultural ambassador of India.

In 1901, Tagore founded an experimental school in rural West Bengal at Śhāntiniketan (“Abode of Peace”), on part of the family estate lands near Bolpur, West Bengal. Here he sought to blend the best in the Indian and Western traditions based on the ashrama model with pioneering emphasis on learning in a harmonious and natural setting. He felt that a well-rounded education, using all the five senses and not relying on memorizing by rote, was the better way to teach children. He settled permanently at the school, which became Viśva-Bhārati, an open air university in 1921. It has claimed many notable figures among its alumni including Indira Gandhi (past prime minister of India), Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate in Economics, 1998), etc.

In 1915, Tagore was awarded a knighthood by the British Crown but he repudiated it in 1919 as protest against the Jalianwala Bagh (Amritsar) massacre which took place in Punjab, India. During the massacre British troops barbarically and cowardly killed some ~1000 Indian innocent demonstrators, including women and children, who were protesting colonial laws.

As a traveler of the world, both literally and poetically, Rabindranath turned out to be a global citizen. He travelled more than 30 countries, over all the continents except Australia. In 1920s and 1930s he travelled extensively in different countries of Europe, North and South America as well as Asia and delivered lectures in universities and public meeting on education. In 1924 Rabindranath first went to China, and then to Japan. While in Japan he delivered an anti-imperialist address in Tokyo. The Poet was also invited by the Peruvian Government but he fell ill in Argentina while on his way to Peru. There he earned the friendship of the Argentine writer, Victoria Ocampo and enjoyed her hospitality for three months. In 1926, Rabindranath went to Italy on an invitation from Mussolini. Afterwards, the poet completed a tour through Central Europe. He met many illustrious figures including Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, etc. Then he visited Greece, Turkey and Egypt and came back to India. The Poet then travelled the South-East Asian parts such as Singapore, Malay, Java etc. in a bid to know better the heritage of what is traditionally looked upon as outer India. In 1930, the Poet was invited to Oxford in England to deliver the Hibbert lecture. Next he went to Germany, and then to Russia, via Switzerland. His 1932 trip to Iraq and Iran happened to be his last ever trip to foreign countries.

Rabindranath was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and was the one who gave him the name “Mahatma”. Together with Gandhiji, he thought of the welfare of the people of India.

In 1940, Oxford University awarded him with a Doctorate of Literature in a special ceremony arranged at Śhāntiniketan.

During the last five years of his life, he did manage to keep writing in spite of much physical suffering. Many have said he produced his finest work then. Rabindranath Tagore died on 7 August 1941 at the family estate Jorasanko, where he was born.

Rabindranath Tagore’s Notable Works:

Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres. His poems are virtually untranslatable, as are his songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet among all classes of Bengali society.

  • Poetry: Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry collections, notably are
  • Kabi Kahini (1878 ) [Tale of a Poet, his first book of poems]
  • Nirjharer Swapnabhanga (1882) [The Fountain Awakened from its Dream]
  • Bhānusiṃha Ṭhākurer Paḍāvalī (1884) (Songs of Bhānusiṃha Ṭhākur)
  • Mānasi (1890) [The Ideal One],
  • Sonār Tarī (1894) [The Golden Boat],
  • Smaran [In Memoriam] (one year after the death of Tagore’s wife)
  • Naivedya (1901)
  • Kheya (1906)
  • Gitānjali (1910) (consisting of 157 poems) [Song Offerings],
  • Gitimālya (1914) [Wreath of Songs],
  • Balāka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes].
  • Lyrics and Music compositions (Rabindrasangeet) : Tagore composed 2,230 songs.
  • Tāla (rhythmic cycle of beats) composed by Tagore:
  • Ardha Jhaptaal (5 beats, 2/3)
  • Jhampak (5 beats, 3/2)
  • Shasthi (6 beats 2/4)
  • Rupakra (8 beats 3/2/3)
  • Navataal (9 beats 3/2/2/2)
  • Ekadashi (11 beats, 3/2/2/4)
  • Navapancha (18 beats, 2/4/4/4/4)
  • Plays (major):
  • Valmiki Pratibha (1881) [The Genius of Valmiki]
  • Visarjan (1890) [The Sacrifice]
  • Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber]
  • Dak Ghar (1912) [The Post Office]
  • Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable]
  • Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall]
  • Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]
  • Dance Drama (musical drama) or known as Rabindra Nritya Natya (major):
  • Tasher Desh (The country of cards)
  • Chitrāṅgadā (1892; Chitra)
  • Shyama
  • Chandalika (The untouchable)
  • Mayar Khela (A game of illusions)
  • Shapmochan (The redeemed curse)
  • Autobiographies/Memoirs:
  • Jivansmriti (1912) [My Reminiscences]
  • Chhelebela (1940) [My Boyhood Days]
  • Novels (notable):
  • Nashtanirh (1901) [The Broken Nest]
  • Gora (1910) [Fair-Faced]
  • Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World]
  • Chaturanga (1916)
  • Chokher Bali [Grain of sand]
  • Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]
  • Shesher Kabita (1928) [The last poem]
  • Short stories in Bengali (the book Galpaguchchha, 3 volume has collection of 84 stories), the notable include:
  • Bhikharini (1877) [The Beggar Woman]
  • Kabuliwallah (The fruit seller from Kabul)
  • Kshudita Pashan (1895) [The Hungry Stones]
  • Atithi (1895) [The Runaway]
  • Haimanti (1914) [Of Autumn]
  • English short stories (notable):
  • Giribala
  • The Parrot’s training
  • Essays (Bengali), the notable are:
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Chhanda
  • Dharma/Darshan
  • Atmashakti
  • Essays (English), the most notable are:
  • Creative Unity (1922)
  • Nationalism (1991)
  • Sadhana: The Realisation of Life (1913)
  • Other works (notable):
  • IIngraji Sahaj Shisksha Pratham o Dwitiya Bhag (Bengali)
  • Sahaj Path Pratham o Dwitiya Bhag (Bengali)
  • Oupanishad Bramha (Bengali)
  • Mantra Abhishek (Bengali)
  • Thought Relics (1921, English)
  • Travel diaries (notable)
  • Java-Jatrir Patra
  • Parashye
  • Japan Jatri
  • Europe Jatrir Diary
  • Paschim Jatrir Diary
  • English rendition of his works (do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali):
  • Fruit-Gathering (1916)
  • The Fugitive (1921)
  • The Gardener (1913)
  • Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912) (in spite of its title, it contains poems from other works besides its namesake)
  • Glimpses of Bengal (1991) [Selected from the Letters of Sir Rabindranath Tagore (1885-1895]
  • The Home and the World (1985)
  • I Won’t Let you Go: Selected Poems (1991)
  • My Boyhood Days (1943)
  • Chitra (1914)
  • My Reminiscences (1991)
  • The Post Office (1996)
  • Selected Letters (1997)
  • Selected Poems (1994)
  • Selected Short Stories (1991)
  • The Crescent Moon (1913)
  • The Cycle of Spring (1919)
  • Fireflies (1928)
  • The Hungry Stones (1916)
  • The King of the Dark Chamber (1914)
  • Letters from an Expatriate in Europe (2012)
  • The Lover of God (2003)
  • Mashi (1918)
  • Songs of Kabir (1915)
  • The Spirit of Japan (1916)
  • Stories from Tagore (1918)
  • Stray Birds (1916)
  • Vocation (1913)
  • Drawings and Paintings: In the late 1920s, at nearly 70 years of age, Tagore took up painting and produced numerous drawings and paintings that won him a place among India’s foremost contemporary artists.
  • Film direction: The only film directed by Rabindranath Tagore:
  • Natir Puja (1932)

Rabindranath Tagore’s signature:


Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 5 Morning at Baranagore Math

August 7, 2015

Going to Baranagore Math

On Friday, all the pilgrims woke up around 5:30 am, got ready and went downstairs for a lovely breakfast at the Gucchi. Breakfast consisted of a vast array of foods from “dosas” to cereals.  Over the breakfast table, everyone was happily talking about the inspiring pilgrimage they had experience thus far.  With the grace of Mother Nature and God, we had nice weather and were able to carry out the pilgrimage without many problems.  After having a good breakfast everyone gathered at the entrance of the Hyatt Hotel, ready to board our buses.  After getting onto buses according to our groups, the buses left around 7am.  Today, we had planned to visit the Baranagore Math and the Cossipore Garden House in the morning, and after lunch we were going to visit Jorasanko.  While coming back from Jorasanko we had planned a bus tour of Kolkata.  Everyone was excited about the scheduled program.

As usual in each bus, after “five Jai’s” everyone did the Morning Prayer including the “Sri Ramakrishna Suprabhatam.”

After about an hour, we arrived at the Baranagore Math.  It was a bright morning.

1 on the road 2 going to Math 3 Near te entrance 4 Entrance -2
7 before going up8 Going upstaris - 1

As we entered the Math, we saw two pillars on the two sides of the gate.

4 ppt 39 1 names of disciples - 2

6 going upstairs Original Pillar

We were told that these were the last of the remaining historic pillars from the old Baranagore Math building. As we entered, we were told to go upstairs to the shrine room to offer our salutations.

We placed our shoes on a rack, went upstairs, and quietly sat in the prayer hall.

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The environment was very serene. We were thinking of Sri Ramakrishna’s young disciples who had observed intense spiritual practices in this Math. It was this important period that established the foundation of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. We were very happy to learn that it was Shri Nag Mahashay’s birthday on the day of our visit.  Shri Nag Mahashay was a great household devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. He was a living example of a householder who had absolutely no ego.  He had inspired many people, and all the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna had great reverence for him.

After our salutations, we recited the pranam manras, offering our salutations to Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda.  Then we sang “Jaya Vireshwara Vivekabhaskar..,” as an offering to Swami Vivekananda.  After singing, we spent a few minutes doing japa.

Around the perimeter of the prayer hall, there were photographs of all the original disciples and the original Baranagore Math as well as quotes of Swami Vivekananda .

31 M. Old math- disciples-writing Dakshniswar Temple - 2 Panchvati Quote - 3 Quote - 2 Quote - 1 Buddha

While looking at all the pictures, we thought of the disciples’ days at the Baranagore Monastery. We were given some Prasad. After looking all the pictures, we came downstairs and went into the backyard.

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Swami Snehamayananda pointed to the grounds that marked the location of the original Baranagore Math.  We took in the sight of the old grounds, paid our respects, and enjoyed the beautiful garden.  The weather was great and environment was serene and peaceful. It filled our minds and hearts with joy and uplifting power. We were given refreshments arranged by the Swamis of the Math.

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We were greeted by three Swamis, Swami Bamanananda, Secretary M