August 6, 2015
Today there was extra excitement among all the pilgrims, and there were several reasons for this. During the first three days, August 3rd, 4th and 5th we had visited places of pilgrimage in Kolkata. Today we were going to go to Jayarambati and Kamarpukur, outside of Kolkata. Also, we were going to travel in two big Volvo buses instead of our usual three smaller buses. Thus, there was going to be a mixing of groups. Everyone, especially the students, were happy that more Vidyapith families were going to be together for a long ride. We made sure that in both the buses, families were together and each bus had doctors and people who could lead in singing. However, later we realized that we hadn’t account for one important thing! All the four photographers were in one bus and there was no photographer on the other bus.
Because we had to leave early, we had breakfast at 5:30 a.m. We were worried about the little children, but to our amazement they were among those who had gotten up early and were ready for breakfast. Everyone finished their breakfast before 6:30 a.m. and gathered at the main entrance of the Hyatt Hotel to get onto the buses. Until now, since our buses had been smaller, they would come to the entrance where we would board. Yet, since our Volvo buses were too big, they were parked on the streets. So we all walked down the hill, outside the gate, and get onto our assigned buses.
In each bus, we had plenty of snacks, water bottles, and books of bhajans and dhoons. With cheerful and loud “five Jais” – Jai Shri Mahamayiki Jai, Jai Shri Gurumaharajjiki Jai, Jai Shri Swamiji Maharajjiki Jai, Jai Gangamayiki Jai and Jai Saba Santanki Jai” the two buses started on their way to two very special places of pilgrimage.
To drive these big Volvo buses, we had special drivers and their assistants. We found that on the paved roads the ride was very smooth. The buses were so big, that it was a long walk to get to the last few seats. Everyone was excited to be riding in these Volvos. After our five Jais, we all sang the Pranam Mantras, Sri Ramakrishna Suprabhatam and Vidyapith’s Morning Prayer. We had kept seats in the second row for people to lead a bhajan or a dhoon. There was a microphone so that everyone could hear those who were leading prayer. One by one, students, teachers and parents came forward and to lead various bhajans and dhoons. In between we looked out the windows at the early morning activities in Kolkata, its suburbs, and finally we were on the highway. We also had a car following us with a Club7 organizer in case of an emergency.
We took Kaji Nazrul Sarani (previously called VIP road) from hotel to Kolkata airport and then we took Durgapur expressway (majority of our road) to Burdwan. Kaji Nazrul Islam was a renowned poet, writer, and composer. He had written “Jay Vivekananda” in praise of Swami Vivekananda. Club7 people had planned to stop at a nice rest area on the way at Singur for tea/coffee and a bio break. People were happy to come out to stretch, get a breath of fresh air, or to have tea and coffee.
After the break, we went to the Matri Mandir at Jayrambati via Kamarpukur.
In the Buses:
Throughout the journey from Burdwan to Jayrambati, everyone sang enthusiastically. Since we were going to visit the birthplaces of Holy mother and Sri Ramakrishna, we sang bhajans and dhoons about them and the mood was full of love and devotion. In one bus all learn how to sing the hymn “Bhabvasagar tarana karana he…” People were excited to see the places about which they had read in the books.
On the way, some parts of the road were bumpy. Students sitting on the last few seats were swaying side to side. Because of the bumpy road and/or various reasons, a few people experienced an upset stomach. Luckily, we had doctors and medicine with us! The doctors dissolved the medicine into the water and everyone (sick and healthy) were encouraged to drink the small dose. We also transferred those with an upset stomach into the car so that they may have an easier journey..
Matri Mandir at Jayrambati:
We arrived at Jayrambati at around 10:45 a.m. almost 45 minutes later than our expected time. Since the big Volvo buses could not go near the Matri Mandir, we were dropped off at the nearest place possible. From there, the walk was long and the sun was hot. The extreme heat was baking our skin. Everyone opened up their Club7 umbrella to protect themselves from the sun. There were brick buildings, but there were many houses with thatched roofs and mud structures. The streets were peaceful. Men and women in bikes with small metal bells traversed the narrow streets of Jayrambati. Every now and then we heard the ringing of the metal bells of the bikes.
After a few minutes walk, we laid our eyes on a majestic green and lush garden that exuded a brilliant, golden glow. It was as if God had shined His light on this divine place. In the middle of the garden were circular rows of a multitude of flowers that were fresh and purely beautiful. Right behind it was a peach colored temple with marble and granite floors.
Since the temple was going to be closed around 11:30 p.m., we practically ran to the temple and sat down inside the prayer hall. Two Swamis were doing worship of the Holy Mother. This is the most sacred place as Holy Mother was born here and it was here that she married to Sri Ramakrishna. That is why this place has been made into a temple.
We can feel Holy Mother’s presence in this temple. We all sat down and sang “Jaya Shree Sarade Jnana dayini….” We had some time, so we started singing “Prakrutim Paramam…” as an offering to Holy Mother. During the singing, the clock struck 11:30 p.m. and one of the Swamis began to close the windows. We tried to catch one last glimpse of the Holy Mother before the window before us was closed, and continued to sing until we finished the hymn. One could feel the genuine devotion of the devotees in their singing. We felt that when the windows and doors were closed, Holy Mother came out of her temple and was enjoying our singing. We sat there for few minutes to do japa. Then, we offer our salutations and left the temple thinking about how lucky we had been to arrive just in time to get at least a glimpse of Holy Mother.
Holy Mother’s Parents and Birth:
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi was born on December 22, 1853, on a Thursday evening. Holy Mother had said about her parents: “My father (Ramachandra Mukhopadhyay) was a righteous man, a sincere devotee of Ramachandra……My mother (Shyamasundari Devi) was kind and guileless and loved to feed people. She carefully managed every detail of the household and collected things that were necessary for the whole year. She would say, “my household is for God and His devotees.’”
Another time Holy Mother said that, “How could I have been born in that family if my father and mother had not practiced religious austerities?”
Holy Mother’s siblings:
Holy Mother had one sister and five brothers. Unfortunately, her sister Kadambini, and two brothers Umesh and Abhay, died at an early age. Three brothers, Prasanna, Kalikumar, and Barada, settled in their own separate homes in Jayrambati after they had grown up.
Holy Mother’s Childhood:
Holy Mother, as a little girl, Sarada, was active in helping her mother cook and in looking after her young sister and brothers. She took the children to bathe in the Amodar River. She used to pick cotton in the field and with it made sacred threads used by the brahmins, thus adding slightly to the family income. Sometimes Sarada would wade neck-deep into the water to cut grass for the cattle, and often she carried refreshments to the field for the workers. No one had to remind her of her responsibilities. Using her intelligence she anticipated her responsibilities and performed them cheerfully.
She was friendly with her playmates. She loved her dolls. Her favorite two dolls were Kali and Lakshmi. Even though she wanted to educate herself, her relatives did not encourage her to go to school. But, she acquired spiritual culture from her parents and learned from them about religious festivals and activities. Also, the simple life of Jayrambati, its spacious field, the open sky, the trees and birds expanded Sarada’s outlook on life. This prepared a ground good enough to imbibe the profound spiritual knowledge and experiences from her husband Sri Ramakrishna.
Holy Mother’s Marriage and Life at Jayrambati:
Little Sarada was married to Sri Ramakrishna in May 1859. This was more of an engagement. Then, between 1860 and 1867, Sarada Devi visited Kamarpukur about five times whenever Sri Ramakrishna came there from Dakshineswar.
In 1872, Sri Sarada Devi first time went to Dakshineswar when she was eighteen years old. Between 1872 and 1886 Sri Sarada Devi went to Jayrambati about nine times, almost every year. Around 1878 she lived in Jayrambati for more than two years. Going to Jayrambati from Kolkata was not easy in those days. Even later, when Yogin-Ma was going to Jayrambati with Swami Saradananda, she remarked: “It is easier to go to Gaya and Varanasi than to go to Jayrambati.”
After Sri Ramakrishna passed away in 1886, she lived in Kamarpukur and Kolkata, visiting Jayrambati often. However, in her later years, she made Jayrambati her country-side permanent residence.
Sri Sarada Devi loved Jayrambati. Every particle of dust of Jayrambati was sacred to her. As daughter-in-laws feel more relaxed in her parents’ house, Sri Sarada Devi felt freedom in moving around and talking to people in Jayrambati. She was lovingly known in Jayrambati as “Saru” or “Sari” or “Sarada.” She did not have to put on veil to cover her face. Even though there was a problem of malaria, unclean water, and lack of city comforts in Jayrambati, Sri Sarada Devi enjoyed her freedom more there than the comforts of Kolkata.
In Jayrambati, Holy Mother stayed with her brothers, Kalikumar and Prasanna, until 1915 and helped them financially. Her brothers used to quarrel with each other. Holy Mother was a peace-keeper. Holy Mother took care of her brothers’ children. Devotees from Kolakata used to give some money to Holy Mother for her expenses, but her brothers were constantly demanding money from her and she used to give away the money. Once in a while, Holy Mother’s brothers realized the divine nature of Holy Mother, but again they went back their own ways.
On one occasion Prasanna remarked, “Our sister is a veritable goddess! She did everything to keep us alive.” To Holy Mother he said, “Do I understand how precious you are? I understand it all, but I cannot be nice to you for fear of arousing brother Kali’s jealousy. Please bless me so that we may have you as our sister in future births…I want nothing else.” Holy Mother said, “Catch me coming to your family again! I have had enough of it this time. What a thought – to come to you again!”
On the other hand Holy Mother said, “I must look after my family in which I was born. That is why I feel intensely for my parents, my brothers, sister-in-law, and nephews and nieces. I owe them debts which I must pay. Why, otherwise, should I bother about them?”
An Ideal Karma Yogi:
Seeing Holy Mother surrounded by family members and engaged in her family problems, many people did not realize her divine nature. They saw her as an ordinary person, deeply attached to the world. People did not know that even though she was engrossed in her family responsibilities, within a moment she could pull her mind out from the world and lift it up to her divine nature. That is how she could spiritually inspire many devotees and Sannyasins in Jayrambati. Holy Mother showed that one can be in the world surrounded by family responsibilities and still one can keep one’s mind calm and serene. Thus she showed that one could live in the world like a “Sthitaprajna” (a person with steady intellect) as described in Bhagavad Gita. She was an ideal Karma Yogi.
Holy Mother often said, “One must be patient as the earth, which always puts up with people’s transgressions. Men should behave likewise.”
Attachment to the World:
All great souls when they realize their true identity as their “Infinite Soul,” which is Existence – Knowledge – Bliss Absolute, would like to remain absorbed in meditation, being one with that Soul in order to enjoy that Infinite Bliss. But, Mother Nature or the Mother of the Universe keeps a few great souls superficially attached to a few people or to work for the good of the humanity. These souls can cut their attachment at any moment, but they chose not to do it in order to serve humanity. Holy Mother’s attachment to the world was one such example.
One of the important things in Jayrambati was Holy Mother’s love for the Jagaddhatri Puja. Holy Mother herself told about the beginning of the Jagaddhatri Puja. She said, “Once during the Kali Puja in Jayrambati, Nava Mukhopadhyay did not accept our rice because of village feud. My mother had sincerely prepared rice and other things as our contribution to the public worship, but he refused to take those from our home. As a result, my mother wept bitterly whole night. She lamented with great agony: “I mad rice for Mother Kali and he has rejected it. Who will eat this rice now?” That night she had a vision of Jagaddhatri (the Mother of the Universe)….Motyher Jagaddhatri woke up my mother from her sleep by patting her and said. “Why are you crying? I shall eat Kali’s rice. You need not worry.”…My mother was very excited and resolved to worship Jagaddhatri…..My brother Prasanna went to Dakshineswar to invite the Master (Sri Ramakrishna) for the celebration. …the Master said, “The Mother will come…the Mother will come. It is very good that you are celebrating. Oh, your family has suffered so much poverty!….My approval is as good as going to your place. Go home and perform the worship. It will bring you prosperity”…… The Jagaddhatri Puja was performed nicely on November 14, 1877, and all the villagers were invited and fed…….From then on I have been coming to Jayrambati every year during Jagaddhatri Puja.”
After 12 years, Holy Mother thought that it was not necessary to continue the worship. But on that very night, Mother Jagaddhatri appeared in her dream and said that, “Sadu, Madhu Mukhopadhyay’s aunt wants to worship Me. Shall I go there?” When Mother Jagaddhatri asked three times, “Shall I go there?,” Holy Mother held her feet and eagerly said, “Mother, I won’t let you go. I shall worship you at our house every year.” Later devotees bought three and a half acres of rice fields in the name of the deity, so that the worship of Mother Jagaddhatri could continue.
Holy Mother’s Old House:
We were told by our guide that “Holy Mother’s Old Cottage House” will be closed soon. We ran to the “Holy Mother’s Old Cottage House.” We were happy to see this house and again felt the presence of Holy Mother. We had read in the books many touching incidences in which infinite love of Holy Mother for the devotees was manifested. The environment around the house was serene, peaceful and purifying. Holy Mother lived in the “Old Cottage” during 1863 – 1915.
Swami Saradeshananda’s eyewitness description of Holy Mother gives us a very good picture of Holy Mother living in her house in Jayrambati:
“The Mother used to live in Jayrambati like a daughter of her father’s house. She wore no veil or purdah here and she talked with people without hesitation. For that reason, her children flocked there to meet her. In Udbodhan, the monks and devotees served and looked after her; whereas in Jayrambati, the Mother was busy taking care of the monks and devotees. She collected the groceries, cooked the meals, fed the devotees, cleaned their eating plates, and made arrangement for their rest. Those who came from far away, she gave them her place at least for a couple of days. She was always anxious to make them comfortable. She enquired about their home and family, listened to their tales of joys and sorrow, expressed her sympathy and empathy, and gave them spiritual advice. She acted as a mother-a true mother. When the devotees were about to leave, she became sad and tears trickled from her eyes. She continued watching them till they were out of her sight. The picture of the Mother remained engraved forever in the hearts of those devotees.”
Holy Mother’s old house was located on her brother Prasanna’s portion of the family land. Although she bore almost all of the household expenses, she lived with her brother’s family with great hesitation. Listening to family members’ sharp comments about the inconvenience created by many devotees’ visit, she once lamented: “I feel that I should take my children and live under a tree.” Once her brother Prasanna said, “Sister, it will not be possible for you to continue staying in this cottage. You had better arrange another dwelling place.” As soon as Swami Saradananda and M. heard about this, they quickly started making arrangement for her new home. Holy Mother also wanted to live independently and have a house nearby for her niece Nalini and a cottage for the devotees.
Holy Mother’s new House:
In 1915, with the help of Swami Saradananda, M. and other devotees, a piece of land was purchased from her brothers and a plan was made to construct four cottages with thatched roofs. Construction of Holy Mother’s new house began on April 15 and was completed in May 1916. The cost of the construction was Rs. 1,900. M. donated Rs. 500 and Swami Saradananda collected the remaining funds. Swami Arupananda and other monks of Koalpara supervised the construction.
The inauguration ceremony for the house was held on May 15, 1916. After the residence was built, Holy Mother and Radhu lived in the main cottage, which was also used as the shrine. In this cottage, Holy Mother initiated many devotees and gave monastic vows to brahmacharis and sannyasins as well. The hut adjacent to Holy Mother’s cottage was her kitchen and the opposite cottage was for her niece, Nalini. Another cottage, facing west, was for the monks and devotees,
We found that Holy Mother’s new house had a comparatively higher ceiling and better flooring. Here too we found the same serene and peaceful environment. We quietly sat in front of the house for a short time, remembering Holy Mother and mentally saluted Her. Having love for Holy Mother in our hearts, we felt her presence in that house.
After seeing Holy Mother’s house, we went to see the Simhvahini temple. Goddess Simhavahini is the presiding deity of Jayrambati.
The following incidents showed that Holy Mother had great faith in the goddess, Simhavahini.
Once, Holy Mother suffered from severe dysentery. With the help of her brother Umesh, she went to the temple and took a vow to fast. Holy Mother said that Mother Simhavahini appeared as a twelve year old blacksmith girl to her mother and gave her a medicine. Holy Mother was cured by that medicine.
A boy named Ramendra who was taking care of Holy Mother’s cows. He was bitten by a snake. A doctor cut the bitten spot and tied his wrist so that poison would not spread. Holy Mother asked Ramendra to go to the Simhavahini temple. She then put a little earth of the temple on the wound and in his mouth and asked someone to prepare a paste from the earth and smear that all over his body. Later Ramendra was cured.
One year there was a drought in the Jayrambati area and the rice fields were almost dry. After bathing in the pond, Holy Mother went to the Simhavahini temple, bowed down and prayed, “Mother, if there is no rain, my children will not have any food. How can I watch my children starve?” Holy Mother then came home and began to worship Sri Ramakrishna. Afterwards torrential rain came and the crops were saved.
Holy Mother would not sit in a palanquin in the village out of respect for Mother Simhavahini. She would ask the palanquin people to stay outside the village and then she would walk to the palanquin. Holy Mother always carried with her a little earth from the temple in a small box.
Eating Prasad at Holy Mother’s place brings great joy. One feels that Mother is happy to see children eating joyfully. Whenever I ate at Holy Mother’s house I could see so much love in the eyes of Swamiji who is in charge of serving food and the servers.
We had been told to come to the dining room to take Prasad after visiting the Holy Mother’s house and the Simhavahini temple.. There was a big group already taking Prasad before us on one side of the dining room. We were given the other side of the room. Most people sat on the floor to eat while a few sat on the benches with tables.
The Prasad was served on paper-plates. A few youngsters wanted to eat on the leaf-plates as most people eat there. They were given the leaf-plates. The Prasad consists of rice, vegetables, and rasgulla was delicious. Water bottles were given to all of us. Everyone enjoyed the meal. Revered Samar Maharajn was lovingly taking care of our prasad. A picture of Holy Mother was on the wall. Looking at the picture, we all felt that Holy Mother was very happy to see her children coming from the far-off land of the USA and were enjoying the meal.
Meeting Swamis near the bus:
After having the Prasad, Deba Uncle, Rajan Uncle and Uncle went to meet Swami Viditananda (Ashok Maharaj)to give donations from all of us to the Sri Sri Matri Mandir and Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Sevashram, Joyrambati.
It took us a little longer than expected while talking to the Swamiji. The rest of the group was waiting outside for quite some time. It was very hot. After some time, they all decided to go to the bus to be in the shade. It was quite a walk, especially for the children.
Deba Uncle and Uncle requested Swami Viditananda (Ashok Maharaj), Swami Devalokananda (Samar Maharaj) and Swami Shaktirupananda (Hemanta Maharaj) to come to the buses to meet all the Vidyapith people to bless them.
All three Swamis lovingly agreed and came to the bus in Club7 car. Everyone was happy to meet and salute the Swamis and have a group photo with them. The Club7 car then took the Swamis back to the Matri Mandir.
We all got into the bus. Our next stop was Amodar Ghat. It was called “Sarada Kanan.”
The Amodar River runs along a meadow north of Jayrambati. Holy Mother, as a little girl, considered it to be the Ganga and bathed there with her brothers during the rainy season when there was sufficient water. After bathing, they used to sit on the bank of the river and eat puffed rice before returning home.
Between Holy Mother’s house and Amodar Ghat, there were rice fields. At a far distance one can see Holy Mother’s house and can imagine how Holy Mother, little Sarada, must have come here with her brothers. The atmosphere still had the charm of quiet village life, away from the city life’s hustle-bustle. We can imagine why Holy Mother loved this village life more than the city life.
Holy Mother suffered from malaria many times. Swami Parameswarananda thought that it was due to the polluted water she was drinking. So when he used to go to take bath in the Amodar River, he would bring a pitcher of clean water from the river. Holy Mother used to get angry on him for bringing the water, but afterwards she used the water. This continued for a few days. Swami Parameswarananda kept bringing the water. Later Holy Mother admitted that she liked the water, but she did not want the Swami to carry the heavy pitcher from such far distance.
Many times the Amodar River gets flooded and this would stop the mail delivery.
Once Holy Mother said to her devotee, “It would be wonderful if a dam could be built on the Amodar River to divert some water to a big lake Aher. That will help the farmers to irrigate their fields during the drought.”
We saw Holy Mother’s parents’ cremation ground.
There was a Vishwanath Temple and a Mother Shitala and Mother Kali’s temple.
Students were very happy to see familiar quotes of Sri Ramakrishna and of Holy Mother.
After visiting the Amodar Ghat, students were amazed to see how farmers were growing rice in the rice fields. The farmers had to stand in the water under the hot sun.
Students remembered Vandana Aunty’s class in which she was teaching students how to develop ”mindfulness.” She said that when you see cooked rice on the dining table, think about how many people worked to get that rice on the table starting from the farmers who grow the rice plants. Many farmers are even bitten by snakes while they are planting the rice plants standing in the water. All of us watched for a while how these farmers put all the plants in precise straight lines.
Thinking about Holy Mother’s life in Jayrambati, we all sat in the buses to go to Kamarpukur, the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna.
This pilgrimage prepared our minds to be able to really imagine Holy Mother’s childhood life and the days she spent in Jayrambati.
(The original report was written by Khush and Khushbu Patel. Thanks to Deba Uncle for providing few necessary details and Nisha Parikh for editing this post.)