August 4, 2015
Welcome to Day 2 of our pilgrimage! By God’s grace, today was another beautiful, sunny day – a perfect day to resume our spiritual pilgrimage.
Breakfast and Bus-ride
Our morning began early at 5:30 a.m. We all met at our breakfast locataion in the hotel – “Guchhi.” A variety of items were presented for breakfast by the Hotel Hyatt including Idlis and Dosas, which were made at the premises upon request.
After a delicious breakfast, we embarked on our journey. Our bus-ride started with five “Jai’s” (victory) to Sri Guru Maharaj (Sri Ramakrishna), Mahamayi (Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi), Swamiji Maharaj (Swami Vivekananda), Gangamayi (Mother Ganga) and Sab-santan (all saints). It was followed by the Sri Ramakrishna Suprabhatam and our Vidyapith’s Morning Prayer. This daily prayer made our early morning bus rides serene and holy.
Our bus-ride was smooth and by 7:15 A.M., we were greeted by the breathtaking views of the Dakshineshwar Temple.
We were all eager to visit this special place – “Dakshineswar.” In Vivekananda Vidyapith, we had read about Dakshineswar in books and we had heard about all the important events that had happened there, but now we were going to be in all of these places. Many pilgrims were visiting it for the first time. They had an extra excitement.
Dakshineswar is a place where
– A village boy, Gadadhar of Kamarpukur, became Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa.
– Sri Ramakrishna was going to give up his life for a vision of Mother Kali. Mother Kali granted his wish and he had her vision.
– Sri Ramakrishna did severe spiritual practices in areas including Panchavati, Panchamundi, Totapuri Hut and Kali Temple
– Mathurbabu saw Sri Ramakrishna as both Mother Kali and Lord Shiva
– Swami Vivekananda came as the young boy Narendra and asked Sri Ramakrishna, “Sir! Have you seen God?” The answer of Sri Ramakrishna changed the life of Narendra for the good of humanity.
– M. (Sri Mahendranath Gupta) saw Sri Ramakrishna first time – a life-changing moment. M. preserved the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna in the famous book “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.”.
– Holy Mother lived for several years. She did intense spiritual practices. She took care of all the needs of Sri Ramakrishna. She also lovingly fed all the young devotees of Sri Ramakrishna and bound them with her love.
– Rakhal, Tarak, Baburam, Latu, Sarad, Yogen, Shashi, and many other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna received their spiritual guidance.
These are only a few of the many significant events that occurred at Dakshineshwar.
At the Entrance:
The buses dropped us near the Dakshineswar Kali temple and all of us walked out barefoot. We gathered near a tall, prominent statue of Swami Vivekananda. Here we gathered to take our group picture. A couple of dogs came and sat in the front – they must have wanted to join our group!
It was early in the morning so the temple was not crowded, and it was easy to go through the security at the entrance. We then entered the courtyard of the Kali Temple. The view was spectacular. There was a big open courtyard with Shiva temples on the right, Radhakant Temple, Kali Temple, and Natmandir on the left.
When Deba Saha Uncle’s mother found out about our pilgrimage, she suggested that he contact the Trustees of Dakshniswar Kalimandir Trust to see if we could get permission to enter the inner sanctum of the temple–the very room of the temple where Sri Ramakrishna worshipped Mother Kali. With many efforts and many late night phone calls from the US, Deba Uncle received the permission just a day before our visit. Deba Uncle also made special arrangements so that we would have sweets and flowers to offer to Mother Kali in the temple. In fact, the flowers we were offering were delivered fresh – as we were standing in line!
We formed a line in the back of the temple to go inside the temple called “Garbha Griha.” We were told that around 10 people could go inside the temple at a time, so families entered in their respective groups.
It was a thrilling experience to go inside the Kali Temple, to be face to face with Mother Kali and offer our salutations. This was the very same Mother Kali which Sri Ramakrishna had a vision of! Here Sri Ramakrishna sat and worshiped the Mother, fanned her, and sang bhajans. While looking at this Mother Kali and thinking about her glories, Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) forgot all about his family’s suffering; he could not ask for anything other than knowledge and devotion.
We stood in full reverence and offered our salutations. With Mother Kali’s “Darshana,” we proceeded outside to the courtyard. Our foreheads were adorned with kumkum tilaks and we were carrying a few precious offered flowers and prasad.
We had been told that it was not easy to get a permission to enter inside this part of the temple. We all mentally thanked the Dakshineswar Kalimandir Trustee who gave us the permission. Each one’s heart was filled with devotion, a love for Mother Kali, and a gratitude to have such a great opportunity.
We also received special permission to take group pictures in front of the Kali Temple.
After our picture, we divided into groups to visit the other temples in the complex.
On the side of the complex adjacent to the Ganga was a line of 12 Shiva temples. We went to all 12 Shiva Temples to offer our salutations. We were amazed by the architectural designs and the construction of the temples which were built between 1855 and 1860 – over 150 years ago! The people who built it must have had great knowledge of construction. The temples were organized with six on one side and six on the other. Between them was a square area called “Chandani”. From here there are steps that go towards the Main Ghat (steps leading to the Ganga which were made so that people could bathe in the river). Sri Ramakrishna used to go to this ghat to bathe in river Ganga.
There are many references of Sri Ramakrishna going to the Shiva Temples to pray. Once, he was reciting Shiva Mahimna hymn and when this famous shloka came: “even Goddess Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge) cannot describe your glories…” Sri Ramakrishna held the Shivalingam with both hands and kept repeating this line. Tears of joy and devotion rolled down his eyes. People thought he had gone crazy. Mathurbabu, however, knew his state of mind and asked no one to bother him.
We realized that it was a “Nag-panchapi,” a special day associated to Lord Shiva. Many devotees were offering Ganga water and flowers to Lord Shiva.
Radhakant and Krishna Temples
In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, there is mention of the Radhakant Temple. Here, we offered our salutations to Sri Radha and Lord Krishna. Many times when Sri Ramakrishna sang songs that described the intense love of Sri Radha for Lord Krishna, he used to go into Bhava-samadhi.
On the left of the Radhakant Temple, there was a temple of Sri Krishna. There we saw the statue of Sri Krishna. This statue has a story associated with it. Once, a priest dropped this statue, causing the leg of the statue to break. When all of the pundits came to know of this news, they said that the statue had to be put into Ganga and another one must be used for worship instead. Mathurbabu was confused with this reasoning as he had attachment with the statue. When Sri Ramakrishna came to know about this, he said, “If a son-in-law of Rani Rasamani breaks his leg, would she throw away the son-in-law and get another one or she would make arrangements for the treatment of his leg?” Then, Sri Ramakrishna fixed the leg in such a skillful way that many could not tell it was broken in the first place.
There is another event that we remembered regarding the Radhakant Temple. Once, Bhavanath brought a cameraman to take a photograph of Sri Ramakrishna. However, Sri Ramakrishna refused to have his picture taken. When he was pressed for the photograph, Sri Ramakrishna came out from his room and sat on the steps of Radhakant Temple. Then, Narendra came. He learned about the situation. Narenda asked the cameraman to wait. He went to Sri Ramakrishna and started talking to him. During the discussion, Sri Ramakrishna went into Samadhi. Narendra now asked the photographer to take the picture. This same picture is the picture of Sri Ramakrishna that we see being worshipped in all temples and houses. Later, Sri Ramakrishna himself worshipped this picture and said, “This picture shows a very high state of Yoga. Hereafter it will be worshipped from house to house.” We could not believe that we were seeing these same steps.
It was in Natmandir, Bhairavi Brahmani, the spiritual Guru of Sri Ramakrishna proved to the assembly of Pundits that Sri Ramakrishna is an Incarnation of God, meaning he has all the qualities of an Incarnation of God as described by the scriptures. All of the pundits agreed to this and thanked Bhairavi Brahmani for recognizing it.
On the top of Natmandir, there is a Bhairava statue with two attendants of Lord Shiva, namely Nandi and Bringi. Sri Ramakrishna used to salute them before entering the Kali Temple as if he was taking their permission to enter.
Sri Ramakrishna’s Room
On the right side of Shiva Temples is Sri Ramakrishna’s room. This is the heart of the complex for all devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. There are many chapters in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna which describe various spiritual states of Sri Ramakrishna and his inspiring and uplifting conversations in this room. Sri Ramakrishna lived in this room for 14 years, from 1871 to 1885. This room also played a significant role in the life of Swami Vivekananda and the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna.
In small groups, we reverently entered the room. There were two cots. We have read in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna that Sri Ramakrishna used to sleep on the bigger cot and then he would come down and sit on the smaller cot to talk to people. Sometimes he would even sit on the floor with young devotees and have many laughs. Many memories from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna came to our minds when we sat in the room. We felt goosebumps when we thought of Narendra sitting here and singing and Sri Ramakrishna going into Samadhi. Various kinds of conversations took place here and these conversations shaped the lives of many people. Each one of us sat in the room for a few minutes, did japa, and remembered Sri Ramakrishna.
Around the room, there are three verandahs (lobbies): the Northeastern, Northern, and Southeastern verandahs. These verandahs had witnessed many important incidents in the lives of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and others. One of the incidents that took place in the Northern verandah was Mathurbabu’s vision. After Bhairavi Brahmani had proved to the Pundits that Sri Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God, Mathurbabu, who had a great respect for Sri Ramakrishna as a saint, still was not convinced that Sri Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God. One day, Sri Ramakrishna was pacing up and down in this northern verandah. Mathurbabu was sitting in the lobby of Kuthi Badi. He looked at Sri Ramakrishna and, to his surprise, he saw Mother Kali walking. As Sri Ramakrishna turned in another direction, he saw Lord Shiva walking. These were Mathurbabu’s Ishta-devas (chosen deities). He could not believe this. He went to Sri Ramakrishna and fell at his feet. Mathurbabu said, “Baba (Father), is it true what I saw?” Sri Ramakrishna said, “Please do not tell anyone about it.”
To the west of the room is a semi-circular porch. Sri Ramakrishna used to come here to see the Ganga. Around the porch was a flower garden. Sri Ramarkishna used to pluck flowers from this garden for his worship. When Narendra came for the first time, he entered from this porch.
After visiting Sri Ramakrishna’s room, we all got together and went to see the Main Ghat where Sri Ramakrishna used to take his bath. We saw the Ghat, the semi-circular porch of Sri Ramakrishna’s room and then continued to Nahbat, another important place for the devotees.
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi lived in Nahbat from 1872 to 1885. Uncle told everyone to look at how small the room is. Holy Mother lived in this small room for years! For her, that room was a living room, a bedroom, a storage room, and a guest room. The door of the room was so low that many times Holy Mother hit her head while going out. Even though she lived in such a small space and lived simply, Holy Mother led an exemplary and inspiring life. She never complained about her room. On the contrary, she said that at Dakshineswar her heart always remained filled with joy. When men devotees were present, Holy Mother could not go to Sri Ramakrishna’s room. But, to see what was going on there and to listen to the bhajans, she used to look through a hole in the mat that was placed on the door of her room. Sri Ramakrishna used to jokingly say that each day this hole was getting bigger!
During her days in Dakshineswar, Holy Mother used to get up around 3:30 in the morning, take a bath in the Ganga, and then meditate for long hours. Women devotees would see her completely absorbed in meditation. She cooked under the staircase of the Nahbat for Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees, especially the younger devotees who stayed overnight for spiritual practices.
We offered our salutations; our eyes filled with tears of reverence and love for Holy Mother.
A few feet away on the left of the Nahbat was the Bakultala Ghat. Here, Holy Mother used to go to take her bath early in the morning. One dark morning when she walked down for her bath, Holy Mother almost stepped on a crocodile that was lying on the steps of the ghat! Upon hearing this, Sri Ramakrishna was very concerned about her. He told her to go with a lantern.
Rani Rasmani’s Memorial:
Rani Rasamani built the Dakshineswar Kali Temple between 1855 and 1860, following her divine call from Mother Kali and her commitment to fulfill her husband’s wish. This Dakshineswar Kali Temple was the place where Sri Ramakrishna built the foundation for the huge spiritual upsurge which became the Vedanta Movement through the Ramakrishna Mission and Math.
Rani Rasamani was known for her charity, her love for poor people, and her fearlessness. In a time when the society would not allow women to go out in public alone, Rani Rasamani managed the huge estate of her husband who passed away at a young age. Once, when the British Government unjustly imposed taxes on the fishermen of the Ganga, Rani Rasamani spent a huge sum to procure the lease of the concerned part of the Ganga and allowed the fishermen to fish freely without paying any tax. She even enclosed the area so that British ships could not enter into the area. Another time, when a Hindu procession was stopped because a Brit was disturbed at night by the noise, Rani Rasamani blocked the entire road from her palace to the Ganga, creating hardship for British vehicles. As a result of her actions, the British both removed the tax and allowed for the Hindu procession.
This fearless lady was a great devotee of Mother Kali and had a great reverence for Sri Ramakrishna. She loved to listen to Sri Ramakrishna’s bhajans.
On the left of Rani Rasamani’s memorial is Kuthi Bari where Sri Ramakrishna lived, from 1855 to 1871, in a room facing Ganga. This was the period of his intense spiritual practices and divine visions. It was on the terrace of the Kuthi Bari that Sri Ranmakrishna went and cried out, “Where are you my children? Do come, one and all. I cannot rest anymore without seeing you.” After this, one by one, all the known devotees of Sri Ramakrishna came to him for spiritual guidance.
Next we went to the Panchavati, a very important place where Sri Ramakrishna did intense spiritual practice and where he encouraged his devotees to do so as well. Originally, the Panchavati was a thick jungle that people used to avoid going to.
“Pancha” means five. During his lifetime, Sri Ramakrishna had planted five trees here and made it a special place for his spiritual practices. The five trees according to the book “Belur Math Pilgrimage” were: Indian fig, Bel (Bilva), Amalaki, Banyan, and Ashoka.
The “Panchavati” and the “Ashoka Tree” have connections with the great epic Ramayana. Sri Rama, Sri Sitaji and Sri Lakshman resided in the Panchavati forest during their exile. Also, the “Ashoka tree” reminds us that Ravana kept Sri Sitaji in the Ashoka-vana meaning a jungle (or a place) with lots of Ashoka trees. Sri Ramakrishna had a vision of Sri Sitaji in Panchavati. In his vision Mother Sitaji came and entered into him. After seeing bangles on the hands of Sri Sitaji in his vision, he made similar ones for Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Holy Mother wore these bangles all her life. At one time, Sri Ramakrishna prayed to Mother Kali to have intense love for God like Sri Sitaji. Sri Ramakrishna said that in Ashokavan Sri Sitaji became oblivious of herself and was constantly thinking of Sri Rama. Just one thought was in her mind, “Where is Sri Rama?”
The Panchavati was covered all around by a fence. Visitors were not allowed to go inside the Panchavati area. We saw it from outside.
Totapuri Hut in Panchavati:
Inside the Panchavati, we saw from a distance a hut known as the Totapuri Hut. We were told that this was the place where Totapuri took Sri Ramakrishna for Non-dualist (Advaita) spiritual practice. He set up a fire and asked Sri Ramarkrishna to meditate on the infinite aspect of God, called Brahman. Sri Ramakrishna said that he could not do it because Mother Kali’s blissful face kept coming to his mind. Frustrated, Totapuri took a piece of glass and touched it between Sri Ramakrishna’s eyebrows and asked him to meditate there. Sri Ramakrishna later explained that it was then that, with the sword of knowledge, he destroyed the blissful form of Mother Kali and his mind soared beyond the relative plane merging with the infinite Brahman. His mind remained there for three days. Totapuri had a hard time bringing Sri Ramakrishna’s mind down to the relative plane. He loudly repeated “Hari Om” to bring Sri Ramakrishna’s mind down. Totapuri was amazed to witness that the state of mind he, himself, had achieved after 40 years of intense spiritual practices, Sri Ramakrishna achieved in one day!
Out last place of pilgrimage in Dakshineswar was “Panchamundi.” The sun was getting hot and so was the ground. Most of us opened the umbrellas given to us by Club7, and constantly sipped our drinking water from the water-bottles provided by them. The ground was very hot, so people were also trying to find shaded areas to cool down.
On our way we saw a very nice pukur (a lake) called “Goose Pond” and a huge banyan tree. We were told that Sri Ramakrishna did japa and meditation under this tree.
Walking through a narrow path we reached the place called “Panchamundi” where Sri Ramakrishna did his Tantric spiritual practices under the guidance of Bharavi Brahmani. The original place is enclosed by a fence. We could see a bilva tree which marked the original spot. Sri Ramakrishna practiced all the disciplines of the sixty-four principal Tantrik books and mastered them all in a short time.
Thus, remembering the lives of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Swami Vviekananda, and the direct disciples of Sri Ramkrishna associated with Dakshineswar, we all started walking towards the gate to go to our buses. We all felt that we were blessed to have such a spiritually uplifting morning.
For all of us, one of the major worries was not to get sick. A couple of people had an upset stomach because of jet-lag, the tiredness after a long plane-journey and bus-travel. One person was dehydrated and felt dizzy. Yet, we had four skillful doctors Dr. Anandhi Johri, Dr. Sridhar Nambi, Dr. Apexa Shukla, and Dr. Nilesh Shukla who took care of us all. The patients recovered within short time and the rest remained healthy.
(The original report was written by Abhishek and Avni Senjalia.)